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Thread: Challenges of Fly Fishing from a Moving Kayak

  1. #1
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    Default Challenges of Fly Fishing from a Moving Kayak

    I spent some time in 2017 trying to get better at catching smallmouth bass from the Potomac River on the fly. When in my kayak, I ran into some unexpected problems. Here's an interesting article that touches on a couple of the things I hope to improve on in 2018.
    https://flymenfishingcompany.com/blo...-float-fishing

    My main issues were.

    1. Wind stinks.
    2. I found myself making too many false casts and not actually fishing with my fly in the water.
    3. I had difficulty making accurate casts from the moving kayak.

    I ended up parking my kayak at some rocks and ledges to get out and fly fish as one solution.
    The article talks about making sure to cast beyond the strikezone of the fish, so I think that will help me a bunch too.

    Any other advice for you river smallmouth kayak fly fishers?

    Thanks,

    13

  2. #2
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    Tom,

    First, let me confess that I have not taken my kayaks on float trips on the Potomac or Susquehanna. There are two reasons for that:

    1. I don't want to unnecessarily ding and scratch my boats on the rocks and stony bottoms of those rivers.

    2. I believe folks on float trips are gliding past numerous catchable fish on their trips downstream. I can cover a lot of water much more deliberately on foot in those rivers and still catch plenty of fish.

    That said, I have been on several guided float trips in boats/rafts led by Mr. Clouser himself and by Mark Kovach. They were tremendous experiences and I learned a lot about fly presentation from both gentlemen.

    Wind Stinks -- Yes it does unless you use it to your advantage. When I fly fish big tidal waters in my kayak I am frequently bludgeoned by wind. It's darned near impossible to throw a fly line into a strong wind. But there are several things you can do:

    A. Keep the wind at your back when possible and anchor up if necessary. Trolley the anchor line to the back of the boat so the wind points your bow to the target. Note however, I would not be inclined to anchor in the upper Potomac or Susquehanna. Clouser used a chain anchor to slow the drift. Kovach used his paddles to slow the raft.
    B. Keep your line low to the water on the back cast by casting side-armed. That will help you load the rod into the wind.
    C. Use a heavier rod than you normally might and don't feel guilty catching a 12 inch smallie or a dink striper on a 9 wt. The extra heft of the heavier fly line will help you cast on windy days. Indeed, it may be the only way you can get the fly to the water.

    False casting -- You can surely cast with limited false casting. I think many fly casters false cast out of habit. They need to be more conscious of what they're doing. If they think about it, they can cast with only one or two back casts. Here's how:

    A. Make shorter casts. Many fly anglers think they have to cast 90 feet as if they were on a FL flat fishing for bone fish. None of the fish I target from my kayak require long casts. I would venture to say that I have hooked far more fish on the fly within 40 feet than beyond.
    B. Lift as much line off the water as possible before beginning the back cast. I like longer rods (8.5 to 9 ft.) for that reason when I am fly fishing in a kayak. Lifting the line will increase line speed and load the rod better. Then a single haul on the forward motion will create the forward speed and the needed distance.
    C. Use the river current itself to tighten the line immediately before lifting to start the back cast.
    D. You may find this odd but practice limited false casting with poppers. They indeed create more wind resistance on the forward stroke. But think about the back cast. They dig into the water a little immediately before they leave the water. That extra tension helps load the rod. Therefore don't shy away from poppers on float trips. It may be counterintuitive, but they actually require less false casting. You can cover a lot of water with them fast.

    Casting from a moving platform. Play quarterback...As much as possible lead your target taking into account your movement and the wind. When I am wading for smallies and fishing a streamer I generally cast upstream and retrieve the line as it swings in an arc with me as the pivot point. But when I am floating unanchored in wind and current I cast forward with the knowledge that the line will usually float at the roughly the same speed I am in my kayak. I lead to my target enough so that when I am ready to begin my retrieve the line is approximately 90 degrees or slightly more to my position in the kayak. The line will run almost perpendicular back to my kayak as boat floats in the current.

