Pigs in a Tent…Well Almost

Yeah, we know, more gear than we needed but we made it work! Photo by Carlos Mata

Back in January, I wrote a short article ranting about partaking in new adventure this year. Shame on me, two full months later and I had yet to do any of it, that is until just recently. I agreed to join a friend of mine on a 36 mile kayak camping trip on a stretch of the Texas Colorado River a few weeks ago that neither one of us had ever paddled. With unseasonably warm temperatures here and a busy new year both at work and home I figured why not?

While we were paddling a new stretch, I am no stranger to kayak camping. I’ve got a great gear setup that I have compiled over the years utilizing a Wilderness Syetems Commander 140. Everything I need is already set to go in a group of pre-defined dry bags and boxes. Problem was my current gear setup is meant for a one night trip so off I was to ACK.com to select some gear for “product testing” (a fine perk we enjoy as employees of ACK).

Staying Off the Grid (Sort of)

Goal Zero Nomad 7

We were planning to paddle 36 miles over the course of 3 days, this meant I needed to figure out a way to keep my phone charged in case of an emergency or to…ya know, post on our Facebook page. One of our buyer’s recommended the Goal Zero Nomad 7. It’s a small portable solar charger combined with a speaker system that connects right into my iPhone. I was impressed! It not only charged my phone in about an hour but the speakers weren’t all that bad either. The biggest challenge was remembering to set it up prior to launching every morning. It’s not waterproof nor is my iPhone so I was worried about having keep it dry while paddling. I was not impressed with how the different pieces stored. It would be great if they made it so that it was an all-in-one package that could be separated if needed because right now I have a solar panel and a speaker system that, while they work together, don’t store well together. It’s pretty much two separate products that connect via a wire. Would be nice if the speaker system could double up as device that holds your solar panels in place. Nevertheless, this product proved valuable and the music was a perk at the campsite!

Stohlquist Contact Gloves

Keeping Warm and Protecting My Face and Hands

While warm during the day, we woke up to a frozen tundra…well not really but it was a bit too cold for these Texas boys. I knew my hands and face would be the most vulnerable to not only the cold, but dry winds and bright sunny days.

I have some wimpy hands (yeah I admit it) so I wanted to keep them warm but more importantly wanted to avoid dealing with blisters on a 36-mile trip. I picked up a pair of Stohlquist Contact Fingerless Gloves. To sum it up, warm enough, dry quickly when wet, love the fingerless features (see picture) but most of all the contact between my hands and paddle felt great.

Buff Headwear

With dry sunny days and cold mornings in the forecast, I knew I would appreciate the use of a Buff Multifunctional Headwear. And, by using a Buff, I avoided chapped lips, wind and sun burned skin and at the same time was able to keep my ears warm during our early morning paddles when temperatures were in the mid-30s. I also used it to keep my neck and face warm while sleeping — truly multifunctional. Yeah, I may have looked a little odd but was well worth it when reaping its benefits.

Protecting My Life-Line

Another new item I took with me was the Aquapac Mini Whanganui Electronics Case 108. Designed for any device that’s about the size of an iPhone it was the perfect solution for keeping my phone safe and accessible. I submerged it a few times to test it’s reliability and sure enough, it was as dry as can be. We sell a variety of cases for iPhones but was interested in something that would still allow me the ability to use it without having to open it. The clear back of the case allows for this and was surprisingly responsive. My only gripe about this product is that trying to get the phone out of the case was difficult because the phone sticks to the clear plastic.

A Trip Worth Taking

Wild pigs spotted along the banks of the Colorado River. Photo by Carlos Mata.

So enough of the product reviews, you are probably wondering what the reference to “pigs” in the title is all about. Here in Texas we are no stranger to wild pigs. They are typically wary of humans and are long gone before you even see them, that is unless you are dumb enough to set up your camp write smack in the middle of their trail.

We woke up to what sounded like no less than 10 pigs racing through our campsite, literally inches from our tent. So close, I could hear every breath, snort and step. My only thought was that at one point or another, a giant mama pig protecting her young or foraging for food was going to come crashing into one of our tents. I held my breathe for what felt like forever and just like that, they were gone. Needless to say, I slept with one ear open the rest of the night.

Reality is, this trip could not have gone any better. We ran into some low water issues, in fact the water never got much deeper than 3 feet in most areas. Otherwise, mild daytime temperatures, accessible islands to camp on, useful gear, amazing food, good conversation and the awesome sights and sounds of the Colorado River made for one of the best river camping trips I have ever taken.

Interested in kayak camping? Check out this diagram I put together several months ago highlighting recommended gear and suggestions on how to pack it.

Scroll down to see the rest of the pictures!

Roland @ACK

 

Kayak Fishing 101

We realize that not everyone that buys a kayak from ACK is looking to wet a line (lingo for casting a fishing line into the water) but we also know some of you may be curious or in some cases ready to jump right in. While fishing from a kayak is almost as simple as fishing off the bank, you do need to consider a few differences. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of outfitting your kayak for fishing, what to expect on your first fishing adventure and a couple of tips to make your experience a safer more enjoyable one.

