6 Best Fly Fishing Kayaks: Stand Up, Inflatable & More Reviewed

Fly fishing uses lighter lures and longer casts to reel in fish. A kayak will give fly fishing anglers the perfect position over any target. Anyone who loves fly fishing out of a kayak can read through this guide to find out how to use them and which ones to buy.

Preview

Product

Max Capacity

Length

Width

Check Price

Wilderness Systems ATAK 120 | Sit on Top...

Wilderness Systems ATAK 120

400 lbs.

12’3”

35 inches

Perception Pescador Pilot 12 | Sit on Top...

Perception Pescador Pilot 12

475 lbs.

12’5”

33.75 inches

Elkton Outdoors Steelhead Fishing Kayak -...

Elkton Outdoors Steelhead

400 lbs.

10’10”

39.5 inches

No products found.

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140

375 lbs.

14 feet

28 inches

Elkton Outdoors Fishing Paddle Board - IBIS...

Elkton Outdoors IBIS Pro

475 lbs.

12 feet

33 inches

Hobie 2020 Mirage Outback (Papaya Orange)

Hobie 2020 Mirage Outback

425 lbs.

12’9”

34 inches


Buying Considerations for Fly Fishing Kayaks

Kayak Style

The pilot of a kayak might sit inside a cockpit or on the top of the hull. Some kayaks, like SUP models, are flat and meant to be stood upon. All these types rely on solid stability for the angler to be able to fish. While most are made of materials like polyethylene, some are made of inflatable materials to be more portable. Inflatable kayaks are better for reaching remote areas, but hardshell ones are more durable.

Size & Weight Capacity

Long kayaks are faster but harder to turn while wide kayaks have better balance but less speed. Even though longer and wider kayaks are harder to transport and might not be suitable for narrow creeks and small rivers, they often have the highest performance and can hold more gear. The weight capacity is important to consider for both the weight of the angler and the weight of all the gear.

Design & Durability

Kayak design has to take into account the chine, the rocker, and how cluttered the deck is. Long sections of fly fishing line will find a way to get tangled on anything it can find, so a clear deck is imperative. For additional room and better balance overall, the seating setup should not be complicated and the upper edge on either side of the yak, referred to as the gunnel, should be low and even.

Stability

To get the long cast that fly fishing calls for, the kayak has to be really stable. The primary stability is engaged when the kayak is level in calm conditions and gives a sense of security when standing up. Secondary stability is when the kayak is tipped in either direction; it should be able to tilt pretty far and never turn over completely. Both are important for going through the many motions of fly fishing while standing up on a fly fishing kayak.

Tracking, Speed & Maneuverability

When you paddle in a kayak, it shouldn’t move from side to side. If it stays on track, it’s said to have good tracking. In running water where fly fishing typically happens, good tracking and maneuverability are important for navigating obstacles and reaching pristine fishing spots. Speed is also handy, so you don't have to spend the whole day paddling to get somewhere. New hull designs allow for both speed and a reactive kayak that will respond and turn just how you need it to.

Storage & Portability

Most kayaks have some kind of handle attached or built-in to make transporting it to the water easier on anglers. Inflatables are always going to be more portable. There’s also the issue of storage onboard the kayak. While the deck must be clutter-free, anglers also benefit greatly from in-hull storage, rod holders, and incorporated fish finder mounts. A sleek design will blend this storage space without creating lots of catches for fly fishing line to get caught up in.

Budget & Warranty

It’s not unheard of to spend one or two thousand dollars on a top-of-the-line fly fishing kayak if it has all the bells and whistles and handles exceptionally well on the water. Thankfully some less expensive models might come with a little bit less storage space or be built with a less sophisticated building material. As a general rule, the higher the initial investment, the better and longer the warranty will be. That’s not always the case, so make sure you look into the warranty before purchasing a kayak.


6 Best Fly Fishing Kayaks Reviewed

1. Wilderness Systems ATAK 120

Our Top Pick!

Max Load Capacity

400 lbs.

