Presented from Issue 95
Recent kayak popularity It was over 25 years, maybe 30 years ago, when I first saw someone fishing from water level in a boat. On a dark and windy night much to my amusement my mate John Rumph waddled into Lake Toolondo in the Grampians on a horrid night standing in what I think was the first ever float tube imported into Australia.

Rumphy looked a sight with neoprene waders and huge flippers. He could only walk backwards on the land as well as move backwards when in the water. Float tubes never really took off.

I’ve always seen the advantage of being able to get to every inch of water and for that reason I have an assortment of boats, all shapes and sizes.

Last year I saw a super cool ‘Freedom Hawk’ kayak in an American magazine. I finally found the Australian importer and now I have one. My girlfriend calls it ‘the earwig’ because the rear third splits open with the pull of a lever. The result, from a birds eye view, is the kayak looks like a capital letter Y, an earwig in Anna’s eyes.

Once opened up I can stand up without the fear of tipping. No fish are safe if I am on the earwig.

Fishing with Mike

I recently floated the Meander with Mike Stevens and his son Hamish and this stimulated this article on rods and kayaks.

Bent cane rods

One of Mike’s favourite rods is a Payne 101. What? You’ve never heard of the brand? You should get out more. Anyhow, this rod was designed two of my lifetimes ago in America. It is made of cane and Mike’s was made by our fabulous local cane rod maker Peter Mckean.

Mike hooked a solid two pounder that played up – a lot. The rod was bent double for too long and particularly when he tried to land the fat little sucker. The result was a semi permanent set in the rod. I can tell you there is no worse feeling than having to fish with your beautifully hand crafted rod with the butt pointing west and the tip pointing north. I used one of the new Sage One graphite rods and had no such trouble. This got me thinking. Landing fish while you are sitting at the level of the fish is tricky and if you are going to do much of it then you need to give it some thought.

Leader joins

To start with you should consider the way your leader joins onto your flyline. For 4 years I have been gluing mine in. Yes, that’s right, no knots, just glue. I do this for the backing too. There are two clear advantages in doing this. Firstly the leader can be pulled into the tip runner at any time and easily cast back out. Never, ever, does it stick in the tip. There is a great practical advantage in this — especially when you are trying to get a fish to your kayak. Secondly, when landing a fish you will never fear pulling this join into your rod. The result, with a long leader at least, is that you get better angles and control of the fish during those last vital moments.

Drop me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. au to order a $45 glue kit that you will thank me for for the rest of your life.

Rod length and weight

Generally the casting distances are very short. I once saw Mike catch several fish in Brumby’s Creek from his Kayak. He sat side-on with his feet on the bottom holding the boat still. None of the half dozen fish were more than 2 leader lengths away. It is your low level to the water that allows you to get so close. Try standing on the bow of a Quintrex Hornet in Brumbys and see how many you catch.

So, line weights can be lighter than normal and rod lengths can be shorter than normal because long casts are not necessary. It may be a good idea in some cases to upline a rod. Rods are designed to load properly at a distance of 30 feet of flyline out the tip. With a 10 foot leader and a 9 foot rod this would give a cast length of 49 feet. Therefore if you are continually casting 20 – 30 feet then it is sound logic to use a line weight heavier on your rod.

Rod material

Don’t use your cane rod in a Kayak. Ask Mike why not. There is a resurgence of fibreglass rods and some of these would be perfect if you are into the slower action and smoother deeper bending action. Mike has one and it is a cracker. Modern graphite rods are just fine but make sure the leader is glued in so there is less likelihood of you breaking it.

Gravity drop and line speed on longer casts

Keep in mind that gravity effects a flyline just like anything else. If you are standing 3 feet abopve water level on the bow of a Hornet, your casting hand is 5 feet above your feet and the rod tip is 8 feet above that then the line is towed back and forwards at a height of 16 feet above water level. With the timing required for a 60 foot cast the line may drop or sag perhaps 10 feet. With the same casting conditions from a seated position on a kayak using a 6 foot rod there would be a constant problem of the line hitting the water. Higher line speed and longer rods are definitely needed for kayak fishing if you are going to cast long distances. The float tubers learnt this lesson 25 years ago. My advice is to just paddle closer to the fish.


Get a good one with a longish handle and tie it on. It is better if it floats.

Peter Hayes

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