Written by Austin Assistant Store Manager Bill Newberry
A towel might not be the first thing that comes to mind when listing out favorite paddling accessories, but it is for me. When I hit the water, I almost always have a McNett Microfiber Towel with me.
With fibers smaller than a strand of human hair, these towels are super absorbent, soft and dry faster than normal towels. What makes them great for kayaking is that they are light and compact and they can easily fit into a Fisherman or Chinook PFD, which I like to wear. You might want to think about re-purposing or just leaving the Mesh bag at home, the towel in its mesh bag gets a little too bulky in your PFD pocket.
But the real benefit of the McNett Microfiber Towel is the silver ions they are treated with. These ions allow the towel to stay fresh and odorless longer than a standard towel, making them a necessity for camping or multi-day kayaking trips. They also do a great job doubling as a bandanna or a dew rag to help keep cool and protected from the sun.
Gun mounts are not just for atv’s, four wheelers and trucks…they can also be used on kayaks! Kayak hunting is a favorite pastime for many paddlers, including myself and it all starts with the gun mount. The Pack Rack Plus Kayak Gun Mounts make it easy to carry and secure your shotgun or rifle to your kayak while you move through the water. These are basically the same design as most gun mounts for off road vehicles but have a base designed to be mounted on most any kayak or canoe.
The Good & The Bad of the Pack Rack Plus Kayak Gun Mount
I am a big fan of these mounts and have them installed on my personal kayak. I find that they make it very easy to access my firearm quickly when I’m trying to get a jump on wild game. Flexible rubber grips inside the mount that act like teeth and the locking rubber strap work in tandem to create a secure connection so I never have to worry about loosing my gun by knocking it off or flipping my kayak. These will fit most any long gun so no matter what type of game I’m after, the mounts work well. Mounting these brackets are fairly easy and are designed to fit most any application. In some cases you may have to purchase additional hardware depending on where you want to mount them.
The one negative I’ve experienced when using these mounts is that they sometimes get in the way when exiting my kayak. Granted, the opposite side from the mount is not affected and still easy to exit, but that means I’m constantly forced to remember which way to pull up to the bank or dock. These mounts will sit several inches off the deck of the boat so make sure you don’t get anything snagged on them, or you could end up tipping the boat over. It hasn’t happened to me yet, but it’s always a concern.
Got cold weather blues? ACK Austin Paddling Seminars are just what you need!
With the Winter season slowly approaching the ACK Austin Store will be looking to take every one’s mind off of the rainy cold weather that would keep them off the water by holding several informative and fun paddling seminars. Here’s what you can expect to see coming to our Austin store location:
Fishing Beyond the Breakers with Jerron Wosel (ACK Merchandising Team & BTB Expert), 12/5
So what are these Austin paddling seminars all about?
The first on the list is the Fly Fishing Seminar with guest speaker Thomas Flemmons of Diablo Paddlesports. Thomas is the owner of Diablo Paddlesports, a local Austin kayak manufacturer, and is an avid fly fisherman. He has fished some of the most popular bodies of water across the country. The seminar will focus on casting techniques, choosing the right flies, gear, and fly fishing techniques from a kayak. As an added bonus the first 15 people that sign up at the seminar will be entered in a raffle for a half day kayaking/fishing outing down a local central Texas river with Thomas and Justin Fees (ACK Austin store manager). The seminar will be held Nov. 9th, 2013 at 1pm at the ACK Austin Store. Sign up for the seminar (and raffle) will start at 12:30 pm the day of the seminar at the check out in the store.
The next seminar, Hunting from a Kayak, will be held Nov 16th and 17th at 1pm. It will be offered both days so you wont have to cancel your other plans. The seminar will focus on choosing the right gear, hunting from a kayak techniques and safety.
The third big seminar, Cold Weather Kayaking, will be held Nov. 23rd and 24th at 1pm. This will also be the same seminar offered both days. In it, our store experts will go over how to select the right clothing, choosing the right gear, safety and places to paddle. This will be a great seminar for those of you who don’t want the let the winter season keep you off the water.
