September 4th, 2006

Down with Kayaks
By James Castwell

My apologies to those of you who like kayaks. I have nothing against you or your little boatetts; one or two place, sit-in or sit-on. They are cute. I watched one in Elliot Bay (Seattle, WA) go like hell as the monstrous car ferry I was on tried to run over him. Apparently dozing off in one is not recommended, and especially drifting out into the boating channel. I gained a bit of respect for the speed of the things and the fortitude of those who power them under emergencies. The blowing of the horn on my vessel was an added touch to the event. It seemed to urge the little paddler to greater and greater efforts.

But enough of one of my brighter days. By now I have angered a few thousand of you needlessly but, I just could not resist. Your minions do it to the fly-fishers everyday. Most also seem not to give a hoot about it either. And then there those of you/us who fly fish out of the things. But that's not what I am writing about. I am writing about the Au Sable River in Michigan.

For years I have been fishing that river; the Main Stream, the South Branch and the North Branch. The Au Sable is one of the Premier, Blue Ribbon, Pristine, Catch & Release, No limit, No Daily Possession, No Bait, No Nothing, No Kidding Rivers. It is intimately wadeable. But, alas that is what makes it so attractive to those wanting the ultimate outdoor experience. Drifting lazily down a virginal stream unencumbered by anything but Bambi and her little buddies. If you get smashed and fall out of a canoe it's not big deal. You can crawl to shore.

Au Sable canoers, Craig Thorp foreground

This is of course not what is recommended by those who make a living and have for many years renting aluminum canoes to the masses for just such trips. Some time ago I reconciled myself that the name Grumman was famous and therefor should be allowed to make canoes and that some folks should be allowed to rent them out, slide them into the river, and the owners drive downstream and fetch them back home again at the end of the day.

So what that many of them were tied together and the occupants would not pass the basics of driving tests. The fishing during hours they bobbled about on the river was actually rather poor anyway. Mostly during the daytime, bright sun and such. For the most part the canoes didn't show up until noon and usually quit offending by dusk, just before the good fishing started. So, although a nuisance, they didn't actually interfere a lot. I accepted the aluminum flotilla, mostly.

But, this is too much. I see no good reason that they can not continue to rent canoes instead of kayaks. Canoes are at lease aesthetic, well somewhat anyway. So today's canoes are not birch-bark, I can live with that. But, why do we need to put some wobbly-bobbly boatetts from the frozen arctic on this river? Watching them just destroys the image. Jumping out of the way really does. The warm-and-fuzzy of the day astream dissolves right before ones eyes. The magic of the moment is shot.

I just think that there are enough ways to float the river, we do not need yet another convenient conveyance. Don't give me the 'rights' argument either. I pay for a license to use the river. It's called a fishing license. They pay nothing to the state for the use of the river.


However, I will continue to share. But with kayaks? Gimme a break! ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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