How To Pop Flies For Panfish | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
A man standing and casting on a kayak Photo by Roberto Westbrook

Beginner tips for kayak fly fishing anglers.

For the past 15 years, Cory "Ruthless" Routh has been teaching people to fly fish and taking them fly fishing. Routh has brought countless anglers into the fold as author of Kayak Fishing: The Complete Guide and co-founder of Tidewater Kayak Angler Association. He is a spokesman for Temple Fork Outfitters, Hobie Cat and YakAttack.

Routh’s beat is the fresh and salt of Southside, Virginia. When he’s guiding, he targets bass, redfish and sea trout. On his days off, he escapes to the backwaters to catch sunfish on poppers. “It’s so exciting to catch bluegill in Back Bay,” he explains. Routh looks for thick vegetation where the sunfish hide. “Walt’s Poppers were born in Back Bay and they are still my favorite fly to throw.” Poppers are a great choice for panfish hiding deep in structure. “The popper stays over the grass without getting snagged.”

Bluegill are abundant and voracious, making them perfect for beginners. Routh recommends a matched combo rod and reel designed for short casts and light bites. “Take advantage of the stealth factor in the kayak” he suggests, “Get close and make short accurate casts.”

Pulling these fighters out of heavy cover requires a precise cast. Routh recommends a regular regimine of practice. “Clear out a space in the yard and practice casting every day,” he says. “Cast under trees, between bushes and into targets.”

He stresses accurate, quick casts. “That leaves the fly in the water more and the air less,” he laughs, 'A wise angler once told me, “Never take the fly away from a fish,' Routh recalls. Fishing is a waiting game and sometimes it pays to wait out a fish. “If you feel a bump and don’t hook up,” he explains, “let the fly pause, the fish may return.”


Rod: 6wt Temple Fork Outfitters Mangrove

Reel: Blue Nautilus

Line: 6wt bass bug taper

Leader: 9’, 8-lbs test tapered

Flies: Walt’s Poppers, Flymen Double Barrel Popper

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