Hey there! Welcome to my best fly fishing kayak review.
I spent two weekends paddling and fly fishing on 9 of the most popular fishing kayaks. Then, I ranked them based on stability, cockpit space, customizability, seat, portability, and fly fishing features (fly-line management system, snag-free decks, rod tip protectors, rod holders, deck hatches, tackle box storage, etc.).
These fishing kayaks stand out from the competition and are guaranteed to give you a better experience on the water while fly fishing.
You want to avoid ending up with a generic fishing kayak unsuitable for fly fishing. Choose one of these fishing kayaks, and you’ll get a high-quality kayak guaranteed to help you catch more fish with the fly.
Ready to get down to the river and start catching fish?
The best fly fishing kayak is the Old Town Topwater 120 Fishing Kayak.
Best Fly Fishing Kayaks – Comparison Table
Best Fly Fishing Kayaks Reviewed
Old Town Topwater 120 Fishing Kayak – Our Pick
Weight: 82 pounds
Weight Capacity: 500 pounds
Why buy the Old Town Topwater 120 Fishing Kayak?
- The perfect pairing of stability and performance
- The most comfortable deck for stand-up fishing
- Extremely quiet in the water – making it easy to sneak up on fish
- High and low position adjustable seat
- Snag-free, open cockpit
- Lifetime hull warranty
Introducing the world’s most stable, open deck, and comfortable kayak for fly fishing: The Old Town Topwater 120.
It’s more than just a fishing kayak – it’s a revolutionary fishing platform with unmatched stability and a padded deck, making it comfortable to stand up on during all-day fishing trips. No other fishing kayak suitable for fly fishing has more stability, durability, or a better warranty.
The Old Town Topwater 120 is built by one of the most trusted kayak manufacturers and is their best kayak for fly fishing.
For one, you have all the space you could imagine in the cockpit with a padded standing area and nothing in your way for you to snag your line on. Two convenient flush-mounted rod holders on each side of the kayak make it easy to tie your fly while standing up. This all comes standard with a lifetime warranty on the hull.
Imagine comfortably casting a fly all day, feeling confident you won’t tip the kayak into the flats. Your shallow draft makes it possible to get into the shallow water where no other boat can go, and you land the fish of your lifetime. Then you paddle over to the sandbar at five mph to meet your buddies, reach into your 35L cooler on the stern, and crack open a cold one.
This is all possible with this surprisingly quick and ultra-stable kayak. All for less than $1,500.
After paddling this kayak just outside my neighborhood, behind Masonboro Island, I thought this fishing kayak was extremely quiet in the water and had a minimal draft. I was able to get into the marsh grass in about half a foot of water while barely being able to hear the kayak travel through the water.
I tested this in early September last year when temperatures were still in the 80s. The breathable seat was comfortable and gave my back a much-needed breeze throughout the day.
Plus, having ample storage space on the stern of this fishing kayak lets me carry a YETI bucket and Roadie Cooler.
A Red Drum was the only thing that needed to be added that day.
What You’ll Love About The Old Town Topwater 120 Fishing Kayak
- Casting with confidence: the Topwater 120 has unparalleled stability, which gave me confidence that I wouldn’t tip the kayak. I went as far as rocking it back and forth while leaning heavily to either side to test it, and I couldn’t tip this kayak.
- Spacious deck: take one look at the Topwater 120, and you’ll notice just how big this deck is. While standing up, I could quickly step into my casts and turn around. Plus, I’m 6’4″ and could stretch my legs and be comfortable sitting and standing.
- Snag-free deck: when fly fishing on a kayak, you need an open deck without a bunch of accessories or crevices where your line can snag. The Topwater 120 has everything you need and nothing that you don’t, which is one of the main reasons this is the best fly fishing kayak on the market.
- Large stern deck for DIYers: I mentioned that I stuck a YETI bucket and cooler on the stern, but for all of you anglers who like to customize your kayak, you have the opportunity with the Topwater 120.
- Car-toppable: this kayak is relatively light for how long and stable it is. At only 82 pounds, I could easily lift it in and out of the bed of my truck. So if you have a car or SUV, putting this fishing kayak on top is undoubtedly doable.
What You Won’t Love About the Old Town Topwater 120 Fishing Kayak
- Difficult to maintain position: I noticed that the windy day affected how well I could keep my position. This means investing in a rudder kit is a must unless you don’t mind anchoring up frequently.
- Awkward to carry: although I could do it, this kayak was challenging to move by myself. So even though it is easy to lift in and out of the truck bed, you may need a helping hand or a kayak trailer to transport it to the water.
