Kayak Fishing Gear | A Dog Leash

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Assembling an easy, retractable anchor line system from a retractable dog leash.

It’s a calm day on the water and you ease the yak up into a good position within casting range of where you just know fish are holding. Carefully, and quietly, you stow your paddle, and as you reach for your fly rod, a gust of wind comes up from nowhere spinning your boat 180 degrees. You try to salvage the shot by casting backhanded to your target, because now you are facing the wrong direction! You reposition the boat, it’s calm again, you reach for your rod…damn wind spins you around again! By now you’ve lost your focus and stealth is no longer your priority – it’s managing the attitude of the boat, all the crap in the cockpit, the paddle, the rod, the fly line that’s now wrapped around your foot. You sort it out, but the fly is lodged into the back of your shirt, and you can’t get it out because you forgot to pinch the barb down. You take off your shirt (because that makes sense now), but forget to remove your hat, and your sunglasses…gust of wind again. SHIT! My new Oakleys! Fly fishing from a kayak sucks. You need an anchor system.


True, fly fishing from a kayak, or photography, or any activity requiring your full attention, can be maddening. I’m a line slob and so, if there’s anything, I mean ANYTHING, laying on the deck, my line is going to tangle with it – those coiled paddle leashes are the worst. So, keeping a tight ship is a priority for me. I tried a few anchor set ups, but they involved more clutter in the boat. So, a little research on the internet, and I found one mention of a retractable clothes line attached to a weight. Why not a retractable dog leash? Sure enough, other kayak anglers were trying them as well.

So here’s the set up:

 1 retractable dog leash (15-25 feet)

1- 3 lb neoprene coated hand weight

1 zip tie


You’ll also need:

1 medium or large aluminum snap link (carabineer)

1 mini-snap link

2 ft of nylon cord (550 or parachute cord works great)


The neoprene coated weights don’t slide around in the boat much and are a bit more stealthy than the uncoated weights. The long weight in the photo at the top of this post is actually 15 inches of stainless steel chain wrapped with duct tape. I will make a loop with cord and zip tie it on to the weight. I then clip the dog leash directly to the loop.

I use cordage to attach the snap links to the boat, one at the stern and the other starboard (right). I will sometimes attach a second snaplink portside (left), in case I need to reposition the anchor line. The best set up though would be to run the line through an anchor trolley that allows you to move the line forward and aft.


I keep the “anchor”/hand weight behind my seat. When I’m ready to deploy it, I just reach around with my right hand and slip it into the water. I fix the leash to the stearn, where it’s out of way…and out of reach. That’s not been a problem for me though since I don’t use the locking mechanism. The line feeds in and out of the leash freely.


On a subject of safety, anchors can be dangerous in moving or choppy water conditions. I only recommend their use in still, shallow water, and caution should be taken in narrow channels when the tide is flowing. It’s a moving stream with current. An anchor can restrict the natural movement of the kayak. Once the anchor line is stretched tight, the boat can become unsteady. Even the wake from a passing motor boat could swamp or capsize the kayak in these conditions; a quick release system is mandatory. The system I demonstrate here is intended for still, calm water.


Alternatively, I often carry an old cross country ski pole. It can be pushed down through one of the scuppers in shallow water, used as a wading staff…or for spearing zombies. Yes. I said zombies!