fly fisherman with kayak going toward the river

TOP 9 Best Kayaks for Fly Fishing Reviewed 2020 (Buying Guide & FAQs)

Kayaking and fishing go hand in hand, rod and paddle.

You only have to glance at a range of excellent fishing kayaks to see a world of potential for the hobby, one of the fastest growing sports today.

But fly fishing poses more of a challenge, as not just any yak will do.

That’s why the best kayaks for fly fishing offer something a little extra when it comes to fulfilling the needs and wants of keen anglers.

Read on to discover just what that is, with our full review and buyer’s guide below.

TOP 9 Best Fly Fishing Kayaks for 2020

Elkton Outdoors Steelhead Fishing Kayak

Review: First up we have this inflatable model from Elkton Outdoors, which ticks so many boxes it’s hard to keep track of just how good this yak is – such is its versatility.

The solid, drop-stitch floor allows for stand up casting, while the self bailing drain plugs can be opened up if you do happen to take on water in the process.

It has multiple Scotty mount points for all your fishing accessories, and plenty of storage bow and stern to hold all your tackle, gear, and anything you might catch.

Use it for angling, touring, or simply splashing about on the water – this one of the best inflatable kayaks for fly fishing, and one of the best inflatable kayaks, period.

Pros

  • Tough, durable PVC construction.
  • Versatile use.
  • Generous storage options.
  • Adjustable, footrests and comfort seating.
  • Removable skeg.
  • Pump and paddles included.

Cons

  • Inflatable fishing kayaks aren’t for everyone.

Takeaway

An outstanding all-round kayak that is at home in a variety of conditions and situations. Don’t let it being an inflatable put you off, and check out how they match up in the inflatable versus hard shell article.

Perception Pescador Pro 12 Fishing Kayak

Review: Perception kayaks are under the umbrella of Confluence Outdoor – a sporting company based out of South Carolina – and a shelter they happen to share with the likes of Dagger and Wilderness Systems.

Specializing in fishing and recreational kayaks, the Perception brand offers an extensive range of quality craft of which this Pescador 12 is a fine example.

Marketed as your first fishing kayak, it’s a little more than an entry-level boat, and it’s ideal for use on lakes, ponds, slow moving rivers, and calm coastal waters.

The leak-proof, one-piece construction has built-in buoyancy for additional safety, and there are plenty of storage options and fisher-friendly-features to keep anglers happy.

Pros

  • Affordable price.
  • Lawn-chair comfort seat.
  • Integrated accessory rails.
  • Fish finder console.
  • Skid plate to protect the hull from damage.

Cons

  • The chair isn’t the best quality.

Takeaway

It’s durable, super-stable, safe, and designed with the first-time kayak angler in mind. For a fly fishing kayak, you could do a lot worse than the Perception Pescador.

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 130X Kayak

Review: Next up we have the first of our Wilderness Systems kayaks, the famous Tarpon series 130X. Packed with features, it really excels in having an improved, super-stable yet fast hull, offering you peak performance out on the water.

With a SlideTrax accessory system, you can pimp out your kayak with all the latest accessories and gear, like these amazing kayak fish finders, for example.

Compatible with the Helix Motor Drive, you can really put some pep in your step with the inclusion of pedal power, and it’s rudder-ready so you might not even have to use a paddle at all.

Pros

  • Superior craftsmanship.
  • Loads of storage options.
  • Fully adjustable seat.
  • Rigid carry handles.
  • Self bailing scupper holes.
  • Skid plate.

Cons

  • Rudder and peddle drive sold separately.
  • It’s a discontinued line – grab one while you still can.

Takeaway

A tried and trusted series of kayaks that people have been raving about for years. The Tarpon 130 is part of that legacy, a beautifully worked kayak that’s designed for catching fish – fly or otherwise.

BKC RA220 Solo Sit-On-Top Kayak

Review: The BKC (or Brooklyn Kayak Company, to give them their full title) manufactures some top-drawer recreational kayaks, with an emphasis on fishing.

As you might expect, such craft are perfectly suitable for fly casting, as the roto-molded, high-density polyethylene has been designed with extra stability in mind.

Have no fear for standing casts and reels, and the high maximum weight capacity of 550 lbs ensures you can pile on plenty of gear, as well as whatever monster you happen to catch.

With built-in fishing rod holders, watertight storage hatches, bungee cargo hold, and a paddle included, this has everything you need for kayak fly fishing – and then some.