    Other things:
    A. I'm right handed and therefore find it much easier to cast to the left of my bow. I position myself in moving and still waters to make casts to the left to the extent that the wind allows.
    B. I keep my left gunnel completely clear of anything that can snag my line. I keep my deck clear too.
    C. I drop my stripped line overboard with my left hand. The line merely trails behind the boat until I pull it in to cast again. Note that with sinking or intermediate line you may occasionally entangle your rudder if you have one. You have to be mindful of that possibility and shorten your casts and retrieves with non-floating line so that you don't trail so much line.
    D. Keep slack out of your line during retrieves and the rod tip low to increase hookups. When you feel a strike simply clamp down on the line (in my case with my right index finger) and raise the rod tip. That will become second nature. But it all starts with minimal slack and a low rod tip. Generally, for smallies, you do not need to set the hook by stripping line. Raising the rod tip will suffice.
    E. When you are moving in a kayak or boat accept that casting accuracy will decline somewhat. But the tradeoff is that there will be another spot coming up soon. A short memory of a misplaced cast is therefore a good thing. Besides that, you might get lucky and drop a fly on the head of a fish that is not hiding behind a rock or vegetation that you would normally target.
    Last edited by Mark; 12-07-2017 at 03:10 PM.
    Mark

    Slate Hobie Revolution 13
    Hidden Oak Native Ultimate 12

    Author: The Simple Joys of Kayak Fishing (Tips and Tales From an Old Guy in His Plastic Boat)
    Available on Amazon.com

  3. #3
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    All Very good info Mark! Thank you!

    I must say I am guilty of floating rivers, stripping line, casting, fighting fish, and then in all of my distraction....slamming into rocks and scraping the kayak. I have a kayak that I can stand in, but so far have been lucky to not throw myself in such instances. My new years resolution will be to focus on my peripheral awareness. Another bit I need to work on is managing a snag when floating sown stream. I find this particularly difficult with sinking line. As I paddle back upstream, i introduce slack in the line. This line gets swept under in the current and is hard to quickly pull in when I reach the snag spot. I really need to figure out a better trick to both paddle and manage my line.

    Gregg

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    Thanks Mark, that's a great response.

    I really want to focus on having my fly in the water more, than whipping around in the air.

    Here's to hoping 2018 will produce a lot of smallmouth bass fun for me.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cluelessandfly View Post
    All Very good info Mark! Thank you!

    I must say I am guilty of floating rivers, stripping line, casting, fighting fish, and then in all of my distraction....slamming into rocks and scraping the kayak. I have a kayak that I can stand in, but so far have been lucky to not throw myself in such instances. My new years resolution will be to focus on my peripheral awareness. Another bit I need to work on is managing a snag when floating sown stream. I find this particularly difficult with sinking line. As I paddle back upstream, i introduce slack in the line. This line gets swept under in the current and is hard to quickly pull in when I reach the snag spot. I really need to figure out a better trick to both paddle and manage my line.

    Gregg
    Gregg,

    Something I forgot to add is that I never stand in a kayak. I have absolutely no problem loading the rod and getting the distance I need to catch fish while seated.

    Flycasting.jpg

    I know if I stand I'll eventually go overboard. I'd rather not chance that.

    I cannot speak to sinking line as I rarely use it. I do use intermediate line occasionally. But mostly I use floating line with a 9 foot leader in shallow water typical of the upper Potomac and Susquehanna. If that snags and wind or current makes it difficult to retrieve the fly I simply snap it off by pointing my rod directly at the snag and pulling until the tippet breaks. Sometimes it's easier to sacrifice a fly than traveling against a strong wind or current.
    Mark

    Slate Hobie Revolution 13
    Hidden Oak Native Ultimate 12

    Author: The Simple Joys of Kayak Fishing (Tips and Tales From an Old Guy in His Plastic Boat)
    Available on Amazon.com

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by DanMarino View Post
    Thanks Mark, that's a great response.

    I really want to focus on having my fly in the water more, than whipping around in the air.