If you’re looking for the most stable and spacious kayak for fly fishing, the Old Town Topwater 120 is it! It could be better, but it has more stability and versatility than any other fishing kayak that suits fly fishing.
If you want more features in the cockpit or a cheaper fly fishing kayak, keep reading. If you wish for a snag-free fishing experience, buy the Topwater 120!
Wilderness Systems ATAK 120 – Runner-Up
Weight: 86 pounds
Deck Height: 16″
Weight Capacity: 400 pounds
Why buy the Wilderness Systems ATAK 120?
- Easier to maneuver than the Topwater 120
- More customizable platform
- The seat is easy to adjust on the fly (pun intended) and dries very quickly
- Incredibly stable fishing kayak
- The low-profile design makes it efficient in windy conditions
- Ability to add a side-scan transducer
- Lifetime warranty on the hull
Next is Wilderness Systems’ answer for fly fishing anglers looking for a kayak that has a customizable template and is impressively maneuverable. It’s close to the Topwater 120 regarding stability and seat comfort, but it offers more customizability and is easy to maneuver.
Oh, and you don’t have to sacrifice the lifetime warranty on the hull.
Like the Topwater 120, it is incredibly stable and durable, with an easy-to-adjust and comfortable seat. The critical difference is that the Topwater 120 has a more open deck and cleaner floorplan than the ATAK 120.
The snag-free deck of the Topwater 120 is crucial for fly fishing, which is why it snagged my top spot for the best fly fishing kayak. The fishing capabilities of the ATAK 120 are still excellent.
I love how easy it is to maneuver, especially while fishing around docks. And the quick-dry adjustable chair was comfortable for me the entire day of fishing.
My favorite things about fly fishing and paddling on the ATAK 120 are:
- I was able to hold my position and head in 15mph winds
- More dry storage space than on other kayaks I paddled on
- Easily accessible sonar pod that accommodates side-scan sonar
Let me sum it up for you: the Wilderness Systems ATAK 120 is like the Old Town Topwater 120, with less of an open deck, meaning more place for your line to get snagged.
What You’ll Love About The Wilderness Systems ATAK 120
- The quick-dry adjustable chair means you won’t have a damp seat all day if it rains or you take a splash on two on board. The seat quickly dried and was breathable, keeping my back dry and comfortable. Plus, I was able to adjust it to suit my long legs.
- Ability to maintain heading: I tested this kayak when the winds were blowing about 15 mph and was still able to stay on course and keep my heading. It was easy to tell how well this kayak tracks, and it will pay off for you when you have a long way to travel.
- Stability while casting: while casting on the ATAK 120, I felt secure and stable no matter how much weight I put on one side or the other. This is crucial when kayak fishing and why this is one of the best fly fishing kayaks available.
- Ample dry storage: one thing that the Topwater 120 lacks are dry storage. But not the ATAK 120, the storage space on the bow is big for an extended fishing trip, and the sonar pod can also be used as a semi-dry storage space when a fish finder is not used.
What You Won’t Love About the Wilderness Systems ATAK 120
- Not an open floor plan: the deck on this kayak was too crowded for my liking. My line got snagged multiple times on the foot pedals and center console. The Topwater 120 has a more clean and open deck.
If you’re looking for a well-tracking kayak for fly fishing that offers top-of-the-line stability, storage space, and value, then the ATAK 120 is for you.
Conversely, if an open floor plan and roominess are at the top of your list, then the Old Town Topwater 120 is the way to go.
Jackson Kayak Bite Angler Kayak – Budget Pick
Weight: 74 pounds
Weight Capacity: 400 pounds
Why buy the Jackson Kayak Bite Angler Kayak?
- The most room of any fishing kayak in this price range
- Nearly as stable as the others on this list but for a fraction of the cost
- You can transport yourself and make it into rugged areas without the need for a boat ramp
- Flush-mounted rod holders
- Limitless customization potential
The Jackson Bite Angler: a hybrid of a Jon boat and kayak, being broader and more stable than any other fishing kayak in this price range.
Regardless of its size, this kayak remains highly maneuverable – allowing you to explore areas other boats couldn’t access. Reach tight spots and smaller creeks with ease!
The Jackson Bite Angler also boasts more possibilities for customization. Take one look at the Bite Anlger, and you will notice how much of a blank slate this kayak is.
I love that it is a blank slate, not only because it gets my mind thinking of ways to customize it but also because it is clean, meaning there are fewer places for my line to catch up in. This is one of my main criteria when rating these kayaks.
Another note to add is although it is a blank slate doesn’t mean it can’t become a beautiful canvas. Several areas are designated for mounting kayak fishing accessories and conveniently placed gear tracks.
