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The Best Kayaks for Fly Fishing – At-a-Glance
Before we take a look at the reviews, you might like to bear in mind the following features and factors that will help you choose the right fly fishing kayak for your needs.
Type of kayak – most flying fishing kayaks will be sit-on-top hardshells.
Size and stability – the wider the kayak, the more stable it’s going to be on the water.
Seating and comfort – you won’t be standing all the time – kayak seating is important.
Stand-up deck – is there plenty of uncluttered space? EVA deck pads? A stand-assist strap?
Pedals vs paddles vs power – how would you like to get around – and which is the best for fly?
Fishing features – look for fly fishing-friendly features, such as line stripping zones, staging areas, rod holders, and more.
Storage – the larger the kayak, the more room you’ll have to bring extra gear and tackle.
Cost – always tailor your kayak choice to your budget, and in relation to how much you’re actually going to use it.
Keep reading after the review as we go into each point in more detail, with a full buyer’s guide to purchasing the best kayaks for fly fishing.
To get you started, here’s Bonfire Bob’s top three choices – updated for 2023:
Since Jackson Kayak have appeared to retire the fly orientated Mayfly, we think that the Jackson Bite is its natural successor when it comes to this particular angling discipline.
Spacious, roomy, and uncluttered, it offers the perfect deck for stripping line, as well as fly patches to keep your tackle on hand, along with an impressive array of other useful fishing friendly features.
The rugged stability of the Old Town Sportsman 106 takes second spot, a hugely popular fishing kayak that never seems to let anyone down, no matter the type of angling you prefer.
Finally, (and in a controversial decision which has caused a heated debate here at Bonfire Bob), I’ve gone for the brand-new Pelican Catch Mode 110 in third place.
Sure, it might not be as tried and tested as some other top-quality kayaks, but for the price, and the design, I think it’s going to be making some waves in the community over the next few seasons to come.
Do you agree with our choices?
Read on for the complete review, and don’t miss the buyer’s guide to follow.
Now, this is exciting! Here we have the Pelican Catch Mode 110, a brand-new kayak that was released last year.
Pelican are known for their affordable, budget-friendly recreational boats, but it looks like they’re upping their game when it comes to the fishing market.
And they’ve done their homework, as this is a really solid entry that looks like it could cause some waves in the years to come.
The square, angular design allows for plenty of roomy deck space for stripping line, while the tunnel hull ensures impressive stability for standing.
Generous bow and stern tank wells with bungee tie-downs allow for the addition of lots of gear, and the retractable skeg will keep you on the straight and narrow when it comes to tracking through the water.
I’m calling this now – expect to see this on a few “best kayak” lists very soon, and watch this space, as we’ll no-doubt have an in-depth review in the pipeline.
Great price point for what you get.
Spacious, uncluttered deck.
Transom mount compatible.
Booster seat position.
Anti-slip deck carpet.
Tough, durable construction.
Not as tried and tested as the other kayaks in this review.
It might be the baby on the block, but Pelican are certainly setting their stall out with the Catch Mode 110, and I think they can be very proud of this creation. And it looks really smart, too.
Next up we have one of Native Watercraft’s flagship models, the Slayer 12 Pro. Quite possibly given the moniker by a heavy metal fan, this fishing vessel is certainly rock solid.
It offers a high and low seating position for “out-of-the-wind” paddling, with a stand-up strap that makes transitioning easy when required.
Groove tracks for accessory mounting are to be found in convenient locations, and the clutterless deck makes stripping line a breeze.
The semi-tunnel hull has been specially designed for improved tracking without compromising on stability, and open bow and stern storage areas offer plenty of scope for adding a quality fishing cooler, tackle boxes, or even a four-legged-friend.
On the deck, you can enjoy premium padding for comfortable standing casts and retrievals, and you can customize this baby until your heart’s content, with a removable dashboard with additional mounting options. Wow.
Solid and durable design.
Cam-lok paddle holders.
Flush mounted rod holders.
Adjustable foot braces.
Stern dry storage hatch.
One anchor trolley.
Sewn rail tool caddy.
None to speak of.
At first inspection it’s very hard to fault this awesome fishing kayak from Native Watercraft. I’ve looked it over time and again, and it seems they’ve thought of everything. And the fact that they’re a dedicated environmentally-friendly company just makes it that much sweeter. Rock on.