Primary Material

Polyethylene

Length

12’3”

Width

35 inches

Kayak Weight

86 lbs.

Loaded with design and performance features, the ATAK 120 has a standout low-profile shape and can be fully customized with gear, electronics, and specialized fly fishing tools like a stripping basket. It’s bound to leave an impression on a passerby and anyone who gets to use it, not only for its sleek contours but for the way it handles in running river water. The increased rocker on the 120 is what gives it its signature responsiveness.

One possible drawback is that the larger rocker can sometimes give the impression that this kayak has less primary stability than other comparable models. However, the rounded chine and the flatness of this craft’s wide hull give it great secondary stability. There are also some built-in features to help keep your balance on board, such as the stand-up assistance strap.

Despite the wide variety of features and add-ons this kayak has, there aren’t that many places where fly line can get tangled or knotted up. It’s the best stand-up kayak for fly fishing not only because it’s stable enough to stand up on but also because it won’t get in the way of your fishing at critical moments.

There’s also a second transducer scupper hole built for side-scanning models, so upping the strategic level of your fishing is also really easy with this kayak. With plenty of storage space, one of the most comfortable seats on the market, and low susceptibility to wind, it’s hard to beat the ATAK 120 for fly fishing.

Pros
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Built for electronics
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Incredibly responsive
Cons
  • Less primary stability

2. Perception Pescador Pilot 12

Best Saltwater Kayak for Fly Fishing

Max Load Capacity

475 lbs.

Primary Material

High-density polyethylene

Length

12’5”

Width

33.75 inches

Kayak Weight

85 lbs.

If you want to take a saltwater kayak fly fishing, the Pescador Pilot 12 is for you. Its main draw is the pedal-driven propulsion system, which is good for hands-free operation and performs much better than you’d think in running rivers. It can also handle the open ocean or coastal waters thanks to its durable hull. It’s UV-resistant, so it won't bleach after long periods in direct sunlight. The length of this kayak gives it some great speed potential, and the shape of the hull gives it fantastic tracking.

If the weight of this kayak makes you worry about transporting it, rest assured that a dolly makes it easy to get it to the launch site and back. Plus, if you want to hunt massive targets like tarpon, that weight will be essential to keep you from getting dragged along.

Four rod holders behind the seat give plenty of space to store both light and heavy gear if you’re the type of angler that likes to change tactics in the middle of an outing. There’s also a spot to fix an anchor on as well as a rudder that can be operated with one hand. There are also self-draining scupper holes to keep the 12 from getting overwhelmed with seawater if there’s a lot of chop. The only thing that stops this from being a perfect saltwater fly fishing kayak is the possibility of fly fishing line to get tangled in the pedal mechanism, but if you can build up good line control, then it's not a huge problem.

Pros
  • Uv-resistant hull
  • Great tracking
  • 5-year warranty
  • Handles chop & waves well
Cons
  • Requires good line control

3. Elkton Outdoors Steelhead

Best Inflatable Fly Fishing Kayak

Max Load Capacity

400 lbs.

Primary Material

PVC

Length

10’10”

Width

39.5 inches

Kayak Weight

40 lbs.

This fly fishing inflatable kayak is one of the cleanest out there, meaning there’s little to no chance of having line tangles. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Steelhead lacks the space for gear that some other models have. It still has four Scotty-style mounts for rod holders or fish finders. It may lack some of the room longer kayaks have, but it’s one of the wider fly fishing kayaks which bodes well for its stability and roominess. The drop-stitching in the floor makes standing up to fly fish very easy on this model. Plus, the overall durability of the PVC used to construct the Steelhead is plenty tough enough to withstand pokes and jabs from sticks, rocks, and fishing hooks alike.

This kayak can hold more than some hardshell models can. It might lack the in-hull storage space of some other models, but it makes up for that with its portability, and the shallow draft enables it to reach places through shallow water that other kayaks simply cannot reach. If you haven’t tried fly fishing in shallow water, you’re in for a treat.