The Jackson Bite Angler was explicitly designed for stand-up kayak fishing, featuring a robust and stable platform with adjustable foot pegs. These features allow you to cast, battle, or net your catch while standing in the boat!
All this makes the Jackson Bite Angler the best kayak for fly fishing on a budget without sacrificing performance.
What You’ll Love About the Jackson Bite Angler
- This kayak is spacious: With its spacious hull and accessible deck, you’ll have plenty of room to move around and store all your fishing gear.
- Stable: The Bite Angler is unwaveringly stable while standing or seated, granting you assurance when throwing a line in rough waters or high winds.
- A blank slate: The Jackson Bite Angler offers an abundance of mounting points, ensuring endless opportunities for customization with rod holders, fish finders, and even a cooler!
- Open deck: the open deck means you have fewer places to get snagged, which means more time fishing and less time untangling your line from the kayak.
What You Won’t Love About the Jackson Bite Angler
- It’s a Blank Slate: The option to add accessories is a wonderful benefit. However, it would be beneficial if more features were included as standard. You may need to spend extra money on extras, such as an alternate rod holder or dry storage container. These costs will put you in the same price range as the top two picks.
Overall, the Jackson Bite Angler is one of the best fishing kayaks for anglers looking to get the most bang for the buck.
Jackson Kayak is one of the most innovative and popular kayak brands, and the Bite Angler is their best-selling fishing kayak. For a good reason, too, as it offers the most features in its price range.
Whether you are looking for a long-term fishing partner or just getting into fly fishing, the Jackson Kayak Bite Angler is an excellent choice.
Jackson Kayak Yupik Fishing Kayak – Most Versatile
Weight: 90 pounds
Weight Capacity: 425 pounds
Why buy the Jackson Kayak Yupik Fishing Kayak?
- Versatility – this kayak is everything you need to take on any adventure
- A blank canvas to customize exactly to your liking
- A perfect blend of stability, speed, and maneuverability
- Scooped bow allows for easy storage of tents, gear bags, etc.
- Gear tracks are everywhere you look
- Plenty of standing room on the padded deck
Next up is a kayak designed for fly fishermen who plan on doing more than just fishing.
Picture yourself launching your kayak, paddling over to an uninhabited island a few miles away to camp, then waking up in the morning to fly fishing in the tidal creeks behind that same island. This kayak is made to do just that.
This sit-on-top kayak has gear tracks throughout for any accessory you may need and a very open deck for a snag-free fishing experience.
Do you want to know where you will store your flies on this open deck? Don’t! Because Jackson Kayak put two convenient tackle box storage areas within arm’s reach of the Hi-Lo ergonomic seat, made from a snag-free material.
Just like the Towpater 120 and ATAK 120, the Yupik has an easily adjustable chair, but the difference in the seat is that the Yupik seat can easily be removed and is worthy of doubling as a camping chair.
Whether it’s a dog bed, extra seats, a YETI cooler, or any other accessory, you can choose what to add to the YUPIK.
What You’ll Love About The Jackson Kayak Yupik Fishing Kayak
- Multi-purpose kayak: The Yupik is an excellent option for fishing, hunting, camping, and recreational kayaking.
- Large capacity: The Yupik will accommodate up to 425 pounds of weight, making it an ideal choice for larger fly anglers who also like to pack lots of fishing gear.
- Well-balanced: This kayak is incredibly well-balanced and stable, making it an excellent choice for beginner and experienced kayak anglers.
- Comfortable fishing seat: The Yupik features a comfortable high-back adjustable chair with an ergonomic design that provides outstanding comfort.
- Open deck: The open deck design makes it easier to access your fishing gear, and there is plenty of room to move around while fishing.
What You Won’t Love About the Jackson Kayak Yupik
- Blank Slate: just like the Bite Angler, this kayak is also a blank slate, meaning you may have to shell out a hefty amount to make it the kayak you envision. That said, the YUPIK is worth considering if you are a minimalist and want to utilize all of the room for your tents, cooler, backpacks, or anything else.
The YUPIK is hands down the most versatile kayak on the market that is well-suited for kayak fly fishing.
Designed with an open deck and more gear tracks than you’ll know what to do with, the YUPIK is truly a blank canvas waiting to be customized for your next adventure.
Check out the Jackson Kayak YUPIK for fly fishermen who want it all.
NRS Kuda 126 Inflatable Sit-on-Top Kayak
Weight: 31 pounds
Weight Capacity: 300 pounds
Why buy the NRS Kuda 126 Inflatable Sit-on-Top Kayak?
