Casting for a Cause- Chris’s Story

I got the opportunity to fish the Casting for a Cause tournament for the second year in a row last week.  The word tournament might be featured in the name but the event is far more than a tournament.  The people that come to this event are there to support injured veterans.  As the child of a Purple Heart Recipient from the Vietnam conflict this hits home for me.  The opportunities that CFAC and Heroes on the Water provide veterans is amazing. Continue reading Casting for a Cause- Chris’s Story

Fishing with the Birds

Since my last post, it became validated, birding from a kayak is pretty darn cool! I continue to work on improving my fishing skills and while I don’t get much better, I can think of a lot worse things to do with my day than spending it in a kayak casting and watching nature work it’s magic. This time, my plan was to fish but I also made it a point that when I came across any bird, I would take notes to later identify it.

The weather was perfect for what turned out to be a great day spent at Lake Bastrop here in central Texas. I took a Hobie Pro Angler 12 out on the water a little after 8am. The pedal drive function was great for quick turns and positioning. I was alternating between a weed less worm and a lipless crank bait trying to drum up some action when I spotted a large bird in the weeds!  I moved myself into position and stayed real quite taking notes.

  • Brown and white Egret looking bird
  • Long pointy beak, yellow tipped
  • Yellow bent legs and orange eyes

So exciting! The bird stayed so still completely unaware of what I was doing. I kept my distance and tried to get a picture. Without a lens it just looks like an out of focus picture of a tree. When I finally got to do my research on what it was, I discovered that I had witnessed an American Bittern.

Six hours into it, I’ve caught no fish, which is just mind boggling at Lake Bastrop. The fish practically caught themselves here when Jason Voorheis tormented everyone during the last Friday the 13th movie, which turns out to have been filmed right here on Lake Bastrop. So no fish, but I cataloged 5 new birds I had previously never seen or even noticed in my past pre-birding lifestyle. I also saw plenty of other wildlife including a snake. Instead of feeling like a failure I left feeling very successful and even more inspired than ever before! I can’t wait to hit the coast and look for birds there soon.

Chris @ACK

Grackle Watching

ACK’s Chris Hackerd, co-owner and VP of Store Operations, recently discovered a passion for bird watching. Follow him through a series of blogs documenting his adventures as he partakes in a series of trips to gratify his newfound hobby. In his first of many, Chris tells us all about how it all got started.

I recently watched a movie, that when it was in theaters, I thought looked like a poor attempt to revive the essence of Steve Martin in the great Three Amigos. It is called A Big Year and the cover reeked of poor slapstick comedy. But when I finally watched it I found myself completely involved in world of birding or bird watching. It was fascinating and I had to learn more.

I spent days learning about the sport, hobby, obsession or whatever you want to call it and now I am hooked. My friends and co-workers think I’m loony, but they’re used to ridiculous stories from me. Usually though, it’s stories that end with “…can’t believe I didn’t get [insert adjective here]” (maimed, dead, broken would be a few good examples). Birds, really? I see birds every day so how could this be exciting? Well it’s the identification of species and the investigation to what I’m looking at that inspires me. My first bird I successfully located was a Grackle. If you’re snickering at me, I get it. My wife was quick to dismiss my excitement at locating a bird that is literally found by the thousands in Austin. The fact of the matter was, I didn’t know what it was and my life never really required me to learn what it was.

I now have a life list I’ve created to catalog the birds I’ve seen. I need a camera with a lens because these dang birds will not sit still long enough for me to figure out what the heck they’re sometimes! Here is a setup that I am considering using. I’ve got the iPhone and I own a set of binoculars so I figured this would be all I need. I also got my son a set of binos as well so he can trail along with me and help! I have pamphlets and waterproof notebooks to keep notes in.

The next step is to incorporate my new passion and my job. I’ve got an opportunity coming up to get on the water in a pedal driven kayak for a few days and I plan to fully engage in my new hobby! Hands free bird watching on the water, I’m such a dork but I like it!

Do you bird watch from a kayak? Any advice or suggestions for a newbie?

Chris @ACK

Visit to the Heart of the Paddling World – Part 5 of 5

Chris Hackerd, VP of Store Operations and one of three ACK co-owners, is an avid mountain biker, birder, ‘yak angler and all around outdoors-man. Recently, Chris traveled east to North Carolina to celebrate his grand mother’s 80th birthday and took the opportunity to visit many of the manufacturers based out of the area including Confluence, Legacy, WernerEnoAstralFeel Free/Pyrahna. Below is part five of his trip. See part four here.