Outfitting Your Kayak

Native Watercraft Manta Ray outfitted with a few basic accessories geared towards kayak fishing.

Fact of the matter is you really don’t need much to get your kayak outfitted for fishing. When somebody asks me what it takes to turn a kayak into a fishing kayak, I jokingly say “grab a rod next time you go paddling and go fish”. While that holds a lot of truth, the reality is there is a massive selection of products to help make your experience a better one. While many anglers customize their boats with hundreds of dollars worth of gear, you can start with a few basic items.

Rod Holder – Get your rod out of the way and secure it.
You need something to keep your rods in place. Your boat can flip or your rod can get hung up on a tree. Last thing you want to do is lose your rod and reel combo. Rod holders are typically made of plastic material and can be mounted with bolts or rivets. Three of the most typical applications include:

Scotty Baitcaster (Secure Mounted Rod Holder)

Flush Mounted Rod Holder - A tube that is inserted into your kayak or sometimes molded into the boat. The end of the rod is simply inserted into the tube and can then be secured with a rod leash. Flush Mount Rod Holders are usually installed behind the seat on the top deck area.

Secure Mounted Rod Holder - Provides a more secure hold than a Flush Rod Holder by “grasping” your rod and reel. You’ll typically find these installed on the center of the deck between your lower legs and sometimes behind the seat.  The adjustability of these make them a popular choice when you want to keep your rod tips pointed lower than the flush mount option allows.

Kayak Crate/Tackle Boxes - Another popular option combines both tube like rod holders with a crate or boxed in area with a lid to store and protect your gear all in one easy to manage package.

Anchors – Stop your boat or you may miss the fish.
Like fishing from a motorboat, you’ll want to stay put when you find that “honey hole”. Securing your kayak in a specific location is key when fishing and there is no better way to do it than with a small anchor and line. Since you are limited on space and capacity, don’t get anything over 3 lbs. The two that we recommend are:

Folding Anchors - Folding anchors tend to be the most popular design due to their ability to provide a good hold in most environments and their portability.

Claw Anchor - If you want an anchor that can hold you in place even in the softest bottoms this is the anchor you need. It may not be as portable as a folding anchor but you can rest assured you won’t be going anywhere.

Coiled Paddle Leash

Paddle Leash – When a fish is on, the last thing on your mind will be your paddle.
Secure your paddle. We’ve all heard the term “up the creek without a paddle” — avoid it. By installing a simple device that secures your paddle to your boat, you’ll never have to worry about losing a paddle when you catch the “big one”. One end simply ties to a piece of hardware or installed accessory on the boat and the other to your paddle shaft. The leash is typically coiled or made of a “bungee” material. Most kayaks also have built in paddle tie downs but leashes are easier to deal with when in the moment.

That’s about all you’ll need to get started assuming you already purchased a paddle and PFD. However, you will find hundreds if not thousands of great products made specifically for kayak fishing such as anchor trolleys, drift chutes, kayak rudders, stake out poles and much more. Here is an older article I published featuring other gear you may want to consider.

What to Expect When Kayak Fishing

Planning Ahead – Fishing can be addictive. What was supposed to be a one-hour fishing trip can easily turn in to half a day excursion especially when the fish aren’t biting. Expect to fish longer than you plan and be prepared. Load up a small ice chest with plenty of water, snacks and a sack lunch. Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and/or apparel made for spending long periods of time outdoors.

Introducing gear to your kayak adds weight, launch with care.

Launching Your Boat – As you prepare to launch your boat, keep in mind that with all the extra gear you have, it may paddle a bit differently than you are used to. Balance your gear with the heaviest items towards the center of the boat. When launching, be aware that depending on how much gear you’ve loaded, your freeboard (boat out of the water) may be less than you than what you typically experience. Launch with care.

Understanding Fish From Above – I am not a fish expert but I do know that they are extremely skittish. The good news is that with a kayak and what makes kayaks a popular choice is their “stealthiness”. As you creep closer to your honey hole, you can easily glide into position with a few gentle paddle strokes. Just be careful not to bang your boat when putting your paddle down and lifting a rod, the slightest bump will scare them away. Want to see what you’re casting at? If the water clarity is somewhat clear, get some polarized glasses, stand up and do a little sight casting. Boat not stable enough? Get a pair of these bad boy stabilizers.

Casting off a Kayak – For many, the idea of casting off a kayak seems awkward. Sure many kayaks are made for fishing and extreme movements may be not match but for those with tippier kayaks, this could pose a problem. Practice your cast and reaching around your kayak (tankwell, dry hatches, etc.) before you launch into deeper waters. It’s all about using more arm than body and casting with a bit of finesse. The same applies if not more to casting while standing. If the water favors it, many kayak anglers side straddle their kayaks meaning they sit side ways while their legs dangle in the water. Keeps you cool but also provides a general feeling of balance and many find it a bit more comfortable of a position especially if paddling and fishing for long periods of time. A general rule of thumb is to always keep your body upright and your head centered over your kayak. If you lean over in any direction too far — splash!