There isn’t as long a warranty offered with this model, but it is guaranteed for one year after purchase, which is pretty good for an inflatable kayak. The nose is sharp and cuts through water easily, and the cockpit has enough space to lean forward and dig for more power in your paddle.

Pros
  • Great in shallows
  • Drop-stitch floor
  • Maximum portability
  • Wide body
Cons
  • Shorter warranty
  • No in-hull storage

4. Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140

No products found.

Value for the Money

Max Load Capacity

375 lbs.

Primary Material

Polyethylene

Length

14 feet.

Width

28 inches

Kayak Weight

68 lbs.

The Tarpon 140 has features like an adjustable seat, an in-hull storage hatch with locking mechanism, and accessory rails usually reserved for fly fishing kayaks that cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars more than this one does. It is the best value for the money kayak. Not only that, but it has a sharp bow and hard chine that allow it to go fast and still track well. There’s plenty of space and stability to stand up and cast, and there's a rear bungee-covered storage space that's almost tailor-made for a stripping basket.

Besides being comfortable on the legs, the cockpit also has built-in trays that are just right for holding flys when they aren’t in use. Switching bait or tactics is easy on this kayak, so if you like to head down rivers that feature many different kinds of fishing environments, the Tarpon 140 is versatile enough to get the job done. It’s also a very tough kayak, able to withstand glances off rocks or collisions with all manner of submerged obstacles.

This is one of the longer kayaks we took a look at and also a bit on the narrow side. It doesn’t appear to have sacrificed anything for the length that gives it quickness, but the primary balance could be better, which is likely due to the reduced width. It also sticks out of the water a bit more, which can cause it to get buffeted around in strong winds. That all being said, it never feels like it’s going to tip, and it does have the built-in dry storage just in case.

Pros
  • Lifetime hull warranty
  • Gear track & storage space
  • Comfortable seat
  • Durable construction
Cons
  • Narrow body
  • Affected by wind

5. Elkton Outdoors IBIS Pro

Best SUP for Fly Fishing

Max Load Capacity

475 lbs.

Primary Material

Polyethylene

Length

12 feet

Width

33 inches

SUP Weight

55 lbs.

The most pared-down watercraft that’s still suitable for fly fishing has to be the stand-up paddleboard, or SUP. Many people can’t ever decide for good whether they prefer a SUP to a more traditional kayak, but that's not a problem with the IBIS Pro. It converts very quickly into a sit-on-top kayak with the addition of a seat, which is sold separately. If you don’t want to attach the seat, then this still makes a fantastically stable platform to fish from. It requires much less hassle than a standard hardshell kayak, but it retains all the toughness of rotomolded polyethylene in its hull.

Elkton has also built this model with a foam core and guarantee that it won’t sink. Since the design of this SUP is so minimal, maintaining good line control is a cinch. There’s barely anything for line to get caught on, which definitely reduces tangles and knots. That’s not to say that this model is completely without features. It does have two swivel rod holders, gear tracks, and plenty of d-rings to attach whatever add-ons you like.

There’s no doubt this is the best stand up fly fishing kayak option for anglers who want to go with the flow and keep casting while they do it. Setting aside a paddle in the paddle holder is quick and secure, so you can switch to full fishing mode in a flash. It's also lighter than most similar models, almost a "best of both worlds" crossover between an inflatable fishing kayak and a hardshell.

Pros
  • Built-in leg strap
  • Lightweight
  • Great stability
  • Reduced line tangles
Cons
  • Shorter warranty (1 year)
  • Seat sold separately

6. Hobie 2020 Mirage Outback

Top Rated Fly Fishing Kayak

Max Load Capacity

425 lbs.

Primary Material

Polyethylene

Length

12’9”

Width

34 inches

Kayak Weight

103 lbs.

Hobie pulled out all the stops with its new 2020 Mirage. There’s hardly any effective kayaking technology that this kayak hasn’t been designed to use. Propelled by flippers on the hull, this is one of the quietest kayaks and a great way to sneak up on targets. In rushing river water, this boat is virtually undetectable. Plus, the flippers avoid taking damage by collapsing when they collide with hard obstacles like rocks. It also has a rudder in the stern that kicks up when it hits obstacles.