Our 4th seminar for the Fall season BTB or Beyond the Breaker Fishing will be given by Jerron Wosel. Jerron has spent years fishing offshore off the Texas coast, Florida Coast, as well as of the Coast of Baja California and serves as the buyer for ACK’s kayak fishing gear (plus a whole lot more). With his knowledge and experience he will be discussing techniques, gear, where to fish and safety. This will be held on Thursday Dec. 5th at 6:30 pm at the Austin store. Store hours will be extended until 8 pm for the event. There will be pizza, drinks, and raffle prizes for everyone that signs up (rsvp) and attends the seminar.
Where to learn more:
Find one you like? See details about each of the events on our ACK Austin calendar of events. To RSVP, call or email the store to RSVP at (512) 719-4386 or email@example.com. Keep an eye on the Austin store event calendar for any other Seminars and events that will be added in the near future. See you there!
I recently had the chance to take out my Ride 115 on the Colorado River (Little Webberville, Texas). It’s always a pleasure to take this kayak out, I truly love it. First off, at only 11.5’, it doesn’t stick out the back of my truck far enough to need a bed extender, which makes it a lot more practical for me personally. And I truly don’t find too much of a difference between paddling this and its big brother, the Ride 135. Sure, I might lose a little speed and it might not track quite as well, but it is negligible and not enough for me to take notice. It’s stable enough for me stand in easily, paddles plenty fast and tracks well, plus it can handle my 245 lbs. and any amount of gear I want to take with no problems whatsoever.
As it’s often said, the motor of the kayak is the paddle. Some people choose to skimp in regards to this item, but my recommendation is to spend as much as you can afford. For me, I’m very happy with the Camano FG (Fiberglass) paddle. It’s very light for times when I’m paddling long distances and has plenty of rigidity in the blades so I’m not wasting energy. I would recommend this blade to anybody!
For my recent birthday, my family got me some new toys and I got to put them the test for the first time on this outing. The first of which was the Malone Express Scupper Cart, which I have decided is a must-have! I don’t know how I made it so long without one. It’s easy to use and I can take all my gear in one trip. In the event I get another sit on top, it will adjust to fit nearly any kayak. And most importantly, it has foam filled tires so I don’t have to worry about flats.
The next item I got that has made life a lot more comfortable is the Skwoosh Classic Kayak Cushion. At less than $50, this is money well spent if you find yourself getting sore after a short time in your kayak seat. Let’s face it, the most important part of any kayak seat is the support it provides, but a close second is some cushioning to sit on. The gel in this is great and makes for a more comfortable paddling.
Lastly, I got to use the Eco Extreme Speaker for the first time. Not only does it do a great job of keeping my cell phone dry, but puts out a decent amount of volume via Pandora or whatever player you choose to use. The fact that the unit floats is a major plus in the event that you knock it out of the boat.
This particular day was right after a cold front blew in, so the fishing was non-existent. This allowed me to fully appreciate my surroundings with its abundant wildlife and crystal clear water (at least on this day). I would always prefer to be catching fish one after another, but I’ve learned over time that nature sometimes pitches a shutout…..AND a bad day of fishing is far better than a good day of working!
Recently a few friends and I rented a house in Gun Barrel, Texas on Cedar Creek Lake. I decided to bring along a few kayaks as well as a couple stand up paddleboard’s (SUP’s) and needless to say, they were hit throughout the weekend. For many of my friends, it was their first time on any type of kayak, as well as my first attempt at paddleboarding so it was enjoyable to both teach a little and learn something new myself. I’m confident that I can answer questions about specific boards and the performance factors that different lengths and surfaces give from my experience using them over the weekend.
As far as the kayaks go, it was pretty interesting to get to see all the different boats perform when put up against each other. Such as the difference between a 12 and 14 foot Tarpon. Obviously the 14 is faster but I didn’t fully understand how effortless it was to maintain that speed until I was able to try both back to back. The weekend told me that you don’t have to be a fisherman or a whitewater enthusiast (which none of us are) to enjoy a kayak or SUP.
