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Let's Take A Kayak To Quincy Or Nyak-- Let's Get Away From It All
By Frank Sargeant, Editor

Actually, I didn't make up the title. It comes from a song that is just slightly older than I am, which is to say it was recorded on flat rocks with elk antlers. I know where Quincy is, down near Florida's Lake Talquin and the Ocklockonee River-a very good place to take a kayak, I might add, and also close to my favorite Florida placename, Ohathlockhauchy, which translates to 'place where fishermen drink whiskey', as near as I can tell. Nyak is up in Yankee Country on the Hudson, which tends to get a bit brisk for kayaking at this time of year but is pretty otherwise.

But taking a kayak to get away from it all is the in thing among a whole lot of anglers nationwide these days, including many who own flats boats or bass rigs that cost more than I paid for my first house.

First two houses, now that I think about it.

Not to say that most of us are about to give up on outboard power-far from it. When a tarpon across the bay calls, I want to answer with at least 150 horses, and if there's a great little stump field 20 miles down the lake where that elusive ten pound bass is hiding, I love to head down there at a mile a minute.

But a kayak (or a canoe) makes a great second boat for those days when you want to keep things simple. They're particularly useful in winter when tides get so low that even the redfish go aground. And they provide access to thousands of acres of water where the growing hordes of flats anglers (us) cannot go in their power boats, even with the shallowest-floating mini-skiffs. For fishing rivers and creeks where smallmouths, sunfish and catfish hide out, they're also the bee's knees. Or the cat's whiskers, if you prefer.

They're inexpensive, leave no environmental footprint, and can be stored standing on end in a corner of the garage.

It is true that kayakers give up some of the creature comforts. Dry pants, for one thing. If you think a 40-year old can't get diaper rash, you are not a kayaker. And if you can't leave the dock without a tacklebox that requires a forklift to get it aboard, probably better stick to your bass boat. Kayaks are for minimalists-in all except fish-catching.

And there's the wind factor. No matter where you are headed, it seems the wind is always against you.

There's a philosophy in that somewhere, I suppose.

Because kayaks limit your range, they force you to fish thoroughly and thoughtfully, and that often results in finding and catching fish that others never know are there. Your approach can be totally silent; I've occasionally glided almost close enough to touch snoozing snook and reclining reds. No torpid trout, though-trout on the flats are a lot more like paranoid permit and bonkers bonefish, if you ask me. (Though, in fact, kayaks are also good for chasing these shallow-water speedsters.) The low profile also makes them great for easing up on shallow-water bass in spring. And those with more courage than me (or less common sense, as I like to tell myself) take them off the beaches in Ahab-like ventures after stripers, tarpon, kingfish and even the occasional sailfish.

You see a lot kayaking that you won't from a powerboat, too-otters coming for a game of tag, a sleeping gator that doesn't bat an eye as you slide past 10 feet away, drifts of nesting egrets back in the mangroves, the pink flash of roseate spoonbills. Sometimes I forget to fish.

I've been a devout wade fisher for a long time, though, and the thing I like about kayaks is that it adds range to my wading; I can tie the boat to my belt, go as far as I want, and when I'm done, I can sit down in a padded seat, rest a bit, have a cold drink and then glide back to the ramp. (Against the wind, of course-but it beats walking.)

Kayak paddles are the outboard motors of the paddling clan, and in fact some paddles cost about as much as a V6. Fortunately, like $1,000 flyrods, these paddles are nice to show off to other kayakers, but not essential for getting from Point A to Point B. (Where are those elusive points, anyway? I've never been able to spot them on any charts, but I'll bet they've got fish around them.)

Some purists consider it cheating, but you can add an electric trolling motor and 12-volt battery and slide around effortlessly in a 'yak. The negatives are that the motor and battery are likely to double the weight of the rig, making it more a trailer rig than a cartopper unless you go for a lot of assembly before each trip. But guys who have these rigs love 'em-and the range is hugely increased. Hobie has a cool rig that operates on pedal-powered flippers--not much added weight and it allows you to keep your arms free, though the flippers do increase the draft when in use.

Motor or no, there are a few cautions in these tiny boats, of course.

If you're in a kayak and someone offers you a good tip, decline.

Also, the tie-down thing-if you're the sort of guy who drives down the road with your arm out the window holding the new mattress on the roof of your car, probably better not opt for cartopping a kayak.

The two most dreaded words in the beginning kayakers lexicon?

Eskimo roll.

This is not, as novices might think, a sandwich involving walrus blubber. (Social correctness weenies please lighten up and hold the letters.) It does, however, involve holding your breath and waving the paddle around in the air like the feet of a mallard suddenly sent ass-over-teakettle.

One kayaker with far more experience than me suggested that I paint a slogan on my 'yak bottom which, he advised, would help me considerably. The slogan was "This Side Down".

For that, he deserved a good paddling.

Fortunately, today's vast crop of fishing kayaks, "sit-ons", are a lot less tippy than the ultra-light and narrow originals, and with a bit of practice you'll have no problem keeping the rig sunny-side up and the fish sliding over the side.

Info on pictures below.:
1. Sunrise and solitude are a big part of kayak fishing for many who love these tiny paddle-powered boats. (Photo Credit NuCanoe)

2. The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler includes fold-down flippers that operate on leg power, keeping hands free for fishing. (Photo Credit Hobie, Inc.)

3. Florida flats guide Neil Taylor runs his west coast charters strictly from kayaks and stays busy year around. (Photo Credit Neil Taylor)

4. Some anglers like Captain Jason Stock use their 'yaks to take on offshore giants like this tarpon--a sure way to enjoy a Nantucket sleigh ride. (Photo credit Jason Stock.)


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