I’ve been fly fishing from kayaks since I was a kid, and in that time I’ve purchased, borrowed, rented and fished from more kayaks than I can count.
When people are on the hunt for the best fly fishing kayaks, one of the most important things they’ll be thinking about is their budget. Unfortunately these days, it’s surprising just how expensive a nice kayak can be.
That said, there are a few other features that you should look for besides just a good deal and there.
As someone who’s fly fished from a sit-in kayak for several years, I can tell you that it can be a lot of fun. But there’s a big difference between fishing from a sit-in and a sit-on-top kayak.
With a sit-in kayak, you’re not going to have the same stability and you’ll be closer to the water, making it difficult to cast.
While it is possible, I don’t recommend it, especially for someone who’s just started fly fishing, as it can become frustrating at times.
Also, you’ll want enough storage for all your fly fishing gear and you’ll want to make sure that, if you’re a solo angler, the kayak won’t be too heavy for you to handle by yourself.
I’ll cover these points, as well as overall cost, value, and where to purchase kayaks in this buyer’s guide. Let’s get started.
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Best Fly Fishing Kayaks
Below I’m going to go over 10 different kayaks. Each has its own unique features. So, think about what you need from a kayak and apply that to the items below.
1. Wilderness Systems Atak 120
(Best Fishing Kayak Overall)
- Pro: Great stability. Low profile cuts the wind
- Con: Difficult to transport
#1 on this list and for good reason, the Wilderness Systems Atak 120 has top-quality construction, great balance, decent storage, and plenty of add-on options.
Coming at $1,499, it’s a durable kayak that has a slim enough profile to cut through the wind, which will allow you to paddle easier and without letting pushed around as much.
It’s stable enough to stand on and cast from, and it’s comfortable enough that you can sit in it all day long.
It’s also fully customizable. You can move around the seat, change the foot platforms, or add on different kinds of features like an electric drive motor. It lets you do whatever you feel is going to make your fishing experience better.
2. Perception Pescador Pro 10
(Best Beginner Fishing Kayak)
- Pro: Captain’s chair with removable seating. Strong carry handles to help with transport
- Con: Not great for the open ocean or fast-moving rivers with rapids
It’s ideal from calm coastal water, or you could even use it in lakes and slow-moving rivers. There’s plenty of space on the side of the kayak for a paddle holder if you prefer to use your arms instead.
For a sit-on-top kayak, this is actually a pretty good price. In the mid to low price range, it’s a solid piece of equipment that has plenty of gear storage and is stable enough to stand on.
Most sit-on-tops are heavier, and thanks to the strong handle you can move this anywhere.
3. Perception Pescador Pilot 12
(Best Pro Fishing Kayak)
- Pro: Great storage space and sturdy
- Con: Rod holders aren’t deep enough. Not a lot of dry storage
We know that rod holders aren’t that big of a deal when fly fishing because fly rods generally don’t fit in holders anyway.
That’s just the kind of nitpicking you have to do when you have a solid fishing kayak like the Perception Pescador Pilot 12.
Despite having a lot of area for general storage, it doesn’t have a lot of dry storage. So if you need to bring a bunch of stuff along that can’t get wet, it might be best to invest in a dry bag.
The peddles on the kayak allow you to easily glide around lakes, rivers, and calm saltwater. The kayak has a 475-pound capacity, so you can store as much gear as you want on this.
The kayak is long and stable, allowing you to cast from a standing position as long as you have decent balance.
- Pro: Great for rough water. Slip-resistant deck, compatible with motor drive
- Con: None
The Wilderness Systems A.T.A.K 140 is the ideal kayak for someone who wants to fish in both fresh and salt water. It’s stable enough to hold up to choppy surf and the current of a river, and also stable enough for you to stand on in a lake.
For the price, this a might be the best kayak for fly fishing, and the fact it can be used in both salt and freshwater makes it versatile.
The seat and foot braces are fully adjustable, so that a person of any size can sit and be comfortable when fishing in this kayak. You also have access to all gear ports as well as other features on the kayak.
Featuring a toe controlled rudder, this kayak is quick and nimble in the water. If you need to navigate a tight corner on a lake then this is the kayak for the job.
