Best Solo Canoe for Fishing

Im looking for some help to find the best solo fishing canoe for my needs. I will be fishing only the outside edges of lakes, creeks, slow rivers and ponds,no class 2. I need something stable,easy to paddle with a single blade or double. Id like to keep the weight down if at all possible and keep the price under 1300.00. Im 5’10 225lbs. and do mostly fly fishing. Would also do some general site seeing so if theres a boat that would be able to get good glide as well that would help.Hoping you guys can steer me in the right direction, Thanks

Everyone hates the Old Town Pack but it excels at everything you mentioned. I use mine for those purposes, and have for the past 4 years. Just beware, owning the most hated canoe in America might alienate you from some on here…so beware.

The Pack doesn;t have the “glide” you might be looking for since it’s a wide little boat, but it’s ok and offer decent stability for fly fishing.

I go out with friends who use yaks, and dont have trouble keeping up so…it’s worth a look for you.

Wenonah Vagabond

– Last Updated: Feb-22-11 1:41 PM EST –

No doubt there are a lot of boats that would do the job for you but I only have experience in a few different boats. One I'd suggest is the Wenonah Vagabond. A new one in Royalex should be within your budget, but if you can find a used composite one, that would be even better.

I paddled a Royalex Vagabond for a few years, and though "uninspiring" desribes the Royalex version of the boat pretty well, it is one of the faster "uninspiring" boats that you can find. With a double-blade paddle your cruising speed will rival that of a touring kayak, and unlike the typical "bathtub" designs of solo canoes that are "made for fishing", it works really nicely with a single-blade paddle too. It's as stable as it needs to be but not to the point of being fat and slow. Though not as "predictable" in strong wind as some other solos I've paddled, it's not unduely affected by wind either (I use the word "unpredictable" because which side works best for paddling, relative to the direction from which the wind comes, is not as consistent as some other boats). To combine fishing and the ability for long-distance cruising, this would be a really nice boat, in my opinion. I used mine for lots of long trips and I know that it can put the miles behind you pretty effectively.

Whatever canoe you get, if you CAN comfortably kneel I'd suggest you do so. By kneeling you'll make use of one of the canoe's biggest advantages over a kayak for fishing, since kneeling greatly increases the number of directions you can comfortably face for casting or playing a fish, not to mention what being higher off the water does for your casting ability. A slanted seat for kneeling will also be quite comfortable for sitting if you install a footbrace. I fitted my Vagabond with a slanted seat and footbrace, and I really liked being able to kneel OR sit with equal comfort.


I was going to suggest the Old Town Pack or Discovery 119…

I didn’t know the Pack was hated. Anyone know why??

I just bought a Discovery 119…how does that rate among the internet experts???

No one hates the Old Town Pack

– Last Updated: Feb-22-11 3:54 PM EST –

It's a nice boat for a certain limited range of uses. What people get tired of is when "someone" repeatedly states his belief that the Pack's cruising capabilities are close enough to those of some really nice 14- or 15-foot solos that no one in their right mind would eliminate the Pack from consideration for serious paddling. As one of the shortest and widest canoes on the market, it's fine for poking around at slow speeds and for short distances, but its performance deteriorates with increasing load at a much faster rate than what happens with a longer boat, and single-blade paddling is quite inefficient compared to just about any longer canoe with a better length/width ratio. Even with a light load, its length and width make it a comparative slug. It moves effortlessly at slow speed, but there's little potential for get-up-and-go, and if you don't need that, great, but for the sight-seeing needs of the original poster, it would be handicapped. Putting it the in the same league as boats that are purpose-built for seaworthiness and cruising efficiency is like going onto a camera forum and recommending a Kodak Instamatic instead of an SLR - very good advice for some folks but probably not for the kind of people who hang out on a camera forum.

I recommended the Vagabond because besides being a good fishing platform, it really IS a pretty decent boat for single-blade use on long trips. On a trip with the Vagabond (or a whole lot of others that could be named) you get where you are going because of the boat, not in spite of it. Still, for someone who doesn't need to go far or fast, the Pack would be fine.


thanks and I can understand that.

Hold a De Lorme Maine
Gazeteer in one hand with the OT Pack on the other shoulder…look at all the small isloated ponds with hand carry launches on the map and you get the idea behind the OT Pack.

No boat does it all. Wenonahs are far better for cruising but the Pack is a fine solo fishing boat at a “budget” price.

Some owners get personally attached to their own boats and that’s fine.

