Around the last week in April I received a phone call from Thomas, the owner of Diablo Paddlesports, about helping out for a local children’s event. He told me they would be working with Generation Outdoors to teach fatherless kids how to kayak and fly fish. The amount of kids that had rsvp’d for the event was growing in numbers by the minute and both Thomas and Generation Outdoors were worried that they wouldn’t have enough kayaks and adults to help staff the event. Of course I couldn’t leave them hanging and gladly gave him the thumbs up. The second we hung up I penciled it into my calendar and set about getting my hands on some rental kayaks and games.
Blade shape and paddling style – From a Fisherman’s perspective
Simply put, if you focus on a paddle that fits you it will means less fatigue, more time on the water and more fish in your boat. A lot goes into a great paddling paddle and each manufacture will happily tell their story, so do your research, try stuff out and make an informed decision. However the constant between all brands is that you are going to see two general blade shapes. They will differ some, but generally you’ll have short and fat or long and skinny. Each shape is designed specifically to perform better with your paddling style. Now sure you can use any blade, paddle however you want, but to get the most from your paddling match the blade shape to your paddling style. Let’s take a closer look.
Long and Skinny. This shape is for “Low-Angle” paddling. In this style your top hand is shoulder height during your stroke, and much more relaxed as it puts less pressure on your smaller muscle groups. This allows you to spend more time focusing on landing fish. Continue reading How to Choose a Paddle That’s Right For You
When most people think Texas, they think cowboy hats, horses, and country music. While some of that is certainly true, most people don’t associate Texas with great outdoor beauty. With high plains, rolling hills, and even a gulf coast, Texas offers a variety of gorgeous geography. In addition, Texas is home to 3,700 named streams and 15 major rivers. Kayaking in Texas can be quite the adventure with so many diverse ecosystems, making it one of the most beautiful states in the country to paddle in. Below is a list of some of our favorite kayaking spots in Central Texas.
Lady Bird Lake
Located in the heart of downtown Austin, TX, Lady Bird Lake is considered to be one of the best urban kayaking lakes in the state. Many think of Lady Bird Lake as a beautiful in-city playground that features spectacular downtown views as well as shady areas that make you feel like you’re in your own lake hideaway. If you paddle west of Mopac, you’ll get breathtaking views of the rolling hills that make up Central Texas. The section of Lady Bird Lake East of I-35 features great fishing opportunities for you anglers out there. Lady Bird Lake offers great sights of bat-watching under the Congress Avenue Bridge as well as access to live music along the shore. This area is great for paddlers that want an outdoor experience with close enough proximity to the liveliness of city life.
In the heart of the Hill Country, the Guadalupe River is a spring-fed, crystal clear river that is perfect for tubing, fishing, paddling, and swimming. Paddlers will discover class III rapids as well as long stretches of flat water. The Guadalupe is a river oasis that features tons of greenery consisting of cypress, sycamore, oak, and pecan trees. For you angling kayakers, the Guadalupe River is the only river in Texas that is home to trout year round.
As the 18th longest river in the US, the Colorado River is also the longest river with both its source and mount in Texas. The Colorado feeds throughout Central Texas and is known for its large width and slow-moving pace. This is a great place to visit for beginner kayakers that want to paddle in a place with no rapids or hazardous places. There is plenty of vegetation above and below water that shade fish as well as paddlers. As you travel south, banks steepen and become extremely scenic with cliffs and sandstone bluffs.
The Blanco River is located near Wimberley, TX and is typically recommended for medium to advanced paddlers. Its rolling hills and steep cliffs make paddling on this river a wild adventure embarked with gorgeous scenery. One quality about the Blanco is that you can only kayak down this river in flood conditions, which can be dangerous for paddlers. Normal water levels make much of this river too shallow to navigate. Another thing to keep in mind while paddling the Blanco is that parking is scarce, so if you can get someone to drop you off, the more relaxing adventure you will have.
If you’re ever lucky enough to venture into Central Texas, be sure to take advantage of the many places to kayak. The beauty and greenery that surround the water of the Hill Country is unmatched. And while you’re in the area, be sure to visit Austin Kayak. We’re your source for all things kayaking, canoeing, and hiking.
