Thursday, October 22, 2009

You can't win if you don't play

It is hard to keep a blog about Kayak fishing updated with fishing reports and such when you aren’t out on the water. Since the beginning of this month, I have been travelling, and that puts a little bit of a damper on getting the boat out and trying for fishes. That, and the fact that when I have been in town for long enough not to be sleeping off a plane flight the ocean conditions are too rough for me (and everyone else). Gale force winds and 16 foot+ seas aren’t too friendly for a 30+ ft boat, let alone little old me.

But there was a brief, really pleasant window at the beginning of this week on Monday. I apologize in advance for the lack of pictures – I upgraded my Iphone from a Gen1 to the latest 3Gs – which means I can shoot videos and take better pictures, but the waterproof housing that I had for my Gen1 doesn’t fit the latest Apple offering. Oh well.

Got out to PC at about 7am - had a late (430) start. Weather across the Coast range was fog and rain, and then as I came out into Tillamook the rain stopped and the sky lightened up. Got down to PC and put the drysuit on. Drove down onto the beach, and realized that I should probably park in the lot instead - tide was out but the high water mark was almost to the ramp.

So back up in to the lot I go, and took my time watching the surf and gearing the boat up. Dragged the boat down the beach to the north end for launch, and stood in the surf to get an idea of what was going on.

Tide was out, water was a funky tea color with alot of foam. Waves were breaking at about chest high, with not much of a lull between sets. I pulled the boat into the surf and dropped the drive in, and dropped the rudder. Started pedaling in knee deep water, and made it into the break. Which was pretty darn exciting. Hit several waves as they were breaking apart into whitewater, and then sliced into a series of waves right as they were starting to curl. The bow of the kayak cut through the face of the wave, and then the hull got lifted, and up and over. The last one in the set I hit right as it started going vertical, and slammed down on the backside of the wave. Pretty cool. Hitting a wave and riding up the face of it is a great feeling, although once the boat goes past 25 degrees off horizontal you begin to worry a bit about going ass over teakettle.

Got out past the impact zone and started setting up the boat. I only took one rod with me yesterday, knowing that conditions going out and coming were probably going to be a little rough. Got the rod setup, and went to tie on the shrimp fly dropper. Poked through the tackle box, and realized that the pre-tied loops I had set up were in another box. So I ended up just tying on a jighead/swimbait.

Pedaled out to the zone inside and north of the haystack, and started fishing. Tap, Tap, YAAAANNNK!. Hauled back on the rod, and started reeling. Whatever was on the end of the line was pulling hard. hard enough to get the rod tip into the water, and strip out line. Excellent. Heavy pull, some headshakes, more stripping. Finally got the fish to the boat - 25"+ in Cab, with a nice greenish-blue hue. I didn't bother measuring it, since I didn't want to know - can't keep it, no heartache.

Headed out to between the haystack and the buoy. The surface swell was choppy and erratic, but there was almost no wind and very little drift. Felt a couple of bumps on the jig, reeled up and got hit on the way up. Set the hook, and kept reeling. Brought a nice little Ling that was just keeper size. No sense in tossing the first keeper back, especially since I wasn't sure whether I was going to stay out much longer in the washing machine.

I decided to stay out until at least 10, and see what I could bring up. The next was another 22" ling, which I CNR'd, and then a 24" Ling. I thought about keeping it after measuring it, seeing how it was a bigger fish than the first one, but I wanted an upgrade. Since I had already pulled the gills on the first one, mister 24" got CNR'd. I would have gotten an shot of the fish, but no camera. Oh well.

Bumped around for a bit, and the chop subsided. The swells started to smooth out, and by 10am the sun was peeking out from between the clouds. There was almost no wind, and at some points it felt like I was on a lake. I was bumping around in the east lee of the haystack, and there was about a half a mile of completely slick water the width of the rock, edged on the north side by very small wind chop (more like ripples) and on the south side by a mile long line of foam that was 15 feet across. I played in that section, getting the occasional hit, some fights, and alot of the “halfway to the boat, a headshake and let go”. Pulled up a couple of respectable black rockfish, a female Kelp Greenling that I CNR'd, and then headed a little north of the buoy. I managed to snap my mono topshot at the albright knot connecting it to the braid on either a snag or a really hard strike (I just know I felt a tug, and I hauled back to set the hook, and felt the leader give way). Fished around on an area that was 100'+, and brought up a bunch of underlings, as well as two more largish black rocks. headed back into the zone between the haystack and the buoy, and brought up a small cabbie, a couple more underlings, and then the last fish of the day, which was a slightly larger just legal ling. I caught a glimpse of another ling that had followed that one all the way to the surface (right as I dipped my net into the water). I started back in around 1:30.

Got back into the impact zone after stowing everything, and sat and watched the shore break for a while. There were a couple of good lulls between the sets, and I stowed the mirage drive and rudder. Grabbed the paddle, and waited for a set. I managed to get into the tail end of the set (I think), and rode the back of one wave, got picked up by another (and got to lean back), which then turned me broadside to another, and I got to try my hand at a low brace. I got myself turned back perpendicular to the beach, rode one more wave, and hopped out of the boat into what I was hoping was hip deep water. I figured I might as well just walk the boat in, since I was pretty sure the next set was going to hit me and exceed my skill level. The water was just deeper than my hip, and then the next wave came in an lifted me off of my feet. I managed to hang onto the boat through another two waves, and then lost my grip on it. Which of course, meant that the boat broached and rolled over. At some point the waves or sand pulled the rudder out of its stow position, and snapped the shear pin. Which, I guess, technically did its job (breaking before the rudder does).

Got out, packed up, and headed home.