I’ve owned both OT Pack and
the We-no-nah Vagabond. I’ve fished from both in the same conditions you mentioned. Both were adequate boats. The Pack was a little too short for my liking. The Vagabond provided a bit more room, was a bit faster, and less affected by wind. The Vagabond (in Royalex) was also about 10 pounds heavier then the Pack. For weight I would go with the Pack unless (as stated) you can find a used composite Vagabond. For space, speed and tracking I would go with the Vagabond. I did not stand and fish from either, just to let you know.

I now have a Hemlock Peregrine that I fish and trip from and prefer it to either of the other two but the price is way more also. Hope this helps.

What about Wenonah’s Fusion ??
… is that a good canoe for a solo fly-fisherman ??

best for flyfishing imho is a Royalex

– Last Updated: Feb-22-11 9:24 PM EST –

Penobscot, however you're talking ~50lbs = not the most enjoyable portage to/from vehicle, where a Pack would be...try em' somewhere if possible. A good undamaged,USED, composite boat is your best bet imho. IME a little more initial stability gives a little more firm footing making it easier to cast without a lot of extra shoulder rotation...but that may be just me. A wood-stripped hull might be a little heavier but don't rule them out. Might wanna look at the "slower", less efficient composite hulls... Pilotwingz mentions a Wenonah. I believe Wenonah displays some ***bar-grafts***....notating each category..for each model = definitely give them a check. They have some that are kinda wide = great initial stability.
Their Voyager is the WRONG end of width, initial stability & efficiency you want in a hull...*IME. ...although
once you get used to any hull, our sense of balance will kick in to help...up to a point..LOL.
Wenonah, Swift, NovaCraft, MR, Bell, Clipper, Souris....etc. Check out as many as possible.

I dont know why people hate the OT Pack either, usually its people that have never tried one or owned one. Old Town never claims the Pack is designed to be a tripper…and sure it’s not a fast boat. However, anyone who says they dont track well with a single blade just doesn’t know how to paddle. The Pack will teach you how to paddle a boat properly if you listen to it. It’s an inexpensive, fun little boat.

If you’re looking for a small light boat, one that you can hold you flyrod and paddle in one hand and with the other carry the canoe on your shoulder through some woods in to a pond or brook…I believe it’s your boat. If you duck hunt and need to carry a boat into a far away swamp…the Pack is your boat.

I hunt, trap, fish, and explore swamps and lakes with mine and am happy with it. I’ve had it in very high winds and chop on lakes and I lived to paddle another day. I’m not in a race though. Often times I put my seat back on, lean back with a double blade paddle in my lap, clip my fly rod into it’s holder, and troll while taking gentle slow sweep with the paddle. I can maintain a 2 to 3 mph trolling speed quite easily and in a relaxing fashion. With a single blade I can track mine straight without having to switch sides every stroke, using a simple J stroke.

There’s a lot of snobbery on here about brand, and hull materials. Since the OT Pack is the cheapest of the pack boats, it stands to reason that members here bash it. If Old Town made the same boat in a composite and added 2 grand to it’s price a lot of people on here would embrace it. Just be thankful you didn’t mention a Pelican…I think you can be kicked off the site for merely mentioning that name…Ooops!

My suggestion
Mine would be Radisson 12’ or a Sport’sPal also 12’ they have a 38" beam and very stable on the water. The price for these 2 are under $800.00 maybe little more, weight is 34 pounds and they come with oar paddles and web seats. Radisson is American and Sports Pal is Canadain.

Like my Wen-Vag UL too as a quick,
light, easy to carry, utility boat that runs fine with average local rec yakkers using my Greenland Paddle. But, may not be as stable for you as a 38"w “fisherman” if you stand to cast/work a fish, or want to pole up/over shallows. Be good to try some first as always. R

There is a fishing forum here …
… specifically devoted to fishing from canoes and kayaks. You might want to look there.

Clarification on Tracking
When I commented on efficiency of the Old Town Pack with a single-blade paddle, I was talking about it in terms of the O.P.'s desire for a boat that’s good for traveling longer distances, and the fact that other boats work better for that purpose than something that’s so short and fat. A fat boat requires the paddle to be farther off-center, but even with a fat boat, making it longer reduces the negative effect of off-center propulsion. That combination of being short AND fat is what I was talking about in terms of efficiency, though that enormous keel probably helps (though it would be a hinderance in every other way). You see it has nothing to do with “not knowing how to paddle.” Hope that helps.

second eric nye
I second eric nyes comment about royalex being quieter, this can be especially inportant if fly fishing for trout. Composites with aluminum trim are the loudest, wood trim makes 'em a bit quieter.