We asked all of you where you would paddle if you could choose anywhere in the world and received so many great answers that we decided to start a special column focused entirely on traveling! Wanderlust is in all of us and with our Facebook followers recommendations, we will guide you on a written tour of some potential adventures you may want to consider. The first one being the New River Gorge.
Feeling like you need a break from your routine? To get outside and smell the flowers? Well we have a place just for you. The New River, otherwise known as the Kanawha River, is about 320 miles long, stretching through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. The portion in West Virginia is known as the New River Gorge National River and is an American Heritage River. This river travels all the way from North Carolina to the Gulf of Mexico via the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Think of all the fishing! The New River gets its name from the difficulty that explorers had in tracking it down. Even though the discovery is relatively new, the river isn’t; it is the 3rd oldest river in the world! The first recorded exploration was in 1671, by Abraham Wood on a fur trading expedition, resulting in another name- Wood’s River.
This river is home to variety of exciting outdoor activities, both on and off of the water. Some of these activities include hiking, fishing, mountain biking, scenic float trips, kayaking, ziplines, and much more! The New River Gorge and the surrounding towns are also home to many local events and attractions. When you plan your kayaking trip, be sure to check out local event listings – there’s usually something fun going on. Every season has something amazing to offer in the New River Gorge – so no matter when you visit, you will get a great and unique experience. The spring is known for intense rafts and waves that come with higher water levels from the rain. The summer provides a great opportunity to experience all the activities the New River Gorge has to offer; without running out of daylight. The fall also has high water levels; and the breathtaking changing of the leaves. Wintertime is picturesque, serene, and a great getaway from urban life – even without the draw of water sports. The New River Gorge is versatile and inviting. Even the pickiest of guests are sure to find something to satisfy their sense of adventure. So, when you next get bit by the travel bug, make sure you make time to experience The New River Gorge!
As the second part of my on-boarding process here at ACK, I was tasked with working a half day at the Austin Store location. Much like my day in the warehouse, I was excited about this as it was going to be a new experience for me. As a long standing ACK customer prior to becoming an employee, I had been in the store many times. I went in frequently for new ideas and products to outfit my Diablo Chupacabra so I figured this day would be a breeze. I would come to find that things were definitely different on the staff side of the store experience.
As I started my day, things were normal and familiar until I received the section by section walk-through of the entire store. For me this was like a kid in a candy store. I got to look at how every section of the store was built and why. It’s truly about customer experience. I understood the layout from a customer perspective but it came together a little more when I looked at it from the staff perspective. Normally I would browse through products I normally need/use but the walk-through opened my eyes to many new products.
After the store walk-through I was introduced to the install service section. I had always known this was there but never went in. I came in at a good time as one of the team members was right in the middle of installing a rudder on the back of a Chup. This was perfect for me as this is a pending project on my list. The install team was good! They were quick, precise and obviously had done this many times. Next to the service area was the layaway section of the store. I never knew ACK had layaway program or I would have taken advantage of it a long time ago!
Next, I received a tour of the rental and boat storage. I never knew this section of ACK existed. This is where I learned about their huge stock of rental inventory. I got excited when I saw which boats were available to rent. I have a long list of boats I’ve been wanting to try, one being the Hobie Pro Angler. I’ll be taking this one out very soon!
The rental section wrapped up my tour and now it was time to work the floor. As customers came in I did my best with the kayak knowledge I had to give them a good experience. I walked several customers through kayak models and features. This was probably the best part of the day. I got to talk about kayaks with people who love kayaking; it doesn’t get much better than that.
While working the floor I got to experience the expertise of the store staff. When talking to customers they were able to dissect exactly what the customer’s needs were and point them into a kayak choice that made sense. I was impressed!
The rest of my time flew by. I thoroughly enjoyed working the store. When I was engaged with the customers, it didn’t feel like work- it felt like I was talking kayaks with some long time friends I had never met before. I guess that is one of the many great things about kayaking and the ACK community. Ultimately, I think my experience working for a half day at the Austin store allowed me to learn the ins and outs of what makes ACK so different from other outdoor retailers as well as a little extra knowledge in customer service.
