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Fly fishing from canoes and kayaks with Ryan Lilly of Old Town Canoe

Description: Learn how to decide between a canoe and a kayak, what kind to get, and how to maneuver and cast using these hard-sided watercraft (next week I'll be doing a podcast on inflatables). Ryan Lilly [47:30] is a fly fisher and Old Town's expert on fishing from these craft, and has many great suggestions for how to make the most out of your canoe or kayak experience.
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Podcast Transcript:

Tom: Oops, I've gotta put my headphones on. Hello, hello. Hi, and welcome to the "Orvis Fly-Fishing" podcast. This is your host, Tom Rosenbauer and my guest this week is Ryan Lilly from Old Town Canoe in Maine. And Ryan has a similar job that I do to Orvis in that he's kind of the voice of Old Town and answers technical questions and is an expert on kayak fishing and in canoe fishing. So, I thought I'd get Ryan on to talk about, you know, the difference between the two craft and why you should choose one over the other when fishing, how to properly fish from a kayak or canoes and casting tips from a kayak and canoe and lots of other things on these hard bodied crafts. And then the following week I'm gonna plan on doing a podcast on inflatables. So anyway, I know it's spring time and you're thinking about getting out on the water in some sort of watercraft and I thought this would be helpful.
But before we talk to Ryan, let's do the Fly Box. And before I even start the Fly Box, I wanna tell you how to send a question to the Fly Box. Send an email to And you can either just type your question or tip or comment into the body of your email or you can attach a voice file. And a little bit of preamble. I'm gonna read you an email from Chad from Pennsylvania. I've been listening for quite some time and have learned a lot from both the Fly Box and your gusts. Before I start with the well-deserved thank you for all you do for fly-fishing, I wanna float an idea by you. I remember a talk show host from my youth who ended up with a one-word way to have all his callers summarize their thanks and appreciation for the show. What if you came up with a word or catchphrase that we could all use to condense the thanks and appreciation we all feel for you and Orvis? I don't mind hearing it repeated but I can't help but think we may be able to get an additional question answered in every podcast. So really this is kinda selfish request.
Well, you know, Chad, that's a good idea because a lot of you do express your thanks and your appreciation but I kinda like listening to why you like the podcast and what you like best about it. So, I'll make a deal with you. I'll stop reading the words of praise that come in with the podcast question requests and I'll just read the requests or the tips and I'll leave out the words of praise. I'll read them myself because I like hearing them but I won't read them on the air. I don't know if that's gonna give you guys an extra question every podcast but you're probably tired of hearing that stuff anyway. But I don't get tired of hearing it. So, I'll leave that part out and I'll just read the questions. How's that?
And another announcement before we start. Don't forget if you're listening to this podcast as it is being released in mid-March, don't forget that the giant fly sale is going on where if you buy flies from the Orvis website or from an Orvis retail store, you get 20% off on all of your fly purchases. And this is only good for the month of March. So, you need some flies and need to stock up? Make sure you do it now.
All right. Enough for the announcements. Let's do a question. And these are kinda...I'm gonna read two questions because they're both kinda related and they both came in within a few hours of each other which was interesting. The first one's from Cody. I've been fly-fishing for a little over a year and I'm just curious if there is a video, website or a hook...a book that shows or explain what beadhead nymphs imitate what bugs. Hope to hear your answer and thanks for everything you do. And the second question is from Bradley. Are beads really an essential element of a nymph? I understand they help get a fly down in the water column and save some of the pain of using split shot but obviously they don't look natural. I'm sure they serve as a flashy attractor that triggers plenty of eats but how many refusals have they caused? Furthermore, a weightless nymph should be a more natural presentation since naturals don't rapidly sink through the water column like a beaded nymph would. One logical solution to this problem would be to use a two-fly rig with one weighted fly to do the work of split shot while also getting some eats and one trailing weightless fly to serve as a more natural imitation. My only doubt about this rig is that the slack between the two flies could lead to missed eats of the weightless flies. What do you think? How do you usually utilize weightless nymphs? I'm certain this topic has been discussed on the podcast before but I found many conflicting responses to this question and I wanted to get your thoughts on the matter as I am in the midst of filling my boxes for spring and summer. Thanks.
Well, those are both really good questions. And Cody, there is no specific insect that beadhead nymphs represent because none of the bugs that we imitate that I know of have a big, flashy, shiny head on them. Now there are people that say that the flash of the bead imitates the air bubble that might form around a nymph as it's emerging. And that's possible. But I think an even more logical explanation is the one that Bradley put forth in that they're just an attractor. They attract the trout. They're flashy, they catch a trout's attention, trout can't really miss them. And the trout eat the nymph because they're attracted to the bead and then they see the nymph behind it and they figure, "Well, looks like a nymph. I'm gonna eat it. Even though nymphs don't have flashy heads, I was attracted to that shiny object and I'm gonna eat it."
And Bradley, I would you're tying, I would certainly urge you to tie some flies with bright beads because sometimes they work even in really clear water on shy, selective fish. Sometimes a bright nymph like a lightning bug will work really well and other times I'm convinced that the beads may put the fish off just as you suggested. I think that the bright, shiny beads do put the fish off. Now I don't think there's any better way of getting weight on a fly than adding a bead. It really concentrates the weight and a tungsten bead will really get a fly down quickly and you can always add extra wraps of weighting wire behind the bead to make it sink even better. And so, I sometimes...I tie a lot of my flies with black beads so they're not shiny and I tie them often with smaller black beads so they don't have this big bulbous shape in front of the fly and they look a lot more realistic. Now I'd urge you to try that and I'd also urge you to tie some flies without beads because you don't always want your fly to be right on the bottom. Often you...not often but sometimes you want your fly to be in the middle of the water column. When fish are feeding on emerging nymphs, they're often taking them in the middle of the water column and not close to the bottom because the nymphs are drifting in the water and the fish can see them better. When they're higher in the water column. So sometimes an unweighted nymph or a lightly weighted nymph without a bead will work. But it's gonna vary. It's gonna vary with conditions and individual fish and water types and everything else.
The one thing I would question is that a weighted fly or a beaded fly is going to be less natural than an unweighted fly and I've heard this before. I've heard this many, many times over the years that an unweighted fly drifts more naturally in the water column. But think about this. Think about these two things. One is that when flies emerge, they often rise up from the bottom and then they sink back down and they rise up from the bottom and they sink back down. So, a fly that is falling through the water column is not necessarily unnatural. And besides, once you get your drift going, it's not gonna be moving up and down. It's gonna be staying at whatever depth in the water column.
The other thing is that I'm not sure that unweighted flies have a more natural drift and here's why. You've always got a piece of tippet attached to your fly if you wanna catch any fish. You gotta attach it to your line and that tippet has mass. And if the fly doesn't have that much mass, it's going to be influenced by the stiffer tippet material whereas if your fly has some mass and some weight, it's gonna be less likely to be yanked around by the tippet. So, you know, I mix it up. Sometimes I'll use two heavily weighted flies, sometimes I'll use a heavily weighted fly and an unweighted or lightly weighted fly. And I'd urge you to try all of them because they'll all work at certain times and you really have to experiment. Any given day, you never know what the fish are gonna take. But try all of them and don't worry so much that those heavily weighted nymphs are not gonna look natural because I think they do. The fish certainly told us that they do.
Mike: Hi, Tom. Mike from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I just returned from a saltwater fishing trip and I have a question for you. I've used Orvis's polyleaders, both the trout version and the steelhead salmon version. Question. Is there a version...I searched the website and didn't see anything. Is there a version for saltwater? And specifically, something that would be durable enough to handle...and strong enough to handle tarpon. Just curious what your thoughts are on that, if there's any type of...other than getting a sinking line, if there's any type of polyleader you know of that can be just put on and used. Thanks, Tom. Appreciate it.
Tom: Mike, you can use the salmon sized polyleader for tarpon or for saltwater. All those polyleaders will work well in saltwater. There's nothing in saltwater that's gonna hurt them. So, I think for something like striped bass or redfish, you might be able to get away with a polyleader, you know, an intermediate or a floating polyleader. They should work fine. However, I'd advise you not to use one for tarpon and I think if you go with a guide and you pull out a polyleader on the end of your fly line, the guide's gonna look at it in horror, cut it off and put on a standard leader. I don't believe that the core of those polyleaders is strong enough to hold a tarpon. I don't know exactly what they break at but I don't think it's heavy enough to fish for big tarpon. Maybe baby tarpon would be fine but if you're going for migratory tarpon, the bigger tarpon, I would not use a polyleader. I would use a standard built leader with a shock tippet or better yet, whatever your guide recommends because I just don't think a polyledaer's gonna handle something like a big tarpon.
