The highs and lows of hooking a fish while kayak fly angling

When I started fly fishing from my kayak, one of the first fish I hooked was a steelhead. Anchored in the Columbia River in my little Old Town Otter, the excitement was short lived as I set the hook, felt the rod bend and quickly lost the fish. I hooked two more that day and lost both. Another challenge to overcome.  What I realized that day is that the fish don't react the same way as they do when fishing from land or even from a boat.

It may be because the leverage you have on the fish is different in a kayak than in other situations. On land, your feet are firmly planted on the ground (unless you slip and fall and, if you are lucky, you'll have a River Runs Through It experience). In a boat, there is some movement, but not much unless you hook a big fish and  happen to be in a little boat. In a kayak, there is usually a lot of movement and keeping the line tight is tricky especially when fishing with barbless hooks. Compounding the situation is that, rarely does a fish run long, even the large ones, in the kayak. As a result, a lot of line is managed with your hands, before the fish is fought on the reel. Add the movement of the kayak and the difficulty of fighting a fish on a fly rod increases dramatically. I believe most fish don't take make long runs because they sense that they are fighting  something that is moving and they are uncertain what is going on. Usually, I am able to bring them close to the kayak before they realize they are soon to be dinner.

Kayak fly fishing is a constant learning process and, although I have landed many trout, I am always hoping for more opportunities with fish larger than 10 pounds. The main challenge is getting fight on the reel as quickly as possible while keeping tension on the line. My main tips to kayak fly anglers are not to rush the fight and stay calm. And expect you are going to lose a few but when you land one, it is a moment you will remember for a lifetime, or at least until you land the next one.


I stumbled onto your blog today and I'll be working my way through it over the next couple of weeks. I've been kayak fishing for several years, though 99% saltwater fishing. I've decided to introduce some fly fishing next year so I'll be looking through your blog for some tips and advice!. I've also added you to my blog roll so I keep up to date.

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