In 2017 Jackson Kayak introduced the Mayfly, a kayak designed for the fly fisher. I purchased this boat last year and enjoyed a full season with it. I figured I had enough time on the water to give it a review, so here it is. This boat was built from the ground up as a fly fishing platform. From its rock stable hull design to onboard features designed specifically for the fly fisher, it just may be the perfect fly fishing kayak. Let me take you through a review of all of the wonderful features of this boat.
Let's start out with the hull. This is not just another Jackson kayak hull with a different floor plan. It is an entirely new design. The hull is 12’8” long and 35” wide and weighs 89 pounds empty (no seat). It has a much lower profile than other boats in the Jackson line up, meaning it is not as affected by wind, which is a huge benefit for both fishing and paddling. In regards to paddling performance, the boat tracks well and is very maneuverable. I was pleasantly surprised in regards to how well the boat tracks in a straight line as well as its speed. At 89 pounds it was one of the more substantial boats I looked at, but also had a very generous carrying capacity of 450lbs. Despite this weight, the boat paddled as well as any other fishing kayak I have owned. I have no idea what the draft of the kayak is fully loaded, but it has to be mere inches. I have taken this boat into some ridiculously shallow backwaters and have never had an issue bottoming out. Usually, the first question people ask about this boat is "How stable is it?".
I once heard the boat described as “earth stable” by someone who reviewed the boat on YouTube (sorry the name escapes me). Earth stable was a pretty bold claim but one that is not far from the truth. The Jackson Mayfly is hands down the most stable kayak that I have had personal experience with. I am a pretty big guy weighing in around 230 lbs, and the thought of standing in a kayak and casting put me into a cold sweat. This was based on the experiences I have had with every other kayak I have owned, and there have been a few. My conception of stability changed the minute I stepped foot into the mayfly. That’s right, I said stepped into. To launch my previous kayaks, I had to squirm into the seat and hope things did not go south. Launching was always a touch and go exercise at best. The one time I attempted to step into a floating kayak resulted in me being pitched overboard. What a way to start the day! With the Jackson Mayfly, I can actually step into the boat as it floats along the shore. Step in, get situated, and sit down it’s amazing. With the use of the kayak’s stand assist strap getting in out of the seat is a breeze even for an overweight, 50 plus-year-old with less than a stellar back. Once standing, the boat’s stability is felt immediately. I can cast and move about the hull with no worries. I can even retrieve items from the fore and aft storage compartments while afloat, something I could never do in my old boats without risking a swim. It is so stable I am toying with the idea of replacing the seat with a cooler and using that as an elevated casting platform. To answer the question, “Is it stable?” Hell yes, the most stable kayak I have ever experienced!
One of the things that attracted me to this boat was the well thought out storage features. To start out with, there are two large, latched storage compartments on this kayak. One in the front and one in the back. These compartments have large locking lids that make getting gear in and out a very easy. The front storage compartment has a removable tray that keeps small items at the ready and not lost in the depths of the hull.
There is a large open area behind the seat perfect for crates, a 25-quart cooler, etc. As far as tackle storage goes there is storage in the seat for Plano style boxes and other items, but I’ll talk about the seat in detail later. You will even find onboard fly and fly box storage. To secure all your goodies and to add more kayak accessories you will find aluminum accessory tracks throughout the boat. They are everywhere! You will have multiple options for your RAM mount accessories, and the boat is even set up for a standing brace.
What makes this kayak a fly fishing platform?
Let me run down the list of fly fishing specific features on this boat. Let’s start out with the floorplan. This kayak has an open cockpit design. It has a flat deck devoid of anything that could snag a fly line. The footpegs found on most kayaks are notorious fly line grabbers. On the Mayfly they have been replaced with a one-piece adjustable foot brace. This brace can be positioned for comfortable paddling for any sized angler. Also, the foot brace has some other attractive features. There is a fly line management system on top of it to keep your fly line under control while paddling which also doubles as a fly patch. Remember those aluminum accessory tracks? They are on the foot brace as well, making it a handy place to mount a fish finder.
