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Part One hundred eighty-five

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Flyfishing Adventures from a Kayak


By Johnny (aka Hillfisher), Texas

I do a lot of wade fishing, in fact it is my primary mode of transportation on the water in our rivers and creeks. However to cover any areas too deep to wade or are unsafe for wading, an alternative means is necessary. I have tried several various mechanisms and the best for me has been Stearn's inflatable K-116 Kayak. It's rigid, white water rated and tracks straight when paddling. In fact I was so impressed I bought a second and both fit with plenty of space left over in the trunk of our car.

My wife loves to kayak with me even though she does not fish. She tags along to take the pictures, do a little exploring and a lot of napping under the shade of a willow. It gives us something to do together outdoors and for her to share a little of my pastime. I'm always careful not to go too far, for if she gets too tired, she just ties her bow line to my stern and I get to tow her around. This gentlemen, is where you better make sure your backcast is UP! A really upset woman in a kayak in the middle of a river would not be a pretty sight. Especially when her kayak is tied to yours and there is no escape!

Learning to fish from a kayak was like learning to flyfish all over again. Being low to the water, keeping one's backcast up is absolutely necessary. Here are some good things to know that will make your trip more pleasant. Tether your paddle to the kayak. I have had my paddle get away from me once and it was no fun. Your hands make poor substitutes. Between the wind and currents these small crafts will never hold in place without constant use of the paddle, thus not leaving your hand free for fishing. When you find a hole that is producing some great fish you need to be able to keep stationary and have your hands free for casting. Always carry a small canoe/kayak anchor. I use a small cloth bag with a brick in it, tied to several feet of nylon line. Works great! Finally get one of those rod tethers that attaches you to your fly rod. It's very possible to drop your rig over the side while dodging boulders, angry wild pigs and the occasional swimmer. Once the learning phase was over, I found the kayak experience unequaled.

There are several community dams along our rivers and creeks. These range anywhere from 6 to 14 feet in height. These form small lakes that contain some pretty nice fish up where the river feeds in and along the banks away from the common access points. The kayak can get a flyfisher to any point including up to the river inlet rather quickly without to much effort. There have been several new places "found" by floating down the rivers and creeks. Without the kayak, there would be many wondrous places unseen.

There is a place on the San Gabriel River that I love to fish. The low water crossing has a deep slow moving hole above it and shallow pools with much faster moving currents below it. The hole above is lined with over hanging pecan and willow trees. The water is so clear you sight cast to the bream and bass. I typically paddle up to the first set of rapids, get out and wade the pools above, tailing the kayak behind me on a line. This area is hardly ever touched by fishermen. The bream and bass are plentiful and very willing. One day a friend of mine wanted to go and try out the kayaks. So we went up this hole and fished just below the rapids. To do this we had to back the kayaks up into the river bank so we could stay in place. We were pulling out some small bream and a bass here and there. We were about 20 feet from each other commenting on the fishing, when he cast out a weighted wooly bugger into the current. The fly was racing down river with the current when suddenly it paused and started running upriver! He yells out about getting a hit when the rod doubles over and his drag starts screaming. He palms the reel to slow the fish and as I'm watching this he, kayak and all shoot out from the bank and now the fish is pulling him down river. I packed everything up and headed out figuring he was going to need help. When I looked up he was passing by me being dragged back up river by whatever it was on his line! I decided to just sit back and enjoy the show. This went on for some time, drag screaming, fly fisher screaming, kayak going up river then down river. On about the third pass he yelled out "How do you stop this thing!"

I'm still not sure who was playing who. But I think both were tiring and pretty soon he was slowly getting the fish closer and closer to the kayak. Finally it was close enough to reach with a net, which turned out to be too small! He ended up holding the fish up against the kayak to get his wooly bugger out of the mouth and releasing it while never getting it out of the water. The fish? It turned out to be about a 15 pound catfish! It was big! He always talks about this trip every time we get together. Better than Disneyland, as far as we are concerned. ~ Johnny, AKA Hillfisher

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