Fly Fishing with
Quiet Water boats
appeal to me in that these boats tend to be uncomplicated and
free of electronics or other gadgets I think distract from the
I bought a new solo
canoe this summer. After fishing and using my solo canoe for
awhile, I am now wondering why I waited so long to buy this
boat. I've owned lots of what I call "Quiet Water" boats. I've
had canoes, kayaks, kick boats, float tubes and now a solo
canoe. Quiet Water boats appeal to me in that these boats tend
to be uncomplicated and free of electronics or other gadgets I
think distract from the overall experience.
Standing up in the
canoe when casting gives you a better view of the water and more
I've been around water
since I was a kid and began boating an early age. I actually
spent more time boating than fishing as a youth. I like being
close to water, getting a bit of exercise from paddling and the
lack of noise allows me to better experience the places I fish.
I also believe that by fly fishing other kinds of water
(warmwater lakes and ponds) and other types of fish, I am
extending my fly fishing season. When most trout anglers are
done for the season because it is too hot, I am out on the water
chasing bass, bluegills, crappies and smallmouth. With Quite
Water boats, I can enjoy being on the water and during warm
summer nights, I am able to cool off. If the fishing is slow, I
still have lots of fun boating. Lots of pluses and bonuses.
You can paddle the
solo cone like a kayak
Each boat I've owned has
a strength and a weakness. Some boats are faster, some are
better to fish out of and some are easier to store or manage.
After owning a kayak for about 6-7 years, I find that sitting
low and not being able to stand or cast are two major
disadvantages in this boat's design. I do like the ease of use,
speed and also how light weight these boats are. I began looking
for a compromise between a better fishing boat, ease of use,
storage and weight.
I originally thought
about a solo canoe several years ago when a friend of mine got a
hand made Kevlar Adirondack solo canoe. He made several fishing
videos for the boat maker and sent me links to view his videos.
For some reason, I thought these boats were too expensive and
not really affordable for me. Also the Adirondack boats are
largely handmade and sold locally in the North Country Region so
I didn't really have much of a place to try them out.
The canoe can
bring you out to those attractive lily pads far offshore
The solo canoe thing got
rekindled while I was on vacation this year. While on my trip, I
stopped and visited a long time fly fishing friend at his house.
We began talking about gear, rods, reels and the like and I
started asking him about all the boats he uses ( which he has
several ). He told me one of his favorite boats is a solo canoe.
I looked at the boat and I asked him if he ever thought about
getting a Kevlar solo canoe.
He looked and smiled and
said, "This boat is a composite. It's hull is made of laminated
material and it is almost bomb proof. You can smash it against
rocks, drop it, kick it and it won't break. You can't say the
same about Kevlar. This boat also weighs 30 pounds or so. Pick
I did and it was
surprisingly light. A light bulb clicked on in my head and I
began thinking once again about a solo canoe. When I began the
process of searching for a new boat, I found surprisingly very
little information written by fly fisherman for fly fishers
about fishing out of a solo canoe. Most of the fishing
information is mostly written by backwoods anglers that mostly
spin fish and while I have nothing against those kinds of gear
anglers, I thought it might be good if I outlined what I did and
what sorts of boats I looked at. Also I thought it might be good
to look at how I rig my boats since I have been doing this for a
number of years.
stability in the canoe
To begin, a solo canoe
is a short one person canoe. These boats can be made of Kevlar,
fiberglass or a composite laminate material (usually called
Royalex). These boats are light, quick, easy to use, easy to
unload and offer many great advantages that several other boats
don't have. These boats have open hulls and you can carry lots
gear in them for trips, photography, hunting, camping and
fishing. As a bonus, some people can boat with their dogs. My
dogs are too crazy to sit in a boat and would tip me over. The
open hulls reduce weight and tends to raise the boater up higher
than in a kayak or float tube.
The solo canoe is
lightweight and compact and brings you quickly around
Solo canoes are
usually 10-14' long. Some have seats in them, some seats are
mounted to the floor, some have no seats and some have
traditional seats that are attached to the sides of the boat
much like a bench or decked seat.
Solo canoes are similar
to kayaks. You sit in the middle. One of the big differences in
a solo canoe is that the decks are open and the sides are high.
Some sit on top kayaks have similar sort of features, but they
are different in the angles you sit. In most kayaks, you sit low
and down close to the water. In a solo canoe you sit up higher
and you sit in a "s" shape much like you do in an office chair.
In kayaks (all of them), you sit in an "L" shape and I find this
is quite uncomfortable over time. It hurts my back and knees
Launching the tube
is not exactly elegant
While the float
tube is comfortable it's slow to move and you sit low in the
A real disadvantage with
a kayak is that it is next to impossible to stand in these boats
and cast. You often can't see what you are casting at because
you are so low. Kayaks are generally very fast and also they
don't tip over easily because they are so low to the water.
Because kayaks are generally very hard to flip; in fast, high or
swift water these boats are an advantage.
