Fly fishing from a kayak can be one of the most satisfying, back-to-nature ways to catch fish.
But like most things in life, your chances of doing it well depend on having the right equipment. You wouldn’t fix a fly you knew wouldn’t interest the fish you were trying to catch, right?
The deal is the same with the kayak you use. Choose the right one, you’re gonna sit and cast all day, and likely fill up your kayak.
Choose wrong and all sorts of things can happen. The prey fish can feel you coming and get out of the way. You can be stuck in an improperly balanced wedge for hours.
And you could even be scared to cast properly for fear of tipping yourself and the kayak into the water.
Want to minimize the risk of a dunking, and maximize your likely fish haul?
Welcome to our showroom of the best fly fishing kayaks currently on the market.
In a hurry? Here’s our top pick.
OUR TOP PICK
Fishing solo? The Pelican Sentinel 100X has your name on it. It’s both compact and lightweight, which means it’s easy for one person to transport – with or without a whole heap of fish!
The Pelican is shorter than most one-person kayaks, but it’s designed to seat you comfortably whether you’re tall or short.
It has a twin-arched multi-chine hull – which means it’s stable in even frothy water, so you’re not going to tip this kayak unless you throw your whole weight into the task.
Don’t do that, it kind of defeats the point of all the science, and you’ll end with soggy underwear all day long.
One of the common issues with lightweight kayaks is that they tend towards flimsiness.
The Pelican doesn’t do that. It’s made of a patented RAM-X premium polyethylene that gives you strength, durability, and resistance to accidental impact.
Inside the kayak, there’s a half-and-half blend – the deck layout will be familiar to most kayak fishers, but the design is modern and gives you advantages compared to some fly fishing kayaks.
Most notably, the ErgoLounge seating system brings extra-thick cushioning and a lot of adjustability, so you can sit and fish comfortably all day long if you like. A dog platform, fully molded footrests, and a 13-liter storage compartment for all your gear give you the sense that the Pelican is bigger on the inside than it is on the out.
- Lightweight, compact design makes it ideal for solo use
- Robust polyethylene construction makes it strong enough to survive bumps and scrapes
- Familiar internal layout means you’ll get the hang of using it easily
- New ErgoLounge seating and molded footrests will give you comfortable fishing all day long
- A handy 13-liter storage locker means you’re not cluttering the kayak unnecessarily
- Being a one-person kayak, it’s limited in how and where you can use it
Let’s be honest. Lots of anglers avoid inflatable kayaks for fly fishing. Their reluctance is down to a misconception of the word ‘inflatable,’ which they take to mean weak, or unstable.
The Sevylor Coleman Colorado might just be the inflatable kayak to change some fly fishing minds.
The Colorado brings some serious construction values to its inflatable party.
High-quality 18-gauge PVC is covered with a pretty dense tarpaulin in the Colorado, which means it can take on all the unexpected rocks of rivers and lakes.
Combine that with the light weight of an inflatable kayak and you have yourself an efficient two-person fishing party.
We’re not about to sell you the floating puppy that it’s a great ocean fishing kayak, but you can certainly use it safely for coastline fishing.
In fact, it’s NMMA-certified for safety.
Actually, it’s NMMA-certified for being a safe fishing kayak.
It’s also among the most stable kayaks you can buy right now – though it’s true that that stability comes with a price tag in terms of your speed.
A racing speedboat, this is not. But then, why would you want a racing speedboat if your aim is to go fly fishing? Stability’s your better bet in this game, and the Colorado backs your play when it comes to staying steady.
You can even go hands-free fishing with the Colorado, thanks to the adjustable Berkley Quick Set fishing rod holder that comes as part of the package.
In case you’re worrying, it has lots of airtight systems to stop the water from getting in and ruining your day.
The Colorado’s on point when it comes to its free extras too – trolling motor fittings? Check. Carrying handles – the kayak fisher’s friend? Check.
Paddle Holders? Oh yes. And Sevylor Coleman throws in a 1-year limited warranty on the Colorado too, so it takes away a level of concern.
Grab a fly fishing friend and try out one of the most stable inflatable kayaks you’ve ever seen.
