The 11 Best Fly Fishing Kayaks in 2021 (A Buyer’s Guide & Reviews)


Fly fishing is easily one of the most traditional, beautiful, and respected of all the angling disciplines.

It’s actually more of an art form.

And when you combine it with kayaking, you’ve got one of life’s greatest pleasures.

With that in mind, in this article we review some of the best fly fishing kayaks on the market – with a buyer’s guide to follow.

Read on to find out if it’s time to ditch those waders?

Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.

The 11 Best Kayaks for Fly Fishing 2021

Jackson Kayak Mayfly Fishing Kayak

Jackson Kayak Mayfly Fishing Kayak

It’s hard to see past this amazing kayak from Jackson, considering it’s been specifically designed with fly fishing in mind.

It’s absolutely packed with features as a result, while the hull has been optimized for use in popular fly fishing conditions.

Special attention has been paid to ensuring you experience tangle-free fishing (one of the main challenges of the fly angler), with a super-spacious deck area, snag-free footrests, and flip-down fly-box holders lined with foam.

There’s storage options up the wazoo, and an ergonomic comfort seat with integrated MOLLE system – just in case you don’t have enough extra room for all your gear and tackle.

Pros

  • Specifically designed for fly fishing.
  • Large stern tank well.
  • Rod butt props to prevent line tangles.
  • Raymarine transducer scupper.
  • Dedicated fly rod storage.
  • Accessory track system.
  • Choice of colors.

Cons

  • It’s on the pricey side.

Takeaway

This is a no-brainer really, the Mayfly is easily the best kayak for fly fishing on the market, as – at the time of writing – it’s the only model specifically designed with this form of angling in mind.

Regardless, it’s just an all-around beast of a yak, and if you’re a dedicated fly-fisherperson, you owe it to yourself to own one.

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 Kayak

It’s not often a kayak knocks the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler off the top spot, (not that the review is really in any order), but I feel like mixing it up a bit.

Still, this is another stunning craft from the California-based fishing kayak experts, complete with their market-leading Mirage-Drive kick up fin system.

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 highly recommended).

Still, this is one of the best pedal drive kayaks for fly-fishing on the market.

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • Exorbitantly expensive.
  • Very heavy.

Takeaway

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. And that’s why they’re one of the best kayak fishing brands in the world. Follow that link for more.

Lifetime Tamarack Pro 103 Kayak

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.

Pros

  • 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.
  • Paddle parks.
  • Flush mounted and adjustable rod holders.

Cons

  • Not quite as stable as other kayaks in this review, but seated fly-fishing is still very much a thing.

Takeaway

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.

NuCanoe Pursuit Fishing Kayak

NuCanoe Pursuit Fishing Kayak

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.

Pros

  • Super spacious design.
  • Very stable.
  • Large tank wells.
  • Paddle holders.
  • Rod butt ledges.
  • Scupper holes.
  • Suitable for all water conditions.

Cons

  • On the heavy side.

Takeaway

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.

Native Watercraft Slayer 12 Pro Kayak

Native Watercraft Slayer 12 Pro Fishing Kayak

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.

Pros

  • Solid and durable design.
  • Cam-lok paddle holders.
  • Flush mounted rod holders.
  • Adjustable foot braces.
  • Scupper plugs.
  • Stern dry storage hatch.
  • One anchor trolley.
  • Sewn rail tool caddy.

Cons

  • None to speak of.

Takeaway

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.

Bonafide SS127 Fishing Kayak

Bonafide SS127 Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak

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.

Pros

  • Outstanding stability and performance.
  • Bow hatch.
  • Stern tank well and tie down system.
  • Dual action foot braces.
  • Replaceable skid plates.
  • Paddle storage.
  • Sliding under seat “junk drawer.”
  • Attractive aesthetic.

Cons

  • Not the fastest kayak out there – but you’re not entering any races, are you?

Takeaway

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.

Wilderness Systems ATAK 120 Fishing Kayak

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.

Pros

  • Award-winning design.
  • Very popular.
  • Large rear tank well.
  • Adjustable bungee and gear security straps.
  • Sidetracks mounting system.
  • Adjustable seating heights.
  • Stand-up assist strap.

Cons

  • Good luck finding any.