Besides the impressive propulsion features, this top rated kayak also happens to be built like a tank. The hull is tough enough to make it through some downright treacherous river conditions without taking a scratch. For being so durable, though, it’s also a pretty wide kayak with great stability. The hatch that grants access to the hull storage is easy to reach, and there are plenty of built-in rod holders in convenient places as well. Deck pads are included to make keeping your balance when you’re standing up even easier.

Anglers who like to take a look around with fish finders can make good use of the transducer shield that’s there to protect the ducer from taking damage. It’s retractable for transport, and there's also a built-in cable to use with the fish finder rather than having to mount it yourself. It might be one of the largest investments in this guide, but the Hobie 2020 Mirage really does have it all, and it’s backed by a 3-year warranty.

Pros
  • Paddles & rudder included
  • Easy to stand on
  • Outfitted for transducers
  • Durable hull
  • Lengthy warranty
Cons
  • Higher cost

Tips for Fly Fishing From a Kayak

Casting a fly fishing rod from a kayak can be a challenging thing to get used to. Here are a few tips:

  • When casting, try to keep the wind at your back and give it extra distance to your cast.
  • Make sure your backcast doesn’t go back too far. If it does, you risk slapping the water with the rod and scaring all the fish.
  • Keep your wrist straight during the whole cast. It will feel sharp and jerky at first, but it gets easier the more you practice.
  • Similarly, stopping the rod tip at the end of your cast will loop the line, letting you know when to feed line from your non-rod hand to get long casts.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How do I rig a kayak for fly fishing?

Make sure to get rod holders that are specifically built to hold fly fishing rods. They are usually longer and give enough support to the longer, more flexible rods used for fly fishing. Try using a fish finder with side scan technology to get the most useful info.

Do I need an anchor for my fly fishing kayak?

Fly fishing out of a kayak without an anchor is certainly possible, but it’s much easier to stay in one place and face the direction you want if there’s an anchor in the water. When dealing with fast water or wind, an anchor makes a vast difference in being able to get the line where you want it to go.

Why should I choose a fly fishing kayak vs. a pontoon boat?

Kayaks sit lower on the water, which makes them less susceptible to wind interference. They’re also faster and easier to maintain. Generally speaking, the fly fishing kayak will be the more efficient way to get around, it will cost less, and be much easier to get out onto the water.

How do I determine the best length for a fly fishing kayak?

Longer kayaks are best for fly fishing because they have the right mix of speed and safety. They’re usually wider, which makes them easier to stand upon. Plus, longer kayaks generally track better because they have a bit more weight overall. Of course, if you’re going to a really narrow place, a shorter model might be more effective.

Can I install a motor on a fly fishing kayak?

Many fly fishing kayaks have space for a trolling motor on the stern. Keep in mind that kayaks are so great for fly fishing because they are sneaky, so don’t ruin that stealth advantage with a loud motor. Motors might also make a good place for fly fishing line to get tangled.

How do you steer a tandem fishing kayak?

Steering can be done with a rudder if there’s one installed, or you can do it the old-fashioned way with an oar. Paddle on the opposite side of the direction you want the craft to go, or try digging into the water to drag the craft in a direction.

How do I take care of a fly fishing kayak?

Always rinse it after each use. This can help prevent smells and stains from building up. If you have a hardshell kayak, apply a UV-resistant treatment about once a season to keep the colors alive. Give it a thorough detailing before storing it for long periods and invest in a rack for storage.

How do I transport a fly fishing kayak without damaging it?

The most common way to transport a fishing kayak is a roof rack. There are protective skegs and wheel sets that make taking the kayak down off the car and transporting it to the launch site easy, even for solo anglers.


Conclusion

The best fly fishing kayak will be responsive, have room for gear, and balance well. The Wilderness Systems ATAK 120 has all this backed up with a lifetime warranty. It’s the easiest way to take full advantage of fly fishing from a kayak.