Whitewater kayaking is grand, and we love the adrenaline rush and adventure that comes with it. Sometimes though, we need a calmer and more relaxing experience out on the water. Fishing is just about the next best thing to gnarly whitewater in our book, and you can combine your love of kayaking and fishing into one! Kayak fishing is a popular sport but also fairly new and features it’s own unique variables different from regular kayaking or regular fishing. These are some tips to get you started on hooking some killer largemouth bass while happily floating the lake or river in your kayak.
Kayak fishing is going to require a vessel unlike your river runner or creek boat you know and love dearly. You’ll need to consider where you’d like to fish, and what that environment is like. Would you prefer larger ponds, saltwater or freshwater, big rivers or small creeks? Will you be fly fishing? You’ll need to take these questions into account so you can choose a boat with the correct stability, comfortable seating, storage and size that you can transport where you’re wanting to fish. Lots of places will let you try before you buy, and paddling festivals and events are a great place to demo kayaks. You’ll likely want to look for a recreational or sit on top kayak for this kayaking fishing experiment.
We love any reason to buy new outdoor gear, and the beginner kayak fisherman needs a trusty fishing pole! Not any pole will do however, and some factors need to be taken into account. Typically, a shorter rod is suggested for kayak fishing which keeps all the action near the cockpit. This shorter rod however can become troublesome if a big monster fish decides to run on you, which game fish love to do. Unless your rod tip can be swung completely around the kayak beyond the bow and the stern, a fish cutting right angle escape routes under your cockpit will take your rod with it. Be sure you can swing a complete circle around your kayak so you can stay in control of your fishy foe!
If you’re used to whitewater kayaking the rivers and creeks near your area, these may not be the best spots for kayak fishing. You want to fish smarter not harder, and your choice of location can be a big factor in whether you’re reeling in a trophy fish and posting pictures to Instagram, or tiny guppies that will get thrown back. Ask around and see if your hard core fishing buddies have any secret spots they’re willing to take you to. You’ll also want to take into account what type of fish – if any – you’re looking to catch, and where those specific species thrive.
Familiarize Yourself With Fishing Techniques
You’re likely familiar with how to catch eddy lines, and drifting techniques in your kayak but again the rules are different with kayak fishing. You’ll want to brush up on some kayak fishing techniques to use while you’re on the water. It’s a good idea to consult a local fishing guide or expert – even if that’s your best friend or neighbor – on some techniques and tips. You’ll need specific boat positions, drifting styles, and will need to take wind into account. Balancing on a kayaking while whipping a fishing rod around, or reeling in a huge fish is a different ball game than regular whitewater kayaking.
Use the Water to Your Advantage
Any good kayaker knows to use the river to his or her advantage, and the same can be done with kayak fishing. Utilizing eddies will help to keep you right where you want to be without having to paddle or steer while you have a catch on the line. Go past the spot you want to fish, and tuck into the eddy behind it for a perfect spot to set up shop. Hug the shoreline in shallower water where the current isn’t as strong, and making headway upstream is far easier. Vegetation will help slow current, but be careful of getting caught in strainers! You can also cast to steer, the simple action of reeling in your line will cause your boat to move in that direction.
Why fish from the shore, when you can hook some beauties atop your trusty kayak! Kayak fishing is growing in popularity, and we can see why. You get the relaxing experience of fishing but the added enjoyment of kayaking we all know and love. And this way, if your better half says either you can’t go fishing or kayaking this weekend, just choose the other and you’re all set!
Spring is right around the corner, which means our beloved summer is not far behind either! It’s time to start planning our days around paddling again, or in all honesty just paddling even more. Spring and summer bring not only warmer weather, but some awesome paddling festivals too. From the Southeast to the Northwest, there are hundreds of cool festivals to check out this year to run new rivers, meet cool folks, buy sweet gear, and just kick it with like minded individuals drinking some cold beers. We’ve got a list together of some of our top favorite paddling festivals you may want to pencil in this season.
Get In Gear Fest, Asheville – March 18th 2017
Still just in its 3rd year, the annual Get In Gear Fest, organized by the Outdoor Gear Builders of Western North Carolina, is a family-friendly all day outdoor celebration. Featuring live music, beers, tasty food PLUS gear demos, new products and (our favorite) paddling, it’s one you won’t want to miss. They will also be the chance to win heaps of prizes from tshirs to slingshots! See their event page for more.
Gauley Fest, West Virginia – September 14th-17th 2017
We naturally have to include a home-team favorite – Gauley Fest! Yes, September is technically considered fall but may as well start planning ahead! The mighty Gauley River has some incredible Class V rapids, and we all know the scenery in wild and wonderful West Virginia is top notch. The festival is put on by American Whitewater, and is their biggest event of the year and supposedly the largest paddling festival in the world. Boaters and outdoor enthusiasts of all shapes, sizes and skill levels love this festival. There’s tons of top vendors who often do raffles or games to win gear, and camping with good music and late night general debauchery. Plus, we’ll be there! Come say hey!