Dinver at Pyrhana is getting anxious for my arrival as I pull up to their facility.  The building they are in is an old textile factory and it is amazing.  I want to buy it and live in it.  I get lost and stumble on secret doors and hallways.  The wood floors are beautiful and unrefined with scratches and nails in no particular pattern. You can tell there used to be windows where there are now walls and the roof has a turret like an old style castle. I’ve been searching for Dinver for about 10 minutes and I finally just start yelling his name…to my delight he responds!

I get a tour of the facility which looks like a kayak had a slumber party and invited it’s closest 1,000 friends.  Kayaks are packed in high and tight everywhere, they had anticipated my excitement over the Moken 10 Lite and already had one on the floor cut out of the plastic for me to inspect.  I looked it over and then started measuring it…They asked me what I was checking for they could tell me dimensions.  I wanted to see if it would fit in the overhead compartment of the plane.  I got kayaks to sell!

It’s been a long day and it’s time to hit downtown Asheville we run into Pyrhana team paddler Crystal Gustin and I ask her about what she enjoys about being a team paddler.  Besides the discounts on gear which comes in handy as a “highly” paid educator.  The opportunity to meet people and educate women paddlers motivates her.  More people paddling and caring for the rivers is what I think a lot of us hope for.

Well the work part of my trip is over and now it’s time to get with the family.  This was an exceptional trip and a great way to put faces with names and voices.  I love the passion of our sport and see big things for the future.

Thanks for reading my series of reports, this is it for now!

Chris@ACK

Event Recap: Fly Fishing Downtown Austin, Texas

Last week I got to step into the Paramount Theatre here in Austin, Texas for the first time and catch the 2012 Fly Fishing Film Tour and to represent ACK as a sponsor of the event. It was a neat evening with many familiar faces. I have seen many of these folks in our stores or at CCA (Coastal Conservation Association) events, but a lot of people I had never seen, and mostly because fly fisherman can be a pretty subdued bunch. They aren’t looking for a high catch count as much as the perfect cast, presentation and of course the land. I consider myself to be an amateur fly fisherman and really do enjoy the sport but in some circles I am deemed “the worst fisherman on the planet” — I at least find peace in the cast and man, these movies make me want to get better!

My top 3 movies of the night were:

The Kodiak Project – I have longed to visit Alaska for many years. I think its beautiful country and this wild bunch of fellas seem like the kind of group I would fit right in with. I laughed so hard when I saw the guy in the bear costume and the fella I thought looked like an accountant turned out to be a Deadhead…Rock on! He could still be an accountant for all I know but he was slaying the steel head. An all around great video that got me excited to plan a trip.

Eli Sierra - Proud owner of a beautiful Wenonah Argosy Canoe donated by ACK

Reverb – I liked this movie for the sheer weirdness of 3 guys entrenched in the Chicago punk rock scene finding common ground in, of all things, fly fishing. How does that happen? Punk rock is angry, loud and in your face…and fishing is, well, the exact opposite unless you like the lunacy of Mike Iaconelli. I’m not much of a fan of Iaconelli; act like you’ve been there before bro. Now if I caught a fish I would do a back flip out of my kayak…errr fall out of my kayak and tell people I was attempting a back flip.

Doc Of The Drakes – Just a touching piece about a guide and a retired doctor with Parkinson’s Disease chasing big fish after the hatch. The story was just the right pace to reflect on where you’ll be when fishing may not be the easiest thing to do anymore. The spirit of the outdoors still lived in Doc and I’m sure his guide learned a lot about life.

All in all an outstanding night! Got me fired up for the CCA banquet and I’m crossing my fingers that this is the year I finally win some prizes.

Chris @ACK

Thule Regional Dealer Conference Dual Report

A captive audience of Thule authorized dealers.

Chris: I got to attend the Thule Regional Conference in Houston recently and it was very informative. The majority of the information and knowledge was geared towards dealers servicing customers better but I also took away some interesting tidbits of information. Did you know that Thule has a 5-day shake test on products? They take a new product and put it in a paint shaker type machine and shake the living daylights out of it for 5 days to see if it will stay together! The majority of Thule products are made in the USA and they have been innovating products for 70 years.