Four black rockfish, all at least 16", and two keeper lings, one of which has that cool mint green color to it. All in all, a great day.

The rudder pin is a $3 part, and Next Adventure has them (somewhere in a box, they just opened a new paddlesports wing). So I'm off the water until next week.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Soap Box next to the Washing Machine.

Fishing priorities.

The Pacific Ocean off of the coast of Oregon is a mighty thing. Full of tides, waves, water, and fish. You know, ocean stuff.

Anyway, Triton/Neptune/Pacifica/Mami Wata has been building up on the anger recently. Or, going back to how the Pacific Ocean behaves off of the Oregon coast. Cold water. Big waves. Lots of wind. Not inviting in the least for little old me on my 11 foot long plastic boat. Even wearing a drysuit. Nope, things are a little rough out there. It doesn’t help that the long range forecasts will regularly throw a patch of hope in the mix – a day with small swells, long periods and low winds. And then, three days before, change its mind and bring out the 12 foot swells with 4 foot wind waves at 10 seconds apart with 20-30 mile an hour winds. With means that the shorebreak is basically just a continuous washing machine. And not at all conducive to fishing from a very, very small boat.

The good part of all of this is that, as there is a change in attitude/weather on the ocean, the salmon runs in the bays and tidewater areas are picking up. Autumn is when the seas get rough again, and the Fall runs of Chinook and Coho (as well as some Pink and Chum) Salmon start running up the bays and then rivers of Oregon.

Salmon are sort of the iconic fish here in the Pacific Northwest. When Lewis and Clark came out here, the tribes that they encountered weren’t bottom jigging for cabezon and rockfish. No, they were netting Salmon as they made their spawning migrations upriver. There are tales of schools of migrating salmon so thick that one could cross a river without getting their feet wet. Of fish larger than 100 lbs.

Like most everything else, those are tales of yesteryear. Believe it or not, Johnson Creek in SE Portland used to be home to an annual run of Steelhead and other salmonids. Humans change the landscape, and what was once a rushing, cold stream became a lazy, warm, slightly septic body of water. Same goes for the Tualatin river, Gale’s Creek, Dairy Creek, etc., etc. The Mighty Columbia was a completely different river before the dams went in.

Most of what is gone is gone for good. But we can turn back the clock sometimes. The Sandy river is home to a pretty good run of native Chinook, as well as hatchery Coho and Steelhead. The Marmot Dam was breached a couple of years ago, and streams and creeks that no longer had spawning runs were open to them again. And just days after the Dam removal, salmon were spotted in the waters above where it once stood. Recovery can happen. We can’t bring back the past, but we can improve our future.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Big FIsh

August was an awesome fishing month for me. Several beach launches from Pacific City, a couple of them solo, a couple of them with friends. I landed my first keeper ling cod (and only keeper so far), Quillback and China Rockfish in addition to the Blacks and Blues, and loads of Cabezon.

One of my most recent trips out had me hooking up with my NWKA bud Yaknitup. I had launched into Netarts bay early in the A.M. to catch the slack high tide for some crabbing action, which put me in the water at PC about an hour after Yaknitup had launched. He has scoped out most of the area around the haystack at PC, and so once I was on the water I basically just followed him around. We were fishing a nice steep dropoff – were the water went from 80ish feet to over 100 in the course of a couple of yards. I had a basic rig on – two shrimp flies and a 3 oz. jighead/swimbait body, bumping the bottom and not targeting anything specifically. Yaknitup was out for Lingzilla, and so he had a heavy rod and reel combo with him loaded with a pretty large jighead. I bumped around on the bottom for a bit, and brought up a double – a black and a quillback. That was pretty cool. I got the fish put away, and turned my head to spot Yaknitup with a bent over rod, pumping and reeling.

I turn my boat to get a little closer – it looks like he is dealing with a big fish. I ask him what he has on the line. He said that he nearly got the fish to “color” (where the fish is close enough to the surface that you can make out the color and general shape of the fish), and then it had sounded on him. You can generally see the fish when it is within six or so feet of the surface, depending on water clarity. A lot of the folks out there who fish from kayaks are using spectra or other braided nylon lines as the mainline on their reels, and then a “topshot” made out of monofilament or fluorocarbon line. Modern braided fishing lines offer very little mechanical stretch. When a fish strikes a lure hard, or when the fisherman goes to make a hookset, the lack of stretch in a braided line can sometimes mean that the hook or lure gets ripped out of the fish’s mouth. No stretch means you only need to move the rod tip a few inches to set a hook – but most of us who learned to fish using monofilament make a hookset that is like we are swinging for the fences. Monofilament has a tremendous amount of stretchiness available, and requires much more movement to set a hook. Because of this stretch, mono absorbs shock better, and so allows for really hard hits. Putting a short, say, 10 foot monofilament “topshot” on the end of a spectra line adds a small amount of stretch to the rig. The mono acts as a shock absorber, as well as a safety break-away. 20lb test Spectra braid is about a quarter the diameter of 20lb monofilament, and you end up splicing the lines with an Albright or Bimini twist knot. You can feel it when the knot hits the rod tip, and if you are watching your line, you will see braid and then mono. This gives you and idea of how much more you have to reel in before getting ready to actually land the fish. 10 feet of topshot, and then maybe another 2-8 feet of leader. So, seeing the line splice allows you to know you almost have the fish to color.

Yaknitup’s fish had sounded before he managed a glimpse of it. So he really had no idea of what he had on the line. Only that it was big and strong. I got out of his way, and started bumping my rig around again on the bottom to see if I could come up with some more fish.

The fish that can get big enough to fight that hard, within a mile of shore, are Ling Cod, Cabezon, Salmon, Pacific Halibut, and some Rockfish.