Takeaway

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.

Old Town Predator 13 Fishing Kayak

Old Town Predator 13 Fishing Kayak

Like the ATAK, the Predator is another stalwart of the kayak fishing scene – probably because it’s made by the oldest and one of the best watercraft manufacturers in the world.

And it happens to be a totally badass fishing craft to boot – which doesn’t hurt.

It features a slip-resistant Exo-Ridge deck for solid standing casts and retrievals, with six removable mounting plates, so you can fully customize where you want your accessories.

A Humminbird transducer scupper is included, and dual tackle holders, side-mounted paddle holders, and center console with Mod Pod cover all help to keep things organized and out of your way.

There’s even a stand-up strap as standard – which can help immensely when you’re trying to get to your feet – or lower your aching bones back down.

Pros

  • Name to trust in kayaks.
  • Support track foot brace system.
  • Large bow hatch.
  • Adjustable comfort seat.
  • Tri-hull design for stability.
  • Rod tip holders and retainer bungee.
  • Molded paddle rest.

Cons

  • I’ve never been a fan of the color.

Takeaway

Another amazing fishing kayak from Old Town, the Predator is beautifully designed – and aptly named for hunting fish all day long. And if you are out all day, don’t forget to wear a decent fishing hat to stay protected from those equally deadly UV rays.

Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 130 Fishing Kayak

The best kayak under $1000? Quite possibly. 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 yak 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.

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • The center console might come loose easily.

Takeaway

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. And you should check out this article on the best ocean fishing kayaks for more craft that can equally handle the chop.

Emotion Stealth Pro Angler 118 Fishing Kayak

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 yak 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.

Pros

  • Great price point.
  • Deck channel draining system.
  • Scupper plugs.
  • Water-resistant hatch.
  • Rear tank well with bungee.
  • Very stable for stand-up casting.
  • Molded carrying handles.
  • Some nice extras.

Cons

  • No paddle park?!
  • It’s not the fastest kayak out there.

Takeaway

I think this is a really solid yak 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.

Perception Pescador Pilot 12 Fishing Kayak

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.

Pros

  • Bow and stern bungee webbing.
  • Retractable pedal drive.
  • Large tank wells for storage.
  • Choice of colors.
  • Ergonomic seating.
  • Beverage holder.
  • One-handed rudder control.

Cons

  • It’s still quite expensive.
  • Paddle storage isn’t the best.

Takeaway

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 Stand Up 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.

angler fishing on the kayak in river

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.

And if you’re looking for more of the best stand-up fishing kayaks, follow that link for a review.

Size and Stability

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 yaks 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.

Stand-Up Deck

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 yak 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.

Go here if you would prefer to explore some awesome pedal-powered fishing kayaks, instead.

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.

Storage

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.

Look for kayaks that have stern tank wells, large enough for tackle boxes, crates, and/or coolers. And check out this review for some awesome kayak tank well stuff you can put in them to stay organized.

Fly-trays, center consoles, side and under seat storage options are also extremely useful, so you can keep your tackle and rigs close to hand.

If you’re looking for even more storage options, try these ingenious fishing PFDs.

Not only can they save your life, but they provide extra places to work and stash tackle and tools – with drawbridge tables that are particularly useful for the fly-fisherperson.

And to make sure you’ve packed everything you need, check everything off on this fly fishing gear list, so nothing gets left behind.

fly fishing equipment rod, tools, box with flies and landing net

Cost

Unfortunately, the best fly fishing kayaks tend to be the most expensive models out there. This kind of quality, stability, and performance doesn’t come cheap.

There are one or two options below $1000, but if you’re serious about the sport – that’s generally the going rate. Pedal drives and premium seating will push that price right up.

I always suggest buying the best you can afford, something that suits your skill level, and how often you’re going to get out in it.

Failing that, you could always stick to a quality pair of fly fishing waders, and/or even try a fishing float tube instead.

Summary

Fly fishing is a beautiful and artful fishing practice that just might be one of the finest things on earth.

Especially when you combine it with the best fly fishing kayaks on the market – anglers are in heaven.

Let me know which model you would choose and why – or any kayak fishing tips you’d like to share with the community.

Tight lines everyone, and happy fishing.

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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