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Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) Fly Fishing

There is this weird activity that has overrun the outdoor recreation industry in the past decade. People perch upright on a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) and paddle themselves across the surface of the water. Sounds silly, difficult, and a bit weird, if you've never heard of it before.

A common sight in popular swimming and calm beach areas, these vessels have become great lake toys, relaxation tools, and exercise machines. Beyond that, anglers have started to influence SUP companies, and paddleboards designs have emerged that are great for stand up paddleboarding and fishing. Boards have become longer, wider, more stable, and easy to accessorize.

There are two main categories of SUP's: solid and inflatable. Both have extensive pros and cons, but here are the main ideas for each.


Stand up paddleboarding mountains fly fishing
If you have a lake place or somewhere to permanently store SUPs, a hard board can be a good choice.
Solid/Hard Paddleboards


  • Faster (less friction)

  • Great maneuvering


  • More expensive

  • Difficult to transport

  • Can be fragile


Stand up paddleboard fly fishing rivers
With an inflatable SUP, dragging on the bottom of a river occasionally is not a big deal.
Inflatable Paddleboards


  • Can be deflated and transported

  • Durable

  • Less expensive


  • More drag in the water

  • Have to inflate/deflate

  • Less rigid than solid board


When it comes to fly fishing and SUP's, you will find that it takes a little practice to get started. You should first practice without any rod or gear aboard your SUP and get comfortable maneuvering the SUP in all conditions: waves and wind, calm days, cloudy and sunny days, and potentially even in current. Once you have put in the time to get comfortable on a board, then you can consider breaking out the fly fishing gear and transforming your fly fishing experience.

Where SUP FLY FISHING excels

There are quite a few ways that SUP's excel in the fly fishing world and greatly benefit the angler:

Sight Fishing

If you're an angler who targets fish by sight fishing, SUPs are a great choice. In fact, some SUP's are essentially mini-skiffs that you can even throw a motor on. For the independent angler who prefers quiet solitude and needs stealth when approaching fish, a SUP works great. Saltwater anglers enjoy chasing bonefish, as well as tarpon, snook, redfish, and sea trout using SUPs. Freshwater anglers enjoy chasing carp, buffalo, and other warmwater species from the SUP.

Covering Water

While fly fishing traditionally is a wade-angling pursuit, having a small vessel can add a world of water that is available to fish. While it can be difficult to paddle and fish at the same time, a paddleboard, like a canoe, kayak, or single-man pontoon boat/raft, can provide access to waters that aren't usually accessible to the wading angler, and can allow the angler to cover much more water on an outing.


Maybe you're the type of angler that enjoys being on the cutting edge of things, trying new things, or even just being the enigma of the angling world and trying things nobody else does. SUP fly fishing is an opportunity for you to jump in and try something that not many others are doing, especially if you are in the Midwest.


However, there are also some challenges to be aware of when it comes to SUPs and fly fishing.


While many SUPs have stake/pole anchor systems available, these systems require the board to be in shallow water. Anchoring a SUP is essentially a non-option unless you are beached. This makes fishing in deep water challenging if you're hoping to remain in a single location.


Standing on a SUP makes your body the equivalent of the sail on a sailboat. If there is wind in the air, it will pull or push you and your SUP all over. This makes fishing a particular area of a lake or river very difficult to do since you'll be blown away from it very quickly. The wind is a particularly daunting challenge in the windier areas of the country, including the Midwest. Picking days and times with less wind are usually better options (fish early in the morning, watch the weather forecast).

Precise maneuvering + fishing

Navigating your SUP and fishing simultaneously isn't usually an option. Yes, you can throw some basic short casts with one hand and hold a paddle in the other hand for minor steering adjustments, but it isn't a great solution. If you're someone who likes to have your vessel in the precise location 100% of the time, maybe a boat with iPilot is a better choice for you.


The most obvious difficulty of fly fishing from a SUP is balance. Depending on your board, this can be more or less challenging. If you're planning to be a dedicated SUP fly angler, be sure to pick a board that is designed for fishing so that it is wide enough, stable enough, and long enough. For example, my wife has a Breeze Aero (10'8") and I have a BOTE Rackham Aero (11') board. Even though the boards are only 4" different in length, the Rackham is a far superior fly fishing SUP because of its width and stability. However, my wife's paddleboard is great for day trips at the beach with family and friends because it is lightweight and easy to transport and set up.

We hope you consider giving the SUP a try, and if you're feeling really adventurous, give SUP fly fishing a try.

FINAL NOTE: be sure to utilize proper safety when recreating on a SUP, including:

DISCOUNT ALERT: If you're ready to purchase a BOTE SUP, here is a link to get 10% off your purchase of more than $200 plus 1000 reward points (good for an additional $25 of BOTE gear).


Fishing Report

Click here for the Iowa DNR's Fishing Report (02/01/2024)

Local Reservoirs: Ice conditions deteriorating quickly... which is great news for us fly anglers!

Local Ponds: Keep an eye on your local ponds, some of them will have open water potentially even by this weekend!

Check the DNR's fish local page for a list of public waterbodies to explore.

Des Moines River: Should be starting to open up any day.

Driftless Trout Streams (NE Iowa):

Baetis and midge patterns will be good options, and don't be surprised to see fish up on the surface, especially on warmer, cloudy days!

Be sure to abide by Iowa's state fishing regulations, and know before you go.


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