A thought crossed my mind – wouldn’t it be a shame if Yak’s fish ended up being a halibut? Pacific Halibut can grow to be enormous, they fight hard, and they are some of the most dangerous fish that you can bring on a boat, short of a shark or a really big pelagic fish. Pacific Halibut are mostly muscle, and the business end of them is loaded with very large, very sharp teeth. Landing them in a powerboat takes some planning, and on a yak a lot of planning and some nerves. People who have caught them from kayaks let the fish wear itself (and them) out before they attempt to land it. Which means they let the fish run against drag a few times, and fight the fish back to the boat a couple of time. And then they gaff the fish, and kill it in the water by bleeding it out. Most of the guys that I have talked to who have landed halibut on their kayaks had a helping hand. I have caught Pacific Halibut from a charter boat, and so I know how much of a fight they put up, and how much they thrash. Kayak fishermen kill the big fish in the water for safety sake.

I was thinking that it would be a shame if it was a halibut, because the season had been closed for a week, as the quota had been filled. I was going to make a snarky comment to Yaknitup about that, along the lines of “wouldn’t it be a shame if it were a ‘butt?” Instead, I kept my mouth shut.

Yaknitup got the fish to color. And wouldn’t you know it – it was a Pacific Halibut. Evidently this is one of the fish that Yaknitup has been wanting to catch from his kayak since moving to the PNW. I am also excited by the prospect. Catching one less than a mile from shore is unusual. Catching one a week after the season close absolutely sucks. I pulled my line in and pedaled over to see if I could help. The fish was still fighting, and Yaknitup was trying to figure out how to unhook the fish, as the hook had penetrated pretty deeply into the fish’s mouth, and jigs as large as the one he was using aren’t cheap. If it had been in season, the fish would get gaffed, bled, and then tied up. But this fish had to be released. While trying to figure out what to do, the Halibut got impatient and decided to go back to the bottom. This happened at least three, maybe four times. Which meant that Yaknitup spent at least 30 minutes fighting this fish. Finally he gets it up to the boat, and gaffs it through lip. This allows him to pull the fish into his lap. Which allows him to unhook the fish, have me snap a couple of pics, measure it, and then slide it over the side. As its face hit the water, it smacked its tail against Yaknitup’s boat a few times, and was gone.

Here is a link to the video that Yaknitup recorded. That's me in the green and yellow.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

And Yet more fish!

In case you were wondering, the trip out with Yaknitup was pretty good for me as well.

Six black rockfish, a Quillback, and a Ling Cod.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

So Much Fish. Something about time.

So it has been a little while since I last made an entry. Ah, the well known joy of trying to keep up with yet another thing in your life. When I last left, dear reader, we were going to talk about a Sunday afternoon trip on the 8th of August. My second semi-solo, off of Pacific City (PC).

We will pick up where we left off.
Steelheadr, another member of the ever growing NWKA flotilla and I met up at PC around 8am. The tentative plan was that steelheadr would be going after lingzilla, and I would follow him around. We launched into some choppy water, and it was choppy for most of the morning.

We got everything unstowed, and I discovered that my basically brand new Shimano Cardiff wasn't working - very little drag resistance and it wouldn't retrieve properly. I was not going to catch a fish with that, so I switched over to the spinning reel/rod that I used on Wednesday.

My goop job on my transducer puck worked, and so I could read bottom and pickup fishy signals. That was cool. Not truly helpful, but cool none the less.

We started out on the NE edge of the haystack, and worked our way a little towards the buoy. We both hooked up at about the same time, and I reeled in a double of blacks - first double, wooohooo, and one of them was the biggest rockfish that I ended up catching today.

We scooted over to the west side of the haystack, and promptly got blown southbound by the wind. Between the wind and the current it was difficult to accurately target anything, drifting too fast.

After a couple of minutes, I snagged up something fierce. I think I spent about ten minutes (maybe more) trying to get unsnagged. I finally did after getting southbound of the snag, and building up a head of steam going northbound. Which snapped the line. And I had just put on a fresh swimbait body. Oh well.

I think steelheadr hooked up a couple of rockies while I was losing my gear, and then he snagged as well, and ended up breaking off. There is something about 500 yards westbound of the haystack that didn't appear as structure on the sonar, and was 90 feet down. Whatever it was, it now has at least two shrimp flies and a 3 oz. jighead as part of it.

We futzed around a little more, and then started north in the general direction of the buoy. I had a couple of hits, but everything shook off. Then I got a solid hookup, and it turned out to be an underling. Back in the water it went.

Steelheadr packed it in around noon, and I decided that 2 fish wasn't going to cut it, so I stayed out. I drifted over to the zone in between the buoy and the haystack, and about 5 minutes after steelheadr headed in, I hooked up a third black rockfish. Kinda on the small side, but I ain't complaining. The next one that came up was a bit bigger. And then I snagged, and started driving northbound to see if I could unsnag. I felt the jig unsnag, and then it felt like I snagged again, but this time there was a headshake. Reeled in another underling, and this one was only just (21 1/2"). So close.

I picked up two more rockfish before I decided I should probably head in. Packed everything up, and got about 100 yards offshore. Solid wall of breakers - the northerly end of the beach included. And the breakers where 20-30 yards off shore. Crap. Surfer I am not.

I picked a line that would take me near my car, and into what looked like smaller water. Well, it wasn't. I tried to follow a wave in, as is the general advice on surf landings, but since the Outback tracks like a pig while under paddle, I decided to go in with the rudder down to help with some control. It helped me track, but having to adjust the tiller meant I wasn't paddling as hard as I should have to stay on the back of the wave. I lost momentum, and then heard the crash behind me.