Solo canoes are made of
a rigid material that allows you to stand in them. Although you
need to take your time to gain your "sea legs " as the hulls
tend to rock somewhat and the bottoms may tend to flex. Once you
get used to the rocking and your boat this really isn't an
There are some newer sit
on top kayaks that have a standing feature. I looked at these
boats and found that most of these have multi pieces with lots
of edges to catch and hang fly line. These boats also tend to
weigh a lot and are hard to load and unload. I think with the
added parts, extra weight and also unusual clips, these boats
are actually harder to fish out of, move and manage.
Another issue for me is
getting in and out of my kayak. You have to climb down and into
the cockpit which is hassle sometimes. There are times when I've
had waders and wading shoes on and it is almost impossible to
get in and out. In solo canoes, they are easy to get in and out
of. Easy to pick up and easy to launch. All pluses.
The author into
one of the very strong rainbows in the lakes in Hökensås, Sweden
Ah, a kickboat, now
that's what you need. I had considered a stand up kickboat and
looked at several of these models. Kick boats aren't a real boat
to me. Sure these things float but because the bodies of these
boats are soft, they aren't the best to stand in. Some models
also require a lot of time to set up and blow up. All of these
boats have belts, straps, frames and lots of parts to manage,
haul and deal with. Kick boats also aren't very fast and are up
quite high. Most kickboats tend to short and wide and I find you
often get blown around too much. This tends to require lots of
rowing just to stay in one spot.
canoes the solo canoe can be paddled with a double paddle like a
I do like kickboats for
fishing as it is high and easy to see and cast out of. I just
don't like boating and managing a kick boat. I would rather just
take a real boat down, load it and start fishing then manage all
the parts. Also a canoe is an actual boat, designed for boating.
You just need to find the right design and model.
various models and kinds of boats, I narrowed my choices down to
three models. One model was made and sold under as a relabel for
a box store chain, that boat came as a camo color which I sort
of excluded. I figured the worse case would be me getting that
camo boat. My final boat choices to look at were boats made of
fiberglass and Royalex. I looked at 3 different models from 3
different companies. I was able to try 2 of the boats in the
water and see how I liked them.
I went to another shop
and found last year's model at a discount. It was identical to
the boat I liked but it had a better seat ( webbed ) , it was a
nice color ( green ) and it was a mark down. I was able to get
the boat, seat back and paddle for about the price of a current
model year boat. That's the boat I got. Do some shopping and
chances are you can get a deal. Buying boats is like buying
cars, bikes or motorcycles. Look, shop and think. There are
demos, used boats and last year's models. For what its worth, I
got an Old Town Pack 12. I looked at Wenonah and Mad River. I
like the handmade features found in Placid Boats and Hornbecks,
although those are very pricey hand made boats.
Packing the canoe
Plenty of room
Tricking your boat out
for fly fishing: For solo canoe fly fishing, you really need to
use a kayak paddle. If you don't get a kayak paddle you are
going to doing a lot of arm switching on each stroke or "J"
stroking. With a kayak paddle, you make quick dips and
alternate, left hand-right hand. You do need to get a very long
kayak paddle for a solo canoe. The typical kayak paddle is a 220
cm paddle. For a solo canoe you need a longer paddle like a 240
cm or 250-260 cm. The main reason is the boat is wider. I got a
240 cm paddle for my boat. My paddle has aluminum shafts which
aren't the most light weight but it is durable and it floats
when you drop it in the water. Some paddles are graphite or
carbon fiber, those tend to be more expensive and not as
durable. Some of those sink when dunked. Some kayakers use a
leash. I tried those and found that I tend to hang lines on
these. If you are a total klutz you might want a paddle leash
and a rod leash. I've never lost a rod or paddle in the water
yet (knock on wood).
I added a seat back to
my bench seat. This a traditional canoe seat back that was made
by the boat manufacturer to match the seat. It is much like an
old lawn chair without legs that folds and locks onto the bench
seat. The bottom has clips which lock into the bench. There are
some newer models that are made of a folding material with
belts. I also got a stadium seat cushion at a discount store for
a seat pad. I figured if it gets lost, ruined or goes in the
lake no big deal.
I also added foam pads
to the seat bench and front yoke. I zip tied foam pipe
insulation to each as a padding for my rods. I did this so that
my rod wouldn't roll around and also keep the rod from getting
chipped up so much. Boats are typically very hard on rods. I've
broken several in boats. I have also chipped the coating on
reels and worn the butts of rods down.
Many years ago, I made
some homemade rod tubes out of electrical conduit. I cut 1 1/2"
tubes down to about 4'. I cut the end in sort of a tapered "s"
so that rods can be pulled in and out . I taped the end with
duct tape to keep some of the water out. Now those fancy rod
tubes won't get dirty or chipped in the boat. I have used Velcro
or quick release boat straps to hold tubes to the seat and yoke
in the past. Always assume you are going to dump, spill, flip or
get wet and you will always properly rig your boat out.
A large thwart,
waist or fanny pack can be practical. It can attach to a thwart,
your waist, the seat back, and many other places
This one is an
angler's special model with large pockets for fly boxes and
For bag, I have an old
canoe thwart bag. This is a special bag for a canoe. A thwart
bag is attached to the front yoke and hangs down. You can put
fly boxes, leaders, spools, reels in the bag . I have a fleece
fly patch pinned to the bag and stick flies on them. Finding a
thwart bag is not easy, only a few companies make them, my old
one I am keeping as there is no new replacement for mine.
