Packraft Fly Fishing written by: Matt McCourtney Packrafting & Fly Fishing Guide

Packrafts are small, lightweight, easy to transport, deploy, and maneuver. They allowing you to access water you usually would not consider or dream off. The most rugged pacrrafts fold up to the about the size of a backpack and weigh in around 5-15 pounds. They inflate in minutes and are ready to hike into remote areas or simply push off from traditional access locations.
packrafts along with river with fishing gear and fly rods
I have been fly fishing remote backcountry waters for over a decade now.  Getting myself into some pretty tricky spots, all on foot. Time after time, I ran into places where I could no longer hike or wade across the rivers or found myself staring at huge alpine lakes with little to no shore access. I kept pushing and thinking there is got to be a better way to get into these waters and boom, I was introduced to a packraft! 
Fly fishing and packrafting
On my first trip I was blow away on how easy it was to simply cross a river and explore the other side. I dragged my boat up river, around whitewater I did not know how to navigate, and into places that really opened my eyes and opportunities. I hiked my packraft into remote lakes and pushed off and explored the water rather than bushwhacking the sides.  As the trips continued, I took on more challenging waters and more remote places as I grew as a packrafter. I watched videos and read books (The Packraft Handbook) on how to navigate rivers.
Paddling a river in a packraft
I started shuttling myself back to my car with my bike and bike trailer, slowing adding on the miles of each float. I ran back to back days, floating 15 miles of new river in pure awe! I invited friends and fishing clients and taught and shared with them the beautify and joy of Packrafting. I just did an overnight trip with my daughter and pup into a remote section of river that hiking into is just not an option.
Bikepacking and bikerafting with a packraft bike trailer
Packrafting has opened so much more water to my fly fishing and guiding that I never would have been able to cover on foot alone or have been able to paddle a bigger raft with oars into. It has been a game changer for exploring new opportunities and honing in sections of water that would have taken all afternoon just to access one remote run or bushwhacking lakeside game trails. Now I spend more time on the water and less time getting there!
Catching a rainbow trout with a fly rod while on a packrafting trip
The beauty of a packrat is the simplicity of the vessel combined with the depth of opportunities it allows you. From an easy river crossing to access the other bank... to paddling out deeper into lakes…. to full blown river trips, a packraft is the ultimate backcountry and remote water fishing tool out there!
Rainbow trout caught on a kokopelli packraft fly fishing trip
Start out easy and learn as you go. Paddle water that fits your skill level…. New to packrafting, stick to class I runs and lakes until you get comfortable and grow from there. 
Picking the right packraft. I like the PVC packrafts like the Recon and XPD because they are tougher and more durable, especially with fishing hooks. The Rogue Lite is my go to packraft for hiking up to remote alpine lakes. 

Hike up river and float back to your car.  It can be a mistake floating down river and hiking back to the car!   You can find impassable hiking sections or that you floated 4 miles and the hike is too rigorous to back to your car safely. Also you'll end up right at your car where you can have a towel and change of clothes waiting for you.

Always wear a PFD, they make some great fishing life vests that have pockets to serve as store all of your flies and your gear. Wearing a PFD is great for wading in the current too just incase you fall in.  

Fishing waders are dangerous to paddle in. If you fall in the water they can fill up with water and pull you down. Plus flooded waders are no fun and can ruin your day. There are some great kayak fishing pants and combined with neoprene wading socks and wading boots it is a safe and cost effective set up that will keep you protected while wading and safe in the event of a swim. When the water is cold (shoulder seasons or winter) a dry suit or semi dry suit is the next step to keep you safe and warm. Water safety is a key, please do your research and stay safe!  

Securing your fly rod…. On easy floats I place my fly rods behind me with a strap over them (hooked to the D rings) on the back of my kokopelli rafts). Strapping the rod to the side of your packraft with straps is great for lakes. 
Girl pack raft fishing on a lake in the Kokopelli XPD packraft
For more permeant fly rod storage, check out Scotty Mounts or Reyer Fly Rods that collapse down for easy storage and bikepacking trips. Be smart with you gear and you will be surprised how easy it is to Packrafting with your Fly rod….with over 100 days on the river in a packraft I have yet to break a rod!
Matt McCourtney
About Matt:  Matt grew up on the water along side his father fishing for the last 40 years.  Combining his never ending need to explore and push further, he has found himself in places that just do not see a lot of people.  The deep woods, the mountains, long lost mining trails, steep canyon walled rivers and everything in between. Fly fishing in these places is such a remarkable escape from the everyday life, traffic jams, cell phones, social media the overwhelming pace in which, we now live our lives. After settling into a more relaxed mountain town lifestyle, Matt decided it would be fun to start guiding and helping other find these remote places he loves so much.   In 2021 Matt founded Lost Sierra Fly Guide specializing in Backcountry Fly Fishing Trips in the Lost Sierra, the further most northern section of the Sierra Nevada. He started Packrafting 2 years ago and is now a US Forest Permitted and Licensed Packrafting Guide!
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November 09, 2023 — Kokopelli Outdoor