I got flipped somewhere between 15 and 20 yards offshore. I held onto the yak for a split second, and then thought better of it. The wave took the yak towards the beach, and I got stuck in the breaker zone - my PFD was doing its job, which meant my feet couldn't stay on the bottom, and I suck at swimming in waves. So I did my best to keep my cool, and duck under the breakers. When I was about 30 feet from the shore I tried to flip my kayak over. No dice, and I was still in the impact zone. So I let it go again. everything that wasn't bungeed or tied down had taken off. I had spotted my gaff right as I popped up the first time, and no way was I going to let that go. So I grabbed that and the paddle. The DFW checker who was waiting for me on the beach grabbed my yak and flipped it over. When I got up to her, the only things missing were my hat and net. My hat was on the next wave in, and the net came in about 10 minutes later. I was very, very happy that the mirage drive was still attached by its bungee when I got up on the beach. The last 30 or so feet, that was all I could think about.

And then I realized that I purchased my drysuit yesterday. If I had been wearing the wader/mountaineering jacket combo, this report would probably be very different.

All in all, a pretty rocking day. I caught fish, I had fun, and I huli'd with no loss. Unfortunately, no one on the beach was taking photos or videos, so we cannot see what exactly happened to me. Which was probably pretty funny to watch.Next time.

More soon,

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fish on Wednesday

The past week has been pretty eventful, in terms of my kayak fishing experience. Fish, fish, and more fish, along with a drysuit and a huli.

First, fish fish.

Last Wednesday I headed out to Pacific City/Cape Kiwanda to try my hand at ocean fishing once again. Now that I have been out and about on the water (the first trip being the uneventful one with Wali), I decided to give it another go. I was hoping for some company in the form of other kayakers, but no one was up for a Wednesday morning jaunt. So I went out alone. Which sounds ominous, but I made sure that I left a float plan and a specific check in time at home, and PC is dory city – there seems to always be a dory in the water near by. The added security of a VHF radio and knowing that I wasn’t going out farther than the haystack rock just offshore made it that much safer, in my mind.

I managed to get down to PC at about 7:30. I had packed most of the necessary gear in the car the night before, and so I just had to grab a few things on the way out the door. It is amazing how smooth a launch can go when things are in place. I actually did not forget anything – which is amazing given how distracted I can get.

I parked the car at the north end of the beach, next to a bunch of trucks with dory trailers. Tide was on the way out, and so I would have a nice outbound current to help with the launch. The car almost got bogged down in the sand, and I realized that my rear wheels were just at the high tide mark.

I geared up, turned the radio on, and poured water into the sonar transducer cup inside the hull. The fishfinder that I use, a Lowrance/Eagle 350, has a small sonar transducer that either needs to be firmly in contact with the hull of the boat, in the water, or, as many kayakers before me have found, will work if in a foam “puck” with water at the bottom. I used marine Goop to attach the foam to the inside of my kayak, and unfortunately, I was unsuccessful at making it hold water. Oh well, no worries, fish finders are not a necessary thing.

I dragged the kayak down to the water’s edge, and then walked it out to knee deep – the outgoing tide and small swell size made for an easy, smooth launch. I paddled out a bit, dropped the drive in, and headed towards the haystack. About 300 yards out I stopped to set all of the gear up. I had brought along a level wind reel and casting rod combo that I used for the first time on the trip out with Wali, and realized as I was threading the line through the eyelets that there was something wrong with the reel. It would freespool fine, but clicking off the freespool into retrieve showed me two things. One, the drag wasn’t working, and two, the retrieve wasn’t working correctly. For those of you who are keeping track, 1=0. I had brought along a second rod to rig up alternate gear like a Sabiki herring jig or larger single jigs. It turns out that it would be the only rod I would use, so it got the triple – two shrimpflies on dropper loops with a 3oz jig head at the end. I decided to use a dark brown/blue colored 6” swimbait , as the morning was overcast. Dark lures on dark days.

I settled into a spot, drifting between the haystack rock and the buoy just north of it. After a bit, I felt a bump on the line. Fish on! I reeled in, and had a minor fight with the fish, but nothing amazing. Turns out it was an “underling,” a Ling Cod that was too small to retain. The minimum retention size for a ling cod in Oregon waters is 22”. This one was probably 18”. But it was my first ling cod, and the second fish that I have caught on the boat. Off the hook, back into the water you go.

I kept drifting, and hooked up again. I brought the fish all the way to the boat, and saw that it was another underling. Away with thee, small fish!

I moved a bit closer to the buoy, and realized there was a sea lion in the water close by, as well as one up on the buoy. The one in the water was spyhopping me – popping up from the surface about 30 yards away, eyeballing me. Neat, and a little unnerving. Sea lions are known to get aggressive/playful with kayaks, and I really was hoping that it wouldn’t with me.

Another bump, and fish on! This one was bigger, and pulled harder. I reeled it up to the surface, and brought a toad of a Cabezone onboard. It was a good 22 inches, and heavy. Definite keeper. Onto the stringer, and stringer into the rear tankwell. The first keeper fish on the kayak. Hooray!

Drifitng back and forth between the buoy and the haystack, I snagged up a few times, and then dragged up a black rockfish. Nice. Second fish on the stringer, and in the first hour or so of fishing.

I sort of just sat around for the next 30 or so minutes, and watched as a dory came in and passed by. I had the line out and rod in a holder, just sort of sitting around. Right as I turn to wave at the passing dory, I here the reel on going crazy, spitting out line. Grab the rod out of the holder and start pumping and reeling. Big fish. Strong fish. Strong enough to strip line while I am reeling, and strong enough to move the kayak. I pump and reel, and bring a 30+ inch Ling to the surface. OMG. Awesome. Now I need to get it in the boat. I try netting it. Net is too small. I have a gaff. I’ll use the gaff.