Is it a kayak? Is it a canoe? Is it some unholy marriage of the two from the future? Who knows? But what I do know, is that the NuCanoe Pursuit is a seriously good craft for fly fishing.
Designed for competitive angling, it balances the best of both worlds, with the performance of a sleek kayak, and the deck space and stability of a canoe.
Totally uncluttered, it does away with unnecessary fluff on deck, which makes it perfect for snag and tangle-free fishing.
It’s absolutely rammed with features, including accessory tracks, comfort seating, a decking kit, transom motor mount, and plenty of rod holders for all your gear.
No matter how this thing is powered, it’s going to offer you some seriously impressive performance on the water that just might win you some trophies.
Super spacious design.
Large tank wells.
Rod butt ledges.
Suitable for all water conditions.
On the heavy side.
A stunning hybrid canoe/kayak fishing vessel that just lends itself to fly fishing, but can handle just about anything that’s asked of it – even an expedition up the Amazon. And the color choices are tasteful and very attractive, too.
Marketed as a sit/stand kayak, the SS127 is a thing of beauty. Designed to offer the best possible stability for those pinpoint standing casts – without sacrificing performance, this is a premium vessel that’s comfortable in all water conditions.
The comfort seating can be easily converted to a lower paddling position – should you want to explore further afield, and it’s packed with top-quality fishing-friendly-features, including YakAttack gear mounts, Boss Strap rod management systems, and Dry Pods with transducer scupper.
Compatible with a Power Pole anchor system, as well as a host of other accessories, the joy of this craft doesn’t just stop after purchasing, as you’ll probably just want to stare at it for hours on end.
Outstanding stability and performance.
Stern tank well and tie down system.
Dual action foot braces.
Replaceable skid plates.
Sliding under seat “junk drawer.”
Not the fastest kayak out there – but you’re not entering any races, are you?
This thing looks like it’s from another world, with those sleek angles, a super-solid hull, and plenty of deck room for all your fly fishing needs.
Easily one of the best fishing kayaks out there – especially for stability. If Luke Skywalker was into fishing – this is what he’d be piloting.
Hobie Mirage Pro Angler Kayak
It’s not often that the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler is knocked off the top spot, but for fly fishing, I don’t think it’s as in its element as some other kayaks in this review.
Still, it’s one of the finest fishing kayaks ever made (if not the finest); yet another stunning craft from the California-based fishing kayak experts.
Featuring their market-leading Mirage-Drive kick up fin system, the Mirage Pro is available in 12 and 14 foot versions, (with the 14 arguably being better for fly).
It features a best-in-class stable deck, with lawn-chair frame seating that offers superior comfort and field-of-view.
Accessory tracks allow full customization, so you can add one of these amazing fish finders, and the dual-rudder design allows effortless, fingertip directional control – so you don’t actually need paddles (although they are still highly recommended).
Market leading brand.
Premium “kick-up” drive system.
Large stern storage well with bungee.
Bow hatch with removable liner.
Rudder and fin access points.
Retractable transducer shield.
You might prefer to remove the pedal drive when fly fishing.
It’s a Hobie – so I don’t really need to say more. But when it comes to pedal-driven, effortless kayak fishing, you would need to go a long way to beat this.
Right, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “how is a Lifetime kayak allowed to be included in an article about the best fly fishing kayaks?” Or, maybe you’re just thinking about what’s for dinner?
Either way, I stand by this inclusion because it’s hands down the most affordable fishing kayak – without compromising on quality.
In fact, it’s got plenty of premium features that you would usually pay double the price for, especially the adjustable framed seating, accessory gear tracks, adjustable foot braces, and more.
You’re simply not going to get better at this price point, as we can’t all go splurging $1000+ just to enjoy the sport.
Easily the best cheap fly fishing kayak on the market.
Outstanding price point for what you get.
Chine rails for stability.
Large tank well and storage hatch.
Lightweight, yet sturdy design.
Bow and stern bungee cords.
Flush mounted and adjustable rod holders.
Not quite as stable as other kayaks in this review, but seated fly fishing is still very much a thing.
I can’t get my head around the price of this kayak, as you’re getting some serious bang for your buck here, and Lifetime has really knocked it out of the park. They’re already known for their budget-friendly fishing kayaks, but this is some serious value for money. Don’t let the snobs tell you otherwise.