I have been on a quest the past few months. No, not for hunting dragons, but for a kayak. I have tried out tons of different models from sit insides to sit on tops and have even had a chance in the Hobie Adventure Island. I was being somewhat picky on the model of kayak I wanted, and was trying to find one that I could paddle around Austin and occasionally take down to the coast. After a few months of trying out different models I think I might have finally found the right kayak for me.
Recently, I went down to Lake Bastrop with Kristian (Austin store‘s assistant manager) and we brought with us some of new boats for me to try and paddle around. I soon found myself in the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 along with our Werner Camano Fiberglass paddle. I enjoyed the tracking, maneuverability and stability of the Tarpon 120. It was a quick boat, especially with the Camano fiber glass paddle I was using. I was able to cover most of Lake Bastrop during my paddle.
The Werner Camano series is hands down one of my favorite paddles. Unfortunately, unless I earn a huge raise, the carbon fiber paddle is out of my price range, which is why I tried out the fiberglass Camano. I feel the Camano FG was a good middle of the road paddle as it is tougher and stiffer than a nylon paddle but it will not break the bank like a carbon fiber paddle will. Also the low profile button system on all the Werner Paddles made it very easy to feather my paddles on the water.
Here’s my final word: the Tarpon 120 and the Werner Camano FG go well together like chili cheese and tater tots.
Editor’s Note: We are sad to announce that Michael, a valued ACK Austin store employee, will be leaving ACK to pursue his education in Colorado with his girlfriend. In many ways, Denver reminds us of Austin as an outdoor sports mecca and we look forward to hearing about his outdoor adventures. Michael recently visited Denver and we asked that he share his experience with us. Michael will be with us for a bit longer but we’ll go ahead and say it now, thanks for everything and we wish you the best of luck!
My girlfriend and I are leaving the wonderful city of Austin for another city that is a whole lot higher, in elevation that is — Denver, Colorado. Denver has always been somewhat of a majestic place for me; being a snow sports enthusiast I dreamt of nothing but fresh powder and immaculate corduroy awaiting the top of that first lift. There are quite a few lifts within a short drive of Denver.
We are both continuing our education and are taking the opportunity to move to this outdoor sports Mecca. I recently spent 3 days in Denver scouting out campuses, leasing opportunities and getting a feel for a culture that emanates passion, love and above all, respect for the great outdoors. Austin is known for a similar culture, as can be deduced from the seemingly numberless roof rack systems found on automobiles of all shapes and sizes. Denver is the only city I have ever experienced that actually rivals, if not surpasses Austin in the number of automobiles with roof rack systems. Yakima, Thule and Malone bike carriers, kayak carriers, and snowboard/ski carriers roamed the streets awaiting use. I counted nearly 25 whitewater kayaks in one day; needless to say a sight for sore eyes for Austin folks doing the rain dance daily. This was expected but nonetheless an observation that excited me to a high degree and looking forward to it.
An early fall Redfish round up by Kristian Kolflat
It wasn’t my birthday weekend but it might as well have been! The late summer, early fall seasons provide some of the best redfish fishing here on the Texas coast. So good, that before I can even finish making my plans to hit the coast, I usually come down with a serious bout of “redfish fever” — it’s the only thing on my mind. My last trip was fairly eventful but in an effort to enlighten others with the same experience, I brought along two longtime friends with the hopes of catching some big ones and having a whole lot of fun….and that we did.
During the fall months, redfish begin to group together into schools for feeding, mating and seasonal movement before winter. Over time, anglers have caught on to this annual “run” and they themselves begin to school into the back bays, flats and jetties along the coastline. Not only is the fishing phenomenal but the beaches tend to be free of seaweed, the water warm and crystal clear, and aside from fellow anglers and paddlers, there are far fewer people in the area. I personally consider this to be one of the best times of the year to be there, so off we were.
Before we left, I had to deal with the fact that my midsize SUV could only hold one or maybe two kayaks at a time but by utilizing a Thule Stacker, I was able to load all three Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120’s with room to spare for one more. We (and our kayaks) arrived safely and it was time to wet our lines.