Now, a little bit about conservation of resources and fishing. While I am not a fan of Catch and Release (CNR) for sportfishing, I understand it. If you catch something too small to keep, throw it back gently and hope it survives to get bigger. I don’t practice CNR for fun – I don’t think that putting a fish through the trauma of being hooked is necessary. With conservation in mind, let us consider the Ling Cod. Minimum size for retention of a Ling Cod is 22”. Which means that all of the small juveniles get tossed back. Lings can get in upwards of 60”. Most of the fish/marine biologists/ fish nerds that I have talked to about lings say that the ones that get that big tend to be females. Over 36”, most likely a female. Bigger fish tend to be older fish, and also tend to be wormier fish (you know, parasitic worms). So retaining a large female will potentially impact the overall breeding stock.

So there I am sitting with the fish on the hook, and a gaff in hand. If I knew that I was going to retain the fish, I would have slipped the gaff up under its gillplate. Which can be pretty damaging to the fish. Since I wasn’t sure I was going to keep the fish to start with, I hesitated, and put the gaff hook through the upper lip. Much less damage to the fish. Also much harder to retain.

All of this thought process probably took a second.

And then I had a 30+” angry Ling cod in my lap. I know it was at least 30 inches, as it was at least ¾ the length of my outstretched leg. It had managed to spit the hook right as it got into my lap, and in the frenzy of trying to keep the shrimp flies and jig head from stabbing me, I let up on the gaff a little bit. And the Ling took advantage of that, slipping off of the gaff, and giving me a couple of good whacks with its tail before flipping out of the boat.

The biggest one is always the one that got away. It was a brief, exhilarating feeling. A tiny bit frustrating, as I did not have a chance to measure the fish, but I have a feeling I would have tossed it back. Next time, Lingzilla.

Shortly there after I scooted around to the west face of the haystack, and managed to bring in another largish cabezon and another black rockfish. And then I drifted back over to the haystack. At about 1pm I decided to call it quits. I dropped the line in one more time, and reeled up a nice fat black rock. And headed in. My approach was easy, the landing was easy, and I was satisfied.

More to come soon, as I went out this past Sunday.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Not from a kayak, downtime

I haven’t been able to take my kayak out at all over the past two weeks. Between what I do for work, 100+ degree weather and an uncooperative ocean on the days when I am free, fishing from the kayak hasn’t been happening.

Of course, before the heatwave rolled in last week and before I went off on a work related retreat, I went out on an albacore tuna charter with the F.V. Siamez through Depot Bay Tradewinds.

So the seas were kinda bumpy on the way out, and there wasn't much to see - ocean, clouds, the sky. I didn't have the camera out during any of the action, or for most of the trip - between trying to hang on, fishing, having my hands coated in saltwater and tuna gore, I really didn't think handling either my phone or my camera was all that great of an idea.

We had to go about 40 miles offshore to get to where the water was the correct temperature, and that took about four hours. Once we were out there, as soon as the lines were in, we were basically on fish. Most of the action was one at a time, but there were several points where we had doubles and triple hookups. Then things got exciting, as we had eight lines in the water at any given moment.

There were six customers fishing, and we brought in 35 fish. We would have brought in 36, but miscounted. I think the miscount was due to the shark that we reeled in - small 3 foot Blue that got tossed back.

In addition to the tuna, we got to see a few whales (Gray or Humpack - skipper said they were Humpbacks), a small pod of Orcas, a dolphin or so, and loads of different seabirds.

We finished fishing around 2pm, and started heading back in. We got back around 650pm, exhausted. I got home around 11pm that night.

Schooling Albacore are juveniles, and the biggest we brought on the boat was probably a hair under 40lbs, most were in the 15-20lb range. Depoe Bay Tradewinds has a couple of guys working their filet station that know how to get the most out of the tuna, as far as the more desirable white meat. A 15 lb fish dressed out to about 5 lbs of loin and belly meat. The rest is guts, head and spine. Like any good Asian kid, I convinced the guys to let me have a few of the heads as well. I probably could have taken all of them, but I don't have a chest freezer yet. Next time I go out, I'll make sure I have access to one.

10 lbs of meat is at the smokeshop right now - gonna can most of that, another 20 went in cans without smoke, and the remainder got frozen or grilled the next evening.

So here are the pics.

Step one, put your fish in a box.

Step two, make the deck hand open that box.

That's my fish in a Box!

Here is what 35 albacore look like lined up on a dock

Albacore are some of the most beautiful fish that I have seen. Right out of the water their backs are this amazingly vibrant blue/green. Such streamlined footballs. There is a passage right at the end of The Old Man and the Sea where Hemingway describes the amazing colors of a billfish, and then how quickly it fades. You can't put that in a can, and I doubt I have the camera skills to show that off.

FWIW, I picked up on a few things while heading out and coming back that helped me understand a little more about fishing from a kayak on the ocean. Going out on a boat bigger than 11', where I was standing up, gave me the opportunity to really watch the interaction between swell size and period, wind waves, and interacting currents. Crossing over the bar out of Depoe Bay was interesting - the bay opening is basically a big funnel, and so there were breakers that rolled in right up to under the bridge. I can see why this is potentially the most hazardous part of a trip out of Depoe Bay - it looked like you would want to time it like a surf launch to get out of the funnel in between sets.

And then once out on the ocean, just offshore, I was watching the whitecaps and swell/period. It was choppy and the period was pretty short - it all started coming together. And then we got about 10 miles out, and I could really watch the swell and period, as well as experiencing it as the boat crashed through. All the way out, at the height of fishing, the skipper had the boat riding the swell - we could watch the wave come up to use, ride the up the face (stern facing the wave), and then the wave would pass under us. There were a couple of points where we could actually watch the tuna hit the lures - a flash of blue and silver, and then the rod would go bendo.

