Fishing from a Sit inside Kayak Can We Fly Fish from Them?

Fishing from a Sit inside Kayak Can We Fly Fish from Them

When you start looking into kayaks for fishing you’ll learn there are basically 2 types of kayaks. There are the Sit on Top (SOT) and the Sit-inside Kayaks

The answer to this question is yes you can fly fish from a kayak as well as any other type of fishing. You would sit inside of the kayak and there is usually a skirt that goes around your waist. This skirt will seal the inside of the kayak from the elements.

Each type has models that fish well and ones that don’t. The SIK is the traditional style of kayak that comes to most people’s minds when they envision a kayak.  

Different Styles:

If there is not a skirt, the kayak becomes a fair-weather craft. If any water enters the kayak it becomes trapped and has to be physically removed.

While out on the water it can be removed by the use of a sponge for small amounts. Or a pump that you can carry in the kayak will also remove larger amounts of water.

SIKs are generally considered the traditional kayaks and make up the majority of the kayaks purchased around the world.

They are mainly used for touring, along with general recreation and whitewater kayaking.

SOTs are the new breeds. They’re essentially glorified surfboards. Rather than sitting in the kayak, as one does in a SIK, you sit on the kayak. The kayak is a hollow tube but it has posts that run from the top of the kayak to the water. These posts or holes are called scupper holes. These holes are what make a SOT kayak what it is because they allow water that enters the kayak to drain.

There isn’t any need for sponges or pumps as the kayak is self-bailing. SOTs were created as recreational kayaks that were originally used at warm-water resorts as play vessels.


Kayak Popularity:

Their popularity has been increasing every year. Besides resort use, they’re also used for lots of other general recreation things, like fishing and kayak surfing, and fishing.

SOTs are the reason kayak fishing is growing the way that it is. The southern Californians started flirting with this sport back in the early 80s.

They started using surfboards and paddled out beyond the breakers with a fishing rod and some gear. You can’t take much with you on a surfboard and when they started investigating something better the SOT kayak is what they found.

The ability of SOTs to transport the fishermen and their gear into the ocean is why this sport developed. So even though the SIK has been around for a long time it’s the SOT that’s responsible for the sport, as we know it now.

The most often thing we hear from fishermen that are considering the sport that they’re looking at a SIK because they want to be protected from the elements.

This is a flawed view of kayak fishing and shows that they really haven’t considered the sport as it’s practiced. Fishing from a kayak is a water sport.

If you don’t want to deal with water either stay on land or get a boat. A kayak is not a boat, so don’t think of it as one, but it is one of the most versatile vessels you’ll ever use. A kayak can and will allow you to access all kinds of places, which might hold fish.

Most of the fishermen who purchase a kayak for fishing do so because they want to catch fish.  Sometimes the best place for you to catch fish isn’t while sitting in the kayak.

Flats Fishing:

One of the best things about a kayak is it allows you to access the shallow flats. There are a lot of different types of environments especially on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Some flats are shallow and don’t have much of a tidal differential. The farther north that you go the more differential the tidal waves will be.

Imagine that you’re fishing on the flats and you’d like to get out and wade, fish for a while. There are quite a few reasons why you may wish to do this.

You’ve been sitting for a while in the kayak and it is nice to get out, to both walk and stretch. It’s a good idea to take every opportunity you can to get out of the kayak.

It greatly adds to the amount of time that you can spend out fishing. Sitting in a kayak all day long can get old and tiring, and your legs and back will thank you for it.

Breezy Conditions:

There’s a breeze or wind. It isn’t easy to control the kayak in such conditions. Fishing is a hands-on sport so stabilizing or positioning your kayak will require the use of a paddle.

You can’t work the paddle and cast at the same time. So getting out helps eliminates the need for you to constantly adjust the kayak.

By standing you’re higher up than sitting in the kayak. The higher up that you are on a flat then the more you’re going to be able to see. This can be a very big advantage of fishing on the flats.

So you’ve decided to get out of the kayak. Depending upon where you are it could make a big difference.

If the water’s warm it doesn’t matter nearly as much but if it is cold then you’re most likely going to be wearing some protection from the elements.

The best thing for wading is waders. Nothing even comes close it’s what they’re designed for and do the job extremely well.

If the water depth is only a foot or so this doesn’t present a challenge in either type of kayak.

Things To Think About:

sit on kayak

Now let us see how things change in a couple of feet of water with an incoming tide. There’s a good chance when you decide to get back into the kayak it could be 3 feet deep.

In a SOT you sit on it rather than in the kayak so getting in and out is actually getting on and off. This is actually a very easy thing to do.

Conversely, in a SIK it isn’t so simple and your chances of capsizing the kayak are much greater. It’s also much more difficult to do.

I’m not very athletic so I wouldn’t want to be getting back into a SIK in 3 feet of water. Getting back onto a SOT is easy under the same circumstances.

Now imagine if you’re wearing waders, which can also raise the degree of difficulty.