This 3 day festival down in the lowcountry has something for everyone in your crew. Whether you’re a paddler, rock climber, slackliner, mountain biker, or disc golf enthusiast you’ll enjoy this event. There’s a “Try It” zone where you can demo and test out all kinds of outdoor gear including archery and stand up paddle-boards. On Saturday there’s a disc golf and climbing competition, as well as a vendor village where you can try before you buy. Grab some boiled peanuts and sweet tea vodka to check out this cool event that’s in it’s 27th year.
Kern River Festival, California – April 21st-23rd 2017
Kayakers and boaters flock from all over to the Kern River Festival. There’s the fun to run or watch Hooligan Boat Race with a B.Y.O.B (build your own boat) approach and also the Olympic qualifying races. Watching the extreme slalom or downriver racing is worth the whole trip which include waterfalls, slides and a granite ampitheather for spectator enjoyment. There’s also a wildwater Biathalon, craft beer and tasty food to indulge in. All any good boater really needs from a festival!
GoPro Mountain Games, Colorado – June 8th-11th 2017
This event draws professional and amateur athletes to descend upon Vail, Colorado to compete in nine sports and 25 disciplines including kayaking, road cycling, trail running and even dog competitions. GoPro Mountain Games also holds a mountain photography competition, adventure film school, a film festival, an interactive exhibition and demo area, and live music. There really is an event or category for any outdoor junkie or music and art lover here. Plus, Colorado in the summertime is just… well it’s awesome. Definitely consider adding this extreme sports festival to your lineup.
To round out the list we’re going with more local flavor! This event is a fun annual fundraiser that helps advance watershed projects along the Cheat River. With bluegrass and music from good ol’ Appalachia, this event is sure to please. There’s a massive 10 mile downriver race called the “Massacre-ence” where all the best rapids the Cheat has to offer are paddled, including Decision, Big Nasty, High Falls and Coliseum. There’s also a 5K footrace for the runners in your pack, if that’s more their style. Plan to camp by the banks of the river for the weekend, and meet some cool fellow boaters.
Festivals and paddling, two loves all rolled into one awesome party and experience. Add some of these awesome top festivals to your calendar this year and as as always stay safe and dry out there!
Spring has sprung, well almost. If you’re anything like us you’ve likely been paddling through the winter season, but there are some who prefer to hang up the kayaking gear and hibernate through the winter. Kayaking in the cold season is a different ball game, and one little swim can make us long for the warm days of summer. Springtime is the perfect time to start running your icebreaker kayaking trips to start getting dialed back in for warmer weather ahead. If you have been cozying up on the couch, or playing a lot of darts at the local watering hole, you’ll need to do a little checklist before heading off on your trip of the season.
Check Your Gear
Any good boater knows to thoroughly check your gear often, and hopefully every time you use it. It’s easy to store boats and gear over the winter that may have sustained damage during last year’s paddling season, and completely forget once the thermometer begins to rise again. The old, “I’ll fix that later” attitude comes in perfectly when it’s 30 degrees outside and snowing. Set all your gear out and check over everything for holes, and dings or damage of any kind. Also, mice and other pesky creatures like your kayaking gear…a lot. They want to make little homes with the stuffing and fabrics, so check for critter damage as well!
Just because the weather is warmer, doesn’t mean the water is. Springtime can be deceiving, and you need to be prepared in case of a swim or general soaking. If you don’t own any good winter paddling gear, you might want to consider borrowing a splash top or dry suit from a buddy if you don’t want to invest in your own. Dressing in layers is key to keep your core warm, as water will conduct heat away from your body faster than air. You can always take layers off to stash in your drybag if you get too hot, but taking a swim and being cold the rest of the trip is no bueno and can be incredibly dangerous.
Springtime can be a perfect time of year to go paddling, but that perfect day can change real quickly. Weather is constantly changing during the spring and it’s not uncommon for storms and cold fronts to come on quickly and often forcefully. Like you would anytime you go paddling, check the weather in the area you intend to head to. Having a good emergency take out isn’t a bad idea in case things get too hairy. Download a solid weather app that will come in handy to stay up to date as soon as you hit the water, and for some hopefully having enough service to stay in the know throughout the day. Knowledge is power, but you’re powerless over the weather so…be prepared!
Most creeks and rivers are natural flow and will change after floods, storms and other weather or man influenced events. Even dam-released rivers can be altered in this way. You’ll need to re-learn the river and rapids to get familiar again. Don’t assume a river or rapid is going to flow the same it did last year, or that you’ll encounter the same obstacles. Even huge boulders can be moved with enough force creating all new danger spots, holes and what have you. When in doubt, scout it out. Kayaking is always more fun with your homies, so work together to hold safeties for one another and scope out each rapid step by step.