Norton Fish Grips

Catching a Fish – So what do I do when I catch a fish on a kayak? May seem like a silly question but for those that have never fished off a kayak, this is a very important one. Make sure your hook is set and stay focused. Keep a tight line by holding your rod up above your head (watch out for those trees) while you double check to make sure your paddle is secure. If you are anchored down, try to steer your fish away from the anchor line or this could quickly get messy. Once you reel your fish close enough to land it (always leave some slack in your line), do take care in how you handle the fish especially if you plan to catch and release. Fish have a protective coating so try to avoid holding the fish with your hands but if you do (photo op, release, etc.) be gentle. I always recommend a fish grip designed to do just this and carry a pair of pliers or forceps to remove hooks. There tends to be a lot of difference in opinions when it comes to catching and releasing fish, here is a great article that I recommend you read. Finally, if you do plan to keep fish be sure to bring a fish cooler with you especially during the warmer months to keep your dinner cool and fresh.

Not Catching a Fish – You’ve heard the saying, “it’s not called catching for a reason” and for good reason, don’t expect to catch fish every single time you go fishing. I’ve got many friends and family who have all together given up fishing off a kayak because they didn’t catch anything on their first outing. Sure it may be the gear you are using but there is also a good chance that water and weather conditions are the culprit. Don’t loose hope, persistence is key. Do your research, see what’s working and what’s not. Don’t worry, you’ll catch one and when you do, I promise you’ll be hooked (pun intended)!

Safety! – Not to scare you out of kayak fishing but you are introducing the possibility of getting yourself hooked, bitten by a snake or some creepy crawler and dealing with less than ideal weather conditions. Of course this is the same with any paddling sport but as an angler, you will find yourself under trees, into waters full of vegetation and along banks making yourself more susceptible to encountering wildlife. Be cautions of your surroundings, always take a first aid kit and like any other paddling sport, wear a PFD! I can’t stress how important this. When flipping a kayak with all kinds of fishing gear, your first reaction may be to try and recover your hard earned dollars — stay focused on you instead, everything else can be replaced. I don’t think I need to tell you this but hey, it always helps to stay in tune with the weather forecast regardless of what outdoor adventure you plan to partake in.

Tips

Gear up but only take what you need!

Go Easy on The Gear - We could write an entire book on the type of actual fishing gear you’ll need but since it can vary so much by style, season, body of water and region, we’ll stick to the kayaking aspect for the sake of this article. That said, I recommend you do some research, find what’s biting and where and the gear other anglers are using. While many kayak anglers prefer to take everything but the kitchen sink, I prefer to keep it simple with only the gear I know I will use. Your boat deck is limited on space, so before you know it you’ll have hooks, worms and countless other items strewn across your boat. Keep it organized in a small tackle box or bag and place it in an easily accessible area.

Secure Your Gear – The best thing you can do to avoid losing your gear is to properly secure it. This includes your paddle, anchor, tackle boxes, etc. If you don’t have lash points, install some simple pad eyes and get some deck line. While bungee is great for securing a few large and light items, it may not hold up to some of your heavier gear such as a tackle box or ice chest. Tie it down!

Go With the One That Knows – Most kayak anglers are introduced to kayak fishing from those who already have some experience with it. That is hands down the best scenario. If you have yet to be invited, invite yourself or join a local forum or group. While competitive and sometimes secretive by nature, most kayak anglers are a friendly bunch and always willing to offer up some advice or even meet up with other anglers with same interests. Those with experience are a wealth of knowledge, learn from them. A word of advice, before you go posting “hey, I’m a newbie that’s never been kayak fishing, any advice?” do search the forums. Chances are, hundreds of others have already asked the same questions you are about to ask and the answers may be there right there in front of you.

Practice Safety – As referenced above, it may be a good idea to practice casting but also capsizing. During warmer months, I always advise paddlers (angler or not) to force themselves to turn their boats over in a controlled setting and practice getting back on a boat. It never hurts to take a class or two on paddling technique and safety.

Buff Headwear

Wear the Proper Apparel – I have to admit, it’s pretty silly when you go out kayak fishing only to find that most anglers are wearing similar outfits to what you have but for good reason, it’s apparel made for it. In warm weather, look for clothing that is light, loose fitting and dries quickly and long sleeves and pants that will keep you cool. Most performance fishing wear will do just this. Water gloves, face protection and hats are also recommended. For fishing during colder months you’ll want to layer up. Start with a base layer of a synthetic material such as this Immersion Research Thickskin Union Suit, a mid-layer of fleece and an outer layer of splash wear such as this NRS Endurance Jacket. The idea is that as the day warms up, you have the option to shed a layer or even two.

So there you have it, Kayak Fishing 101. Yep, there is so much more to it but I hope this starts you off in the right direction. As always, we want your feedback. Got your own tips, any experiences of your own you would like to share with those that have yet to try kayak fishing? Comment below, we want to know!

- Roland @ACK