On the way back in it was interesting to observe the speed of the swell. The boat was holding 9kts, and we would get overtaken be the swell. Again, we would ride up the face of the wave, and then it would pass under us. The speed at which it happened means that the swell itself was probably moving around 20+ knots. I had to watch carefully to see it happen, otherwise it would just feel like we were on rough oceans.

Now that I have a kayak, I can’t really see going out on a charter boat off the Oregon coast for anything less than Tuna or possibly deep water Halibut – and if I start catching nearshore halibut, then the only Charters will be for Albacore. Which means if I save my pennies, I can probably fit in two or so trips in a summer.

The weather/ocean forecast for tomorrow looks just about ideal for my skill level – similar if not calmer than the first time I went out. Hopefully I will have an awesome fishing report tomorrow afternoon.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

1=0, 2=1

There is a great adage regarding equipment. You may have heard it. “The best [insert piece of equipment here] you have is the one you have on you.”

Normally I have heard this in regard to cameras. Today, I am thinking about knives.

Those of you with a little more than a passing association with me probably know that I carry a knife or so with me whenever I can. On top of having a plethora of edged and pointy objects on me, I like to keep the knives I use ridiculously sharp. I have sharpened friend’s kitchen knives under the guise of doing them a favor. Truth be told, I’m probably sharpening their knives because I have been in their kitchen at least once, and I am loathe to use a dull knife.

The best knife you have is the one on you. In this case I am thinking specifically about the knife that is strapped to my PFD. I put some thought into which knife to use for this application. It had to be a few things.
1. Immediately available. The PFD has a lashing point on the right breast, as well as adjustment straps on the shoulders and waist. After much thought, I chose to mount whatever knife I chose on the left shoulder adjustment strap, in a cross draw position with the blade edge down.
2. Low profile. In my quest to keep things simple, and to make re-entry into my kayak as easy as possible should I decide to or unwillingly take a dip, the knife cannot be too large. Smaller knives also provide for more of a safety margin – they are much easier to control.
3. Easily retained – not just by the sheath, but while in use. The best knife you have is the one you have in your hand, not the one on its way to the bottom of the ocean. Again, a knife with a small form factor is easier to manipulate.
It should go without saying that it needs to be sharp. Pointy is not entirely necessary or desirable while in the water. It should also be inexpensive enough that if I do lose it, I am not too torn up.

I already have several knives and used a couple of them to get an idea of setup and see if they would work. In keeping with the low profile and small form factor, I tried out a couple of knives that might fit the bill. First I tried my Krein Dogfish. Tom Krein is a knife maker out of Arkansas, and his Dogfish design was picked up by CRKT for mass production. The one that I have is a semi-custom – the blank was machine cut for Tom, and he ground and finished the blade. The Dogfish is one of my favorite knives – wharncliffe style blade made of S30V steel (a very high tech knife steel) with a bottle opener worked into the butt end. It is a skeletonized knife, and Tom worked the lightening cut outs so that the knife looks like a fish. The knife has a wicked, wicked edge, and it handles wonderfully. As a knife to work out the kinks of putting a knife on a PFD, this helped, but I never intended it to be a safety knife. I normally keep this one on a lanyard around my neck under my shirt.

The next one that I had laying around was one of my Strider EDs. Strider Knives Inc. is one of the premiere knife making companies in the United States. They don’t really do “production” knives in the sense that Buck, Gerber, CRKT or Kershaw do productions. Nope, Strider is a low yield shop, with the majority of their effort going towards fulfilling orders for various governmental contracts. Pretty much everyone who works for SKI is a military veteran. The lead designers for SKI are Mick Strider and Duane Dwyer. Since they are a low yield shop, and all of their knives are made from premier materials and fitted and finished by hand, they aren’t exactly inexpensive. The ED is at the bottom rung of their prices. Again, it is a skeletonized knife, and someone at SKI took that idea and made it reality. The original design of the ED incorporated lightening cut outs patterned to look like a skull or a skeleton. Again, the ED is a very basic knife with outstanding ergonomics. Made from S30V, again with the wicked edge, but this time in a spear point blade style.

I liked the ED on the vest, but even though it and the Dogfish are both very small knives, it still felt too large for any external mounting location. Since the knife has to be immediately available, there is no strapping it to the inside of the PFD.

I thought for a minute. And then remembered a knife that I owned and sold a couple of years ago.

In my never-ending quest for new and interesting bits of stuff, I stumbled across HideAway Knives (HAK). The woman who designed the HAK wanted a self defense tool that was easily manipulated and retainable without having to use grip strength. Her idea was for a ring knife, similar to a Karambit style fighting knife. The design allows for the knife hand to retain the blade while remaining free on the palmside for open hand techniques. In non-fighting terms, this allows your knife hand to remain free to grasp other things.

The HAK that I originally owned was made from Titanium and was a very aggressive “tiger claw” style. I ended up giving it away a couple of years ago, as I basically did not have a use for it (titanium has very poor edge retention).

I ended up trading one of my EDs for a newer HAK claw. The basic HAK utility design is similar in shape to a box cutter blade, and the claw adds a recurve to the blade. The recurve increases the available cutting edge without having to increase the overall length of the blade. Multiple recurves on a blade are serrations.

As a safety knife, a recurve HAK is outstanding. The knife is passively retained, the package is very small, and all you do is grasp and pull. My only concern is that the knife is made from 440c steel, which is not corrosion resistant. Of course, that is easily remedied through basic preventative maintenance, which in this case is a rinse after salt water exposure and a wipe down with Marine Tuf-Cloth.