Pros

  • Well-designed and built.
  • Ergonomic seat.
  • Pedal-operated rudder system.
  • Articulating rod holder.
  • Designed for stand up casting.

Cons

  • A choice of colors would have been nice.

Takeaway

It’s hard to find fault with a BKC kayak, they’re well-made, thoughtfully designed, and come with just about everything you need for your next fly fishing adventure.

And they have plenty of space for one of these awesome fishing tackle boxes, too.

Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 130

Review: It’s not the first time the Sea Ghost has graced these kayak review pages – and it probably won’t be the last. Vibe Kayaks have designed a truly wonderful craft here, a 13 foot, single person, sit-on-top craft that comes with a dual position Hero seat.

The extra-wide hull provides superior stability for those standing casts, at the same time being able to handle anything from quiet rivers to the surf of the sea.

With slide track accessory mounts on either side, storage galore, paddle parks, and a foot-operated rudder system, there’s a huge bundle of features that will light up the eyes of any keen angler.

Pros

  • Attractive, sleek design.
  • Fish finder transducer port with mounting points and protective lid.
  • Two flush mounted rod holders.
  • Cup holder.
  • Two tackle tray holders.
  • Scupper holes with plugs.

Cons

  • None to speak of.

Takeaway

I love the Sea Ghost. It’s smart, it’s practical, it’s got more features than you can shake an angry bass at, and you can accessorize the thing up the wazoo. Another top-drawer yak from the Vibe portfolio.

Feelfree Lure 11.5 Kayak

Review: Designed for longer outings on oceans, lakes, and rivers, with its oversized deck space and abundant storage options, the Feelfree Lure kayak is a beautiful little craft that has everything you need for a fly fishing and kayaking adventure.

It’s super stable and comfortable, with a stand up deck and a Gravity seat – which is one of the most adjustable and well-designed kayak fishing seats available.

A sonar pod allows you to easily install a fish finder and transducer without the need to drill, and the craft is fully compatible with a rudder system, paddle, or motor drive if you require.

Pros

  • Two fishing pole holders.
  • Mounting track for accessories.
  • Sturdy, molded handles.
  • Keel wheel for easy transportation.
  • Rear tank well with bungee.
  • Stand up leash.

Cons

  • None – although the additional drive systems will get expensive.

Takeaway

There’s a very strong chance that this craft was designed by kayak fisher people, for kayak fisher people. Easily one of the best fly fishing kayaks of 2020.

Old Town Predator 13 Angler Fishing Kayak

Review: When it comes to fishing kayaks, the Old Town Predator range is hard to beat, and they’re up there with the best in the world. This version is the Predator 13 (unlucky for some) but packed with features to make any angler’s day on the water complete.

The Element seating system with high and low positioning keeps you comfortable – and offers an easy transition from standing to seated positions.

The slip-resistant Exo-Ridge deck is super-stable and roomy, while the innovative ModPod storage system for tackle and gear has removable trays and is fully customizable. Horizontal rod storage options and water-tight bow hatch are within easy reach on one of the best stand up fly fishing kayaks there is.

Pros

  • World-class construction.
  • Fish finder transducer scupper.
  • Support track foot brace system.
  • Stern tank well and bungee.
  • Tackle storage under seat.
  • Six mounting platforms.
  • Magnetic lure holder.
  • Rod tip protectors.

Cons

  • It’s not cheap.

Takeaway

You might expect the oldest kayak and canoe manufacturer on the planet to come up with something truly outstanding for yak fishing – and the Predator line is most definitely it.

Outstanding features and craftsmanship. I want one.

Wilderness Systems A.T.A.K 140 Fishing Kayak

Review: Like the Predator, it’s difficult to have the space in this review to sing the praises of this Wilderness Systems craft. It’s not called an Advanced Tactical Angling Kayak for nothing.

Compatible with the Helix MD motor drive, this thing is packed to the hull with features designed with the fisher person in mind. With a huge walk on, wind-shedding deck that doesn’t sacrifice speed, performance, and stealth, suspension seat, paddle park, multiple storage options from stern to bow, utility console, and SlideTrax mounting system – and much more besides.

I don’t have the characters left to do this 14 foot fishing kayak justice.

Pros

  • World-class construction.
  • Large weight capacity.
  • Adjustable foot braces.
  • Stern mounting accessory.
  • Rudder and trolling motor compatible.

Cons

  • Pricy.

