The water is warming up, the sun is starting to show herself again and Spring has most definitely arrived. Time to get out onto the water…….
With one thing or another, time on the water has been scarce for the last couple of weeks. There has been paddling trips but very few, if any, fishing trips. Family engagements have kept me busy for the last few weekends and a busy schedule in the freshwater and marine biology course along with some time consuming side projects have meant that I have had very little opportunities to get any sort of meaningful fishing sessions under my belt.
One of the more absorbing projects has seen me assist in setting up a small aquaculture project in college. John O’Sullivan, a fellow student, has been putting his engineering talents to use in setting up the system in the main, I’ve merely been giving him a helping hand whenever I can. We have managed to construct a 5000 litre recirculating freshwater system that is now home to twenty koi carp, There have been problems along the way but we are happy now that the system is fully functional and we have set our sights on a more ambitious project; more on this at a later date.
Ireland has just immersed herself into the extravaganza that is the Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations. A public holiday that falls on the 17th March means that this year we are treated to a long weekend. The plan was that I was going to try and get an early start, head up to Lough Corrib and fly fish for some brown trout. With improving conditions the duckfly should be out in force soon and they will be closely followed by hatching olives. Things don’t always go to plan though and after a hectic few weeks I became a victim of a well-deserved lie in.
When I finally emerged from bed I decided that all was not lost and I would still manage to get out onto the water for a paddle. I headed for Oughterard, Galway. The sky was blue and the winds were light as I launched the kayak onto Lough Corrib with the intention of a bit of paddling and a practice of re-entry drills.
No matter how stable a kayak is and how skilled the paddler there is always a very realistic chance of ending up in the water. If you know how to re-enter the kayak then this situation is little more than an inconvenience. If you don’t you are in a world of trouble. The only way to become proficient in this exercise is to practice it until you can perform it flawlessly. Miles from the shore is not the place to discover that you can’t get back on board.
I spent some of the afternoon capsizing the kayak, righting it and climbing on board. I have been testing a couple of kayaks recently, the Ride 115X and the Tarpon 140 from Wilderness Systems. If you intend doing any amount of kayak fishing then it pays to thoroughly test the boat before embarking on fishing trips. You need to know the limits of the boat before taking it out after good fish.
One thing that really impressed me in the trials of the Tarpon 140 was the stability of the boat and today I was able to get some photographs that demonstrate this perfectly. I leaned ever further over one side of the kayak until it was almost lying on its side before gravity finally pulled it under and put me into the water.
Once there it was a case of fixing the paddle under the bow bungee perpendicular to the kayak. This allows the paddle to act as a stabilizer and really helps with the re-entry but I doubt that this is necessary on this particular craft. Still, every little bit of assistance is appreciated! To re-enter, move to one side of the cockpit, allow your legs to rise up behind you and a couple of small leg kicks propels you out of the water and into the cockpit. A deft turn puts you right way around and you are ready to capsize and practice the whole procedure once more! Practice makes perfect.
Re-entry is one of the most basic and essential skills to learn when kayak angling. It could literally save your life. There is no excuse for leaving the shore without knowing how to do this drill. Practice until it becomes second nature to you, then head out and enjoy your fishing armed with the confidence of being able to deal with a tricky situation.