When fishing from my canoes I like to user a thwart bag to keep tackle close by and handy as well as off the floor. If you tend to bring a lot of tackle try to come up with an idea to keep it from sliding out of reach and out of the bilge. Some type of anchor is nice to have especially in a current or in the wind. I always bring two paddles because, no matter how careful I am, I always drop one at some point.

I fly fish but rarely stand up. Over time I’ve gotten pretty good at casting from a sitting position.

To me there are few things as pleasant as portaging in to a pond and spending a nice summer evening fishing with a bag dinner and a thermos of coffee.

A nice walk out in the dark, usually buy headlamp, and a leisurely drive home listening to a ball game on the radio is perfect.

I use a Wenonah Argosy in royalex or a Wilderness ultralite but the boat isn’t really that important. The Wilderness is very stable and light but the Argosy is quieter and easier to manouver.

A fat boat actually doesn’t require your paddle to be farther off center, it all depends on where the seat is in relation to the width. In a boat that is extra wide in the center, you’d place the seats further toward bow and stern to help with paddle centering and access to the water. Theoretically, boat width has absolutely nothing to do with paddle reach unless you place the seat at center line or mid hull.

Interestingly, sitting at the boat’s widest section is actually the most efficient place to be paddling from.

Also, short has little to do with efficiency. Yes, a short boat will opposite steer more with a single paddle stroke than a comparable longer boat but the shorter boat will take a larger counter steer with the corrective stroke bringing it back in line quicker, so it’s all relative. Of course this largely evens out once a boat is up to speed.

I believe the keel in an OT Pack is there as much for hull stiffness as it is for tracking. I doubt that little 3/4 inch keel does much in the way of tracking true, but every bit probably helps some what. You’d have to refer to the engineers at OT for that though.

Paddling skill doesn’t mean just how you can paddle the same boat you’ve always paddled…true skill is understanding the mechanics of properly paddling a canoe, and being able to understand what a boat is doing and how to best make it do what you want. It’s all about if you’re paddling the boat or is the boat taking you for a ride while you paddle.

I would encourage you to try watching some online videos about paddling, or seeking out an instructor. Once you really learn how to single blade a boat and make it perform, you’ll wonder how you got along in the first place.

…good stuff from EN, mister123…
Mister123, late in evening over in NW portion of Maine = all Quebec radio = even a commercial is relaxing in French-Canadian.


– Last Updated: Feb-23-11 10:44 PM EST –

For starters, if you are being a troll you will have more fun than anyone deserves to have online when reading this. If not, this should clarify some things. We aren't so far apart on this in some ways, but darned far apart in others.

Yes, placing the seat farther away from the widest point helps, but as you point out, the best place to paddle a solo boat is from near the center but on a wide boat that does increase the yawing action of each stroke, and thus increases the need for correction. The real advantage of sitting near (not at) the center is that it puts a whole variety of strokes at your disposal which can be executed within similar distance of the pivot point, and never at a location too far from the pivot point to accomplish the desired task.

Conveniently reaching the water is only part of the problem with a fat boat. The other part is getting the paddle blade as close to the centerline of the boat as possible. The most extreme example of solo paddling a wide boat is Canadian style, but one big advantage of that method is that the location of paddle power is moved much closer to the centerline of the boat by actually shifting the "centerline" of the boat itself. Heeling the boat on edge transfers the effective centerline much closer to the gunwale - a really neat way of putting your paddle power closer to the ideal (but unattainable) centerline location.

You say length has little to do with efficiency, and as a blanket statement that can be true. In fact, the shorter and fatter the boat, the MORE efficient it will be at extremely slow speeds. Few people talk about that aspect of efficiency however. Usually they want to cover distance not just with the least effort, but in a reasonably shorter time period than a short fat boat can do, and for that, some additional length, plus exchanging a flat bottom for a rounded bottom, has the desired effect. On the other hand, as length is increased, the potential maximum speed increases but the efficiency decreases, so in that case, your blanket statement is wrong.

As far as the need for corrective strokes to be less less pronounced at higher speeds, that's due to reduced water pressure on the stern, and it's a neat effect in boats that track reasonably well, but it becomes problematic in boats that maneuver extremely well. A maneuverable boat that's "up to speed" as you say, becomes mighty squirrely rather than becoming easier to control, so once again you made a statement intended to be true which is not true for a lot of canoes.

