In July of 2004 I purchased a small sik(sit-in-kayak) for freshwater fishing. At that time, 5 to 7 lb. bluefish were in the Annisquam River. Bluefish being my favorite fish on the fly, I made my first venture into the protected waters of the Little River with a 6wt fly rod, wire and some clousers. Finally managing to get some line out without any hang-ups, I counted down and started to strip in line and felt the familiar whack of a bluefish. I was not prepared for what happened next. After getting the fish on the reel I found myself being towed all over the place. I couldn’t believe that a 6 lb. blue could tow me all around. I spent the day catching blues on the fly and whoopin’ and hollerin’ and laughing my head off as these fish pulled me all over the river. I spent the next month chasing blues and schoolies in the river and Gloucester Harbor.
I’ve been chasing stripers and blues from shore with the fly rod for over 25 years and my biggest fish so far is a 43” fish I caught in 2002 from the rocks off Good Harbor Beach. Twenty five years and that’s my only 40” fish. Why? Because fly fishing for big stripers is tough. In fact any fish over 30” on the fly is a BIG fish. I’ve had years where I’ve caught 10 fish over 30” and thought that was a banner year. Last year, I fished for 3 months out of the yak and had 20 fish 30” and over on the fly. A 34” fish from White’s Beach being the biggest. I started fishing this year in April and up to now I got around 25 fish that were legal. The kayak is the difference. Being able to reach spots that were unattainable made it possible.
For me the SOT (sit-on-top) is my yak of choice for fly fishing. The extra height you get from a sit–on–top aid in casting. Being up to your armpits in a sit inside limits your distance when casting.
I fish a 10wt and a 9wt 9’ long when targeting big fish. A 9 and 10 has enough punch to throw the big flies needed and enough backbone to move a fish when it heads for trouble. Last year I fished the fall run with a 6wt and a 4 wt fly rod. The fish were small and I had some 50 fish nights in Manchester Harbor on small flies. I actually burned out my trout reel on the 4wt.catching 22”fish one night. Nice!!
Large reels that can hold 100 yards of backing and have a good smooth drag are needed when chasing big stripers or blues. It’s not likely you going to strip in a 25” fish, let alone a 30” plus fish. The drag on these reels has to be smooth and strong enough to withstand runs made by big fish.
I carry 2 lines with me when I go fly yaking. An Orvis depth charge 350-grain sink tip and a floater. The depth charge has a floating running line that enables me to strip my line into the water. I feel this is an important aspect for casting out of the yak. When I cast, the line is floating and is out of the boat and not catching on all the stuff I have in my cockpit. Paddle clips, fish finder, rod leashes, and rod holders love to catch fly lines .Also if your line has a sinking running line it creates to much drag and really costs you distance. Some guys carry stripping baskets, but I have enough crap in my boat!!
Anything but clousers!! Don’t get me wrong, the clouser is the fishiest fly out there, but is an accident waiting to happen out of the yak. I don’t know how MANY TIMES I’VE BOUNCED THESE FLIES OFF THE BACK OF MY HEAD AND OFF THE YAK breaking the eyes off and ruining the fly. Impaling the fly into my pfd is one of my favorites. I like baitfish shaped flies tied with synthetic material for weight. An 8” mackerel pattern tied with synthetics is a lot easier to cast that a natural fiber fly. With the floater, pencil poppers, gurglers, and sliders.
Casting From the Kayak
Standing on flat ground, I can make 2 back casts, double haul, and throw my depth charge till my backing and fly line hit my first guide. From the yak, 70’ is all I can manage. That’s on a good day. Distance is not that important when fishing from the yak. A 45’ cast is all you need to fly fish effectively. I cast from 2 positions in the yak. When drifting from left to right I like to shoot my line at the 11 o’clock position and strip line into the water on the left side of the yak. I also like to sit sidesaddle and cast to the 9 o’clock position.
The kayak enables me to get into places that are not reachable with a boat. Boulder fields and shallow rocky shoals that I fish will tear a lower unit right off. The yak goes right over and into some off the fishiest places. Okay, let’s say I’m going to fish a rocky shoreline. The current is running left to right, my bow pointed to the shore. Shooting my cast at 11 o’clock, I count down my fly to depth and start my retrieve. I like to throw the fly right into the rocks sometimes landing the fly on them. I try to hit every pocket, every rock, and every piece of structure on the drift. I also will vary my retrieves and depths in the areas I drift.
Fly fishing for stripers in a kayak is very effective. Some days are unforgettable, some not so good. Like I said earlier, fly fishing for big stripers is tough. Don’t get discouraged, keep at it. What I wrote here are some of the things I do. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Most importantly ask questions and keep at it. Believe me, there is nothing that compares to a good fish on the fly in a yak. Line screaming off the reel, rod doubled up as the fish sounds, and being towed around. Good luck and have fun!