We launched into one of the many back bays with live shrimp and fresh dead menhaden as bait and paddled about a mile and half before reaching the cut, leading to a destination that always proves to hold a few fish. My comrades were impatiently excited and begin to fish before we even get out of the channel. Despite the fact that I am trying to shake off this “redfish fever”, I patiently paddle on a little farther and find a shallow point at the intersection of three waterways. I toss a shrimp under a popping cork and within a few seconds, BAM the fever is broken and I have my first keeper on the stringer!
As the day went on, we split up and explored the bay each on our own, all secretly wishing to find the best fishing hole first. I spotted a small school of reds just under the bow of my yak so decided to quietly drop anchor and cast a few lines out. Glad I did because from this point on, every time my friends looked over my way, my rod was doubled over — this was quite possibly one of the best fishing days I have ever experienced in a kayak. I caught my limit in reds released the rest and even landed a few small trout, a bonnethead shark, a large mullet, skipjack, pin-perch and absolutely no hardheads or stingrays. What more could an angler ask for? A few redfish also made it onto my buddy’s kayaks but before we knew it, the south wind picked up and it was time to head back home.
As I was getting beat in a game of horseshoes on the beach, I wondered if the next day would be as good? No way, not possible. Two awesome days of fishing in a row? Never.
After two seconds of discussion a unanimous vote puts us back in the exact same waters as the previous day. However, as noon rolled around nobody caught anything and our hopes were fading fast. We did see some fellow anglers in the distance catching reds all morning long. No luck for us so we decided it was time to stalk the flats on foot. With my kayak anchored down, I began wading in about four feet of water and threw two lines out. Once again BAM! One doubles over, I set the hook but I miss. I reload, shoot again but this time I’m fighting what I believe is a keeper. The sky brightens, the clouds clear and the fear of going home empty-handed on day two begins to subside. The tide turns and so does the fishing. I turn around to scope out the horizon only to be greeted with two reels zipping away — both mine. I grab one and then the other, set both hooks and perform an awkward dance of holding and alternating between two fighting redfish shooting through the water like bullets. Game on! In the background, my two friends and what seemed like everyone else on the flat is cheering me on like it’s the game of the season and the last shot determines the championship. It turns out that one of the two fish was a half-inch too short so I released her. However, within a few minutes my rod doubled over again and once again, I finished off the day with a full stringer. That night, we enjoyed fresh redfish, fried and blackened at Jay’s Seafood and Spaghetti Works in Port Aransas, Texas.
The trip was over far too quickly and instead of curing my “redfish fever” it simply spiked it even more. So much that I’m considering heading right back down for another weekend of phenomenal fall fishing in Texas soon. If you ever get a chance to visit the area during this time of the year, I high recommend it and be sure to bring your kayak or rent one from one of our stores.
Kristian @ACK Austin
P.S. We couldn’t leave without first walking down the jetties to see what others were catching and knowing that it’s a good time of the year for catching bull reds in the surf. Sure enough, we saw a lot of them being caught. I enjoy keeping a few fish for dinner here and there but these larger reds are not good for eating and are in prime spawning age groups. Here is some age/size information to use before you consider eating that 35-year-old bottom feeding fish that just gave you the fight of a lifetime. Take a picture, throw it back!
Redfish Age and Size*
1 year = up to 15″
2-5 year = 15-29″
6-10 year = 29-38″
11-35 year = 38-44″
*These are rough estimates from a variety of resources. Accurately determining age can be difficult due to habitat, gender, health and a variety of other factors.
A coastal kayak fishing adventure by ACK Employee, Kristian Kolflat
I hadn’t planned on getting struck by the whip-like harpoon-resembling barbed tail of a large stingray, but as I shuffled foot-by-foot in the waist deep, mucky-waters of the back bays of Port Aransas’ world-class fishing waters, this seemed more and more likely. “Always shuffle your feet,” an old friend preached to me for years.