- Robust construction means your fears about inflatable kayaks are unfounded here
- Extremely stable fishing kayak means no worries about overbalancing
- A lightweight kayak means easy transportation, so you can just focus on the fishing
- The Berkley Quick Set fishing rod holder means you can fish hands-free fishing
- The extras are useful and each reduce a layer of stress from your fishing experience
- This is not a kayak suitable for ocean fishing
- It’s also by no means a speed demon. If you’re in a hurry, it’s not your best choice
- One thing is notably lacking from the extras as sold – an inflation pump to blow up the kayak
Déjà vu, right?
Yes and no. If you think there’s no difference between 9.5 feet and 10 feet…you should probably make up your own jokes about that.
At 50 pounds, the Pelican Saber is extremely lightweight – probably one of the lightest you’ll find, which means it’s easy to transport, even for a single operator.
The other side of that equation is that it comes with a maximum capacity of just 325 pounds, so maybe pick your lighter gear when you’re taking the Saber out for a spin.
That said, the Saber doesn’t discourage you from taking your gear onboard - there’s a dry storage box for cameras, phones, or anything else you need to keep dry, while a back storage compartment can keep your tackle box at hand.
A multi-chine flat bottom hull keeps the kayak as stable as you should need unless you’re planning a river rave, and the Ergofit G2 seating system gives you a padded seat cushion and an adjustable backrest cushion, so you stay comfortable throughout your whole fishing trip.
Six eyelets let you hook on anything you need to enhance your trip, and a handy paddle tie-down means when you’re not actively paddling, you don’t need to worry about losing it.
The Saber is a great lightweight kayak that only shows its flaws when you want to fill it to the brim with extra gear.
- Its light weight makes this an easy kayak to transport and maneuver
- Smart onboard storage keeps your tackle separate from all the things you need to keep dry
- The Ergofit G2 seating system gives you comfort and support while fishing
- Six eyelets let you secure anything you need to enhance your trip
- Limited capacity means it’s not suited for hardcore gear-fiends
The design of the Wilderness Systems ATAK 120 is very fly fishing-friendly, with low gunnels that shed wind, and the hull is designed all the way along for stability in the water.
Surprisingly though, unlike the Colorado, the ATAK 120 doesn’t offer up much by way of speed or maneuverability as a sacrifice to that stability.
The layout is customizable too, so you have options on what suits your fishing trip best.
The ATAK 120 comes with a large stern well and a small hatch, giving easy access to the hull. Likewise, you’ve got easy access to a bow hatch from your seat in the cockpit.
The deck is a pretty clean thing, though watch out when you cast, in case the foot pegs get in the way of your line.
As you might expect of something called an Advanced Tactical Angling Kayak (ATAK), this is a kayak unphased by technology – it has a removable pod for batteries, cables, fish finders, and even a transducer.
And its design has been through from that tech-heavy perspective too – it comes with a couple of transducer-capable scuppers It sports two transducer capable scuppers, and can carry side scanning fish finders.
Don’t let all the tech-readiness fool you into thinking you sacrifice comfort in the ATAK 120. Here you have an AirPro Max seat, which is adjustable to three positions.
That delivers you a comfortable base, but still gives you the height you need for effective casting while seated.
Let’s not pretend everything’s perfect, though.
Weighing in at 70 pounds, you’re going to get a good workout maneuvering the ATAK 120 onto the water and back again – especially when it’s full of your kit and hopefully lots of fish.
And you’re going to feel substantially lighter in the bank account by the time you pay for it.
True, you get a great kayak for the price, but the price is significantly higher than some other contenders on our list – which is one of the big things that pushes the ATAK 120 as far down as you find it.
Nevertheless, if you have the cash to spare, the ATAK 120 is a joy to use, so why not treat yourself?