Okay. Another email. This one is from Michael. Hi, Tom. Thank you for the podcast. I learned some...oops. I said I wasn't gonna read that. I'm sure you probably covered this at some point but I must've missed it. When swinging flies for trout, does drag matter? Is the process basically to get a drag free drift until the line bellies out at the end and straightens? Do you get a strike during the drift or just at the end when the line straightens and the flies rise? Also, are you just feeling the strike or are you watching the end of your floating line for a tug? Couple of other questions. How long is the leader and tippet? Do you always swing two flies and are the flies weighted? I have never fished wet flies.
So, Michael, you could fish wet flies any way you want and sometimes they'll fish dead drift in which case you wanna hang a soft tackle off a strike indicator or a dry dropper arrangement or just a floating line with nothing on there and try to get a dead drift just as you would a nymph. That will work sometimes. Other times, you wanna swing the fly in the current. And you may feel the strike. If the line is tight, if the line is tight below you, you're probably gonna feel the strike. And if you do feel the strike, don't set the hook. Just let the fish hook itself. If it's downstream of you on a tight line, it's best not to raise the rod tip until you feel the weight of the fish on there. But you may sometimes...if there's any slack in the arrangement and your fly is just starting to rise, you may just see the tip of that floating line twitch in which case you do wanna strike. So, if it's tight, don't strike. If there's any slack in the arrangement, then yes, you need to make a strike.
You can fish a single wet fly or you can fish two or even three. I find that putting a second fly on the leader with a separate dropper, not tied to the bend of one hook but tied with a separate piece with a surgeon's knot above the lower fly seems to work better than a single wet fly although I fish single wet flies too. But I find that two of them seem to work better and you can, you know, try two different colors or two different sizes and see which one the fish prefer. I like fishing that way. And sometimes the fish will take the fly on a swing where it's swinging across the current. I know that flies in the face of what we've been taught about getting a dead drift with sinking flies. However, there are a few caddis flies, caddis pupae and a few mayfly nymphs that swim fairly aggressively. And so, it may be imitating that. And also, a little wet fly swing across the current could imitate a small baitfish. So sometimes drag will work. If there are emerging flies, yeah. I think that one of the best ways to do it is to get a slack line presentation and mend a few times, try to keep your fly line and leader and fly in the same current lane and then just stop the rod or stop the swing so the fly rises vertically in the water column.
A little bit difficult to explain but on the Orvis learning center, there is a section on swinging soft tackles in... I believe it's the prospecting for trout section of the Orvis learning center that talks about how to do this method. So, I advise you to go there because it's a little bit difficult to describe here without visuals. And then, yes, I don't want much weight on your wet flies if you're gonna swing them in the current but I have found...and I don't believe that heavily weighted flies work that well but I do have a couple of patterns that I use that are soft tackles with just a very small tungsten bead at the head just to kinda get that fly down and not have it rise too far up in the water column when it swings. You can actually buy these patterns from FMF or from the Orvis website. It's called, I think, Rosenbauer's wire body soft tackle or something like that. But anyway, just look in the Tom Rosenbauer fly selection and you'll see these little lightly weighted soft tackles.
Larry: Hi, Tom. This is Larry from Charlotte, North Carolina. First, thanks for answering my question a while back about sustainable fly-tying materials. I appreciate that. I have two questions. One, I fish a popper but this could be anything with rubber legs. That gets...the little rubber legs get stuck back in the hook at some point in the casting and I bring it in. I watch it on the water and it's all going different directions and not very good. And I untuck the legs and throw it back out. Is there a way without trimming those legs back because I love the motion of it to get those legs to quit sticking, getting stuck back in that hook, around the bend of the hook? That's the first question. Number two. In fly tying, I'm somewhat confused about the up eye, down eye or straight eye and what difference that makes in the fly, the pattern. Maybe one's for wet, one's for dry, one's for streamers. I don't know if it makes a difference at all. I'd like to get your take on that. So anyway, I appreciate that and all you do for the sport again. And take care.
Tom: Well, Larry, you know, without seeing that exact popper you have, I don't know how you're gonna keep those rubber legs from sticking on the hook point. My advice would be to cut them back a little bit. You know, cut them back until they can't reach the hook point. You should still have enough action on the legs to make it move enough. But not so long that they're gonna stick on the hook. Without actually seeing the fly, I don't know. Maybe, you know, buy some poppers if you can with rubber legs that are placed further toward the front of the hook so that they don't stream back and catch on the hook point. But not seeing the exact fly, difficult to give you any suggestions other than cutting them.
And regarding your up eye, down eye or straight eye for that matter, there's very little difference in the hooking qualities. People have done studies and investigated this. And there's very, very little difference in the hooking qualities or really anything else, the holding qualities between up eye, down eye and straight eye. And I've proven it to myself. I use them all and I don't think there's any difference. It's mainly the way the fly looks. It's mainly the way the tyer who invented the pattern wants the fly to look. For instance, you know, traditional Atlantic salmon flies are always tied in an up-eye hook and they just look better but you can tie them on a down eye hook or a straight eye hook and they'll work just as well. There are a couple of knots that you may wanna attach when Atlantic salmon fishing like the rifling hitch which may work better with an up eyed fly where you want a wet fly to skate across the current. So, in that case, you may wanna up eye fly. But for normal trout fishing or bass fishing or even saltwater fishing, I don't think the eye position matters other than it's a matter of style.
Here's an email from Ken from Buffalo. Recently I was in Florida staying at my mother-in-law's. It's a gated community with a few large lakes and ponds. While there, I observed a lot of large carp cruising around but saw no small ones that would be under 20 inches. Question one is where are all the small carp. Question two, how active are leeches during the winter?
Well, Ken, what you probably saw were grass carp and grass carp are often...they're sterile and they are often stocked in lakes to remove excess weeds because they're vegetarians. And so, they don't reproduce because they're sterile so you're not gonna see any small ones. That's what I expect they are. They also can be really exciting fish to target with a flyrod. Once they eat all the weeds in a pond, they'll start eating insects. And if you can find a pond where most of the weeds are gone, grass carp are very difficult to catch. They're even more difficult than common carp but they can and are caught on a flyrod. And boy, I'd give them a try. I'd find one of those lakes where there aren't a lot of weeds left and see if you can catch them on a nymph or a small streamer. I've even caught them on poppers at times. Little, tiny, bluegill poppers.
How active are leeches during the winter? Well, leeches are coldblooded and, you know, like all coldblooded creatures, they're probably going to be not very active during the winter months. Depends on the water temperature. I imagine that they'll move around a little bit but I honestly don't know. And, you know, I would suggest that you maybe poke around in the shallows and see if you can find any leeches in the waters that you fish and see if they're swimming around or not. If they're not active, they're probably buried in the mud or the aquatic vegetation somewhere and you may not see any. But if you actually see some scrounging around in the shallows, then we can probably assume that they're gonna be active.
Here's an email from Hampton. Recently ran into a frustrating situation. I was fishing over President's Day and in early afternoon we started to get a blue winged olive hatch. Got a few takes on some size 18 to 20 blue winged olive patterns in some riffles directly upstream on the near bank. The water was high and we were unable to cross to the far bank and due to tree branches hanging over the near bank, we were unable to get casts to the consistently rising fish on the far bank. When I did get a cast somewhat close to them in the only spot possible, the faster water in the middle of the river pushed my line much faster than the fly and started dragging the fly quickly in an unnatural drift. The issue was that if I had tried to mend it, I sank the fly in 9 out of 10 attempts. Note. The fly had been well covered on floatant beforehand in case we did get a hatch so this was not a likely issue. Any suggestions for a situation like this when you have to put a big mend on a small, delicate, dry fly would be greatly appreciated.
