Out of Bounds

New Boat in the Yard

Everyone knows when you adopt a new boat type, your first purchase is never what you need; it takes an upgrade or two to get it right

By Rob Breeding

I’ve been thinning out my boat fleet. I sold my raft a couple of summers ago due to lack of use. My crew is scattered about the country these days and hauling 14-feet of PVC from state to state is a chore.

I’m now down to just my wood drift boat. I get it out on rivers occasionally, but it’s more often rowed backward across still water these days. I’m contemplating modifications that will allow me to spin around when rowing on lakes. The high bow better cuts through waves than the stern.

Yet fishing kayaks have been on my mind for some time. They seemed an improvement versus shore fishing and better suited for quick jaunts after work than the drifter. My recent quest to catch carp on a fly inspired me to add a kayak and start rebuilding the fleet. I say rebuilding because everyone knows when you adopt a new boat type, your first purchase is never what you need. It takes an upgrade or two to get it right.

I suspected this 12-foot, sit-on-top kayak wasn’t right when I bought it; I just didn’t yet know how it wouldn’t be right. I got it at a big box store where the only real assistance the clerk offered was billing my credit card, but the kayak was relatively inexpensive and will be a serviceable backup once I add the fishing kayak I really need.

There’s a certain degree of learning that only happens by doing. Before I bought my box-store kayak, kayaking was an abstraction. Now experience has shown me the importance of primary and secondary stability, seating position and tangle-free deck space. 

If you’re fly fishing out of a kayak a tangle-free deck is essential. But like a perfectly balanced supply and demand curve, a tangle-free deck is something that exists only in the imaginations of people who dwell on such things. 

Fly line always finds the tangle.

I want to stand and cast from my fly-fishing kayak. Here’s what I need to make this a reasonable, swim-free proposition.

Width. I’d like a wider boat. My box-store kayak is 32 inches wide, but 35 seems to be the sweet spot for boats intended for stand-up casting, along with a flat or pontoon-shaped bottom. A wide and flat bottom gives a kayak primary stability.

The trade-off is wide, flat kayaks are slower to paddle, and also lack secondary stability. In rough water they reach their limit sooner and are more prone to flip than a boat with a V-shaped hull, which gives a kayak greater secondary stability allowing it to roll with bigger waves. 

What I need is a kayak-shaped chunk of floating dock.

Height. A taller seat would help. I’m a little too low in my current boat. I’m also not a kid anymore so a little elevation would make it easier to pull myself up to stand. Plus, a taller seat is easier to fish out of when standing isn’t an option. And yes, I sometimes fly fish from the seat in my kayak. It’s not ideal, but there are times when remaining planted is the best option.

Tidiness. You can tell a kayak designed for fly fishing at a quick glance. There’s nothing ahead of the seat, sometimes not even footrests. You’re going to pile coils of line at your feet; these are snag seeking coils. You won’t notice until you’re false casting to tailing carp and you think you’ve got just enough line to shoot the perfect presentation in front of the fish. Those coils always find a way to catch on something just when you release an epic cast.

When it comes to fly fishing kayaks, the front of your boat is basically a stripping basket. 

Line grabbers are not allowed.

Rob Breeding’s website is www.mthookandbullet.com.