The lanyard is a
simple and practical way of holding all your small fly-fishing
gadgets and gizmos
Near my seat I have a
Velcro fly patch which I think came out of a pack I had. You can
make your own fly patches out of 2mm fly foam or jumbo boat
patch foam pads and cut them to size. Use Velcro tape and put
the tape on the inside walls of the hull.
For safety I have a
kayak fishing jacket. This is life vest that is designed for
kayaking and fly fishing. This has pockets that zip and can hold
fly boxes and also various items like leaders and the like. I
have a plastic boat whistle that is tied to a loop in one of the
pockets. If I get into trouble I can blow the whistle for help.
I can tie things to my vest and the most important thing is if
you don't like your vest you won't wear it. I wear mine all the
I wear a tool lanyard
when boating. These hold clippers, hemostats, dry fly paste, a
small light, lens cleaners, leader straightner and a fishing
charm. You need a weight in the middle of the lanyard so it
stays centered. I used a fish charm from a key ring I attached
to one of the snaps. Some lanyards have a clip that you pinch to
your pants so it doesn't dance around. I've found that the charm
works best for me. You need to choose your charm carefully and
as it is creates fishing karma and good luck.
A large sponge
will help when you want to scoop out the water that inevitably
ends up in the bottom of the boat
For clothing you might
wish to wear river shorts or a swim suit. River shorts are made
of lightweight material and have sewn in mesh underwear that
dries out quickly. A good many cloth swim suits tend to hold
water and are heavy when wet, that's why I like quick dry, mesh
lined shorts. I also wear river sandals that have quick draw
laces and open sides that let water, sand and rocks out. By
wearing better river gear, getting wet isn't so much of an
issue. On some rocky rivers I have worn wading shoes and wet
waded. Wading shoes tend to be heavy when wet and also tend to
collect sand, rocks and water. If I think the water is going to
be cold, I have worn waders also. Wet wading is a way to also
cool off on hot summer days on the river or lakes.
Haul the chain
overboard and tie the rope onto the boat and you are anchored
but can still move with a few swift paddle strokes
I have a boat bag in my
truck with several ropes. One rope I have used in the river has
a tree clamp on it. This is like a sort of big pliers and it
clamps to logs or branches. I have a quick release snap on the
other end. I usually tie this to bow. I have a small anchor
attached to about 20' of rope and it folds up. I don't really
use this much but you might like one for your boat. I also have
a drag chain. I have a heavy log chain attached to another 20'
rope. One the other end is a snap. When doing river floats, a
drag chain slows your flow so that you drift with the bottom of
the river not the top. This is a thing I picked up from the
Ozarks and on some streams drag chains are prohibited. You need
a snap in case you get wedged into a log or a rock and can't get
out. The chain has to be very heavy and you need about 1 1/2'
for this to work. The drag chain snakes through rocks most of
the time. If you get wedged, it will pull the boat back and
knock your teeth out, hence the snap. Paddle back upstream in a
pinch and unhook it.
A paddle leash can
keep the paddle attached to the boat if you loose it, the drag
chain can act as a flexible anchor and the clamp and rope can
attach you to trees, logs, other boats and much more.
Lastly to transport my
boat, I have a ladder rack on my truck. I put pipe insulation
with cable ties on the bars to pad it. I can change those out
each season or remove them if I add a box to the rack. I use
ratcheting straps to lock my boat down and put small pieces of
cardboard against the hull to avoid deep marks being created
from the tie downs.
You might want to keep a
roll of duct tape in your boating bag, car or truck. Duct tape
is like the Swiss army knife for boaters. You can tape, patch or
mend anything in a pinch with it. One fishing catalog goes so
far as to show how to set broken limbs with duct tape in the
woods. Another good item to keep handy in your boat is a large
car type sponge. You can use this to mop up bilge water that
accumulates as you paddle or climb in and out of the boat.
Now I am seeking out new
places to float, rivers to explore and fish. I've loaded up on
fishing and canoe guide books and maps . I am looking for my
next adventure in a new boat. I am reading canoe guides and
indexing those against fishing guide books to determine good
boating and good fishing locations. In the Adirondack region
alone of New York there are something like 2,500 lakes and ponds
and 1,500 miles of rivers to explore. I don't think I will be
hurting for places to fish any time soon. I live near one of the
Finger Lakes, Cayuga Lake and I have been fishing on this lake
You can see a fly fishing video of
my friend Bill Reed (Bill is a marketing exec with Orvis) fly
fishing in a Hornbeck Boat in the Adirondacks.
The canoe can
bring you out on lakes and rivers beyond where you can wade or
reach from the shore
Article and photos by
is owner of Badger Creek Fly Tying. His web site:
www.eflytyer.com is one of the longest continuous running
web sites on the internet. He lives in Upstate NY (outside
Ithaca) in a 200 year old restored farm house with his retired
academic wife and their collection of border collies, collies,
cats and birds. You can reach him at: