by Ward Swann

I am back on the lake again. Some of you may have read my earlier blog about freestyle canoeing. While I have been in the boat many times since that entry, today was different. Vapor danced on the cooling lake in swirling high and low pressure systems. A red sassafras leaf waits the surface to be caught in the wake of my passing boat. Dogs no longer used to the summertime traffic bark at the rebel canoe. “It’s October!” they say. “You are supposed to put that away! Only Bass boats should be here now!” I wrap myself in an iPod bubble and paddle past dew laden spider webs in trees to a quiet corner to work on skills. Today’s workout becomes less about strength and more about technique. I am too distracted for a really hard workout. Perhaps it’s the lack of sleep recently. Perhaps it’s the alarming amount of reggae and French language lessons mixed in the playlist. Perhaps I am distracted by the clinic that I attended the day before…

Great Outdoor Provision Co. pulled a staff member from each of the stores and brought them together to show how to outfit a boat for fishing. This was a pretty full day of general concepts and specific tips related to how you can make a boat become an extension of you while fishing, not an obstacle. Thanks to Tony Turner of Wilderness Systems and Chad Hoover of, the fishing kayak is no longer a vehicle that just takes you down the lake or river; it works in conjunction with the rod to get you the best cast you can. This general goal of making the kayak a natural extension of the Angler can be achieved through specific methods such as proper anchoring, ruddering and outfitting.

Before this class, kayak fishing held only a small appeal for me. I saw it as a sport that consisted of numbers: number of pounds the fish weighs, number of fish caught, number of rods carried, number of lures taken, and number of days fished. I have a contentious relationship with numbers. When I take my canoe to the water, I bring: boat, paddle, kneeling pad, PFD, iPod, and water bottle. The fewer things with which to interact meant to me the experience is more internal. Kayak fishing seemed too cluttered. But there was something in how Chad was presenting his ideas that was appealing to me. The specific ways to tie the anchor trolley will limit the number of times the fishing line will get caught. How the anchor is attached to the boat will prevent or cause capsizes. How you can use the lure to propel the boat on a lake. And how a rudder and anchor combo can swing you in current to where you are effortlessly sitting right where you can get that fish easily. Chad presented these ideas in a most engaging way. Through his frank humor, we were entertained. But it was his intensity that taught the details. It was this intensity that taught me that the sport was not about numbers but instead it is about skill, technique and preparation. By focusing on those aspects, the fish were just an outcome of your efforts.

Perhaps it was because of my practicing freestyle canoe technique that helped me better understand kayak fishing. Like freestyle canoeing, the best kayak fishing starts in the head and extends through the rest of the body. What happens at the hook (or at the blade in the case of freestyle) is the inevitable. Why be surprised when you catch a fish? You moved into location quietly. The fish didn’t know that you were there. You cast and hit the right target. The lure was right. The fish couldn’t control millions of years worth of programming so it hit reflexively. Inevitable. Good gear will help in any sport. But gear cannot replace skill, technique and preparation. With Chad’s instruction I feel that I can help in the preparation and techniques of kayak fishing. Practice with intent is the best way to impart skill. That intent was what I missed in my own practice of canoeing. Next time I will put more effort into the Axels, Christies, Posts and Wedges. Though perhaps, I should start Kayak Fishing….