7 Tips for fishing from a SUP

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By Ethan Smith

Fishing from a Stand Up Paddleboard can be daunting for the uninitiated. Here are 7 tips to get you up and fishing.

1. Wind

Always think about wind in advance and use it in your favor. No matter what body of water you are fishing, wind will be a factor, especially flats fishing.  If you are working against it, It can cause headaches on a Stand Up Paddle Board if you don’t think ahead. Do your best to find spots where you can paddle out and use the wind to float your back along likely looking holding spots you can pick apart. The wind WILL blow you around, so why not use it to your advantage?

2. Don’t be afraid to wade

Fishing from a SUP is fun and exciting, but if you are in a spot with a hard enough bottom to wade, do that. Even in waist-deep water, your chances of landing that trophy fish go up if you are off your board. Don’t be a hero, getting off the board decreases the numbers of variables involved in fighting that fish. It’s easy to just jump off your board, leash it to your waist and wade fish for a bit. Then jump back on your board to move across the channel to a new spot.

3. Keep it simple

Keeping your terminal tackle rig simple on a SUP reduces variables, too. Stick with tried and true attractor patterns on a simple leader. Keep the flies mid- to small-sized and easy to cast, Christmas island Specials or Clouser Deep Minnows are my go-to saltwater patterns and they produce fish and cast easy in smaller sizes. Doing goofy open looped casts with deep diving monstrous flies just isn’t as easy on SUP, so keep it simple and small.

4. Don’t expect to change flies a lot

Fishing from a SUP has some compromises, one of those is that changing flies and re-rigging gear is more of a pain in the butt than it is in a regular boat. It’s tippier, it rocks more, there’s no gunwale, so expect to fish the same fly for a while. To counteract that, you might have to cover more water to the fish that will eat it.

5. Keep your fly and your line ready to cast while paddling

If you are paddling a SUP, you are probably close to fish, you can see them anywhere. Even if you think the water doesn’t look good, they could pop up out of nowhere and surprise you. Keep your eyes peeled and keep your rod ready to cast. The line should be reasonably neat on the deck in front of you and the fly should be ready to grab and make a cast as soon as possible. I like the rod tip out front, the line coiled and the fly near my feet. There’s nothing worse than seeing a nice fish show up out of nowhere and missing your shot because your rod wasn’t ready to cast.

6. Keep it light

Remember you are using your own power to propel yourself around and every ounce of gear you take with you, you are responsible for moving around with your own calories burning as the engine. There is a reason most skiffs have a 70-90 hp motor; this stuff gets heavy and it takes a lot of horsepower to move heavy things around. You may be tempted to take a cooler and big heavy gear bag loaded with all sorts of gear but if you’re only going out a for a couple hours you don’t need any of that. Pop a fly box in your pocket, put a pair of pliers on your belt and get to fishing. You might have all the gear in the world at your disposal but you probably won’t need it, or use it on a SUP.

7. Ask for a ride

Don’t be a hero or unrealistically optimistic about your ability to cover large expanses of water with a paddle board. SUPs are fairly slow and even a slight head wind can make paddling even slower. Add to that the amazing Google Earth research tool that can give you a warped sense of how far things are apart, and you can end up spending most of your time paddling and not fishing. So don’t be afraid to ask around for a ride to your spot. There are guides and guys with boats who will take you to a spot in the morning and pick you up in the evening. That way you don’t have to cover that crazy water to get to good holding water. You can waste a lot of time and energy paddling over deep featureless water to get to a spot and then be so whooped that you suck at fishing, which isn’t much fun. So hitch a ride.

Ethan Smith
Gink & Gasoline
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4 thoughts on “7 Tips for fishing from a SUP

  1. Great article and good advice for SUP fishing. I purchased a SUP last year as a way to keep me on the water while I continued to shop for a boat. One additional topic would be tide, just like the wind, it’s a long day fighting the tide so plan your trip accordingly. If you’re considering buying a board to fish, just know you will spend the majority of time off the board. I use mine to get me to the flat and to spot fish. Noise is also an issue if you’re using fiberglass board, the less tackle you bring, the less opportunity for noise.

  2. Totally Agree!! Good Read Ethan! I can’t wait for spring to check out new waters and explore more places. I was AMAZED at how much water we covered, how well balanced the board (Badfish inflatable) was, and really little effort to propel and maintain control. I thought I was not in good enough shape, although a great workout, I was not beat nor sore at all. It is very exciting to get up and see schools of mud-bones or 20″ bronze-backs chase down your streamer in the Great Lakes bays we have al around us.
    Tight Lines,

  3. Great article. I am now a SUP convert and have a Bote board with a tackle rack. My little gas powered skiff now just sits sadly on the trailer.While it may not qualify as real fly fishing, I will troll with one sinking line and one intermediate clear line with the rods placed in the tackle rack on Lake Keowee. This is also known as exercise but with a chance to catch some spotted bass on trolled shad flies.

    If I see spots busting the top, I can put the sneak on ’em.

  4. Pingback: Tippets: SUP Tips, Fly Fishing in 2016 | MidCurrent

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