The day was interesting and we got to get real hands-on with some of Thule’s newer products. It was great meeting dealers and buyers from other areas. It was shocking how many dealers had never installed a Thule rack and how proud I was of our staff for knowing how to fit and install with pride…and without an additional charge to our customers. – Chris @ACK

It was a great experience with something we could take back to our customers.

Andrew: The craziest thing I learned at the conference was that Thule got its start manufacturing decorative belt buckles then transitioned into auto parts in the 60’s and that the company that builds the Thule tire chains began as a chained armor manufacturer for knights.

I am also glad to have learned that the 2012 Thule Fit Guide now includes fit measurements for Trunk Bike Mounts and Cargo Boxes. The new trunk bike mounts include a dial to lock in the fit instead of the hooks attached to webbing like most other trunk mounts.

I really enjoyed learning more about Thule and look forward to sharing this knowledge with our customers. – Andrew @ACK Houston

Major props to Thule for taking the time, effort and absorbing the expense for this unique opportunity, it was well worth the effort. This type of event always translates to better customer service and improved knowledge and confidence for our associates.

Dreaming of a Texas Water Safari

Every year, about this time, I start thinking and dreaming about attempting the Texas Water Safari.  It’s a ridiculously challenging 260-mile kayak/canoe race to the Gulf of Mexico from the central Texas area on the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers. I’m fascinated by the race and the people that compete in it. I like to think that someday I could be stepping up to the start line down on the San Marcos river and giving it a go. Right now I need to get myself in some other shape than round to even think about it though. I feel like I would have to have a partner as well, I’m crazy enough to try it but probably not crazy enough to deal with the voices in my head. Chris @ACK

Kayak Camaraderie – It’s Everywhere

I stopped on my way to San Marcos to get a sandwich last week and was thoroughly enjoying my lunch when another guest of the sandwich shop asked me if the kayaks on that car out there were in fact mine. I acknowledged that they indeed were. He gave me the run down on his setup, asked me about mine and we talked about new boats he was looking at.  He asked if I was a forum member and I acknowledged I was a member of TexasKayakFisherman.com and AustinKayakFishing.com. Our little sport has a lot of camaraderie to it. It’s nice that he felt comfortable enough to ask a total stranger that question and that we could engage in chit chat over our sandwiches. I’m not sure his female companion enjoyed me monopolizing his time but it is what it is. Chris @ACK

Drive By Paddler

Where are they going?

I’ve been making the drive to Houston to visit our store for so long now that I’ve begun to develop stories and relationships with the towns and sites I see. It’s funny the things I notice and don’t notice while I drive. I get to cross the Brazos river when I take the 290 route. When I take the 71 route I get to see the Colorado river. I’m always looking for a paddler during that brief moment that I am crossing but assume people are probably at work. It’s nothing like the view in downtown Austin where it’s pretty much a paddlers paradise in either direction — all the time. Then there is the San Marcos River when I visit our store down in that area. I often see people paddling. Do you look when you pass a body of water? Do you check out kayaks on other peoples roof racks when they pass and come up with stories about where they might be headed? I sure do. – Chris @ACK

Hello Luke…Welcome to ACK San Marcos!

Luke Patranella, mapping it all out on the Grand Canyon

We’d like to take a quick moment to introduce Luke Patranella, ACK San Marcos Store Manager. Luke was born and raised in San Antonio, TX and attended school at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches where he majored in business. Soon after graduating he moved to the mountains of Colorado where eventually he ended up with two great seasonal jobs. In the winter he worked at the Loveland Ski area in a sport shop and as a whitewater rafting guide during the summer months. He spent a total of five seasons as a commercial rafting guide along with kayaking on his free time in Colorado, Utah, Arizona and West Virginia so he is no stranger to whitewater.  Luke told us that the highlight of is career was paddling all 300 miles of the Grand Canyon, twice — first in 2009 and again in 2010. According to Luke, he is very happy to be back in Texas and working for Austin Canoe and Kayak — we are too.

If you get a chance, stop by the store to help us welcome him aboard or comment below. If you have any rafting or whitewater kayaking questions, he’s the man to ask!

Chris @ACK