- Pro: Lightweight and easy to carry for a sit-on-top kayak
- Con: Not the most comfortable and the seat should be replaced
At fifty pounds, the Pelican Saber Sit-On-Top Kayak is one of the lightest sit-on-top kayaks you’re going to find. You can easily load this into the back of the truck, SUV, or on top of your car in a rack.
The maximum capacity is 325 pounds, so it’s a little on the lighter end. Someone who wants to be able to bring a bunch of gear would be better off choosing a more heavyweight kayak.
There’s a dry storage box in the kayak where you can store cameras, phones, or anything else you want to keep dry. The back storage can hold your tackle box or crate full of supplies.
There are six eyelets that you can use to hook on new features to make your fishing experience easier. It also features a paddle tie-down for when you don’t need to paddle.
- Pro: Seat can be raised or lowered for either comfort while paddling or more efficient casting. Great for the price
- Con: Seat needs replacing since it’s not great quality. Rear storage is difficult to retrieve items from
The Perception Pescador Pro 12 is another great lightweight kayak. Coming at fifty-seven pounds, it’s easily handled outside of the water and able to be carried from a car to the water.
There’s no dry storage on this kayak, but it has plenty of storage in both the front and rear of the kayak. There are also accessory rails along the sides so you can install all kinds of different features to hold gear.
This is great for fishing on slow rivers, lakes, and ponds. I don’t recommend it for use in large choppy lakes, coastal water, or on rivers that have plenty of rapids.
7. Explorer K2
(Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak)
- Pro: Very affordable, strong design for a blow-up
- Con: Cheap feeling paddles, sit-inside design not great for casting
I ordered the K2 Explorer Inflatable Fishing Kayak while I was living and fishing down in the Caribbean. I took it out in my local bay many times and it did the job.
If you’re a serious angler who plans to spend a lot of time fishing from a kayak, I wouldn’t go with the inflatable type as they don’t last as long, aren’t typically as comfortable and aren’t as agile on the water.
Having said that, if you want to spend less than $150 on a good inflatable fishing kayak, this is the one.
Important Features of a Good Fishing Kayak
Now that I’ve talked about some of the products, below I’m going to go more in-depth on some of the features. Take a look to see which of these sounds best to you and apply them to your own search.
The weight of the kayak is important because you need to know if you can handle it on dry land. Carriers are available for some of the heavier sit-on-tops, but you should be able to at least lift the kayak and put it in the water.
Most weigh be between 50-100 pounds. Sit-ins are lighter and easier to handle outside the water.
Plastic or rotomold is the most popular. The hulls are strong and can take some abuse. They’re also reasonably lightweight.
If you plan on spending long days fishing from your kayak, then you need some great storage. You need spots behind and in front of you where you can put your gear.
Most kayak companies know this and already have those areas set up. Some, however, are larger or smaller than others. So, before you buy, make sure both of those areas are large enough to hold the gear you plan on bringing.
If you don’t have the kayak in front of you to check out, then you’ll have to go based on the company. Some solid kayak manufactures are the brands mentioned above.
The best way to judge a kayak’s quality is to sit in it. It doesn’t have to be in the water. It could just be at the store. Check out all the components to see if anything is loose.
The best fishing kayaks always have pedals for propulsion rather than paddles. This is so that you can have your hands free while casting, fishing, and trolling.
Generally you’ll have to move the rudder, but once it’s set to a straight position, you can generally pedal quite a ways out before having to adjust it again.
There are three factors when choosing your paddle and its length: your height, the width of the kayak, and what type of kayaking you plan on doing. Anything too short and you’ll be banging the sides all day.
Two of the most popular shafts are aluminum and fiberglass. Aluminum is cheaper and durable, while fiberglass is strong and lightweight.
Stability is a must if you’re going to be fly fishing on your kayak. You should plan on getting a sit-on-top kayak, as they’re the most stable and harder to capsize.
Sit-ins are also stable, but typically aren’t made to stand or kneel in. So all of your fishing will be done from the sitting position.
Sit-on-tops offer more comfort because you can stretch out your legs, and the higher-up chair will allow you to sit back and relax more.
