What do you get when you combine a kayak and a fly rod? If you guessed an exercise in combined inefficiency, then you guessed right but I’ll be damned if it isn't an awesome one!!
Now, arguments could definitely be made that fly fishing is incredibly efficient in some scenarios and that a kayak is more efficient than a boat for some reason or another but overall, neither one are generally considered the best tool for the job. Let’s face it, tossing some bait on a spinning rod is not only easier than casting a fly rod, but it also catches fish! Likewise, kayaks will definitely get you from one point to another, but a boat sure does it a lot faster. Plus your arms won't be exhausted when you finally get there. However, just because something is easier doesn't mean it's more fun. As a matter of fact, most of my life has been spent taking the harder of two roads and, truth be told, I've loved every moment of it. Perhaps that tendency to take the hard road is why I enjoy kayak fly fishing so much.
Most of the time, I can be found floating down some small river or creek here in the Midwest. Chance are that I will be throwing a clouser minnow or deer-hair popper to one of my favorite freshwater fish, the smallmouth bass. Something about floating down a river just as the sun is peeking its way above the horizon on a warm summer morning is next to impossible to beat....or so I thought.
A lot of you California coast fisherman might not understand this next part but here in the Midwest, we fisherman tend to get this feeling towards the end of winter. There are a million different names for it but no matter what you call it, it’s always the same. A feeling of anxiety, being trapped, and a longing to feel some warm sun on your face as you double haul a fly in hopes of feeding the drug known as the tug. You've been cooped up for most of the winter and have probably resorted to things like deer hunting or this weird thing they call “ice fishing” just to keep from going crazy. Still, to no avail, you still have the “itch”.
|This is what I was dealing with when I left for Florida|
It was the morning after Christmas when I, and good friend Teddy from Lucid Fishing, loaded up our kayaks in the back of my truck and started the drive down to the Sunshine State - Sanibel Island to be exact. The drive was long but the moment I smelled that amazingly refreshing ocean air, I knew it was worth it.
We did some fishing along the beaches for snook with some mild success on the first day and even paddled along some little channels before grabbing a much needed dinner and a good night’s sleep. As we got going the next morning, I was beyond excited. I have read about this sort of thing in magazines and watched it on TV but never had I the opportunity to do it before. As we arrived to a place called Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, I knew that I had just ruined fishing back at home. We hadn't even launched the yaks yet and I was on cloud nine. I could not get on the water fast enough and once I pushed off the bank, it was pure serenity. Mangroves lined every bank you could see. Various channels led to various openings and bays. Somewhere in the distance, I could hear the sound of the open ocean crashing into the mangrove shores so I followed my ears. As I exited the mouth of a narrow channel, I knew that I had gone to the right spot! At least four flats boats were back here doing exactly what I wanted to do with my kayak. I quickly paddled to the main inlet, put the paddle down, stood up and started casting. It wasn't long before I hooked up with a little mangrove snapper. It’s amazing how hard these fish hit a fly! If I didn't know better, I would have thought that a three pound smallie had just hit my fly but nope...it was a hand sized snapper.
|"Stalking some snook"|
I swear to Gumbi….as I exited this channel, I was in heaven. I quickly jumped up for a better view into the water and for as far as I could see, various weed patches dotted flats that were no more than waist deep. I also realized that the winds were quite a bit stronger out here and the waves were rather big when compared to the calm protected bays that I had just exited. Still, I found myself just standing and casting as I blew over various weed patches. The kayak was steady as could be and never felt unstable. A variety of fish made their way to the end of my line including a puffer fish which was pretty neat. Still, nothing big, had been landed. In all honesty though, at this point, I just didn't care. I knew before this trip even began that this was far from the prime fishing season down there and we didn't want to hire a guide. With exception of fuel for the truck and some food, this trip was costing us nothing.
This, to me at least, is what kayak fly fishing is all about. Would it have been more efficient and productive to hire a guide and throw a baited hook from one of those flats fishing boats that were out there? Absolutely! I can pretty much guarantee that we would have caught some really nice fish that way. However, as I stood on a kayak that’s only around twelve feet long and about two and a half feet wide in this enormous body of water called the Gulf of Mexico, I really didn't care about efficiency. What I felt instead was much better than ultimate efficiency. I felt free. I felt vulnerable. I felt a sense of adventure that I never would have felt if I had chosen the efficient way.
As the sun started to go down that day,
Teddy and I had probably ended up about two miles from the entrance of the mangrove
backwaters that ultimately lead us back to the truck. We were now sitting
in water that was about ten to fifteen deep and could no longer see the ocean floor. Our kayaks were about fifty yards from one another when an amazing reminder of how small and vulnerable we really were came to the surface not more
than twenty feet from my tiny and inefficient kayak. As a massive grey body with blunt head full of teeth
took a bite of something right near the surface, I knew that my exercise in inefficiency
was worth the effort. It was in that moment of culmination that I knew floating down a river in the Midwest on a summer morning would never be the same. I also knew that taking the inefficient route proved to be the right one for me.
~ Nick Doumel
~ Nick Doumel