Yeah, Hampton, this is a very common situation not just in winter but in trout streams in general when they're rising against the far bank and you've got fast water in the middle. Very, very common and very frustrating but there's a couple of things you can do. One is to make a downstream cast. Making a downstream cast...getting upstream of the fish is going to make your fly line land at an angle so that it's probably not going to drag immediately. So, if you're downstream of the fish or you're directly across stream from the fish, yeah, you're gonna have a big problem and you're gonna get dragged instantly. If you're upstream of the fish, you're gonna get a little bit better chance at getting a drag free presentation. But there's two other things that you wanna do at the same time. One is yeah, you don't wanna mend your line with a small dry fly. It doesn't work. It moves the fly too much, it drowns the fly, as you said. What you wanna do is do a reach cast. Reach cast is more or less an aerial mend and you wanna do probably a pretty extreme reach cast where at the end of your cast you reach the rod tip upstream right at the end of your power stroke on your cast and that will throw a mend into the line before it hits the water. So, reach cast, casting downstream.
And the third thing I would do in a situation like that, and I'm faced with this a lot too, is I would tie on a really long tippet. The longer your tippet, the more it's gonna land in fairly loose coils and the know, the more time you have before the fly line finally catches up to those loose coils and uncoils them and then starts pulling your fly. So, if you normally fish, say, two feet a tippet, I would go to four or five feet of tippet minimum in a situation like that. I think it's gonna help. That's a tricky situation but super common and, you know, you'll get it. You'll get it. Just keep trying. And, you know, probably three out of five casts the fly might drag but those two out of five, you get the fly in there with the right drift and you should be able to take those fish against the far bank.
Chris: Hi, Tom. It's Chris from Melbourne in Australia. I love the podcast. Long time listener. I've got two tips and a question for you. Firstly, the tips. When I'm fly-tying, I like to change the color thread using a black marker. So, if I want a red hotspot, I'll use, like, red thread but if I want the body to be black, then sometimes I'll use a black marker on the thread and then I don't have to change the thread. So, I just mark it up in the body and then create the hotspot with the red on the end leaving that...the red thread red, if that makes sense.
My other tip is when you're fixing pinholes on waders and you're using Aquaseal, if you use the Aquaseal and you fix those pinholes and then you, you know, put the lid back on, the cap back on the Aquaseal, you get...the Aquaseal will dry in the tube. But if you put it in a little plastic bag and put it in the freezer and then next time you go to use it, take it out, let it thaw out, it keeps the Aquaseal from drying out.
My question relates to the way that I've seen Americans handle bass and the lip grip that you guys do and you hold the fish vertically. We have a sort of similar fish in Australia called the Murray cod. It grows a little bigger though than, I think, your smallmouth bass. And we're told from our fisheries when we're handling them is not to grab them by the lip because you can pull the jaw out because of the weight of the fish. So, they say to hold the fish in the mouth but support the weight of the fish horizontally under the body. And I'm just wondering if the same thing could happen potentially with your fish or if it's different. So do you find that you have problems with the fish with your bass like, you know, jaws dislocating and that kinda thing. I'm just wondering is that really the best way to handle those bass or is there no problems at all. Anyway, hope you get to this question and I'll look forward to your answer.
Tom: Well, Chris, those are two great tips. Your fly-tying tip and your Aquaseal tip is great. I tend to not remember to put my Aquaseal in the freezer after I use it and then next time I go to use the tube, it's all hard. So that is a great tip. Regarding the lip grip on bass, you know, your authorities there on the Murray cod are absolutely right. And there is a movement or there is a philosophy in the States here to not lip grip a bass. The same with your Murray cod. So, grabbing a bass by the lip and lifting it out of the water, yeah, you apparently can dislocate the jaw. Now you can use that nice lip handle but you wanna keep the fish horizontal. So, if you wanna lip a bass, just make sure you keep it horizontal and don't hold it by its body weight. In other words, you can lip it and then cradle the body and best to keep it in the water while you're doing this. But if you wanna lift it up for a picture, yeah, you could do that. Just use the lip grip to stabilize it and then put your hand under the body and don't suspend the fish by its weight. So, it's the same thing in the states. If you see pictures of people holding bass up by the lip vertically, they probably just haven't gotten the message yet.
Here's an email from Dan. I have a question and a comment. First the question. There are many examples of double and even triple nymph rigs that I can find with a quick Google search. I'm also aware that dry dropper can be an effective way to fish. My question is whether multiple dry flies is something anyone does. I tried to google it and not come up with much. Maybe I search for it using the wrong keywords but this is just simply not common practice. Do you ever do a double dry setup? I was thinking about potentially using a larger dry like a bigger stimulator or a hopper trail bass small ant. If there are reasons not to do this, tangles too much, wind resistance, please let me know. I'm all ears.
Also, my comment for other beginners out there. I heard early on that upgrading your fly line should be one of the first things you should do if you get a budget setup out of the gate. Well, I'm here to tell you that this is 100% true and I fully recommend this to anyone starting out. My casting has improved tremendously and my trips are so much more enjoyable now that I spent the money on a higher quality line. The budget line simply didn't shoot through the guides. It had a lot of memory that I could not stretch out and I would lose all the energy of the cast as the coils got caught in the guides. Now the new line shoots like butter. I hope that simple recommendation can help somebody out there who might be getting frustrated like I was. It was definitely a gamechanger for me.
Well, thank you, Dan. Yeah, that's a great suggestion. You know, upgrading your fly line...the fly lines today, the premium fly lines are so good and so much better than the budget lines that you save a lot of money buying that they can be a gamechanger. So, thank you for that tip. Regarding double dries, yeah. People fish them a lot. In fact, I have a video coming out. I was gonna point you to it but it hasn't gone live yet. I've got a bunch of videos every week that are coming out on the Orvis blog and Facebook page and Instagram and YouTube. But that one probably will go live in early April. But anyway, yeah. You can definitely fish a double dry. I'll often fish when the fish are really surface oriented, you know. Sometimes they're just looking more at the top than they are subsurface. And, you know, low water, clear water or if they're just plain more surface oriented you can fish a double dry. Big dry, big attractor dry or a hopper with a smaller terrestrial or a smaller mayfly imitation, a little parachute Adams. And you wanna have, you know, probably a foot or two distance between the two flies. You can experiment with the distance between the two. But yeah, it works quite well.
Problems with it?'re right. The two flies are a little more...two dry flies are a little more air resistant. So yeah, it might tangle a little bit more. You're gonna get a few more tangles. And also, I don't do that...if I have a fish that is rising to a particular insect and I'm really zeroed in on trying to catch that one fish, I don't use two dries because I find that it does affect my accuracy a little bit. You just can't put two dry flies out there because you've got two pieces of air resistant stuff. You just can't put two dry flies out there as accurately as you can a single dry. So other than a hatch situation, if you're just prospecting with dry flies, yeah, definitely you can use two dries. Lots of people do it and, yeah, I don't know why there's not more information out there on them because it's done quite frequently. So that video will be out soon and hopefully that'll be helpful.
Here's an email from Seth from Northern California. A question about quantity of rod pieces. Can you explain the differences between a rod that comes in four pieces versus six pieces, especially if there are any in terms of performance? I like the idea of a six-piece rod for packability. I enjoy packing to Alpine Lakes whenever I can but I imagine there may be some drawbacks/differences I am unaware of. Thanks for being willing to share all this information and fostering such a helpful community. Oops, I wasn't supposed to read that. Sorry.
Yeah, Seth. Currently in the market today the six-piece rods that you see are generally going to be in the lower end of a product line. So, for instance, Orvis has a six-piece rod. It's an imported rod. And it doesn't have the same technology or the same taper as the rods made in USA. But I think that it's theoretically possible to make a six-piece rod that would be almost as good as a four-piece rod. The problem is that there isn't really demand for an expensive six-piece rod and it would be more expensive because every time you put a ferrule in a rod, you've got new design challenges, you've got extra labor to put a ferrule in there and you've gotta make sure the ferrules fit. And so, I think it theoretically could be done where a six piece could be as good as a four piece but I think 99% of the people are happy with four-piece rods. They find that, you know, they can carry them on an airplane, they can put them in the back of their car or store them easily wherever. So, there isn't much demand for six-piece rods. But I think it could be done but again, it would be a lot more expensive rod.
