The simple answer to this question is “Location, Location, Location”. The fish can move freely about the water depths and wading anglers can not. Anyone experienced with fishing from the surf can probably recall many times when distance in the cast often made a big difference in the quantity and quality of fish caught. Though techniques in distance casting taught by some of the masters like Lefty Kreh and Lou Tabory can help the average angler to send a few extra yards of shooting line through their guides, there are still often situations where being able to chase the fish down into some deeper water (or more rapidly down the shoreline) can translate into more fish caught and released.
Taking the game to the fish opens more opportunity for the angler, but also has its compromises. Beginners at fly casting should probably hone their skills on terra firma before taking their first paddle. Seasoned casters will still need to make adjustments in their casting technique, but will find that all the same principles of casting apply on the kayak as they do on the shoreline. One dramatic change will be the requirements of often making long casts. The unique advantage of fishing from a kayak is that the angler can literally sneak up on the fish undetected. Of course, this won’t automatically translate to an immediate catch, but it increases the angler’s opportunity at fish.
Some locations simply fish better from a boat. If the fish are waiting in ambush formation on the deep side of a drop-off for the local bait fish to swim across from the shallows, even the best placed fly from the shoreline may not inspire a strike: the fly is swimming the wrong way! Casting into the shallows from deep water may be the only way to make the right presentation. It may also be an advantage to fish submerged or partially submerged structure from different angles. Its kind of difficult to cast around a huge boulder sticking ten feet out of the water thirty feet off the shoreline, but that may be where the fish are located.
Kayaks allow for extensive installation of electronic devices to navigate, locate fish and even propel the kayak through the use of electronic trolling motors. Add to this the ability to install rod holders, stow equipment and mount pontoons permitting the angler to stand in the kayak while casting and you have a highly versatile craft that can tolerate extensive accessories! These toys can help the angler avoid wasting time in fishless waters, consistently return to precise locations that have produced fish, and execute presentation of the fly in just the right way. Though some anglers take a dim view of the technique, it is possible to troll a fly as you leisurely paddle along and you may find that an area devoid of life on your fish finder may suddenly produce hidden treasure!
Perhaps the most commonly agreed advantage of the kayak is that it avails previously inaccessible fishing locations to the paddling angler. It is common in the Northeast to observe sandbars or flats which would most certainly produce fish all around or on them, but may not be accessed by wading. It may not be possible to access some of these areas with a flats boat! However, kayaks enable anglers to explore locations that were previously only the stuff of imagination and the best fishing in these locations may be realized by dismounting the kayak and wading the area. Talk about the best of both worlds!
Whatever the motivation to try kayak angling, be sure to be familiar with (and observe) all boating safety rules. Above all else use common sense. Renting or borrowing a kayak to try it out (without the fly rod at first) usually helps the beginner to more rapidly develop confidence in paddling. Working through the adjustment of kayak angling will be easier at that point. A multitude of expensive accessories are not required to start, but a good paddle and some safety equipment are a must. There are many websites and discussion forums which address common questions about equipment, techniques and locations from which to launch. A simple “kayak fishing” search on an internet search engine should suffice. Look for more articles on getting started with kayak angling in future Salty’s newsletters, our website or contact us at a future meeting regarding your interest in attending a forthcoming kayak angling club trip.