So it might take a bit to get yourself familiarized again with your boat, especially if you were watching a lot of Netflix over the winter. Don’t push yourself too hard, or get frustrated by a bad line or a by-chance a swim. Get a good crew together to go along, and maybe even make an overnight camping trip out of it. Kayaking is fun, but we all can have a bad day now and again so don’t sweat the small stuff. Remember to channel the ancient art of Wu Wei and “actionless action” to just go with the flow…but avoid rocks and holes. And your friends. And trees.
The river is calling my friend, and you must answer her call! Just check your gear and the weather, dress to impress, bring your buddies and re-introduce yourself to her. Warmer days are ahead, but that doesn’t mean you can’t head off in search of kayaking nirvana today.
Any good boater knows that the river has it’s own natural set of red, yellow and green lights as well as danger and do not pass signs. Knowing what these natural features mean and how to understand them, is what makes a good boater a great one. Keep an eye out for specific natural features, or changes in the flow and direction of the water to stay in the know of what obstacles might lie ahead. The following list is a crash course, or rather smooth line tutorial, on what to look out for when you’re on your favorite river or creek.
Strainers are usually pretty easy to spot, but regardless there are times we find ourselves face to face with a branch or limb that’s not so friendly. These are trees, limbs, vines, branches, strange locals or anything else obstructing your line. Strainers can also be large items submerged, like a log. Debris like tires or trash that unfortunately end up in our rivers need to be watched for to. Like a spaghetti noodle in a strainer that stays in the bowl when you drain the pasta water, that noodle is you in your kayak against an overhanging tree. Not a good spot to be! It’s better to bail out than to get seriously pinned against a dangerous strainer if it comes down to brass tacks.
Upstream and Downstream V’s
Knowing how to spot upstream and downstream V’s can help you out tremendously while on the river. An upstream V is an indication that there’s an obstruction in the river, and the exact location of the V depends on the depth of the obstruction. If the rock or lurking river monster is deeper, the V will be below the actual obstruction as opposed to right on top of it in shallower water. These you want to avoid, as hitting one sideways could cause your boat to flip. Downstream V’s however, usually indicate a safe channel with obstacles on either side. Look for dark current in these downstream V’s, indicating it’s deep enough to run.
Eddies – the friendliest of all natural river features! Eddies are a good place to hang out and grab a snack from your drybag after you just got through some ridiculous rapids and don’t even know how. These areas are where the river current slows and often reverses, and are typically characterized with a circular flow pattern. The best eddies are on the downstream side of an obstruction, typically a big ass rock. They can also be found behind midstream boulders or inside the bend of the river. These “time out” spots are formed anywhere something gets in the river’s way forcing it to slow down or make a turn. Heads up though, in faster moving water “eddy lines” are created where you’ll encounter reverse flow upon entering, so check your line before entering and exiting. Steady Eddy.
These can be the do not enter, one way street, and wrong way sign of natural river features. Holes can also be a fun place for kayakers to freestyle and playboat, and have different indicators of whether they’re naughty or nice. A hole is created by water flowing over an obstacle creating a gap that needs to be refilled. The river refills this gap, by folding back on itself and flowing back upstream, creating a continual recirculating flow of water. This article from Canoe & Kayak Magazine has a good breakdown to determine if a hole you’re looking to paddle will either wreck your day or be an awesome play spot.
Not to be confused with a stunning horizon line pool edge, it does mean the same thing essentially. Big drop ahead. Anytime you’re boating and see a natural horizon line on the water, this would be a good time to catch an eddy (since we know what those are and how to catch them now!) and scout what’s ahead especially if you’re unfamiliar with the river. It’s virtually impossible to see what the situation and rapid is like below a horizon line, or if there’s boaters down below.
Mother nature always wants you to have fun and be safe while on the water, so keep an eye out when she’s showing you the way to go or when she’s saying not to do something or you’ll be sorry. Remember to plan ahead, and when in doubt scout it out!
Kayakers and boaters alike are always pressing for bigger, faster, and gnarlier whitewater to conquer. Some will travel the globe in search of a new challenge, and there’s nothing like staring down the mouth of a huge rapid you’ve never had the chance to run before. There are some killer rivers here in the good ol’ US of A – as well as globally – that have been run where stories are told and legends are made. The technical aspect, location, obstacles and size of a rapid determine it’s classification. The other factor involved is the fear factor. Scouting out a new rapid can either make you want to carry your boat around it whistling to yourself and choose life for today, or…buckle down and shred through what could be the one of the best runs of your life. The following list is 5 of the top whitewater rapids that are kings in their class.