- It takes up minimal space
- Weighing in at only 31 pounds, this inflatable fishing kayak is easy to get to and from the water
- Drop stitch flooring makes for a surprisingly stable kayak for stand-up fishing
- Five YakAttack mounting positions make it easy to customize
- A shallow draft makes fishing in shallow waters possible
Last but not least is for all of your apartment-dwelling fly fishermen who need a space-saving option that you can use to fly fish.
The Kuda 126 from NRS has an extremely shallow draft making it easy to get into skinny waters to chase those mountain trout.
While it may get pushed around a bit in the wind like any inflatable kayak, the Kuda 126 holds its own regarding speed and maneuverability.
But most importantly, this inflatable fishing kayak has a stable open deck, making it perfect for fly fishing.
The hull design of the Kuda was explicitly engineered for stand-up fishing, and even at 6’4″, I never felt like I was going to tip the kayak or lose my balance while sight fishing.
When I first laid eyes on the Kuda 126, I quickly assumed this was a SUP/Kayak hybrid. Although NRS doesn’t lay claim to this, I still consider it one because of how similar it felt to a SUP while standing up.
This craft is the perfect combination of stable SUP and a lightweight kayak. An excellent option for kayak anglers with limited space and who want to fly fish in shallow water.
What You’ll Love About The NRS Kuda 126 Inflatable Sit-on-Top Kayak
- Easy to transport and set up: this kayak takes only a few minutes to inflate and comes with a carrying case so you can hike into a remote launch area and wait until the waters edge to quickly set up.
- Stable: the drop-stitch flooring makes the Kuda 126 the most stable inflatable fly fishing kayak I have ever paddled on. Just because it is inflatable doesn’t mean it can’t compete in terms of stability.
- Spacious: Want to have a dance party or yoga session on your kayak? This deck is for you. Maybe not a dance party, but you get the idea.
- Shallow draft: the Kuda 126 has the least draft amongst the kayaks on our list. I could get into less than a foot of water without scraping the rocky bottom.
What You Won’t Love About the NRS Kuda 126 Inflatable Sit-on-Top Kayak
- Slow: Like most inflatable kayaks, you will have to sacrifice speed. This kayak is by far the slowest on our list, which isn’t a surprise but certainly worth mentioning.
- Hard to hold your position: I was consistently getting knocked out of position with winds at about ten mph. With anchoring, this kayak can be easier to hold steady.
The NRS Kuda is the best inflatable kayak for fly fishing. It has more stability, space, and maneuverability than its competition while also being a surprisingly durable kayak.
If you’re looking for a compact option that doesn’t sacrifice performance, check out the NRS Kuda 126. It’s a good fly fishing kayak for those with limited space who want to explore shallow waters comfortably.
Considerations When Shopping For the Best Fly Fishing Kayaks
Consider the following when shopping for a fly fishing kayak.
The stability of a kayak is paramount when kayak fly fishing.
This is obvious.
And why all of the best fly fishing kayaks on our list above are top-of-the-line regarding stability.
But it would help if you took it one step further by considering your experience and being honest with yourself.
Are you an experienced kayak angler, or are you a beginner?
If you are a beginner, particularly a beginner that is not familiar with standing up on a kayak while fishing – then you’ll want to move stability up to top priority on your list.
Conversely, if you are confident and have years of experience standing up on kayaks, move stability down your list and focus on features like an open deck, seat comfort, customizability, and storage options.
Having a standing area on your kayak is essential for fly fishing.
Standing up is the best way to fight the wind and get a more accurate cast.
That’s why you’ll want to look for kayaks with an open deck that give you plenty of room to move around and fish from a better angle.
This consideration is specific to kayak fly fishing only.
An open deck is nice, so you can move around and have plenty of room, but most importantly, you won’t snag your line.
Not snagging your line is one of the biggest challenges fly fishermen face.
So you’ll want to make sure the kayak has a snag-free open deck with minimal obstacles and no holes or places where your line can get tangled up.
Jackon Kayaks, the Bite Angler, and the YUPIK offer the most customization.
But with this comes an extra cost for all of the accessories.
Weigh the pros and cons of each and how much your total budget comes to.
In the end, customizing a kayak is nice, but unless you have ideas in your head or are confident you can come with some, choosing a kayak that is ready to hit the water when it arrives at your doorstep is a better option than choosing a blank canvas.
This is often overlooked, yet it’s one of the essential aspects of kayak fishing.
A good seat will make all the difference in your fishing experience.
Look for adjustable and removable seats with plenty of padding.
Also, consider the breathability and whether a seat is quick-dry, as this can be an essential factor.
Storage/Dry Storage Space
You’ll want to ensure you have plenty of storage space and can store your fishing gear securely while on the water.