Takeaway

A super-stable kayak that has one of the best decks for fly fishing out there. Another professional, tournament sports craft from Wilderness Systems.

Hobie 2020 Mirage Pro Angler 12

Review: It would be impossible to do a kayak fishing review without mentioning a Hobie. Arguably the finest fishing kayak manufacturer in the world, you only purchase one of these babies when you’re really serious about the sport.

This is for the angler who has everything, a top-of-the-line, Cadillac of fishing kayaks.

Featuring their famous Mirage Drive pedal system and fins (which is some seriously beautiful tech), a fully adjustable seat as if you were in your armchair at home, two vertical rod holders, four horizontal rod holders and all the mounting systems you could hope for.

This 2020 version is simply the best pedal kayak for fly fishing out there.

Pros

  • Top of the food chain.
  • built-in Lowrance transducer mount.
  • Under seat tackle storage.
  • Large front hatch.
  • Rear tank well with bungee.
  • Professional quality throughout.

Cons

  • Exorbitantly expensive.

Takeaway

The drive system on this thing is worth your money alone (and that’s where most of it’s going). A world-class fishing kayak for just about any kind of fishing you can think of. Heck, you could even try shooting a bow from that deck.

How to Choose the Most Suitable Kayak for Fly Fishing

There’s a lot to consider when selecting a new kayak at the best of times, but for fly fishing craft, you need to put in a little extra thought.

Read the buyer’s guide below for some top tips and advice to guide you on your way.

fly fisherman with kayak going toward the river

Kayak Style

Kayaks come in all shapes and sizes, but you must first decide on the style of yak that will suit your needs, and one that you’ll be comfortable piloting.

Each kayak style offers something a little different, with some hybrid models capable of covering many bases at once. For fly fishing, you’re going to want something that’s going to be solid on the water.

This is where stability takes precedence over speed.

As such, sit-in kayaks, whitewater craft, play boats, touring, and general recreational yaks aren’t going to cut it.

Even some dedicated fishing kayaks will not offer you the specifications to perform standing casts, so you need to pay attention with your yak selection.

Sit-on-top kayaks are king here, with a wide, flat hull which is never going to win awards for pace, but certainly will for stability.

Fly fishing kayaks are available in hard shell and inflatable varieties – and the type you choose is up to you.

Stability

Let’s take a more in-depth look at kayak stability – as when it comes to fly fishing from your craft, this is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a kayak.

You might have heard the terms ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ stability in reference to how “tippy” a kayak will be when placed on a body of water.

  • The primary stability refers to what a kayak is like simply sitting on the water. Its initial steadiness without challenge.
  • The secondary stability refers to how stable a kayak is when it’s up on its edge/tipped on its side.

How far a kayak leans towards each factor will depend on the shape of the hull and the overall design of the boat.

It’s possible to write a book on such a subject, but for fly fishing, you should be looking at a craft with a flat hull, and the best possible primary stability.

This is largely because you’ll be fishing in calmer waters, and this is where good primary stability excels.

Check out the excellent video below for more information on kayak fishing for beginners, and finding comfortable stability in your craft.

Size and Weight

You’ll notice that the kayaks in the review come in a variety of different lengths and hull widths.

Some are more lightweight than others – depending on how much yak you’re getting for your money, as well as any additional features such as drive systems which will add serious weight to the craft.

The size and weight you choose will depend on what you feel comfortable paddling, and what you can easily transport to your put-in point.

Tandem fishing kayaks can often make ideal single-person fishing vessels, because of the additional space they offer for storage, tackle, and catch.

Just make sure you choose one that’s suitable for stand casting if you’re opting to fly.

Weight Capacity

An important factor in all kayak buying guides, is the weight capacity of the yak. How much it’s capable of holding before experiencing difficulty and possibly sinking in the water.

For fishing kayaks, this will usually be a much higher figure than other recreational craft.

This is due to the fact that you’ll likely be carrying plenty of extra tackle and gear, as well as one of these amazing fishing coolers to store bait, and/or anything you catch.

With fly fishing, your tackle needs might be minimal, but always be aware of a yak’s weight capacity – and never overload the vessel or come close to this weight figure – just to be on the safe side.

closeup of brown trout being caught by flyfisherman

Propulsion

If you’re getting out on the water for nothing more than a splash about, then a kayak with a paddle is all you need. (And a PFD, of course).

However, for fishing kayaks, getting around can be achieved in a number of different ways. This is largely to keep the angler’s hands free to get on with actually catching fish.