This trip began in Austin, where my girlfriend Jacqie and I packed my high-mileage, hail-beaten, scratched, yet ‘mint’ condition Nissan Pathfinder. After loading two Wilderness Systems Tarpon Kayaks (120 & 140), the necessary paddling accessories, fishing equipment, beach gear, food and firewood, we headed due-south towards the Texas coastline. Final destination: Port Aransas, TX. Fourteen Dairy Queen’s, AKA “Texas Stop Signs” and countless nameless towns later we reached the coastal flats where we would later be kayaking. As we waited in line for the free ferry ride over to the island I day-dreamed about the sun and sand, but mostly the fish. Tomorrow would be my birthday and I had no intention of doing anything other than sitting on the beach, swimming in the ocean, playing horseshoes and doing countless 12 oz. curls while watching the sea gulls glide over the gleaming swell of the Gulf of Mexico. All this did occur but only after a mandatory 5-mile run on the beach — Thanks Jacqie!
The following morning, I was prepared to come face-to-fin with a whale of a fish. I was plenty hydrated and my nutritional needs were met by a wonderful seafood platter from Jay’s Seafood and Spaghetti Works the night before.
Gear check: A Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140 with it’s lovely Phase 3 Seating, hassle-free Orbix hatches, adjustable foot pegs and countless bungees; an older model Tarpon 120 (which paddles the same as the newer ones, but requires a butt cushion) and a Werner Camano full carbon straight-shaft paddle that weighs in right at 25 oz. Imagine paddling with a feather rather than a sledgehammer? Lucky for me, I had the feather. Other accessories included a couple of dry bags, dry boxes, PFD’s, whistles, flares, biodegradable soap, soft-sided NRS coolers, neoprene wading boots, bruce-style claw anchors with rope, clips and anchor floats and a Mud Stick anchor (I highly recommend). Right about now you’re probably thinking, “how do you fit all on that on the boat?” Oh yea, let’s not forget the fishing gear: two Penn reels accompanied by Falcon rods, tackle, landing net, bait bucket, bait and of course a map of the area. I assure you that my gluttony for gear is not the only reason I come so heavily prepared. It’s the shear ruggedness of the coastal environment and countless encounters with despair that cause your hope to crumple beneath your waders all the while making you realize what you’ll bring next time. Believe me when I say that it’s not so much a problem fitting all this on the kayak, it’s the time it takes to pack and unpack all of this gear that hurts. I always plan on setting aside extra time for this very reason.
There we were, finally on the water. After loading up the kayaks at the Lighthouse Lakes public area off of Hwy 361 we paddled across the Aransas Channel. We were not alone, several other ambitious and hopeful kayakers had beat us to the spot, so we went deeper into the Lighthouse Lake’s endless channels of mangroves and bird sanctuary islands. The waters are shallow but crystal clear. Here, people sight fish for red’s, a protected and much-prized game fish, hoping to launch a bait front and center of their flaring nares (nostrils). As we paddled through this magical place, I kept an eagle-sharp eye on the mirror-surfaced water looking for several things including tailing redfish, ripples and anything with a fin on it! I have caught many fish in the flats around this area but I can say that it is not without effort. The waters can be rough and the winds can be devastating. While the fishing can be world-class or non-existent and let’s not forget violent thunderstorms can come in un-announced. This is not a place for kids. You must be prepared to give it your all, or die trying. All joking aside, kayak fishing is a sport that must be taken seriously and you must be well prepared.
After paddling several miles, we began our return to the channel but first stopped in South Bay. Here I skimmed over a lost sheepshead and decided that this spot was fishy enough. I used my mud stick anchor to quickly anchor and proceeded to bait up. I was using both thawed menhaden (shad) and live shrimp for bait. After only a few minutes my rod doubled over and started making that sound that fishermen dream of. I set the hook and began the fight. I am at this point pretty confident that I have a redfish on the end of my line and that its going to give me its best gift — a challenge. I fight this fish in as it melts line off my reel making its powerful runs. Soon enough it surfaces and flashes its gorgeous humpback sized-tail with a nickel-sized black dot. Suddenly, Aerosmith’s “I’m Back in The Saddle” starts playing in a silent frequency that leaves my girlfriend looking puzzled as I play the air guitar with my fishing rod. The day has just taken a turn for the best, when suddenly this stubborn hardheaded fish makes a run directly at me, pivots, then hightails around the boat and gets wrapped up in my anchor line. It wasn’t the Discovery Channel landing I was hoping to share with you, but nonetheless this 25-inch red was available for a quick supra-surface photo shoot.