It wouldn’t be a review about any kind of fishing kayak if the Wilderness Systems ATAK 120 didn’t make an appearance.
It stands for Advanced Tactical Angling Kayak, and you might as well feel like you’re in a military operation when piloting this one.
Compatible with a motor drive system, you can upgrade at a later date if you desire, but right out of the box this is a top-class craft anyway.
The ATAK series has won a boat-load of awards, most notably for its fully customizable platform, super-stable deck with wind-shielding technology, and a patented suspension-style seating system for those long days on the water.
I think you’re going to be seeing this fishing kayak around for a long time to come.
Large rear tank well.
Adjustable bungee and gear security straps.
Sidetracks mounting system.
Adjustable seating heights.
Stand-up assist strap.
Good luck finding any.
The ATAK is one of the best kayaks for river fishing out there, and this is a stunning machine that shows no signs of falling out of favor in the community. And the 12-foot design of the 120 model is ideal for fly fishing those meandering, lazy backwaters until the sun goes down.
The famous Sea Ghost from Vibe Kayaks continues to impress, regularly finding itself included in any number of kayak fishing reviews.
And that’s for good reason, as you’re getting a brilliant craft here that packs in a lot of useful features for the money.
Two flush mounted rod holders and four gear tracks offer plenty of scope for customization, and a toe-controlled rudder system ensures this kayak is great for taking the effort out of long paddles, windy days, and strong currents.
A choice of attractive camouflage options are available, and the large center console provides plenty of storage space to keep all your fly gear close to hand.
And for a complete review of the Vibe Sea Ghost 130, you can follow that link to our in-depth guide.
Great price for what you get.
Excellent performance in all conditions.
Large front hatch and rear tank well.
Dual position comfort seating.
Fish finder and accessory mounts.
Magnetic tackle tray.
High weight capacity.
The center console might come loose easily.
Death, taxes, and the Vibe Sea Ghost. I love this kayak, and I think it’s a terrific all-rounder that is suitable in all conditions and all types of fishing.
Here we have another “budget-friendly” kayak that is perfectly suitable for our fly fishing needs.
It’s made by Emotion, which are an offshoot of Lifetime, and this is one of their premium models that won’t break the bank (at least you’re getting a bit of change from a thousand bucks).
The spacious, clutter-free deck is very attractive to the fly fisher, with adjustable comfort seating that offers three positions for fishing, paddling, and relaxing.
The foot braces can be fixed to suit anglers of all sizes, and the kayak comes with two Flambeau tackle boxes and two flush-mounted rod holders.
And for customization, you have no less than six, 12-inch sections of YakAttack gear mounts to add all the accessories you can think of.
Great price point.
Deck channel draining system.
Rear tank well with bungee.
Very stable for stand-up casting.
Molded carrying handles.
Some nice extras.
No paddle park?!
It’s not the fastest kayak out there.
I think this is a really solid kayak from Emotion, and there’s a lot to like considering it’s still below $1000. Super stable in the water, spacious, and with storage solutions and accessory options galore – fly anglers are going to love it.
Last but by no means least, the popular Perception Pescador Pilot. This is probably one of the “cheapest” pedal driven kayaks on the market – at least if you’re looking for something quality.
The propeller can be recessed into the hull to reduce drag and overcome underwater obstacles and hazards, while the leak-proof, one-piece construction has added buoyancy for safety.
The lawn-chair seat offers adjustable comfort and breathability for all-day use, and you’ll find plenty of gear tracks, fish finder console options, rod holders, and other accessory mounts in convenient locations.
Suitable for use in a variety of environments – including classic fly fishing spots – this is a great all-rounder that offers a lot of value for money – comparatively speaking.
Bow and stern bungee webbing.
Retractable pedal drive.
Large tank wells for storage.
Choice of colors.
One-handed rudder control.
It’s still quite expensive.
Paddle storage isn’t the best.
Pedal power at a (reasonably) affordable price point, the Perception Pescador Pilot is pretty perfect for all kinds of kayak fishing adventures and in multiple conditions. Just make sure you’re using a decent fishing headlamp if you’re brave enough to venture out in low light.
How to Choose the Best Kayak for Fly Fishing
These days, good fly fishing kayaks have plenty of features that you’ll need to look out for when choosing the model that’s right for you.
Let’s explore all the things you should be considering before adding to cart.