As such, the higher-end kayaks (many of which just happen to be perfectly suitable for fly fishing) have the ability to be compatible with peddle drive systems.

Toe-operated rudders are also useful, again, to keep your hands free and offer additional maneuverability.

Many fishing yaks also offer hardware attachments for trolling motors at the stern – for effortlessly negotiating your hunting grounds.

While this kind of technology is at the cutting edge of kayak fishing, it certainly doesn’t come cheap, so take into consideration if this is something you really can’t do without when you’re on the water.

Paddles, of course, are still perfectly valid – but just make sure your yak has a paddle holder. You don’t want that floating off while you’re trying to land that pike.

Seating Options and Position

Most fishing kayaks are designed with a seat that has an elevated position, so the angler can observe the water in front of him or her, and hunt those fish down.

Such seating is usually light years ahead in quality compared to regular kayaks, as fisher people need to be comfortable for a full day’s session, and even fly anglers will need to sit down eventually.

With regard to the fly fishing position, look out for kayaks that clearly feature a place to stand on the deck.

Feet-shaped, non-slip deck pads are a dead giveaway that stand up casting is welcome here.

Remember, you don’t need to stand when it comes to fly fishing, and as such, any decent fishing kayak will suffice.

But the ability to perform standing casts and reels offers more power, accuracy, vision, and control for the fly fisher person – and that’s why it’s an important feature to look out for.

fisherman is throwing spoon of fly rod in water

Fishing Accessories

Fishing kayaks are only fishing kayaks if they’re designed for that purpose.

Of course, you can adapt any suitable kayak for fishing, and while perfectly suitable for the most part, they’re never going to be as good as a dedicated fishing yak. At least, unless you pour hundreds of dollars into a conversion.

If you’re intending to fish regularly on the water, a fully fledged fishing kayak is the way to go.

So, you need to keep a look out for those fishy features that will give you an indication that the yak you’re researching is designed with anglers in mind.

Such features might include – but are not limited to –

  • Fishing rod holders (multiple locations and styles are advantageous).
  • Accessory mounting tracks and hardware.
  • Measuring scales.
  • Large storage options.
  • Under Seat tackle storage.
  • Fish finder console.
  • Scupper holes for water drainage.
  • Paddle parks.
  • Standing decks.

And keep a look out for kayaks that offer a stand assist strap – to get you on your feet quick and easy. If there isn’t one upon purchase, then adding one yourself is highly recommended.

Storage and Space

Any fishing kayak worth its salt will come with a great selection of storage options. You need somewhere to put your tackle, gear, and a few cold ones.

Not to mention any fish you happen to reel in – if you’re not practicing catch and release.

Look out for kayaks with watertight deck storage compartments, that are usually placed in the bow, at midships, and/or at the stern.

If your yak doesn’t have watertight storage, try one of these quality dry bags instead, ideal for keeping your valuables from getting a soaking.

Storage wells are useful for stashing larger items, and most should come with bungee webbing to keep your gear secure.

Aside from this, as a fly fisher, you’re going to need plenty of space to cast, strip the line, and reel in.

With the nature of fly fishing, your line can get tangled on all kinds of obstacles and snags in and around your yak.

Check out the video below for a practical way to add a stripping basket for fly fishing in a kayak, and prevent this problem from occurring.

Extra Features

There are other things to consider before purchasing a kayak for fly fishing purposes – or any activity for that matter.

They might not be directly relevant or related to fishing, and they may or may not be beneficial to you. Everyone is different.

Extra features might include:

  • Removable or fixed skegs for improved tracking.
  • Grab lines for safety.
  • Heavy-duty carry handles in key locations.
  • A paddle included (and a pump if it’s an inflatable).
  • Cup holder.
  • Available in a choice of colors and designs.

Go with whatever extra features are useful to you. Of course, the most important of these is the cup holder for beer.

Cost

Good fishing kayaks aren’t cheap, and cheap fishing kayaks aren’t good.

And, unluckily enough, kayaks that tend to be more suitable for fly fishing are probably the most expensive out there, aside maybe from professional ocean-going touring craft.

This is because they use premium materials, design, and craftsmanship to manufacture the safest, most practical kayaks for the sport possible.

For a quality fishing kayak you can comfortably stand in, you’re not getting much change out of $1000.