Speaking of a fish finder, I store the battery and all that cable for mine underneath that same footrest. Since my unit is made by Ray Marine, the transducer fits into a specially designed scupper hole which is brilliant. It is a beautiful system! Moving rearward from the footrest, you will find two compartments, one on each side of the hull for storing fly boxes or other items like tools. The inside lids of these boxes are lined with foam fly patches as well!
On the floor of the kayak, in front of the seat, you will find a depression for your fly reel. This is the first of several rod holders designed for fly rods. This floor mounted holder is a great spot to keep the rod your actively fishing secure while paddling. There is also a depression in the front of the boat at the grab handle that is designed to take the butt of your fly rod in the event you ever get a tangle at the rod tip. It is a handy place to secure the reel end of the rod while you work on the tip.
Moving past the seat, you will find two molded-in fly rod holders, one on each side of the boat. These innovative rod holders are designed for fly rods. They allow you to store a fly rod in three different positions. Position one is tip forward with the tip protected in an opening in the hull at the front of the boat. Position two would be facing backward up at an angle, and the third position is facing backward lying down flat. The forward facing position will except rods up to 9 feet in length, and you can go as long as you want with the rods facing to the rear. These forward facing storage positions could also be used for storing long items like stakeout poles. Also included is one RAM mount rod holder that you could mount anyway on the boat. At the stern of the kayak is an area designed for a Power Pole Micro Anchor System. This electronic anchoring system makes holding your position in shallow water a breeze by use of a motorized stake out pole. Installing it consists of simply bolting it on. It could not be a simpler installation!
All this means nothing without a comfortable seat!
My biggest complaint about my previous kayak was the seat. It could have been considered a medieval torture device. I have to say that fishing from the Mayfly’s two position height adjustable Elite Seat is akin to fishing from my couch. The seat comes standard with a Thermarest Lumbar Pad (that could double as a seat pad or a pillow) and is adjustable to sit upright or recline at any angle you like. In addition, the seat adjusts forward and back to fit differently sized anglers and allow you to trim the boat the way you like. The seat is also removable for shore-based activities. Built into the seat are three bungee secured, storage compartments. Two large, one on each side of the seat, and a smaller one up front. These compartments will accept many different sized Plano style boxes. The seat can be adjusted on the go. Keep it high for fishing and comfortable standing or drop it down for increased stability in treacherous conditions. Also included with the seat was a waterproof storage bag that attaches to the rear of the seat and a Platypus Hydration System. Other accessories included with this boat were a pair of fish grips, a safety flag, and an Orion Tumbler to keep those drinks cold while you're on the water.
There is so much good how about the bad and ugly
Is there a downside to this kayak? I guess you can say there is, and that would be the price. The kayak retails for $1,899.00 once you figure in taxes you looking at two grand before you even begin to rig it the way you want. Fortunately, there is not much the boat needs, but if you are like me, you'll need an anchor system, a fish finder, a new vest, a paddle (because I’m keeping my old boat rigged and ready to fish with a friend) a storage box, etc. At the end of the day, it cost…never mind I just remembered my wife reads this from time to time! To be honest, I thought long and hard before investing that kind of money in a kayak. In the end, I have no regrets! Another downside is the weight, the boat is on the heavy side. Once you rig it with batteries, electronics, anchor systems plus all your gear, it can be a bit of a bear to move around by yourself. But it is a minor tradeoff for all of the comfort and stability the boat provides.
In my opinion, Jackson makes some of the best fishing kayaks on the market today. The fit and finish of their boats are superb. That high price tag is a reflection of that quality. The Mayfly is the flagship of the fleet if you are a fly fisherman. There is no other boat on the market today that delivers more features for the fly fisherman!
2018 Model Year Changes
I just learned it looks like there were a few minor changes to the boat in its second year. The Elite Seat has been raised slightly making it a little easier to stand, and it appears that they have added a sliding tackle tray under the seat. This is a feature I would have loved to see on my model, and I will be looking into finding a way to retrofit my boat with one. Other than that it is the same as the original.