As for the stingrays; as many times as I slid out over the edge of my mango colored Tarpon 140, I always made sure to shuffle my feet and slowly land onto the underwater soft-bottom. Many times I saw these bottom feeding creatures eye me with their beady little eyes as they swam just past me. As with gators and crocs in the Everglades, grizzlies and buffalo in Yellowstone and the snakes of swampy Caddo Lake, my motto remains “if you don’t mess with them, they won’t mess with you.”
Have you paddled and fished Lighthouse Lakes? I hope to make it back soon but in the meantime, share your story with us!
I am hard pressed to remember a day of fishing that was quite so wildly unsuccessful as the day that Kristian and I spent fishing the lower Colorado. I mean we could not pull a fish out of that river to save our lives. We paddled a 14-mile stretch of the Colorado that goes from the crossing with Farm Road 969 to Fisherman’s Park in Bastrop. The water was fairly high; apparently this time of year they let a lot of water go to flood the rice fields further south. At the rate the current was moving we were able to mostly drift the whole way, which we did without as much as a nibble the entire way. I don’t recall there being anything that even resembled a bite. In fact the savageness with which we were skunked still stings a little.
This is not to say that the day was entirely uneventful. I did receive a lesson in the caution that should be applied when using an anchor in a strong current. I was paddling a Wildnerness Systems Commander 120, which is a hybrid canoe for those of you who are unfamiliar with it. I tied my anchor off to the rail that holds the seat and slowly fed out the anchor line until I felt the anchor bouncing off the bottom. All of a sudden the anchor line came tight and my kayak stopped like it had hit a brick wall. The anchor line started pulling the upstream side of the boat under and even though I was leaning hard over to the other side of the boat I only had about an inch and a half of freeboard keeping the water out of the boat. Having neither an anchor float nor an anchor trolley I was a little unsure of how to work out of my predicament. I could not untie or cut it off partly because of the tension on the line and partly because I was determined not to lose Kristian’s anchor. If I had had an anchor trolley I could have just run the anchor line up to the front of the boat and it would have taken most of the tension off. I sat pondering these easy alternatives as I tried to muscle boat around to where it was pointing up stream. Eventually this effort was successful and I was able to get the anchor out once I was up stream of it. But had I capsized the boat in that situation it would have been really really ugly. I’m quite sure I would have been trying to explain to my boss how I managed to sink a boat in a river that had almost no obstacles or hazards of any kind. Well live and learn.
Fortunately all the fun I had with the anchor was only about three minutes into the trip and the rest of the day went smoothly. Kristian had to spend some time running away from water moccasins but I never saw them. I think he may have just been running from figments of his imagination. After all, the heat can do funny things to people. There was also a group of clowns who decided to pull their john boat into the tiny cove we were fishing and start up and shut off their motor ten or fifteen times. I mean really figure out where you want to go and go there already. Once I could no longer see Kristian through the clouds of smoke their engine was emitting I decided it was time to push on. It is easy enough to not catch fish just about anywhere, so no need to hang out in a thick cloud of exhaust smoke. I could have done that in the parking lot.
As I paddled on, I really came to appreciate the river’s characteristics consisting of stone bluffs, pastures and a variety of small islands which provided a very picturesque and bucolic setting for a relaxing day of paddling. We stopped at Fisherman’s Park and grilled up some steaks which went a long way toward removing my bitterness toward the fish of the lower Colorado. I hope that I have in no way deterred any one from paddling this stretch of river because it really is very pleasant and all things said and done we had a great day on the water!