By Michael Harris
How do you manage fly line while fishing from a kayak? There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle and there really isn't one solution that is best. Fly line management starts before you get to the water. Your fly line should be clean and stretched before launching your kayak. A clean fly line will not only add distance to your cast but will also assist in eliminating tangles. Even though you might have a large arbor reel you'll want to stretch your line to eliminate the memory from being stored on the spool. If your line is not stretched coils will cause a lot of problems in the shooting portion in your line resulting in a rats nest. These coils also tend to find anything and everything to get tangled around. By spending the time to clean your fly line after a trip and stretching it right before you launch you'll eliminate a lot of headaches when that first shot counts.
The next mistake I see a lot of people make is hooking the fly in the hook keeper (or on the reel) and reeling up the fly line inside the tip of the rod. By doing this you have no fly line extending from the rod tip making it difficult to get off a quick cast. A solution to this is to wrap the leader around the back of the reel seat and hook the fly in the second guide up the rod. By doing this you'll generally have a few feet of fly line extending past the rod tip. This way when you pick up the rod from your rod holder or your lap you can unhook the fly, unwrap the leader from around the reel seat, strip off some line and start your cast. It's much easier than fighting to get fly line out of the tip of the rod in the heat of the moment.
The deck of your kayak should be clear of anything fly line could get wrapped around. Fly line has a way of finding a way to get tangled around rod holders, electronics, water bottles or any other rigging you might have. If you cast right handed make sure the left side of the kayak is clear. Put your anchor trolley on the right side and store your paddle on the right side. This way you can strip line with your left hand and minimize snags. If you cast left handed clear the right side of your kayak. So what do you do with all of the stripped line? This is where you'll have to experiment a little and find what works best for you. I've seen people use a small stripping basket between their legs. I've also seen people lay a wet towel over their lap and strip the line onto the towel. Using a towel also helps if you find the line getting wrapped around your foot pegs. My personal preference is to not mess with a towel or stripping basket and strip the line off the side of my yak into the water. I find this method to work fine when sight casting to redfish. Even though you've done all of this preparation, occasionally your line will find itself wrapped around something in the heat of the moment. Don't let it get to you; it happens to all of us who choose to fly fish from a kayak.