If kayak flyfishers are calling their sport flyaking – which is a hideous word IMHO that will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes – I can call tenkara flyfishing from a kayak ‘flyakara’.
What’s tenkara? It’s a bit of a craze, but it suits the catching of the small trout I like – and it’s more zen than normal flyfishing.
You have a wiggly and, crucially, cheap rod. No reel. The line is attached to a short thong at the top of the rod and the cast and fly attached to that.
The kayak is inflatable, and you can carry it in its own rucksack. Mine is a Gumotex Safari, which has made it over barbed wire fences and across rocks, and is still going strong. It is advertised for ‘lower grade whitewater and small wave surfing’. Frankly, I found it too lightweight for the sea. It scared me. Lakes, canals and rivers are fine. I have put a kit list at the bottom of this article. Also, don’t forget kayaking insurance.
I am fishing Seathwaite Tarn in the Lake District today, which you can fish for a £5 donation to Mountain Rescue, payable at the local pub. It is only a mile-and a-half from the road – but that’s a long way for me when I am fully laden with my 15kg (35lb) of flyakara kit. The first, welcome sight of Seathwaite Tarn is the dam.
Setting up is easy. Pump up the kayak. Tackle up. The rucksack doubles as a drybag, because you are going to get wet in this kayak, so stuff everything in the bag and put it in the back of the boat. Then you are fishing.
The main difference between this and ordinary flyfishing is that everything has to happen within the length of your rod plus your line, about six metres in my case, so I have to spend time – and be calm – getting in position. That’s like deciding only to shoot rabbits at exactly 15 yards.
The advantages of tenkara are: the price compared to other fishing rods, it’s a fabulously lightweight rod – it goes in a pocket – and it stops you over-reaching yourself with a cast. The disadvantages are that it can’t catch big fish – anything over a pound would give my rod a hard time. Plus you have to be careful winding up your line for carrying it or, when you are ready to fish, you get in a tangle.
Out on the water, fish are rising. I am making life even more difficult for myself by fishing dry fly – almost dapping it in the wind. A nymph would probably catch more fish.
The kayak drifts broadside with the wind, which is handy, so all you have to do is get upwind of a rising trout. Cast. And then it happens.
The little fish taks the Gray Wulff from underneath with hardly a ripple, and it’s off, streaking left and right. At just a few ounces, it is not much of a fight – but the excitement of that magical illusion – tricking a fish into taking an artificial fly – is exquisite.
If your line is longer than your rod, you have to handline it in. It’s all over in a few seconds. A small trout it may be – too small to keep, but it is a marvel of blue and silver. I slide it back into the water.
At the end of the day, I land, pump the air out of my kayak so I can fold it and fit it back into its rucksack and walk back down the hill. Maybe its the downhill – maybe its the fishing. Both the pack and my heart feel lighter.
Like the big lakes, many of the Lake District’s tarns are free to fish. The cost of the kayak, though… well, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man flyakara, he will probably go hungry – but he will enjoy himself.
I wanted a tough inflatable kayak that would last, that was streamlined enough to take on long journeys if necessary, and that had room for fishing kit. The Gumotex Safari fits the bill. It’s pricy, but mine is already into its second year of use. £600
It seemed a lot of money for paddles but I wanted lightweight and convenience. These split into two and can be carried in the rucksack. £65
Any two-litre (2000ml) hand pump will do, as long as it has the right attachment to inflate your kayak. They vary. The Gumotex Safari takes 25-30 pumps to inflate each bow and 40-50 to inflate the base. £25
I paid a little extra for a life jacket or ‘PBA’ – and I am glad I got one with pockets. This one is big enough for a flybox, cast and a priest. £85
Simple, 3mm neoprene wetsuit trousers from Decathlon. I won’t be flayakaraing in bad weather. £25
The Seathwaite riot
You buy your fishing tickets for Seathwaite Tarn at at the local Newfield Inn. But it is fair to say that the Newfield’s relations with the Tarn has not always been so friendly.
This picture on the pub wall tells of how the navvy builders of the tarn dam in 1904 tried to tear the place up when refused service. The ‘riot’ resulted in the landlord shooting them. One of them died of his wounds.