Accessing the Ocean:

When you are fishing fish the open ocean you’re going to need to get to it via an inlet or by launching through the surf.

Sometimes the surf is so calm that you might think you were on a lake however this is unusual. It’s great when it happens but don’t count on it.

So you need to anticipate and be prepared for waves. Remember that when you go out through the breakers a wave might break over the kayak.

When a wave comes over the bow of a SOT the cockpit briefly fills with water and then it drains. It happens quickly and by the time you’re beyond the surf the water that came into the cockpit is no longer there.

Once beyond the surf, you retrieve whatever gear you’ve stashed below and you’re ready to fish. By having the ability to store your gear away from the elements below deck is invaluable in keeping items protected.

Should a wave knock you off a SOT you’re just off and your gear is where you left it. Then all you will need to do is repeat the process, conversely, a SIK needs a skirt to go through even moderate surf.

Otherwise, if a wave comes over the bow of the kayak it will fill with water and by design, it doesn’t have the ability to drain?

Once beyond the waves, you’d have to remove the water from the kayak. This would require that you pump the water out.

Be Careful Of The waves:

Should you go through the surf and happen to misjudge the wave it could flip the kayak over. The best thing that could happen is that you and your kayak part company.

Should this happen then the skirt will pull away from the kayak and go with you. It would be impossible for the kayak not to fill up with water.

So you should figure that the kayak will fill up with water if you have a mishap in the surf. Many SIK models don’t have bulkheads.

In other words, all the gear is now exposed to the water and the surf. Any gear that was in the cockpit is now either floating around in the surf or sitting on the bottom.

On a SOT you simply fall off and then go and retrieve the kayak. In a SIK you are in the kayak and should you flip none of the consequences are good.

At the very least you have a kayak full of water and in the worst-case scenario, you’re upside down. And you are still in the kayak with your gear bouncing around with you in the surf.

When a SIK flips the popular wisdom is to do an Eskimo roll. That’s OK if you’re in calm waters with a narrow kayak.

But most SIKs that are used for fishing are often wider and they don’t roll under ideal conditions. But we know the surf is about as far from ideal as you’re going to get. I don’t know about you but I would rather not be in such a situation.

Shallow Rivers:

A kayak can take you into many environments that are difficult if not impossible to reach via any other means. A shallow river or stream is just such a place.

Sometimes you might paddle and then times you have to drag the kayak up, around or through various objects. These obstacles can be rapids, waterfalls, trees, logjams, and all sorts of things.

Often when fishing shallow rivers you’ll find that you’ll be getting in and out of your kayak a lot. It’s much easier to get off of a kayak rather than out of one if you’re doing it on a regular basis.

In some situations, it will be like our flats scenario and you need to get on or off in a couple of feet of water or more. The more you find yourself getting in and out of the kayak the more appreciative you’ll find a SOT.

Keeping Fish:

If you want to take some of your fish home, then you will need a place to keep your catch. If its smaller fish this isn’t a big deal but if the fish are big it is.

In a SIK it’s either in the cockpit or on a stringer. A stringer is OK in freshwater areas where you don’t need to travel very far.

A stringer full of fish provides drag and isn’t good if you need to cover any distance. In many places, it can also attract predators. In the south, you have to be concerned about the alligators and in saltwater, it could be sharks.

Neither is a good way to encounter these animals. A tank well could be a great place for you to keep fish. You can either place a cooler in the tank well or just put the fish in it and cover them with a wet burlap sack.

Many SOTs come with tank wells. Another place for you to keep your catch is inside of the kayak. The water is generally cooler than the air temperature and under these circumstances provides a cooling effect.

A soft-sided cooler might be a great way to go because it can conform to the space you have. Then with the addition of a few cool packs, it works extremely well inside the hull.

Obviously the larger the hatch the easier it’s going to be to put a cooler inside the kayak. Hatches will vary from kayak to kayak some wells are enormous while others are so small that they’re impractical.


A SIK is an enclosed vessel and because of this, your freedom of movement is restricted. Your legs are stuck and you don’t have much choice on where you can put them.

Since you sit on a SOT it is easy to change positions. You can sit sidesaddle and even hang your legs over the side of it.

In hot weather, you should remember that the SIK can really heat up. With a SOT it’s easy to dip one’s feet in the water and on a hot day it feels fantastic.

SIKs come with a fixed seat some are very comfortable but some are awful. With few exceptions, SOTs utilize aftermarket seats. These seats run from basic to incredibly posh and comfortable. Some models even have pumped up lumbar supports.

Both types of kayaks will help to enable you to go out and catch some fish. A SIK is like only fishing with top-water lures or using a floating fly line.

You will catch fish, but oftentimes there’ll be the need to go deep to catch fish. SOTs can allow you to fish all different types of environments.

So if there’s an environment you want to fish your kayak won’t limit your ability to do so. The greater the kayak’s versatility then the more fish you might be able to catch.

Dean Jensen

I started fly fishing in 1972 and I have learned quite a bit about this wonderful sport called fly fishing and I want to share some of the things that I have learned.

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