And the six-piece rods, I know the ones that Orvis sells are really...they're a good rod. I've used them before and they're certainly an acceptable rod and they cast fine. They don't cast as well as a Recon or a Helios 3. But they do a really good job. But again, it's gonna be expensive to make a premium six-piece rod.
Here's an email from Shawn. I recently purchased a 10-foot 3 weight Clearwater through your advice to learn the euro technology. I purchased two other brands as well and have found that the Orvis rod is the one that fulfils my needs. This is where my troubles begin. I would like to buy a spare tip section for the rod to have with me when I hike into remote locations in the High Sierra Mountains of California. It is impractical to carry more than one rod climbing down where I fish. A broken tip which has happened to me before would ruin a lot of effort put in to fish this section of the river. I called the Orvis company and was told that a spare tip is not sold separately. I cannot understand why this option is not available. I have Triton six weight and was able to have two tips. Is this option available on the Helios? Thanks again for your help and I really enjoyed the show on euro nymphing with George Daniel. It was very eye-opening to me, enough to buy new rods and tackle to try this technique.
Well, Shawn, we don't sell rods with extra tips per se. However, there is a sneaky way to get around it and you didn't hear it from me. No, it's perfectly legit. When you buy an Orvis rod, the first thing you should do is go online and register. Because that allows you to purchase an extra tip when you break your tip. And because of the interchangeable parts program that we have with Orvis rods which is not something you're gonna see on other brands, we can just send you a tip or a butt or a midsection or whatever section you need and all you need to do is go online, pay the service charge and tell them what section you need. And they will send you one. Usually takes less than a week to get there. So, what you do is you've got that rod. Register it, make sure it's registered. Go online and just say you want a new tip. You don't really have to say you broke it because they don't ask you. But just go online and order a new tip and you'll get a new tip for, you varies with the rod model but you can get a new tip for that rod. So anyway, that's the way to do it. I hope that that helps and again, you didn't hear it from me.
An email from Doug from Massachusetts. I have a tip in response to a caller who asked about tending pesky tippet cutoffs. A simple solution that works for me is to cut two, three-inch pieces of half inch Velcro and marry the grippy side with the soft side. Stick your tippet cutoff in between, squeeze them together and they will remain secure until you get home. I put a safety pin on one end and pin it to the inside of a shirt pocket. If a piece comes loose, it's in your pocket. Doug, that's a great tip and thank you for that. It's a great home remedy for extra tippet scraps.
Here's an email from James from Niagara Falls. I'm planning a trip down to West Virginia in April to visit my daughter at college and fish the local creeks. The lakes and rivers are stocked with 50,000 golden rainbows. Most of the information that I have found about golden rainbows seem to be about a species in the northwestern states. Is this the same species? Do these rare fish eat and behave the same as rainbow trout in the northeast?
Well, James, those fish that they call golden trout are not golden trout. They're a mutation that happened once in a hatchery to a rainbow trout or a population of rainbow trout and they bred these fish to stock in lakes and creeks. And the reason that states did this, do this is because the fish are highly visible in the stream and people go out and they see lots of fish because they shine like a flashlight in a river. You can really see them from a long way away and the people see all the fish in the river and they say, "Oh, boy, there's a lot of fish in this river and they're big." So, they're strictly hatchery origin. They're not very bright because they're gonna be freshly stocked and because they're so visible, these things get either caught out by people or they get preyed on by eagles and ospreys and mink and otters and things because they are so highly visible. They're gonna behave like a hatchery fish. So, they're going to probably at first eat almost anything you throw at them. Later on, if they do survive, they'll get a little bit pickier but there's no real special fishing technique for them. They're just the same as any hatchery rainbow. They're definitely not golden trout. A lot of people...I should just warn you. If you catch one, don't put it on social media because a lot of people will make fun of you because they're kind of considered uncool, I guess, to put it kindly.
Denis: Hi, Tom. This is Denis from Wisconsin. I have a basic question. I'm going to hire a guide this summer for the first time. I've taught myself about fly-fishing and I've never used a guide in the past. And I'm trying to decide between doing a float trip or having a guide take me out on a wade fishing trip. My goal would be to have a guide for one of the days of the trip and then be able to use the information and the knowledge that I gain from being with that guide for the next couple of days on the trip. Just wondering if you have any advice on is there a better way to go about choosing if you wanna do a float trip or a wade trip. Again, it's a basic question but one that I'm not certain on what the answer is. So, any help you could provide would be very much appreciated. Thanks a lot, and thanks for all you do.
Tom: Denis sent me a follow-up letter and said he was going to Montana on this trip. Denis, again, it's know, you know I'm gonna say it's up to you to decide on whether you'd rather float or wade. Couple things to consider. One is when you fish on your own, you're probably gonna be wade fishing. So, it might be good to have a what's called a walk wade trip and learn from the guide, you know, learn about wading these rivers and learn how to approach a pool and everything from the shore or from wading and not from a boat because boat fishing is a little bit different. You're often hitting targets very quickly. You're not stalking fish but you're whizzing by the fish and you're putting your fly in likely places which is something you're not gonna be able to do when you're wading. So, you can do it either way but I think you're gonna learn more that you can apply to your own fishing by hiring a walk wade guide. Now be aware that it may be difficult to find a walk wade guide. There aren't a ton of them in Montana. There are some and generally if you call an outfitter or a fly shop, you can arrange it but there are gonna be fewer guides that don't wanna row a drift boat. So, you know, you may have to ask around to a couple of shops to find somebody that will take you on a walk wade trip.
All right. That is the Fly Box for this week. Let's go talk to Ryan about fishing from canoes and kayaks, fly-fishing from canoes and kayaks.
Well, my guest today is Ryan Lilly from Old Town Canoe. And Ryan has the fortunate circumstance of having a job at Old Town that's similar to the job that I have at Orvis. What's your job title there, Ryan?
Ryan: My job title's brand evangelist.
Tom: Brand evangelist, yeah. They were gonna give me that title and I talked them into something else. But anyway, so we're both brand evangelists anyways. You for canoes and kayaks and me for flyfishing stuff. So, it's appropriate that we're talking to day.
Ryan: Yeah, thanks for having me on.
Tom: Yeah. And, you know, we're gonna talk about canoes and kayaks. I get a lot of questions about, first of all, selecting craft and then about, you know, how to fish in them, what's different about fishing in them and, you know, what kind of things...what kind of accessories do you need. So why don't we start with a difference in fly-fishing between a canoe and a kayak.
Ryan: Sure. Sure. So, we all have wonderful memories in a canoe. Prior to my job here, I had done a bunch of kayak fishing. Predominantly my fishing had been out of canoes. Here in Maine, much like probably what you experience in Vermont, there's old canoes scattered about the woods in random mountain ponds all over the state. And so, a lot of my fly-fishing was done from the bow of a canoe while a friend or a family member paddled me around. And being in a canoe, you sit up a little bit higher. You've got a lot of space for gear, if you wanna bring your dog along, that sort of thing. And it's got a variety of applications. A canoe, you can handle in moving water, you can handle it on larger lakes or even in ocean if you're feeling adventurous. Kayaks have come a long way. We do still sell a lot of sit inside recreational kayaks but really the movement has been the last 15 years is to sit on top kayaks. And mostly on the fishing side. So as people have wanted to get out on the water and experience new and different fisheries and places, there is this growing movement to access hard to reach areas with fishing kayaks.
And one of our brands, Ocean Kayak which we had acquired back, 30 plus years ago, really pioneered the sit on top design. And over the years and as the customers demanded having something that was better than a sit inside option for something to fish out of, we kinda put those things together. We took the classic sit on top kayak. We got a bunch of anglers together in a room and really started to innovate around creating a fishing platform on a sit on top chassis, if you will. And so, what that's done...and they've come a long way which we'll get into, I'm sure but what that's done is it gives you a boat that is self-draining that you could sit up high or sit down low depending on if you have a model that has multiple seating options. And it's nowadays very stable to even stand up from. So, if you wanna paddle out and then actually stand and cast, these kayaks are stable enough for you to stand and cast and stand and sight fish from. And what's great is if you tip out of it, it's a sit on top kayak that's self-draining so you flip it over, you're able to get back into it. So, it's much easier to manage than having let's say a traditional canoe that if you were to tip out of you's a lot of work to get back in one and to drain it out while you're in the water.