Your are correct that the keel on the OT Pack is there to stiffen the hull. It's such a flat hull that it would otherwise be floppy. Still, though you say the keel would have little effect on boat handling, I've always been able to feel the difference between a keeled and a keel-less canoe, noting that the keel improves tracking and interferes with pivoting and side-slipping. Since being good at side-skipping is so handy, so often, one thing I like to do when paddling with a group of friends is to paddle my canoe sideways out in front of them as we carry on a conversation. I can get my Odyssey 14 (my Jack-of-all-trades canoe) going perfectly sideways faster than 3 miles per hour, and often maintain that sideways speed for many minutes at a time while talking to my paddling buddies, just for the practice, but I can't do that on a boat that has a keel. That's not exactly a "practical" thing that a keel would interfere with, but the more easily a boat side-slips, the more enjoyable it is to maneuver among the twisty-turnies of small rivers and in whitewater rock gardens, even for brief and minor side-slips, and that's why I don't like keels.

In addressing your final point, where you tell me that "Paddling skill doesn't mean just how you can paddle the same boat you've always paddled...true skill is understanding the mechanics of properly paddling a canoe, and being able to understand what a boat is doing and how to best make it do what you want. It's all about if you're paddling the boat or is the boat taking you for a ride while you paddle", I can't imagine what I've ever said that would make you write that, with all the discussions about boat control and hydrodynamics that I've had so much fun with here over the years. So, for you, I almost have to say just a little about that topic. I'm by no means an expert and as far as I'm concerned, never will be, because solo paddling is a life-long learning process. But I've paddled a number of different canoes. Besides the boat's I've spent loads of time in, my friends and fellow paddling-club members have a variety of boats, and every P-net gathering I've ever been to has presented the opportunity to try new ones as well, so after trying out so many I can tell you that I've got the "different boats" thing figured out by now. Referring to something related to this which you said later on, I HAVE watched lots of expert videos, as well as attended a bunch of paddling presentations at Canoecopia for years now, and there are not too many things I've seen them do that I can't also do in principle or even quite well (outside of extreme freestyle stuff). Even if I don't do some of the maneuvers as daintily as the experts, and even if my whitewater skills aren't so well practiced as to be reliable in the big stuff, I'm not exactly a stranger to the great variety of single-blade methods out there. I can be as happy as a clam in my Nova Craft Supernova, so let me assure you that I'd find paddling the Pack to be no issue at all regarding paddling skill, and I mention that here because your earlier comments "pointing out", apparently to me, that a J-stroke will make the Pack go straight and that there's no need to switch sides on every stroke makes it seem like you didn't think I knew that. Just to illustrate the point about the Supernova, in case you haven't paddled one, if you are paddling that boat and decide to take a photo of something, the boat will pivot 90 degrees before you can put down the paddle and pick up your camera, and it will spin another 70 degrees or so before you have the lens cap off and shoot the photo. Without constant attention to detail while the paddle is in the water (something that I do without thinking, but wasn't always able to do), the boat can suddenly pivot in either direction, either away from your paddle side or toward it (no typical canoe would abruptly turn toward your paddle side, which illustrates the difficulty a beginner would have with this boat), and this becomes more pronounced as you go faster (which goes against what you said is true) or encounter some wind. Constant attention to detail and interpretation of the "feel" of the paddle in the water when traveling in that boat means that no two strokes are likely to be exactly the same, and being able to tailor the paddle action in that way makes the difference between constantly adjusting the boat's orientation and heading and having rock-solid control (and in that boat, orientation and heading, even when not intentionally side-slipping, are not necessarily the same for a paddler who is not 100-percent in control), so yes, I know how to paddle, and yes, I know the difference between "controlling the boat and being taken for a ride". To toot my own horn a bit, I have never taken a river trip in twisty-turny conditions with a NEW group of paddlers (strangers to me) in the last several years without having at least a couple of them come up and tell me at some point during the trip that they really enjoy watching me paddle. There are people on this forum who are better paddlers than I (I know that by some of the things they talk about), but I'm naturally a detail-oriented person who loves to understand how things work, and I've paid a lot of attention over the years to a lot of minor details about boat control, and I've got a pretty good handle on the situation, thank you very much.

When you finished up by telling me this: "I would encourage you to try watching some online videos about paddling, or seeking out an instructor. Once you really learn how to single blade a boat and make it perform, you'll wonder how you got along in the first place", all I can do is wonder where you came up with the idea that I'm so clueless. I'll spend the rest of my life improving, and even though only for the last several years have I been seriously into solo paddling, not since 20 years before the first day I picked up "Path of the Paddle" have I been as clueless as you want to believe.

That sounds wonderful, and I equally share the opinion that that’s a perfect evening. Add to it the “smell” of a pond or lake, the sound of frogs croaking and maybe a loon…crickets doing their thing…it’s one of many reason to love the warmer months!