Sit-ins can also be comfortable, but you’ll be more closed into the hull and will have less room to stretch. Also, if your kayak does not already have one, then you should invest in a padded seat.
Color is mostly a personal preference. If you want dark green and enjoy being camouflaged, then it can only help you. In general, a brightly colored kayak shouldn’t affect your fishing.
If anything, a brightly colored kayak is safer because it will alert other boaters to your presence.
Something’s price doesn’t always mean it’s good or bad. There are plenty of great kayaks that don’t cost a lot of money. You just have to find your price range and then use that as a guide.
Typically, though, some of the more expensive kayaks, $1500 and higher, are going to be great pieces of equipment.
When To Fish From a Kayak
Whether you’re fly fishing in the US or somewhere abroad, the best fly fishing kayak destinations are those with plenty of rivers and lakes.
It’s a bit hard to get into tighter streams with a kayak, but on lakes, reservoirs, and ponds, they can be the difference between getting to productive fishing areas and missing out on them altogether.
Types of Kayaks
There are also several different types of kayaks and other vessels you could use for fly fishing. Below I’m going to cover most of them. Check them out and see which ones you like best.
Float tubes are great for anglers with limited storage at home or a vehicle that can’t handle a kayak. They blow up easily and quickly right there on the riverside. They’re ideal for fishing in the warmer months.
These are great for sneaking around in smaller rivers and lakes where fish can be spooky. Casting could be difficult since you’re so close to the water, but it can be done.
I’ve only used a blow-up kayak once, and it was miserable. So I’ll do my best to be unbiased.
Similar to the float tube these are great for someone who has no storage space. They can be blown up quickly at the waters edge.
There’s nothing finer than fishing out of a mini pontoon boat. They offer excellent stability, and you can even use a trolling motor on most of them. Paddling is difficult, so it’s best to use them as a backup.
They’re great for fly casting.
Many rubber rafts aren’t made for fly fishing, but I’m sure some exist. Do your research beforehand. Most likely though you’d want to use a float tube or an inflatable kayak instead.
Those are at least made out of strong materials that are abrasion-resistant.
These are the apple of the fly angler’s eye. There’s something great about slowly floating in a drift boat down a river throwing dries to rising trout.
That said, they can get expensive. You’ll also need a trailer to haul it, and they’re not the best for fishing solo. Also, since they’re bigger, it takes time to master how to use one on the river.
This would be difficult to fish out of, let alone fly cast. The hull is completely enclosed, so gear storage is limited and a pain to get to.
That said, if you’re a minimalist angler who wears your gear on your vest and enjoys whitewater rafting in the middle of a fishing trip then there’s no better vessel for you.
Sit-In vs Sit-On-Top
Sit-ins have an enclosed hull, so they’re not quite as comfortable and there’s less space for gear. However, you can absolutely fish out of one and have success. They’re typically lightweight, cheap, and sturdy.
A sit-in is an ideal kayak for a casual angler or a novice. A sit-in has more storage and stability, but is also pricier and heavier.
You won’t be able to move this around as easily outside the water, but it’s ideal for fishing and fly casting. There’s tons of space for storage, and you can stand if you want.
Review This Post
Table of Contents
- Fly Fishing Gear
- Best Fly Fishing Kayaks
- 1. Wilderness Systems Atak 120 (Best Fishing Kayak Overall)
- 2. Perception Pescador Pro 10 (Best Beginner Fishing Kayak)
- 3. Perception Pescador Pilot 12 (Best Pro Fishing Kayak)
- 4. Wilderness Systems A.T.A.K 140
- 5. Pelican Saber Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak
- 6. Perception Pescador Pro 12
- 7. Explorer K2 (Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak)
- Important Features of a Good Fishing Kayak
- When To Fish From a Kayak
- Types of Kayaks
- Sit-In vs Sit-On-Top
Now that I’ve gone over my favorite kayaks for fly fishing, hopefully you have a better understanding of what to look for when making your purchase.
So, head on out to your local outfitter or check out the selection online. Finding a great kayak will only help you enjoy the sport more.
Some images in this post are courtesy of Shutterstock.com.
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