Tom: Yeah, yeah.
Ryan: Whereas a kayak is much more's an easier size to manage if you're by yourself and with it being self-draining and able to get back on to a lot easier, it really is a new and a great way for anglers to explore waters. And nowadays we've gotten to the point where you don't have to paddle them anymore. We've got paddle options, we've got motorized options all on that sit on top kayak chassis. So, you could paddle, you could pedal, you could motor which is opened up even more. So, if you're someone out there that doesn't have the space for a big drift boat or even an 18-foot canoe, you usually can find space for a 12-foot fishing kayak and it's a lot easier to transport and you can rig them out like crazy like I do [crosstalk 00:52:48] variety of different species and applications.
Tom: Yeah. So, let's talk about fishing and the difference between just a kayak you paddle, one you pedal and one I have with a fancy electric motor in it.
Ryan: Yeah, that's my daily driver now too. So, we'll end on that one because that's kinda the...that's the crown jewel, if you will, of what's available today. But if you choose to paddle...and I wanna keep it super simple. A paddle kayak is gonna be your lightest option. And a lot of cases, it's gonna be the cleanest in terms of what's on board. So as a fly angler, our greatest challenge is figuring out what to do with all the stripped line and when you're in a paddle kayak, the blessing and the curse is that it's just your paddle and a lot of open space. You've got a lot of space to strip line, to manage your line between casts so when you're retrieving, when you're running a fish. But the tradeoff there is you've gotta maintain position with a paddle. So, you've gotta figure out how to maintain position with a paddle or to move forward or to paddle backwards with a paddle in your hand while also managing the fishing rod. So, I like to paddle fish from a paddle kayak in specific use cases like if I'm doing a section of river. I live here on the Penobscot River up in Northern Maine and there's a lot of applications where I can use the current to my advantage and really flow with the current using the paddle just every so often to correct course or to paddle into an eddy or something like that and I'm able to really use the drift almost like a drift boat and fish the current.
Now the next iteration, the next step is you could get into pedal kayaks. And pedal kayaks are awesome because it frees up your hands for fishing.
Tom: Right, yeah.
Ryan: You're able to strap the paddle down to the side of the kayak. You're pedaling...with our pedal kayaks, you pedal forward, you go forward, reverse, you go reverse and you steer with a rudder control on your left side. And so, what's great is if you choose to troll or if you want to pedal to where you're going and anchor out, you've got the ability to do so. The challenge with a pedal kayak, though, is the pedals create a little bit of a challenge if you're stripping line into your kayak because your stripped line can get into the pedals. And so, in which case if I know that I'm gonna be doing a lot of fly casting and stripping, I'll bring a stripping basked with me and I'll pedal to where I'm going, I'll anchor up and I'll put a basket on and I'll strip into the basket to avoid stripping into the pedals or I'll turn around because our kayaks are so stable. I'm able to turn around and use the seat to strip my line into. So that's another option and solution for someone that's looking to fly-fish out of a pedal kayak.
The last and my most favorite product and way to fish with a flyrod from a kayak is on our new motorized models. We've got three models that are motorized. They're all powered by a Minn Kota trolling motor which is...Minn Kota is the owned by the same parent company as Old Town. So, we worked together with them to develop these integrated motor systems for our kayaks. We've got two options. We've got one called the 106 powered by Minn Kota which has a throttle control to your right. You steer it with your feet with a rudder...with foot steering. And it has a nice, wide, open deck. And that's great because you've got all kinds of space in that 10-and-a-half-foot kayak to strip line if you're standing or sitting without getting it tangled. And then we have a model called Autopilot in two sizes. We have a 12 foot and a 13 and a half foot. And the Autopilot is my favorite because it features spot lock. So, if you've ever been out in a canoe or a kayak that isn't motorized and you wanna stay put or even a drift boat, you wanna throw an anchor, you're dealing with anchor line, the heavy anchor. The spot lock technology, much like what you see in a bay boat or a bass boat, it's a bow mounted trolling motor that's been integrated into the kayak. So, you control it with a handheld control unit. Then it has Bluetooth, GPS enabled spot lock technology.
So, if I'm fishing the big windy lake or if I'm fishing the Penobscot River and I wanna post up in the current or in the wind, I'm able to hit the GPS spot lock button and that remote anchor will...the motor will act as my anchor and it will hold me there and allow me to cast. And those platforms are so big inside the cockpit that you have all kinds of room and nothing for the stripped line to tangle. And I love to sight fish and I love to stand and cast and so that's my preferred craft of choice. I know that's what you have now and it's such an awesome boat. And I'll do anything from trolling flies in the spring at ice out for landlocked salmon up here to fishing stripers down at Cape Cod from this boat. It's awesome because I can motor to my spot, hit spot lock, work an area while anchored, virtually anchored if you will and I've got a nice, open cockpit for stripping line and I'm not getting tangled and it's great.
Tom: Yeah, that extra space in the motorized boats is really nice and there's so much room for gear. God, more room than I need in mine. So pretty excited about it. Now...
Ryan: Yeah. I'm getting...oh, go ahead, sorry.
Tom: Sorry, sorry, go ahead.
Ryan: No, I was gonna say I get real excited this time of year because one of my favorite things to do is after the ice is out, quintessential New Englander here, I love to troll for salmon when the ice goes out. And so, with my Autopilot...I use it for more than just fly-fishing but I do set mine up with a flyrod off one side with sinking line and then I have a down rigger off the other side for conventional setup where I'll troll two flyrods. One at the surface and one with sinking line. And what's neat about these new platforms is they have all the accessory tracks and rod holders and things that you'd need to set it up for your particular fishing outing, if you will. So, I use mine from...anywhere from, again, striper fishing to fishing bass to trolling at ice out. So, it's totally customizable experience too and it's a do it all sort of platform.
Tom: Yeah, I'm excited about mine because I plan on using the motor and the paddle, you know, at various times. And then I also...because you can't use the motor in really shallow water for spot lock, I rigged mine up with a... oh, what's the name? It's like a power pole but it's a manual power pole. What do you call that device? What was that device?
Ryan: Stakeout pole.
Tom: Stakeout pole, yeah. And so, I can literally go anywhere from way out in the middle of a lake where I can use the spot lock to paddling into a really shallow area and then staking out or using the pole to pole. I love poling. Do you pole your kayak much?
Ryan: I do. I will because I...90% of the time, I'm standing up. Unless I'm going from point A to point B and I'm rigging gear, I'll set the Autopilot, let the kayak take over and I'll be rigging while I'm going from the boat ramp to my first fishing spot. That's usually when I'm sitting down. But while fishing, yeah. I'm standing up and typically I use my paddle almost like a standup paddleboard. I'll hold on to one of the ends of the paddle and I'll paddle it almost like a standup paddleboard. That's how I typically will paddle like that. But I do use push poles in certain situations. When the river gets real skinny in the late summer, I'll take a push pole with me and I'll pole around in the shallows. The motorized kayaks that we do make, we do sell...we ship with a plate. So, if you choose to leave your motor at home, there's a plate that comes with those boats that you can plug the hole so you don't have water coming in where those motors deploy.
Tom: Right, yeah. Yeah.
Ryan: And you can take a stakeout pole. You can paddle it. You can use it like a traditional kayak and leave the motor at home if you so choose.
Tom: Yeah, it's so versatile. And you talked about standing up. I think that conventional anglers can get away with kayaks that you just sit in and cast from a sitting position but boy, when you're know, people ask me about picking a kayak. I say, "I think you've really gotta get one that you can stand up in that's stable enough for that because..." You know, both for sight get a lot better view of things and then just for casting ease. It's so much better to be standing up.
Ryan: Yes. Yep, I agree.
Tom: And what kind of hull around these kayaks that you can stand up on...I mean, the hull is a lot different than a standard kayak, right? They've been developed specially for that?
Ryan: Yep, so our...all the kayaks that I've been talking about are within our Old Town sportsman line of kayaks. And within that line, we've got three or four different hull shapes. The Autopilot, the kayak that you own and the one that's my daily driver is built off of a pontoon style hull. So, if you were to flip it over, it looks like a pontoon boat. You've got a channel in the middle that funnels water and then two bulbous pontoons on either side of the boat. So, you have incredible primary stability. It takes a lot to tip them over. You typically fall out before this thing will tip over.