What is the one accessory item you can always find in the tankwell of a kayak fisherman? If your answer was, ‘A milk crate!’ then you are 100% correct. Kayak fishermen use them to house all of their gear and even turn to some creative rigging to make their crates suit their style of fishing or needs. Let’s face the facts though. Not everyone out there who buys a milk crate wants to have to go and get extravagant with their crate designs. The typical modification that you find is the standard PVC pipe that is zip-tied into the corners of the crate to act as rod holders. Outside that, the standard milk crate is fairly plain in design. Now, with ACK introducing the ACKessories Milk Crate with Slide Trax Crate Rails, ANYONE can have a well thought out milk crate design that goes past just having some PVC strapped in.
This kit comes with everything you need to turn a 19″ x 13″ milk crate into a multi-functional kayak fishing accessory. With tapped holes to allow for the attachment of after market gear tracks, slots cut out to house pliers or fish grips, and even a slot that allows for a 5 gallon bucket to fit snug in the center of the crate that can be used as a live bait container. For the fisherman who enjoys having his PVC rod holders in his crate, there are four holes cut out in the corners to slide some PCV in to cure that itch.
The days of having to think out a milk crate design are over!
Below, Jerron Wosel, an ACK Buyer, demonstrates how to install the ACKessories Milk Crate with Slide Trax Crate Rails onto a kayak.
At ACK we love paddling for a number of reasons- but we don’t want to focus on why we are obsessed!
We took to our Facebook page and asked all of our customers what makes them want to go out
paddling and got some great answers. Y’all answered with everything from waking up to getting excited about the weather hitting 55 – so we thought we’d share a few with you.
Here are some of our favorites:
A bad week at work! Plus a beautiful sunny day!
A good 6 inch rain
When I’m out on the water all of the BS in life disappears for a while
Rain, snow, sleet, hail and even sun makes me want to go paddling
Good weather and good friends
Owning my first kayak I bought at demo day
Just being out there. Fishing is fun but the joy of paddling makes it special
It’s such a peaceful and relaxing time that I get to share with my husband/wife and no other distractions
Of course we cant forget about some of the smart answers y’all sent in like “I don’t need no stinkin’ reason!” and “Why would you need a reason?!”
We have to give it to them though- a paddler never needs a reason to get out on the water.
The Early Years
I have found that most people who enjoy the outdoors as adults were exposed to the joys of nature at an early age through a grandparent, uncle or parent. I however, was lucky enough to experience it with all three. I grew up hunting and fishing and enjoyed it all the way until I turned into a baseball obsessed teenager. After I discovered baseball, nature took a backseat. I had found a new passion and let that take over all of my time.
After high school I went to a college in East Texas (Go Kats!) that happened to be near a great state park and a wonderful lake. I spent many a class periods in the woods and along the shores of Lake Raven redeveloping my love of the outdoors. Unfortunately for me, not many of my fishing lessons from my childhood held over.
Back At It
I quickly realized that I wanted to get back into fishing so with a credit card and a dream I made my way to a nearby big box store. While shopping I called on my past experiences with two of my grandfathers – Grandpa River (a fisherman) and Grandpa Tractor (a farmer). I fondly remember fighting reds and speckled trout with my Grandpa River, my mom’s father, and his advice when it came to line. “Hardheads will eat your line if you let them” he always said as I clung to a long rod with a heavy line attached to even heavier sinkers. “Big bait gets the big fish” was another favorite of his and everyone knows that a child will always want the biggest! So with these memories in mind, I headed down the fishing aisle of the store and purchased some familiar look fishing gear. I made my purchases and walked out carrying a brand new long, heavy and strong fishing pole, thick as steel line, and some mean looking hooks. I also grabbed some heavy sinkers, bobbers, and other “essential” fishing items. “Yep.” I thought walking out, “Grandpa River would be proud!”