Now, before everyone goes out and decides they want a HAK, understand a few things. First and foremost, the company that produces the HAK is effectively no longer a viable business, due to all kinds of poor business decisions and drama. I was lucky in that I am part of a larger community of knife collectors, and so I basically just put out a wanted add. You can still purchase utility HAKs from Fenix Outfitters (as well as other nifty bits).

The closest knife that I can think of that isn’t a HAK that would fulfill all of my needs in a PFD safety knife would be the Fred Perrin La Griffe or derivatives. Emerson knives makes a production version of the La Griffe, and Sypderco has produced a limited run called the “Swick.”

My HAK is specifically a safety knife. While I could use it as a utility knife, I will not. The sole reason it is on my person is as an emergency tool in life threatening situations. The idea is that it only gets used if I am in or underwater and I need to cut through something immediately. No sense in using it for utility tasks, as that would take it out of its sheath and potentially take it out of useable reach.

More later on utility knives and multi-tools.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My first day on the Big Briny

Yesterday I awoke at 4:30 AM, ready to get down to Pacific City for my first shot at fishing from the Outback on big water. My plan was to get out the door by 5:30am, and with judicious use of the accelerator on my car, get to Cape Kiwanda by 7:30am, and launch soon after that. Ocean conditions looked perfect for a newbie – 3 foot swells at 7 seconds, winds 5-10 knots with 1 foot wind waves. Just about as calm as the Pacific Ocean gets off of the coast of Oregon.

Well, I happen to be a very good friend of Murphy. If it can go wrong, it will go wrong at the worst possible time. Yesterday morning was no different from any other morning when I wake up at a ridiculously early time in order to go do something I am excited about. Things still needed to be packed, and it happened in a rather haphazard way. I did not actually get out of the door and into the car until 6:30. Since it was so late, I decided to go get coffee. While at the coffee shop, I realized that I had forgotten a towel and a second set of clothes. SO back to the house I went. Managed to get 3 miles away from home before my mental checklist alarm went off. I did a quick inventory in my head of what gear I had grabbed in the rush out of the door. You cannot go fishing, I told myself (and my mother, who was along for the ride), without a fishing rod and reel.


Luckily, I happened to be approaching an intersection that I could turn around at easily. So, three miles back home. Traffic is picking up. I am getting progressively more and more irritable. Fishing rod in hand, I jump back in the car and head out. For real this time.

Back into traffic. Again, luckily, it was Monday morning at 7am, so it wasn’t super heavy. Highway 26 to Highway 6 to Highway 101 southbound. With a pit stop at the Safeway in Tillamook. And then, at about 9:30 am, Cape Kiwanda and Pacific City. We park, survey, and I start to get down to business. From several threads on one of the forums I frequent, I know that there are at least two other kayakers in the area fishing. But I am three hours off of their launch time. So I start to get ready to drag my ‘yak down the beach, and figure it out myself.

And then Murphy smiles at me. A pickup truck with a kayak in the bed pulls up next to me. The guy driving says to me “From the looks of the car and the kayak, I would guess that you are Madoc?” I give a description of what should be the most obvious way of identifying my when I am trying to coordinate plans with people that I have never met in person.

Turns out I am encountering a new friend, Wali, otherwise known on the forum boards as “Fishes From Tupperware.” So now I have a paddling buddy, and an experienced one at that. FFTW moderates a forum on the Northwest Kayak Anglers website entitled “Don’t Ask Me How I Know.” Sort of appropriate for me.

Wali and I watched as the two Kayakers who had launched first thing in the morning came paddling back in. They had been pretty successful, with close to the limit of rockfish and cabezon. They had some pointers as to where do go, as neither Wali nor I had fishfinders mounted on our kayaks.

The launch was fun and easy. Again, the Pacific was very calm and easy on me for my first time. We paddled out a hundred yards or so, and I dropped the mirage drive into position. We got 200 yards off shore and dropped our lines in. Wali immediately had fish on, and it turned out to be a small Ling Cod. To small to be a keeper, but a good start. Not having a sonar unit between us meant that we were fishing by feel. The standard method of fishing for groundfish from a boat along the Oregon coast is by jigging. Your lure is also the sinker body in this case. The standard set up is a 1 ½ oz. upwards to 9+ oz. jig heads – a large hook with a lead head molded over the eyelet. A rubber lure is threaded over the hook, and the jig is tied off to the end of the line. You drop the lure straight down until it hits bottom, and bounce it along the bottom. Without having a sonar unit, you have to guess what surface you are fishing over, mostly based on the feel that you get when you are bouncing the jig off of the bottom. It becomes very clear when you are over sand or over rocks. The fish that we were after live amongst the rocks.

We tooled over to towards the haystack rock, laughing at the Common Murres. They look like penguins, but they fly. My jig got snagged right as Wali called out another fish on. I worke to get my line untangled – somehow it had decided to wrap around the pole a few times, and then my drag and freespool weren’t working right. I finally got is all figured out, and realized that I wasn’t snagged, I had a fish on as well. I reeled in to find a 13” Cabezon on my jig. Too small to keep. But my first fish landed on my kayak, the first fish I have landed on the ocean using gear that I set up, and the second ocean fish that I have caught in waters around Oregon. It may not have been a keeper, but it was worth a picture. Wali had pulled in another underling. He tried to take a picture of me and my fish with his camera, but true to form, it wouldn’t work. So we both pulled out our phones and snapped a couple pics for posterity.

