Food for thought – Rod Leashes, Paddle tethers, zingers (retractors) and tie downs. Are they worth it?

Over the years I’ve tried to do as much as possible to streamline the way I rig my kayak. I don’t like having lots of stuff cluttering the cockpit of my boat. It gets in the way and can become dangerous if things get hairy.
When I started out I was guilty of attaching every last item in my kayak to some sort of rope or bungee for fear of losing it. Simply put, I didn’t know any better. Imagine the anatomy of a kayak yard sale, you go over and every item in your kayak is hanging down trying to ensnare you like some sort of plastic man-o-war with fishing pole tentacles. Not a good situation to be in…enough to make me ditch the leashes long ago. Kayak fishing as a sport has a lot of inherent dangers, and we as paddlers have to make our own decisions to help mitigate them. I’d rather risk losing a fishing pole over losing my life. If I must tie something down, it’s on some sort of zinger with a holster to help keep it in its stowed position should I wind up inside out in a rapid. If you are using a zinger, check to make sure the spring has enough power to keep gravity from pulling the item out. As far as leashes go, I’ve decided I would rather swim for fishing poles should I go over, and I carry a spare emergency hand paddle in my kayak should I become separated from my primary. I use a floating net now and have considered running rod floats on client rods. I keep a short rubber bungee for strapping my rods to the deck of my kayak for situations where I have a high probability of turtling. If you do run leashes, I highly advise you to at least have a dive or kayak knife attached to your person that is easily accessible one handed, with either hand. Everyone’s situation is different, this is what works best for my safety, my clients safety, and how I fish in a river environment. Be safe out there and always wear your PFD.

Lets talk Late Winter – Early Spring cold water safety.

“How do I fish seasonal transitions safely?” It’s a question that was recently posed to me and I figured I’d take the time to answer it publicly for everyones benefit. Winter has quite a few of you experiencing fishing withdraws and the warming trends of late winter have you clamoring to get back on the water. Warming trends don’t necessarily equate to a safe condition in our local rivers and lakes. Just because its 70 degrees for a few days, doesn’t mean the water temperature is suddenly going to be safe as well. Even with air temperatures in the 70s its still possible to become hypothermic falling into cold water. I highly recommend you check out the great information on winter fishing safety and the use of drysuits in cold water by the ACA at this link. Cold Water Safety Dressing for immersion is the safest possible thing to do in cold water, but when is it time to put the dry gear away? Well thats a tricky question. There are a lot of factors that play into how you prepare for a particular set of conditions. Its up to the individual assuming the risk, to research the conditions and prepare accordingly. Here are a few tips on how you can determine safe conditions.

The 4 P’s of Kayaking Safety

1. Preparedness

Preparedness is especially important when fishing changing conditions. Research conditions before leaving the house. Sometimes not wearing a drysuit can put you in immense danger. On flip side of that, Sometimes something as simple as forgetting a rain jacket in April can lead to a miserable day.

• Check Conditions ( Weather forecast, Air temp, Wind Chill, Water temp, Water level, Wind direction and intensity. )

• 120 Degree Rule. If the air temp and water temp don’t total 120 degrees then conditions are potentially hypothermic, dress accordingly. Dry Suit recommended for water temps below 60 degrees. ( regardless of air temperature )

• If temperatures are within safe limits ( water above 60, air temp above 60 ) Waders and a Waterproof rain jacket are acceptable.

• Check your local boating laws. In some states wearing a PFD is required during winter months. If you decide to NOT wear a PFD, you could also be breaking the law. ( You should always wear your PFD. )

• Layer your clothing to account for changing temperature over the course of the day. Moisture wicking base layers and water/wind proof top layers. Stay away from cotton. Jeans are always a bad idea.

• Drybag ( Change of Clothes, Fire starting, First Aid, Food, Chemical Heat, Foil Blanket)

• Cell phone bag. Ensure your cell phone is kept dry and store it on your person. This is especially important should you become separated from your kayak.

• Emergency fire starter ( waterproof matches, lighter, flint and striker ) in PFD

2. PFD

• ALWAYS Wear your pfd. Falling into cold water can cause involuntarily gasping due to cold water shock. If your head is below water you can aspirate water into your lungs and potentially drown. Your chances of self rescue without a PFD are bleak if you are drowning.

• Advances in technology over the years have greatly increased comfort and wearability of PFD’s. Make sure your pfd is properly fitted and comfortable before getting on the water.

• There are a number of quality purpose built kayak fishing PFD’s on the market. I suggest visiting your local paddle shop and trying several on to see what fits you best. I personally use the Wilderness Systems Wildy Fisher.

3. Prevention

• If conditions are bad, stay home.

• If you aren’t prepared for changing conditions, get off the water.

• Know your limitations. Don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation.

• Don’t take chances that you would otherwise take during warmer weather.

• Choose a body of water where quick egress is possible.

• Don’t fish a difficult or unfamiliar body of water. Higher flows on familiar stretches can change the makeup of the river. Don’t expect it to be the same.

4. Planning

• Before you go on your trip, let your plans be known to a loved one or friend. ( Where are you fishing, what time will you be off the water, what time should they notify help if you haven’t contacted them or returned. ) You can go one step further and make an offical float plan.

• File a float plan. I recommend downloading the ACA Paddleready app to your phone. It lets your file a float plan electronically. Theres also an official USCG float plan you can print out and fill out to leave with a trusted person.

• Have a plan of Action. This is what you do should you fall in. Cold Shock can impair cognitive and muscular function. Thinking about these things before they ever happen can help when the clock is ticking. Nobody ever plans to have an accident so they often don’t think about these things beforehand.

• Have your phone on you at all times.

• Have a means of starting a fire on you at all times.

• Assess the situation. How far are you from safety. Can you self rescue. Are there other people nearby. Are you separated from your kayak. Call for Help

• If you are separated from your kayak, Call for help. This is no place to be stubborn. Get ashore and make a fire if you can.

• If you remain with your kayak. Get ashore and make a fire to get dry as quickly as possible. Do you need first aid? If you cant continue on, call for help.

• Eat something. Cold can steal the heat from our bodies very quickly. The most important way we can replace that heat is by burning calories for warmth.

• Its possible to become hypothermic from wet clothes on a cool day. Just because you feel ok after falling in doesn’t mean you will be ok 20 minutes or an hour from now. A good rule of thumb is to get dry no matter what if you are immersed.

Safety is paramount when engaging in water based sport. Its fun to get out and fish, and often times, folks will overlook the fact that they are participating in an inherently dangerous activity. I hope these tips help you make an informed decision on how to best prepare for conditions and remain safe on the water.