    Here's to hoping 2018 will produce a lot of smallmouth bass fun for me.
    One of the things I like about fly fishing is that I can cover prime spots faster than with conventional tackle. Often the last 20 to 30 feet of a retrieve with conventional tackle is time and water wasted, especially in bass fishing where the fish are oriented to structure. But with a fly rod I can lay down two or three casts at a particular target in the time it takes to reel in a lure with conventional tackle and recast. Limiting false casts and consciously picking up the line when the fly is out of the probable strike zone to recast is how to do this.
    Mark

    Slate Hobie Revolution 13
    Hidden Oak Native Ultimate 12

    Author: The Simple Joys of Kayak Fishing (Tips and Tales From an Old Guy in His Plastic Boat)
    Available on Amazon.com

  7. #7
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    Learn the double haul cast. Changed my fly fishing on the river.
    Tarpon 120, no electronics, no pedals.
    Tarpon 100, the karma boat.

  8. #8

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    Depending on what rod you are using a change in the type of fly line can certainly help. I use a SA Titian taper on my 6wt for smallmouth bass. It makes a big difference in casting and delivering flies. Mark maybe you can interject here on your opinion on different fly lines after using the Titian taper. Also I agree the double haul is a definite cast you should learn.
    If you want to try a couple different lines let me know and I can make the arrangements at the jan 13th Bass Pro event.

    Harry

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    Back when I was a fly fishing fanatic, I found that fly fishing from a canoe in still waters wasn't too bad. Mostly poppers and wooly buggers were the core of my arsenal.

    I could probably adapt these techniques for tidal creek perch and small rock, but as I type this, my dominant arm is currently in a sling after rotator cuff surgery a week ago. Flyfishing is most likely a thing of the past....I hope to be able to cast with conventional tackle by Shad season.

    But add current and wind, and I found that my options were limited, unless I anchored the canoe or used a drag anchor. Too easy to mess up the retrieve, or miss the strike zone, balancing the variables. Then, add an electric motor and think about the possibility of chopping up a fly line or getting it wrapped up on the prop.

    I also figured that it was easier and cheaper to carry 2-3 light spinning combos so I could cover the water depths better, unless I was constantly changing flies. 2-3 fly rods were outside of my income level.
    And I never really cared much for sinking lines. If I couldn't have enough lead incorporated into the fly to get it to sink a few feet, I wasn't going to fish a line that needed to be pretty much recovered before I could make another cast.

    I also never really worried about banging up the canoe, even with an ABS hull. Battle and character scars.
    Last edited by bignose; 12-09-2017 at 07:55 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by On the fly View Post
    Depending on what rod you are using a change in the type of fly line can certainly help. I use a SA Titian taper on my 6wt for smallmouth bass. It makes a big difference in casting and delivering flies. Mark maybe you can interject here on your opinion on different fly lines after using the Titian taper. Also I agree the double haul is a definite cast you should learn.
    If you want to try a couple different lines let me know and I can make the arrangements at the jan 13th Bass Pro event.

    Harry
    Fly lines indeed make a difference. In fact, before buying another fly rod to improve your casting, you might consider purchasing a better fly line. All brands of lines are not created equal in terms of their suppleness, slickness or taper. You want a line that shoots easily through the guides and can turn over larger, heavier flies, especially if you are chasing after bass or stripers. Most WF line brands profess to have those qualities. But some brands are definitely better than others. And whereas, I personally cannot sense significant casting difference between high end fly rods and moderately priced ones, I can tell a big difference in fly lines. You really do get what you pay for when it comes to lines, much more so than with the rods themselves in my opinion.

    The Scientific Anglers Titan Taper is the best fly line I have ever cast. Essentially it turned my 6 wt. rod into a 7/8 weight. However, even though it handles larger flies than a typical 6 wt. line, it is light on the water and I can make a subtle fly presentation when I want. I now use my 6 wt. for SM and LM bass and pickerel. It easily throws size 2 poppers and weighted streamers and it gives me a definite edge on windy days. I have a very nice 7 wt. combo and never took it out of its case this year.
    Mark

    Slate Hobie Revolution 13
    Hidden Oak Native Ultimate 12

    Author: The Simple Joys of Kayak Fishing (Tips and Tales From an Old Guy in His Plastic Boat)
    Available on Amazon.com

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