After my successful trip to get my gear I headed out to the lake where my buddy and I planned to go out fishing. When I pulled up my buddy gave me a funny look and laughingly asked if i planned on catching a gator. I asked in confusion, “No, why? Are there gators near by?” I found it both funny and odd that he was laughing at me but continued to unload my gear regardless. I finished unloading after about fifteen minutes- within that time my buddy had landed two bass and a cat! I then began to fix up my rig while he laughed again at my expense as I fumbled around with my new toys.
After a few more minutes of rigging I was finally able to get my bait- worms! – in the water. I remembered that I was fishing fresh water and that dead shrimp was not the best choice for the lake- well that and the store didn’t have any. As I waited for my bobber to sink I glanced over at my buddy’s pole and gear as well as another fellow’s gear who was fishing nearby and noticed that their poles were much smaller than mine. I began to wonder why when I felt a tug on my line- not much but it was something! I jerked the rod back causing me to lose the fish. “Oh well.” I thought to myself as I re-baited and got back in the water. This time I decided to keep the bait closer to the dock and use a giant worm wrapped around my hook. I was not going to miss this time!
I slowly reeled the worm in towards the dock and let it sit almost right about against it and then WHAM! My line took off. I tightened down the line and gave it a good strong pull back and before I knew it I was yelling DUCK! That fish took off like a rocket- flying out of the water faster than you could snap your fingers. My buddy once again, could not stop laughing.
You see, what I didn’t realize was that I was drawing on memories of fishing with my Grandpa River on the Texas Coast – not a shoreline dock in East Texas lake! I had always gone saltwater fishing with heavy rods and reels made for salt and offshore fishing; hence my earlier purchases. Needless to say, my 7 ft heavy action spin reel, much like a broomstick for offshore fishing, and 60lb mono line, which might as well have been rope, was a bit overkill for catching bass and cats off a dock. That cat took my bait in what was probably about 3 feet of water and had no idea what was in store for it.
After having a good laugh with my buddy over my flying cat, I decided then and there that I needed to consider some fishing lessons and reconsider my choice in gear. I quickly realized my buddy wouldn’t be able to stop laughing long enough to re-teach me how to fish but thankfully the gentleman on the other end of the dock was more than willing to share his fishing tips and knowledge. After a short conversation with him even my laughing buddy was was taking notes. After he gave me an hour long lesson, my passion for fishing was rekindled and I had a good idea of the new gear I needed to go purchase. I had a plan and I was going to dive head first in! Before that however, I was in need of a road trip- to the coast.
Author: Brad Martin, ACK Employee
We asked our Facebook fans, “What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a 1st time paddler?” Some of the responses were serious and some were just downright funny. Here’s 10 of our favorites:
1. Don’t go without wearing your PFD. — Advice from Don P., JT L., Gary L., Lisa W., Billy M., Jonathan B., Travis A., Michael P., Laura B., David F., Alan D., Heath G., Erica H., Eric B., Robert R., Chuck B., Lee H., Bobby C., Robin L. and Randy V.
When 20 paddlers give the same advice, you gotta think it’s important, huh?
2. Relax, breath deeply, and enjoy the view. — Advice from Loretta H.
3. You are going to get wet. Plan on it. — Advice from Don I.
4. Just enjoy yourself! You will never forget it! — Advice from Cathie G.
5. Remember, however far you go, you have to go the same distance to get back. — Advice from JW E.
6. Buy from Austin Kayak. — Advice from John M. Have to agree with this one!
7. Bring a fishing pole and enough beer for you and your kayak buddies you’ll meet along the river! — Taylor S.
8. Paddle faster if you hear banjos! — Advice from Norman T.
9. Your paddle is just as important as your kayak. — Advice from David T.
10. Tie your gear down! — Advice from Carla M.
Share your advice for 1st time paddlers by commenting below! The entire collection of responses can be found here.
Not too long ago I picked up a new Malone Scupper Cart and I’ve found it’s made it easy to transport my gear-loaded Predator kayak. Just a reminder that the Predator kayak is quite heavy at 82 lbs and that’s before adding your gear. The Malone Scupper Cart is a great solution for this and very easy to use.
Here’s a short demonstration of the Malone Scupper Cart in action.