Look for kayaks with a bungee cord system, built-in dry compartments, and secure compartments.
Dry storage is a must-have option if you plan on using your kayak for all-day fishing trips.
Will you have a helping hand? Are you willing to buy a kayak trailer? Do you have a truck?
These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself regarding how you will transport your kayak.
The harder it is to transport, the less time you’ll spend kayak fishing.
Be sure to consider any extra costs you may incur to ensure you’ll be able quickly to get your kayak to and from the water.
Fly fishing features
The first thing that comes to mind is tackle box storage. You’ll want your flies to be easily accessible and secure, so having a place for your tackle box within arms reach is crucial.
The YUPIK from Jackson Kayaks wins regarding accessible tackle box storage.
But obviously, there is more to consider than fly box storage.
Another feature that sticks out to me, specifically to the fly fishing kayaks on my list, is the side scan sonar.
The Wilderness Systems ATAK 120 was made with a sonar pod accommodating a side scan transducer and fish finder. If a fish finder with side imaging excites you, then the ATAK 120 should be at the top of your list.
Other kayak fishing features include snag-free chairs, flush-mounted rod holders, covered rod storage, gear tracks, padded deck, paddle holders, etc.
Common Questions Related to Fly Fishing on a Kayak
Below are common questions and my answers about fly fishing, particularly on a kayak.
Is it hard to fly fish from a kayak?
Generally speaking, yes. Fly fishing is hard from a kayak.
That said, the learning curve is significantly decreased if you have experience fly fishing on land or a boat.
The same goes for if you have experience fishing from a kayak, especially while standing up, whether using a spinning reel, baitcasting reel, or spincast reel. Having that prior experience will give you a leg up compared to rookies.
But it will undoubtedly take time and practice if you are a beginner and have yet to do fly fishing or stand-up fishing. I recommend using a local guide from Fishing Booker to help you get up to speed quickly while learning a lot.
Below is a great video that shows and explains why fly fishing from a kayak can be so difficult:
How do you carry a fly rod on a kayak?
There are several ways to carry a fly rod on a kayak.
The most common way is using flush-mounted rod holders or covered rod storage on the side of the kayak.
If your kayak doesn’t have either one of these features, you can purchase and install them yourself. Alternatively, you can strap your fly rod down with a bungee cord or plug it into an area of the kayak that is deep enough and secure.
The critical thing to remember is to ensure your fly rod isn’t dangling in the water and getting tangled up while you are paddling.
Why is fly fishing so difficult?
Fly fishing is difficult because accuracy and attention to detail are key elements.
It’s not enough to just cast your line out; you must understand the environment around you and know where the fish are likely hiding. You also need a bit of luck on your side!
In addition, fly fishing requires a lot of patience and the ability to read the water. You must understand how currents, winds, and depths change from one spot to another so that you can adequately present your fly for it to look attractive.
The constant practice of casting, retrieving, and improving your technique takes a lot of time and effort but is necessary if you want to be a successful fly fisherman.
In short, fly fishing is problematic because it requires a good eye and experience to land the big one! But with enough patience and practice, success will come.
How do you rig a fly fishing kayak?
The rigging of a fly fishing kayak depends primarily on your experience level, the type of water you are fishing in, and the kind of fish you are targeting.
For starters, I recommend mounting rod holders and a paddle holder and securing a tackle box using bungee cords or straps near the cockpit. This will give simple access to all your necessary items while fishing.
Additionally, if you want to be able to stand up while fishing, I suggest adding outriggers or a kayak stabilizer bar for added stability. This will make it easier to cast and retrieve your line in rougher waters.
Finally, once your gear is secured and in place, practice the casting and retrieving techniques while standing up or sitting down. This will help improve your accuracy and give you the confidence to tackle a wide variety of waters.
When it comes to the best fly-fishing kayaks, there’s something for everyone and every budget! Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, an apartment-dweller, or a long-distance traveler, there’s a fly-fishing kayak that fits your needs.
From the Bite Angler to the YUPIK and, finally, the NRS Kuda 126 Inflatable Kayak/SUP, you’re sure to find the perfect kayak for your next adventure.
Overall, I found that the Old Town Topwater 120 is the best fly fishing kayak, so be sure to check it out if you’re looking for the ultimate fishing kayak. I hope this guide has helped narrow down your search and help you find the best fishing kayak for fly fishing.
For more guides on choosing a fishing kayaks and more, check out the pages below:
- Best Fishing Kayak Under $1,000
- Best Fishing Kayak Under $500
- Best Fishing Kayak For Big Guys
- Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak
- Best Life Jackets For Kayak Fishing