Tom: Yep.
Ryan: And it has extremely high capacities. I mean, I should have the numbers up in front of me but we're talking 500 plus mass capacity on these boats. So, you can...that's a lot of personal...a lot of gear to take with you before you're reaching that mass capacity threshold. So, these boats are designed to be exceedingly stable when you're standing. And also, able to take a lot of gear. We're making this not only for fly anglers but for the avid bass anglers that are fishing a lot of [inaudible 01:04:28] and they take a lot of gear with them. They take tackle crates and coolers and catch boards and all the rods that they own. And so, it's rigged and ready to roll for a lot of gear and a lot of people and being able to stand in it while it's loaded down. So very, very stable.
And then we have a few other unique hull shapes within that lineup. One being the big water PDL. That's the pedal drive kayak that's built off of a... it's called a performance tri-hull. That's a bit rounder in shape and that's made to navigate in rougher water. So, if you're out on a big windy lake with whitecaps or you're fishing near shore in currents or on a river where the water changes a lot or you've got big water applications, that boat's designed to cut through and as well as if you're sideways in it, to roll over whereas the Autopilot, that's more of a flat platform because of that standability and being able to hit those generous max capacities. That's more of a flatter boat that's designed for flatter water conditions. I do take it offshore. I do take it on bigger lakes. But if I want something that's gonna cut through, I'm gonna choose a boat that has a rounder hull and a pointier nose and it's longer. That just will help you be more efficient in those sorts of water conditions. It's also very generous when you're standing up. It's very stable. But you lose a little bit of that primary stability. So, when I say primary stability, when you stand up and you lean side to side, you'll feel like it gives a little bit more than the Autopilot with that pontoon shape. That feels more cemented down in the water because it's so wide and flat and has those big pontoons whereas the big water has that rounder hull.
So, it still takes a lot to flip that thing over but it's designed again to cut through waves and currents and various water conditions more efficiently. And then we have another hull shape in the salty PDL and that's kind of like our little sports car pedal drive kayak and that's built off of a very similar hull shape as the big water where that's made to zip and maneuver through waves and currents. So, if you're on a beach launch, that would be the kayak of choice for me because it just handles waves and current with ease. That's really designed for the ocean. It works great everywhere we've got a variety of hull shapes just to suit different applications and different consumers' needs.
But at the end of the day, I take them everywhere. It's one of those things just like with flyrods. It's kind of like a quiver sport. So, if you're an avid angler, you might want to consider a couple different hulls if you're gonna be out there a lot. But I do love that Autopilot. I take that Autopilot everywhere even though it doesn't handle huge waves as well as the big water hull, it still handles them plenty and it's still very stable. I'm not gonna surf launch that thing but I do love the ability to hit spot lock when I'm fishing a river and when I'm fishing an outgoing current for stripers and I'm fishing on windy days. That's my kayak of choice just because I love to focus on the fishing and not having to maneuver my boat.
Tom: Yeah, and the know, I plan on doing a lot of fishing on Lake Champlain which is a big lake and sometimes I wanna go a distance and... how fast does that thing go? I forgot how fast it goes at full power.
Ryan: Yeah, it tops off at about four to 4.2 miles per hour.
Tom: Yeah.
Ryan: So, it's enough. I mean, it gets you there quicker than you'd expect. It's powered with either a lead acid or a lithium-ion battery. It comes with a battery case that fits below your seat. So, you just have to source a battery for it. I use lithium ion and I'll use anywhere from a 50 amp all the way to 120 amp that fits that group 27 battery box size.
Tom: Yeah.
Ryan: I like lithium ion because it's a lot lighter. So, when you're factoring in transportation, it's a lot easier to manage lithium ion over a lead acid battery. It's about half the weight.
Tom: Yeah, they're more expensive but I figure I can go all day at full power with a lithium-ion battery and not run out of battery power because that's one thing you don't wanna do, is run out of battery power.
Ryan: Yeah, and the discharge...yeah, exactly. And the discharge on a lead acid, you'll notice your boat slows down over time because it's slowly running out of battery over time, right.
Tom: Yeah.
Ryan: The lithium ion, you maintain the same discharge until it's dead. And so, you're able to still maintain that four, 4.2 mile per hour on the water until your battery dies. And just from personal perspective, I fish the outgoing tides down in Southern Maine for stripers and I'll get a good, solid 6 to 8 hours out of a fully charged 100-amp power lithium-ion battery without worrying about it. If I'm going on a longer day where I'm gonna be out there for 12 or more hours, I'll pack a second backup battery. But I have rarely, if ever, run out of battery life. I'm usually out there for six to eight hours when I'm fishing and it's good to go. But that's...if someone doesn't wanna deal with a battery or a motorized kayak, that's where pedal kayak comes in handy. It's powered by you and your legs've got the biggest muscle group in your legs and you can go without tiring yourself and not having to worry about a battery. So that's where we came out with some options for people that wanna go real simple and paddle all the way up to someone that's real serious and wants to be able to focus completely on the fishing and let the motor do all the work while they fish.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah, and you can always paddle if you want for the exercise or you can lift up the battery and paddle if you want.
Ryan: Yeah, exactly.
Tom: Because, you know, the point of using a kayak to a lot of people is to get some exercise. So, you can always just pick up the paddle. Ryan, what kinda special casting techniques and what kinda presentation techniques do you recommend? Because fishing from a kayak is different than fishing from a boat that's higher on the water or just wading in the water. What kinda things do you do to make it a little bit easier?
Ryan: Sure. Weight forward line is your friend. I like to reduce as much false casting as possible. So, I'll usually opt... I found what works best for me is I like to get my line out in a hurry. And I'm not the most proficient or skilled fly angler. I love fly-fishing. So, I found that I'll go with an aggressive weight forward line, something that I can get a lot of line out really quick. So that's really the key. I've talked to some anglers. I have yet to try it yet but there's a few anglers that I know that will use a shooting line. I forget the name of it. But again, you literally lift the rod, one false cast and you're out 80 feet. So, they'll use a special shooting head just to literally get the line out without having to do any casting.
But I found that just an aggressive weight forward line is really the ticket. I don't wanna be messing around with a lot of line in my boat or I will cast sitting down occasionally if I'm on a moving river. So again, I wanna get that line out right away. So, weight forward is what I recommend for the kayak application. I do a lot of trolling with flyrods in the spring. So that doesn't matter as much. I found that with that, investing in a nice, quality flyrod holder for your kayak is key, something that...depending on what model you have, you're gonna wanna get that rod holder close to your hand. So, if you've got a fish on, you can react fast. So, on the Autopilots with the accessory tracks being far forward in the boat, I'll opt for a RAM mount solution that has extension arms. That way I can set the flyrod up on those accessory tracks but have the rod butt close to my hand. So, I'll wind up with a few extensions to get it close. Or I'll hard mount a rod holder beside my seat right into the kayak plastic. I'll back it up with seaboard material behind the kayak hull and I'll reenforce it.
So those are the...that's kind of how I've set it up. So, all my rods have real aggressive weight forward fly line and then when I'm trolling, making sure that you invest in a good...and taking some critical...take some time to do some critical thinking about where you're gonna want that rod to be if you have a fish on while you're trolling.
Tom: Yeah. And probably the Bankshot line, the Orvis Bankshot would be a preferred line because that's got a very aggressive heavy front tapper and doesn't require a lot of false casting. Mainly load it once and shoot it. Almost like a shooting head. So that would probably be a good line for that kinda thing.
Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Tom: Yeah, false casting, particularly if you don't have a spot lock or something, will move the boat around if you false cast too much, right. It'll change your angle.
Ryan: Yeah, the spot lock...if I'm fishing a river just...a lot of people wonder how it works. It's going to face the current or the wind direction. So that's something to factor in when you're fishing as well. So, if I'm fishing the river and I hit spot lock, the stern of the boat's gonna swing around and the bow of the boat's gonna face the current. That's how the motor's set up, much like you'd experience in a bass boat. So that's where have stakeout poles like you were referring to earlier or some sort of shallow water anchor system rigged up to your kayak. You'd be able to anchor in a way that holds you in your desired position. So that's the other thing to factor in, is if you wanna maintain your position, you don't wanna deal with the traditional anchor, stakeout poles and where you put them in your boat will make a big difference to make sure that you're able to maintain the correct trajectory for your task, if you will.
