Fishing, the kayak way
Photo by Dennis Jensen
Eric Hanson, the park ranger at Wilgus State Park in Ascutney, fishes from his kayak on the Connecticut River.
Kayaks have turned the world of getting from one place to
another, on just about any body or stretch of fresh water, upside down.
The one great thing about a kayak is its speed, the ability to move from one location to the next in an almost effortless fashion.
I got a kayak as a birthday present perhaps five years ago and, before too long, I was rigging the craft with a few extra devices that turned it into a fishing craft, as well.
I took two rod holders off the little bass boat I had and fastened them to the top of my little craft, one fore, the other aft.
The back rod-holder is rigged for trolling, both for a traditional rod as well as a fly rod. I also have a 15-foot length of nylon rope that can be used for either attaching a small anchor or for tying on to a long, downed tree, stretched out along the water.
My first fishing expedition was a morning out on Glen Lake, that splendid body of water just west of Lake Bomoseen.
On the way to my destination, the western, rocky coastline of the lake, I tied a muddler minnow on to my fly rod, cast the line out and trolled across the waters on a nearly-windless morning. About three-quarters of the way out, the tip of the fly rod buckled. I laid the paddle down, grabbed the rod and, in only 10 seconds or so, reeled in a nice rainbow, about 12 inches long.
I released the fish and continued on. On this day, I was hoping to get into some largemouth bass. It was late in June and the bass were off their spawning beds so I threw top-waters plugs, deep-water plugs, spinnerbaits and crankbaits.
I was thinking about shutting it down for a day, while drifting, some 25 feet from shore, when a bass came up and hit a yellow-and-black spinnerbait. The 1˝-pound bass fought well, then came to the craft. I lifted it by the bottom lip, removed the single hook, admired the fish for a moment and sent it back.
I have fished a number of waters since, but my most memorable trips, by far, have been down the Connecticut River, after the fat, fighting smallmouth bass that populate that great waterway.
For the past two summers, I have made four trips, most of them along with longtime hunting-fishing pal Bob Walker, to fish along a great stretch of the Connecticut.
While some fishing writers seem to have the notion that smallies are fairly easy to catch, I have to argue otherwise. We have done OK on the river, but, after long weekends on the water, we have yet to find smallmouths “easy” to hook into.
Besides the obvious color differences from largemouth bass, smallmouths have another critical difference from their larger cousins — they put up a far superior fight, when hooked.
I have caught 3-pound smallmouth bass that, by far, fought harder that a largemouth that went over 5 pounds. Smallies, even fish that go a pound or so, fight like the devil when hooked.
My best luck on the Connecticut River was fishing with a rig that my other fishing pal, Jim Lynch, set up for me. Jim took a salt-impregnated spider grub, which closely resembles a crayfish, with a three-eighths weight.
Fishing along a rocky shoreline, just below a majestic set of falls, I cast the rig repeatedly. After some 60 or so casts, I was beginning to have my doubts when, wham, a big smallmouth bass latched on to my offering.
The smallie fought like the dickens and, at one point, tried to make its way to faster-running waters where bringing it in would be a much-greater challenge. With the drag on my line singing, I managed to keep the fish out of the deeper water and then brought it to the kayak. It measured 18 inches.
I released the fish and, in the course of the day, caught two more respectable bass on that rig.
Hopefully, I’ll be headed back to the Connecticut River for another shot at smallmouths, sometime later this month.
One note of caution here: While a kayak moves along the water nicely, it is a craft that can overturn easily. I never fish out of my kayak without a flotation vest.
I still fish from my canoe, from time to time. But the kayak, for me anyway, is the craft to go to when I get out there, on the water, with rod and reel.