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Quick Start Guide: Fly Fishing from a Canoe

If you love fishing and want to try your hand at fly fishing in a remote location, then you may ask, “how to fly fish from a canoe?” Well, the answer to that is that a canoe is a wonderful way to widen your reach in the water.

Not only is a canoe quiet, lightweight and portable, but it can also help you to access hard-to-reach places like narrow passages or shallow water that you cannot reach easily when using a boat. And if you want to know all about how to fly fish from a canoe, then read on.

How to Fly Fish from a Canoe

Fly fishing from a canoe can be fun if you do it right. Most commonly, when fly fishing from their canoes, anglers often remain seated when casting. This can increase the difficulty in casting accurately.

Here are some tips and techniques that will tell you how to fly fish from a canoe while ensuring your safety and also boosting your casting success.

Choosing the right size of the canoe for your fly fishing can improve your fishing experience greatly. If the canoe is too narrow, there is a danger of it capsizing, while a canoe that’s too wide may be difficult to navigate through narrow passages and tight areas and also may be very heavy to portage.

Ideally, the length of the canoe suitable for fly fishing is around 12 to 15 feet with a width of around 2 feet.

Author Note: Make sure that you pack light and keep the gear simple and minimal. Only bring along the gear and tackle that you know that you will use. Carrying extra gear and large tackle boxes is impractical when fly fishing from a canoe.

Keeping things simple can make your fly fishing experience manageable and all the more enjoyable.

Remove all the snags from the deck that can catch the line. When you are all set to take out your canoe and begin paddling, keep all the gear in a crate so that it is secure.

A rod holder can be a valuable tool and it is a good idea to purchase a rod holder specifically designed to hold a fly rod. The rod holder will enable you to put your rod aside when steering or maneuvering your canoe, especially when you’re out fly fishing all by yourself.

A rod holder offers a safe place to keep your rod and also allows you to troll, while paddling, which is probably the best way to fly fish when you are alone on the canoe.

Out on the Water

Young boy fisherman

Selecting the spot to fly fish helps to create a safe, as well as fun fishing experience, especially from the canoe. Avoid fly fishing when paddling in fast currents as this can be dangerous. The best option is to find placid water away from the fast current and then cast your rod toward the fast water.

Always have a sturdy and stable anchor system in your canoe. This will help to keep you stable in the wind and current, especially if you’re a beginner or you’re planning to fly fish in open water. It is a good idea to paddle your canoe into the area where you’re planning to fish and then put down your anchor.

Author Note: This will allow you to fish in all the spots around the area. Also, you can spend as much time as you want to cast the fly rod, without the need to reposition it frequently.

Using an anchor with the canoe may sometimes be a challenge and even unsafe and when you are portaging, the additional weight of the anchor can be a pain. So, it is recommended to bring along a nylon rope.

One end of the rope can be tied to the canoe, while you should make a loop on the other end that you can flip over a tree stump, rock or any other object to anchor your canoe.

Remain centered in your canoe to avoid tipping it, especially when you’re casting the rod, fighting the fish or trying to reel it in. You may find it easier to sit or even kneel while fly fishing in your canoe.

Kneeling provides greater stability as it lowers the center of gravity while offering closer contact with the canoe and provides greater control. When sitting or kneeling, make sure that the majority of your body weight is on the canoe seat as it helps to reduce the pressure from your legs.

Standing and Casting

If you want to stand in your canoe while fly fishing, this is best if the canoe is anchored in the water. And, to stand, make sure that your gear is at hand, then rise to the crouching position and raise yourself slowly by placing both your arms on either side of the canoe, while keeping your feet firmly planted on the canoe floor.

Ensure that the backcasts are high. While this is easy to do while standing up, the idea is to ensure that the cast is sufficiently high and do it when you’re seated in the canoe.

You can gain distance by line shooting and ensuring that the rod tip comes to a defined stop at the end of the forward cast. However, an important thing to understand is that with practice, you can get perfect at adding distance.

The most important thing to remember while fly fishing is that your objective is to catch fish.

Be patient and allow the fish to come to you instead of going after them. And to land the fish, instead of simply stripping in alone, reel up any slack quickly, while simultaneously pinching the line using your rod hand.

Advantages of Fly Fishing from a Canoe?

Fisherman in a canoe holds up a stringer of walleyes

Now that you know how to fly fish from a canoe, let’s look at some of the benefits of this. Often fly fishing is associated with river floats and wading in pontoon boats or bigger boats; however, you’ll be quite surprised to know that it is possible to fly fish from a canoe too.

In fact, a canoe is the perfect vessel for fly fishers. Fly fishing from canoes offers several advantages. 

Canoes are super quiet and can slip stealthily within an easy range where you can fly fish. As canoes offer stable casting platforms and when you use one, then there is no need to wear a fishing vest or waders.

Canoes do not need a boat launch; they can hold all your fishing and other gear you require for fly fishing and also covers a lot of area. 

Also, if you love fly fishing but don’t own a boat, then using a canoe for your fly fishing can open up many areas where you can fish. A canoe allows you to reach locations like creeks, back bays, passages around mangroves, etc. and allows you to reach shallow fish.

Also, the best places for fly fishing are generally “no motor” zones, which prohibit the entry of any boat with an engine and a canoe is the best option in such places.

Author Note: A canoe allows you to go fishing with a partner, which is great fun. Canoes are very versatile on river floats, allowing you to cover a lot of water. And, when you hit good fishable spots, you can beach the canoe and wade.

Canoes are economical and cost-effective, do not require a lot of maintenance, you can portage them conveniently into backwood lakes, there are no storage fees involved and repairs are not very expensive.

Drawbacks of Fly Fishing from a Canoe

While there are several advantages of fly fishing from a canoe, there are a few drawbacks to such as:

  • Canoes are not suitable for fly fishing if there are heavy winds, high waves or fast water. 
  • Fly fishing from a canoe, especially when you’re going with a partner requires a fair bit of coordination and it’s always a good idea for one person to cast their line at a time otherwise, the lines are bound to get tangled. Also, fly fishing while standing may not be advisable if you’re in the canoe with a partner.
  • Dealing with drift can be tricky when you’re in a canoe because canoes don’t really work very well if the day is not calm.

Wrapping Up

Fisherman fishing from a canoe

In conclusion, while canoes may be old school, they are excellent assets for fly fishing anglers. Canoes are great means of venturing out and exploring the catch in the remotest locations.

After reading our article on how to fly fish from a canoe, you have probably understood the several advantages of fly fishing from a canoe. 

However, there are many limitations to this too, especially if you’re canoeing all alone.

Nevertheless, by following the tips and techniques we have discussed in our article and with practice, handling the canoe and fly fishing from it is sure to become much easier.

And, over time, fly fishing from a canoe is sure to become a more rewarding, as well as an enjoyable experience.

Happy Hunting!


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