Tom: Okay. Now if someone doesn't have spot lock or they don't have a stakeout pole, what kinda anchor do you typically use in a kayak and where do you attach it?
Ryan: Yeah, there's a variety of options on the market. One that comes to mind is Anchor Wizard. So, it is like a pulley system anchor system that you can mount onto your kayak either on the accessory tracks on your kayak or you can hard mount it into the kayak itself. But it's pretty slick. Much like a fishing reel, you've got a reel with a handle and you're able to let out line until the anchor seats itself down on the bottom. And then you can retract it back up by simply reeling it back in. That's a pretty slick product. You can also go real simple and do a traditional anchor and tie it off to the bow if you can reach it or your side grab handles. The one caution that I would give people is if you're fishing a river with real strong currents, you're gonna wanna make sure that you're not throwing the anchor off the wrong side and causing the boat to flip. So, I would just caution people to think critically about your anchor setup if you're in a strong current environment like...I fished out on the Columbia out of kayaks and it's...throwing an anchor is a real risk. There's a lot of people out on the water. The water is angry. So that's where something like having the Autopilot with the remote anchor is kinda critical because you don't wanna have to cut yourself free if your boat...if you get into trouble with a traditional anchor.
So, if you're in smaller waters and you're not too worried about the current and safety, you could run a traditional anchor off the side of your boat and just tie it off to the side handle. I would just caution that if you're in bigger water conditions.
Tom: And how do you...let's say you've got some fish that are feeding somewhere, you see some fish. What's the best way to approach them in a kayak? How do you strategize with that?
Ryan: Yeah, that's a great question. It depends. Obviously stealth is key as we all know. The one great benefit of a kayak is it's pretty stealthy whether you're paddling or you're pedaling or you're...even the motorized boats are real stealthy, real quiet. So just keeping stealth in mind, not making too much of a racket. A lot of our fishing kayaks have...all of our fishing kayaks in the sportsman line have padded floors so it's dampening any of your...if you drop your pliers or if you're real heavy-footed, it's gonna dampen some of that. But maintaining stealth is important and the kayak definitely helps with that.
Tom: Yeah.
Ryan: Rivers will present different challenges and different ways to kind of approach fish but what I love about the kayak too is it's just so nimble. So, if I see something blow up, I can be there pretty quick whether I'm pedaling or in a motor kayak. I can get there in a hurry and make a cast and usually capitalize on the opportunity more than I'd be able to in a traditional canoe or a paddle kayak. So, if you're somebody that likes to run and gun and look for the activity on the surface of the water, that's real key.
Another thing too is I rely a lot, even while fly-fishing, on electronics. I like to run a fish finder. And that's a great way to kind of pattern and see what's going on and to just gain as much knowledge as possible to know how to approach where the fish are and in what part of the water column. So not a lot of guesswork there if you're running a fish finder. And all the kayaks that we run in the sportsman line are ready to roll for you to mount a fish finder to it.
So, I don't know if I'm really hitting on the answer but I think stealth is key, understanding where you're trying to fish, if you've got the ability to mount a fish finder to get a little bit more intelligence, if you will, and then utilizing a pedal or a motorized kayak to be able to get there and to run and gun is kind of how I approach things.
Tom: Yeah, I imagine...I'm gonna try to avoid electronics in my kayak but I imagine if you're fishing a deep lake where, you know, the bass or whatever are sometimes in pretty deep water, I can imagine the electronics can really narrow it down for you.
Ryan: Yeah. Absolutely. Where I find that most critical is in the spring trolling, just understanding what part of the water column the salmon are staging or where the bait is. So, I can know where to put that fly.
Tom: Yeah.
Ryan: So, I'm using it predominantly in my spring fly trolling. On the river in the summer when I'm chasing bass, some warm waters fish or even stripers, I'm going without a fish finder screen. But at spring...I find it's pretty critical on the spring when I'm trolling.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. I imagine it would be. I don't think I'll do much trolling but maybe from going spot to spot I'll throw a fly in the water.
Ryan: I always hate on trolling from spot to spot but I typically catch most of my fish...
Tom: Yeah. How about selection? Is there anything critical in selection of paddles for a fishing kayak?
Ryan: Yes and no. If you are an angler interested in an alternative propulsion craft like a pedal or a motorized kayak, it's less critical because it functions as your tool for launching and landing and your backup if your pedal drive...there's an issue with your pedal drive or if you run out of battery, it's kind of your redundant backup plan, if you will. So, it's less critical then. So however, you do wanna make sure that you're selecting paddle that is long enough to accommodate for the width of kayak that you're in.
Tom: Okay.
Ryan: If you are in a wider fishing kayak, you're not gonna wanna shorter paddle because this is gonna require you to torque your body in a way that's not comfortable or efficient in order to get your paddle in the water to propel your kayak the way you need to. So, making sure that your kayak paddle's long enough to where you can comfortably paddle it with a loose grip and [inaudible 01:23:03] at your hip like you're supposed to when you're paddling. If you're actually paddling and you've chosen to go the paddle kayak route, choosing something that's not gonna exhaust you. You can go to the store and you can pick up a $100 paddle, you can pick up a $300 paddle and you can notice the weight difference right on the shelf, right off the shelf.
Tom: Yeah.
Ryan: And even though you're probably tempted to go for the more affordable option, you might wanna think about going and investing in a nicer paddle if that's gonna be your primary propulsion tool because that's gonna make a big difference. If you're paddling a couple of hours out on the water, a lighter paddle that's lighter in your hand that is more efficient with each paddle stroke is gonna go a long way if you're choosing to paddle your whole day. Again, not critical if you're pedaling and you're motoring and it's your backup plan but if you're paddling and that's your primary propulsion, I would encourage people to invest in a nice paddle because it will go a long way. It will not exhaust you nearly as much. You won't have to work as hard to have an effective paddle stroke with a high-end paddle.
Tom: Okay, okay.
Ryan: Those are just some things to consider.
Tom: You get what you pay for as in most things, right.
Ryan: For sure, yeah.
Tom: Yeah. So, the paddle...let's say you're paddling and fishing. What do you do with the paddle? You get there and you get close to the fish and you put your paddle down. You know, what's the best way to rig the paddle and the rod so that you're really efficient, you don't make a lot of noise, the paddle doesn't get in the way? What's the best way to do it?
Ryan: Sure. Yeah. So, if you're fishing out of a traditional sit inside kayak, simply laying the kayak down along the [inaudible 01:24:57] of the cockpit opening is probably your best...just to keep it within quick reach to react if you need to pick up your paddle again. If you're fishing out of a sit on top fishing kayak, there's a few different ways. I mean, each one of our kayaks comes with a paddle clip so you can clip it off to the side of your boat which is good and convenient. You could also...if you wanna keep the paddle across your kayak and ready for you to pick it right back up again, there are a variety of paddle clips that you could run off of your accessory tracks on your kayak. So, if you wanna just quickly set it down into your paddle clips in front of you, that's a good, efficient way. So, I would recommend if someone has chosen a sit on top kayak that's a paddle kayak invest in those aftermarket paddle clips that go into your accessory tracks. That way you can put it down in those clips quickly. It's right within your reach right away. So, you make a cast and you need to make a correction of your boat or if you need to reel up real quick and start paddling, that kayak paddle's ready to roll.
Tom: Okay. Okay. And then what other accessories...I mean, PFD is probably something that is essential, right?
Ryan: I can't say that enough. Number one rule, you'll never see any marketing content from Old Town come out with anybody not wearing their lifejacket. It's something that we are very judicious about. There are enough options on the market to where you can find something that you can wear all day no matter where you live and be comfortable and safe whether it's an inflatable or even people are running the...I forget what they're called but you strap them around your waste and they inflate if you fall on anything. I mean, anything that will save your life is something that we encourage people to wear. We make a line of PFDs that integrate with the seatback of your kayak. So, the one complaint that a lot of anglers say is it's uncomfortable because it makes me feel like I'm sitting too far forward. Well, we make kayak PFD as do other manufacturers out there that have a high back construction on the foam on your back that integrates with your seat. So, it no longer makes you feel like you're sitting far forward. It actually locks into your seat in a way that your back is touching the seat, the foam is above it so you can remain comfortable.