And while there are cheaper models out there, if you feel you’re not quite ready to splash out that much, you could always stick to the more traditional methods – like using these awesome fly fishing waders, and swapping a PFD for a fly fishing sling pack.

Alternatively, you could try one of these cheap fishing kayaks, and see how you go. Perhaps you could pimp it out to being every bit as good as a more expensive model?

man preparing for kayak fishing trip

FAQs

Can you fly fish out of a kayak?

It depends on the kayak. Providing it has a wide, flat hull, and has been designed to allow someone to stand on the deck, then you certainly can fish out of such a craft.

Of course, you don’t have to stand, as it’s possible to fly fish from a seated position – but you just might not have as much power or control to really launch that line accurately.

So, that’s the point of this review and guide, to highlight the kayaks that are actually suitable for the sport.

How do you fly fish in a kayak?

Fly fishing is a great skill at the best of times, but with the addition of requiring good balance on a kayak, you’re seriously upping the ante.

It’s an art form.

It’s possible to write a bible’s worth of advice on fly fishing from a kayak, but the internet is a great place to start, and instructional videos can teach you more in a few minutes than you could ever hope to read here.

Check out this example to get you hooked.

Fishing kayak vs float tube for fly fishing?

Again, this depends on what you’re comfortable with.

Some folks prefer the float tube as it’s more accessible, cheaper, highly portable, quieter, and storage is never going to be a problem.

But you’re not going to cover any distance – and you’re going to get wet. Other fisher people would rather use the kayak as your legs aren’t going to be dangling in the water.

Take a look at these popular fishing float tubes to see if that’s a technique you would prefer.

What is the most stable kayak on the market?

That’s a topic of much debate, and every angler out there will have their own opinion.

I don’t believe there is one, winner-takes-all kayak that is more stable than the rest. The high-end fishing kayaks should offer comparative stability and performance.

But certainly, brands like Old Town, Perception, Wilderness Systems, and Hobie (to name-drop a few) can all lay claim to the most stable kayaks on the market.

It’s more about finding the most stable one for you and your fishing style.

What is the best fishing kayak?

Again, a totally subjective question with no definitive answer.

There’s excellent budget fishing kayaks, tandem fishing kayaks, inflatable fishing kayaks, competition fishing kayaks…

Have a look at this article on (what I believe to be) at least some of the best fishing kayaks on the market, today.

What is the best kayak to stand up in?

Any kayak with a nice, wide hull, good primary stability, and a place to actually position your feet and stand on deck will be fine to stand up in.

It’s a good idea to have a grab strap or rope to help you do this, but you should check out the video below for tips on how to stand up in a kayak.

Once you have the technique down, it won’t matter which is “the best” in this department.

Do you need an anchor for kayak fly fishing?

Yes – especially if you’re fishing on moving waters.

But even out in perfectly still conditions, it’s a good idea to anchor your yak to maintain your position, and keep noise to a minimum to prevent scaring the fish.

And if the wind gets up, you’re not going to be blown back to shore in the middle of a cast.

Try a collapsible, foldable anchor that weighs somewhere between 1-3 lbs. Special kayak anchors are available, or you could make your own using a brick and a bit of rope.

What is the best length of rod for kayak fishing?

The best fly fishing rods will be between 8.5 to 9 feet in length. Period. That’s whether you’re fishing from the bank, in waders, a float tube, a kayak, a boat, or whatever.

Anything above or below those figures and you’re moving into specialty fly rods. As such, for kayak fly fishing, stick within that ballpark and you can’t go wrong.

For more general fishing rods for kayaking, follow that link.

Are sit on top kayaks more stable?

It actually depends on the conditions.

If you’re in flat, calm water, in a sit-on-top kayak with a wide hull, then you’re going to feel as solid as a rock.

If you’re in the same conditions in a narrow, sit-inside craft with a rounded or V-shaped hull, it’s going to feel very “tippy” and unsteady.

Take those two kayaks out into choppier waters – and which one do you think will feel more stable?

That’s the primary and secondary stability rule. For kayak fishing, you’re best choosing a sit-on-top yak, designed for calmer conditions.

Summary

Kayak fishing is an awesome sport/pastime/hobby/life goal/achievement to unlock, and fly fishing from such a craft takes it to the next level.

Just don’t forget to wear one of these fishing PFDs while you’re at it.

And let me know which of the best kayaks for fly fishing you’ve chosen to take on your next yakking adventure.

I wish you good fortune in catching many fish, without ever falling in.