Type of Kayak
To get started, you’re going to need to choose the type of kayak that you would like to own – and there are several to choose from.
Sit-inside kayaks, sit-on-top kayaks, hardshells, tandems, inflatables… it’s enough to make your head spin.
To keep things simple, for fly fishing, you’re best with a single-seat, sit-on-top, hardshell kayak.
They offer the best stability – particularly for those standing casts – and the fact that you’re piloting it solo reduces the chances of hooking someone’s ear. Although you might still snag your own.
Luckily for you, all the models in this review fit the bill perfectly. Job done, next question.
You might notice that there’s one thing all these kayaks have in common (more or less). The clue is in the title of this section.
They’re all the same size (with the odd exception).
And they’re all rock solid stable.
12 feet seems to be the sweet spot when it comes to the ideal length for fly fishing kayaks – perfect for navigating the best fishing locations, not too big, and not too small.
And while each manufacturer claims to have the most stable kayak out there, to be honest, they’re all much of a muchness in this review. That’s what they’ve been designed for – and that’s what they do.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to mention that stability is very important, given the fact that fly fishing is usually done from a standing position.
And unless you’re going to pay me to physically test all these kayaks side-by-side, (please do), we’ll probably never know which is the “most stable” fishing kayak on the market.
Seating and Comfort
Kayak seating is where a lot of the money goes these days, and the better it is, the more you’ll have to pay for it.
When it comes to sit-on-top fly fishing kayaks, comfort is king. You want a seating system that makes it easy for you to transition from a sitting to a standing position, and back again.
Look for height-adjustable seats, so you can have one position for fishing itself, and another for when you want to paddle – which will help with your overall comfort while reducing fatigue at the same time.
The best kayak seats are going to offer multiple seating positions, be fully adjustable, and removable as and when required.
A very important part of a good fly fishing kayak is going to be the stand-up deck. Take the time to explore each model, and see which style and design you prefer.
Look out for EVA foam or deck pads to prevent slips – and you should always be wearing a pair of quality kayak fishing shoes to help prevent accidents, anyway.
Different kayaks have different deck designs. How much room is important to you? Do you like to move around? Do you have giant feet? All these things should be taken into consideration.
Look for uncluttered decks with space for snag-free line stripping, with the bare-minimum of features that won’t get in the way of your technique. There are certainly some kayaks in the review above that do this better than others.
And watch the video below for some tips and advice on how to stand up in a fishing kayak, so you’re comfortable with the process before you make a fool of yourself for all to see.
Pedals vs Paddles
Another important consideration when it comes to fly kayak fishing – is should you choose pedals or paddles when it comes to how the kayak is going to be powered?
Now, kayak anglers will usually swear by their pedal systems, as it makes the experience an absolute, effortless joy. You’re able to travel all but hands-free, further, and for longer.
But that central drive system might just get in the way for fly fishing – especially when you’re stripping the line.
And even with pedals, you should still be using a paddle anyway.
Either way, the decision is up to you. Don’t forget that pedals will also add a significant amount onto the price tag.
Check out this article on the best paddles for kayak fishing to see some truly top-drawer products that could well be game-changers when you’re out on the water. They’re not obsolete yet.
And this is a handy video for some expert tips on how to comfortably fly fish from your kayak.
(Fly) Fishing Friendly Features
By their nature, fishing kayaks should come with fishing-friendly-features (FFF) to make life easier for the angler.
Otherwise, they’re just normal kayaks.
And that might be especially true for fly fishing, as it’s important to have a setup that is geared towards this technique.
So, look out for kayaks that have fly fishing-friendly-features (FFFF), that might include a dedicated line stripping area, snag-free hardware and consoles, fly rod holders, rod butt props, fly storage, and more.
And don’t forget about the basics – like accessory rails to add GPS, fish-finders, sports cameras, and anything else that might help you achieve success and have an enjoyable day on the water.
Having plenty of storage space on board your kayak is another useful feature, not least because it allows you to bring along extra gear and clothing.
Like these practical fishing jackets, for example. Having spare clothes can really help if the heavens open – or you happen to fall in.
Stuart is passionate about travel, kayaking, camping and the great outdoors in general. He's not quite as enthusiastic about angling as his father was, but out of the two of them, he's yet to hook his ear lobe while fly-fishing, which he sees as an absolute win.