- Superb stability means you can use this kayak hard without fear
- A clean deck line means both a great aesthetic and a clean, user-friendly kayaking experience
- Clever design means you lose very little speed or accuracy, giving you a very effective fishing kayak
- The adjustable AirPro Max seat keeps you comfortable throughout your fishing trip – without sacrificing casting height
- A very tech-friendly kayak, that’s prepared for fish finders
- Beware the foot pegs when you’re casting – they can catch your line
- No rod holders, meaning you have to remain in control of your fishing full-time
- The price, while fair for what you get, might give some fly fishers pause
The Elkton Outdoors Steelhead is another inflatable kayak. Except really, it’s part kayak, part Transformer.
It has a versatility to it that can sway the inexperienced to rash admiration, and make the experienced fly fisher nod and grin.
Fine for use in stand-up mode (thanks to a solid, drop-stitch floor), if you happen to find a moment of drama and start taking on water, you can relax – the Steelhead has self-bailing drain plugs. Pop them open, and you’re good to keep on fishing.
Ruggedly built, the Steelhead has a 1000D Reinforced Layered PVC, so while it doesn’t go looking for a fight with rocks, logs, and other sub-aqua flotsam, if it finds a fight, it’s very likely it will come out as the winner.
There’s plenty of storage here too, so you can keep all your tackle and any extra technological elements safe and dry – along with all the fish you intend to catch.
With comfortable padded seating and adjustable footrests make sure you’re never sitting at awkward angles, and the combination of that rugged PVC construction and features like the self-bailing drain plugs mean you can have a more adventurous fly fishing session in the Steelhead than you can in some other fly fishing kayaks.
In terms of inflatable kayaks, our heart belongs to the Sevylor Coleman Colorado, but the Steelhead scores over it in at least one more important way – an inflation pump is included with the purchase price, so there are no additional hidden costs.
That’s an element underlined by the fact that the Steelhead also comes with a 1-Year guarantee on materials, workmanship, and assembly, and a 30-day No Hassle returns policy – so you have very little to lose in choosing it.
- Durable PVC construction means you can stand to cast confidently
- Comfortable seating and adjustable footrests mean you’ll be in no hurry to get home
- Self-bailing drain plugs take the drama out of taking on water
- The inflation pump is included, so there are no hidden costs
- 1-year guarantee and a No Hassle returns policy makes it easy to choose the Steelhead without worry
- Inflatable kayaks are not for every fly fisher – however ruggedly they’re built, the uncertainty over their safety remains
Best Fly Fishing Kayaks Buying Guide
When buying a kayak for fly fishing, bear a few key things in mind.
Fly fishing puts unique strains on a kayak
Never settle for a kayak that just classes itself as a ‘fishing’ kayak.
Look for particular benefits that you need when you go fly fishing, like extra stability in the hull design, the potential to stand up to cast if you want to, and adequate storage for gear and fish.
Match the kayak to your fishing soul
If you’re always going to worry about the safety of an inflatable – don’t buy one. If you’re more of a lone fisher than a duo, don’t spend the extra on getting a kayak for two, as it will just mean extra weight which you’ll be carrying.
Have an idea of the kind of kayak you want, and don’t be afraid to use that idea to narrow down your field of view to the perfect kayak for you.
Don’t go above your budget
If fly fishing isn’t your living – and it is for very few anglers out there – be sure you can comfortably afford all the features you want in your ideal kayak.
Never get involved in the math of reduced food costs – you’re counting as yet wholly theoretical fish as a way to offset an entirely practical expense.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are inflatable kayaks as safe as rigid ones?
Some are, certainly, including those on our list.
Relatively new building processes and materials mean you can safely fish from an inflatable kayak much more often than used to be the case.
How important is weight in a fly fishing kayak?
Pretty important. Whether you fish alone or with a buddy, you have to carry not only the kayak but everything that goes in it, including your catch on the way home.
Keeping the weight of the kayak as light as possible will pay you dividends down the line.
Do I need particularly comfortable seating in a fly fishing kayak?
That depends. How much of an average fly fishing trip is spent actively fishing? Hopefully, quite a lot, in which case you have other things to think about.
But while traveling from site to site and waiting for bites, you’re going to need to sit comfortably. It’s not worth skyrocketing your price or weight for, but if you can get a good comfort level from your seating, it can add pleasure and time to your fishing trip.