So, number one is make sure you find a PFD that fits, that's comfortable, that you're always gonna wear. The best swimmers out there still get into trouble.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah.
Ryan: And we see a lot of people die every year that are out kayak or canoe fishing that aren't...that have them on board but aren't wearing them. So just find a PFD that fits and that works. I don't care if it's Old Town or not. Anybody out there listening, make sure you're always wearing your lifejacket.
I would encourage people like myself that get out early after ice out to invest in a dry suit if you're gonna be out in a canoe or a kayak. Much like with the PFD, cold weather will drown the most proficient swimmers. So, I would make sure that if you're gonna be out in cold weather with cold water to invest in a nice, comfortable dry suit if you're anxious to get out there right after ice out or in cold conditions.
Tom: Yeah, good point.
Ryan: [crosstalk 01:28:42] there's a variety of tackle crates that I love. I really like the YakAttack brand. They're really specialized in producing high quality rod holders and tackle packs and things like that that integrate with the fishing kayaks that are on the market. I'd check them out. Another American made, U.S. company that makes high quality gear. So, I love to have a tackle pack with me. It's like a milk create style, square create that has rod holders in it. I've retrofitted mine. It can fit flyrods. It can fit conventional rods and reels. It holds my lunch. It holds all the tackle that I bring along with me and it's self-contained. So, at the end of the day when I'm rigging...unrigging my boat and getting ready to put it on top of my truck, I'm able to just take everything out in that pack, put it in the back of my truck and it's ready for the next outing. So, a nice tackle create. Rod holders are key, especially if you're a fly angler only and you want a place to store your rod while you're going from point A to point B if you're gonna troll a nice quality rod holder or two for your flyrods are key. I mean, YakAttack is great. RAM Mounts makes great ones as well. Those are just some key added accessories that I wouldn't shy away from recommending.
Tom: Speaking of rod holders, you see a lot of kayak rod holders from YakAttack and others and they look like...most of them were developed for conventional spinning rods. Which type or which model is best for holding a flyrod in your opinion?
Ryan: Yeah. So, RAM actually...RAM Mounts makes a really nice flyrod rod holder that works with your flyrod setup. So, I would recommend actually buying a rod holder designed for flyrods. So, RAM is one. I believe YakAttack makes one. I think Scotty is another rod holder company that makes one. And those are great. I've used them all. They're all great. I currently am running the RAM version because I can add some extension arms to them and kind of customize where they're positioned in my boat. So, I really like the RAM ones but I think there's three or four companies out there that make custom flyrod rod holders for kayaks or boats. So, I'd recommend that.
Tom: Yeah. The standard rod holders that you see just don't look like they'd be very good for holding a flyrod.
Ryan: No. And I've forgotten my flyrod rod holders before and have had to make do with the rod holders that I have on board and none of them really work that well for a flyrod setup. So, save yourself the heartache of trying to make a traditional rod holder work and just invest the 50, 60 bucks in a nice flyrod rod holder.
Tom: Yeah. Okay. Good point. Good point. What else should people think about? We covered PFDs, paddles.
Ryan: With these larger fishing kayaks or even the canoes, a good transportation cart is key. Here in Maine there's a lot of...94% of our lands up in Maine are private property. You can access them unless it's posted and so a lot of our great fishing ponds you kinda have to walk to and you can't back your truck up with a big, heavy fishing kayak. So have a really nice Malone kayak cart with big offroad tires that helps me get my kayak. I'm able to hand carry my kayak with that cart into some places that are a significant distance from my vehicle. So, finding a good, high-quality're able to put your canoe or your kayak kind of on the fulcrum of the cart and it takes zero effort to pull it down a path or through the woods even. So, I would invest in a cart. That just makes accessing areas with your boat a lot easier.
Tom: Yeah. And that's one of the advantages of kayak is you can get it into places that don't have a boat ramp and you'd be quicker rather than backing up a trailer if your kayak is as heavy as the one I have.
Ryan: Yeah.
Tom: Having a cart is nice because you can load all your stuff in there. You know, you can put your motor and your battery in and everything and then you've got one trip to the water, right, as opposed to making more than one trip.
Ryan: By nature of what I do I have to be...I have a lot of boats and I have to manage a lot of boats. And so, I run a trailer sometimes because I can take more than one with a trailer.
Tom: Yep.
Ryan: But if I... if it's just me and I'm going out for a fun day, I've got an F-150 with a bed extender that I put out of my trailer hitch and it extends my ability to support a kayak. My Autopilot's 13 and a half feet and so I'll run with my tailgate down and my bed extender on. I'm able to adequately support and transport my long fishing kayak in the bed of my truck. I love that because I don't have to deal with a trailer, especially with some of these boat ramps that don't have a lot of parking options.
Tom: Right, yeah. Yeah.
Ryan: But a trailer, if I'm going down to the Cape and I'm going to chase stripers and I'm bringing a friend with me or if I'm going down to do something with some media people somewhere and I gotta take multiple, I also have an awesome Malone two to four kayak trailer that hauls really nicely. So, a trailer's great. Bed extender's great. And then in certain instances, cartop is great too if you've got the right rig to be able to throw it on top of your car. So, there's a variate of options out there to transport these things. But I love my bed extender. That's my favorite way to transport.
Tom: Yeah, and you're right. A cart is almost essential with these...these bigger fishing kayaks are pretty heavy. And unless you've got two...and you usually only got one person in it. So, you don't have two people to know, carry your kayak to the fishing spot. So having a cart is very, very important.
Ryan: I remember now what that line setup that a few people that I know that are avid, avid fly anglers from kayaks. They rig their rods with a Skagit head.
Tom: Yep. Yeah.
Ryan: Yep, and so that's how they're...they're shooting just loads of line out without having to false cast. So, they've rigged their kayak rods up with Skagit heads.
Tom: Yep, it's...
Ryan: Which I have not tried yet.
Tom: It'll work. It'll work in places where you don't need any delicacy. You know, the Skagit heads land pretty hard on the water. So yeah, if you're throwing a sinking line out there and just wanna get it out there a long way, Skagit head's good. If you're fishing shallow water for smallmouth or largemouth or carp or pike, then probably Skagit head isn't gonna work too well for you.
Ryan: Yeah.
Tom: But they do...they will shoot it out there. They will shoot it out there. All right. Well, I think we've probably covered it pretty well. Any parting thoughts, Ryan on...
Ryan: Well, no. I appreciate the time to come on here. If people wanna learn more about what we've got going on, Old Town for those that don't know, we're based in Old Town, Maine. We've been here since 1898. We make our boats right here in Maine. And we've got a variety of options from your recreational sit insides to your traditional canoes to now your more advanced fishing crafts. If you wanna learn more about us, you could check us out at Old You can also reach out to me. I'm on social. If you have any kayak fishing related questions, I'm @ryanslilly on Instagram. That's R-Y-A-N-S-L-I-L-L-Y. Happy to field any questions that you have and just appreciate your time, Tom. I can't wait to get out there with you this year.
Tom: Yeah. Thank you, Ryan. And you guys also have some really good videos available too for kayak fishing, right, on the website?
Ryan: Yes. Yeah. You can travel on over to our YouTube page too. It's Old Town Watercraft on YouTube and we've got a catalog of how-to videos. I'm just trying to catch up to the epic catalog you've made over the years.
Tom: Well, I'm gonna start making some kayak videos.
Ryan: Awesome. Awesome. I just someday hope to aspire to the chief enthusiast title that you have. I'm a brand evangelist for now. Someday I'll be a chief enthusiast.
Tom: Is that the next step? I don't know. I think that's the step down, right. Chief enthusiast is a step down from brand evangelist. Well, nobody's feeling sorry for either one of us, right.
Ryan: That's right.
Tom: We're doing what we love. We're doing what we love. Okay, Ryan. Well, we've been talking to Ryan Lilly of Old Town Canoe and Kayak. Ryan, thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us today.
Ryan: No problem. Thank you so much for having me on, Tom.
Tom: Okay. Talk to you later. Thanks for listening to the "Orvis Fly-Fishing" podcast with Tom Rosenbauer. You can be a part of the show. Have a question or a comment? Send it to us at in the body of an email or as a voice attachment. You can find more free fishing tips on