Updated: Jul 6
An adventurous way to get to the fish!
I have been fishing with a fly rod for the better part of 25 years. My passion for fly-fishing began with a trip to Scotland in the 1990s and I have been working on improving my skills ever since. The sport has facilitated visits to so many interesting countries and waters. While I still practice conventional rod and reel fishing, my preferred approach to getting to the fish is with a fly rod.
In the mid-2000s, I settled in Miami. There is some great fishing there, but getting to the fish requires some form of watercraft. At the time I did consider boat ownership, but ultimately decided that I did not want the responsibility. Owning a kayak offered a low cost, low maintenance alternative, and I bought my first vessel in 2005 – an Ocean Kayak. The adventure of fly-fishing from my kayak in Matheson Hammock Park near Coral Gables or the sawgrass marshes of Everglades City was thrilling, especially while navigating around manatees and alligators!
I now have a Wilderness Systems model that I bought at a regional fishing show about five years ago and have launched that craft into a variety of waters in the metropolitan DC area. It would not be a surprise to regular readers of my blog to know that the more adventurous the excursion, the more exciting the prospect.
One of the advantages of a kayak is that it is not a boat! At this stage in my life, I can neither afford, nor do I have room (nor the wife’s permission) for, a boat. The kayak conveniently lives on a pair of sawhorses on the side of my house from where it is also easy to load up and head out. I have a nifty Thule product called a ‘hullavator’ that sits on the roof of my car and makes loading and transporting the kayak easy. But there are other advantages beyond the portability issue.
For one, launching the watercraft is relatively easy and does not necessarily require a boat ramp. There are many launch opportunities near me where a ramp is non-existent, but ‘wheels’ can get you to the waterside from a parking lot (e.g. Fletcher’s Boathouse in DC). In addition, the kayak can navigate low headroom and shallow conditions on the water. I should note that when launching from a public ramp, a kayak is treated no differently than a boat as it relates to usage fees and etiquette.
Then there is the maintenance and running costs. To start with, there is no gas and no dockage/storage. Cleaning is as easy as spraying a high-powered hose and a bit of scrubbing with a stiff brush. There are few, if any, mechanical parts, and depending on the jurisdiction, few licenses (apart from a fishing license) or registration requirements. And the entry-level investment for being able to get on the water to fish is much more reasonable!
Add to that, accessories are abundantly available for a variety of fishing methods. Today, you can equip a kayak as easily as any watercraft with fish finders, rod holders, outriggers, anchors and storage crates. The ‘bling’ for kayak fishing is endless! And the intrepid fisherman is not limited by water type – open water, deep water, backwater, brackish, fresh or salty are all available to a kayak fisherman.
If you think a kayak is a good fit for you, but do not know how to start researching an appropriate model, consult this blog post. The intent of my blog is not to suggest a model but to present considerations for whether the platform works for you. To start with, kayaks are relatively heavy, even with today’s technological advancements. And since it is unlikely that you will be pulling a kayak on a trailer (although you might), at some point you will be lugging a 70-pound (plus) ungainly structure some distance to load up on your car or launch in the water.
Your automobile will also dictate how you transport your watercraft. If your preference is a vehicle with a flatbed, then utility is definitely built into the transport equation. But I am a lover of crossover vehicles, and do not want the complications of a trailer, so the top-load option is what I am limited to and this has ramifications for ease of portability. Even with my Thule ‘hullavator’, it is work getting the kayak onto the roof of my automobile.
Finally, there is the issue of which position you feel comfortable as you fish. Are you all right sitting low, do you prefer to sit high, or stand while you cast (how is your casting and are you fishing with a fly rod or conventional rod and reel)? For some ‘fly-rodders’, casting from a low, seated position might be awkward. Line management can also be cumbersome with a plethora of potential ‘obstacles’ mounted on the deck, such as rod holders, cleats, deck lines and even the paddle. Suffice it to say that an extra level of patience is involved with the line management while fly-fishing from a seated position in the kayak.
I am still early in my journey as a kayak fisherman and welcome any insights from my readers. I expect that I will migrate to a newer technology soon and look forward to any feedback.