Here is my little cabezon

We drifted around a little bit more, and then headed to the kelp bed on the beach side of the haystack. Bull Kelp is pretty neat stuff, but fishing around it calls for gear that I did not bring. Specifically, weedless jigheads. My first drop I end up snagged on a piece of kelp. I am surprised that I didn’t snap my line trying to get unsnagged. It took me five minutes, and I ended up uprooting the kelp that I was snagged to.

Meanwhile, Wali was on another fish. This time it was a cabezon. And it was a keeper. 16 inches is the minimum length for retention of a cabezon in Oregon, and Wali had one that was at least 24”. A really piggy of a fish. We kept playing around the kelp, and Wali hooked up a black rockfish. We weren’t sure of the legal retention limit for it, so I pulled up the regs on my phone. It turns out that there is no minimum limit for black rockfish, and I told Wali that. While I was waiting for my phone to bring up the info, he had decided to release the fish. Oh well.

We had to pack it in around 1, and started heading back in. The tide had come in while we were out, and the waves had picked up a little bit, but nothing too scary for a newbie. We watched a guy launch from the beach on a surfboard. To go fishing. I can only imagine how that works.

I managed to get right behind a small breaker (they were about 2 feet, is that even a “breaker?”) and ride it in. Hopped out in about six inches of water, and hauled the yak up the beach.

So, some lessons learned.

1. Pack the night before. I had plenty of time the night before (I always have time the night before, and I seem to always wait until I am under pressure to leave to pack).
2. Bring the right gear. Not only is a checklist necessary, but knowing the correct gear to have is important. I mostly had the right stuff, but there were a few corrections that I need to make. Weedless jigheads and more lure bodies. Larger jigheads – bigger fish eat bigger things.
3. Don’t freak out when you are running late.
4. Don’t forget to remove the gear that you don’t need before launching. I had the rechargeable batteries for my fishfinder in my gear livewell. I forgot to take them out, as well as forgot to plug the drain holes in the well. This morning I found the corroded batteries in a half inch of seawater. $50 mistake right there. Lesson learned.

Wali, Thanks for being there. That was a great first trip.

More soon,

Friday, July 10, 2009

Muscle Spasms suck

I was hoping to get out to Pacific City yesterday or today to try my hand at launching in the surf and perhaps catching a fish or so. No joy. Yesterday I woke up with cold, stiff muscles. One of the first things I do is brush my hair. My long hair. Which involves lifting my arm over my head, and tilting said head. Who knew that brushing your hair would result in muscle spasms throughout your back.

Stupid muscles. So no report on hulis or fishies.

Staying Alive, Staying Alive, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah Staying ALIIIVEE

My thoughts on personal flotation devices (PFDs).

After your common sense and conditioning, a PFD seems like the number one piece of safety equipment that is necessary for being a kayak fisherman. Since the kayak, at least mine, is a single person watercraft, it falls to the operator to ensure their own safety. The kayak isn’t going to throw me a life ring or jump in and try and save me if I go over. And from what I understand, flipping your kayak or getting knocked off (called a “Huli,” which evidently is based on “huli maka flip,” Hawaiian pidgen for falling over or making and ass of one’s self) happens. If you know it is a real risk, then you prepare for it. Huli maka flip on land, and you just embarrass yourself. Huli in water over your head, or in the surf, and you have a host of other problems

So, what PFD to choose? Since I am a noob at this, I asked my friendly sales people to help me narrow down the decision making process – by pointing me in the direction of vests designed for SOT kayakers or kayak fisherman. My love of pockets, webbing and Fastex buckles naturally had me gravitating towards vests designed for rescue personnel. “OOOOH, look at all of those pockets and zippers and attachment points!” I was saying to myself. And was quickly, and thankfully, steered away from them. Not that I wouldn’t love to have a Rescue PFD, but to be perfectly honest, I absolutely don’t need it. And part of this whole kayak buying business is about defining my needs vs. my wants (of course, buying a kayak is totally unnecessary, but hey…). Another great source of inspiration comes from my brief experience using an SOT for a couple of days in a very friendly lake a few summers ago, as well as hoisting myself out of many a pool without using the ladder.

My choices boiled down to the Astral V8 or the Stohlquist Fisherman. Both have about the same price point, and both come in a drab green color. Which I like. Perhaps not the best choice as far as visibility goes when the CG is out looking for you, but it fits my fashion sensibilities and reflects less in strong sunlight. Which is something I’m not sure very many people think about when they purchase a brilliant yellow or orange safety vest – especially for fishing. Quite a bit of what you do depends on what you can see, and if your clothing is highly reflective, it may cut down on what you can see.

Those of you who really know me, and may know a little bit about PFDs already, may be asking why I didn’t choose an inflatable vest? You know, the HSLD types that inflate using a CO2 cartridge. As cool as those are, not for me. You see, falling into the water is just the start of the problems. Falling into the water, possibly surrounded by various lines, cords, and et cetera, is an added risk, you know, of getting tangled. Underwater. Potentially in rough seas. Pulling a rip cord while possibly fighting lines, underwater, with the risk of getting hit in the head by a kayak, is just one more thing that can go wrong. There are vests with pressure triggers, but again, that's just asking for trouble. A passive floatation vest will float you even if you are unconscious. Which you hopefully aren’t. The other down side to inflatables is that they are limited use items. Fall in, need it, pop! Get home, and then what? Buy a new cartridge, dry and repack the vest. One more step.

The Stolhquist is loaded with pockets specifically laid out for fisherman. Basically it seems like a fishing vest plus flotation. Which is awesome. External surface of the pockets are smooth faced, there are two lash points on the chest, a rod holder, and the pocket covers, when fully unzipped, act as a rigid workshelf. One of the coolest vests that I have seen, and very well thought out. I mean, you have all of the pocket joy available for little fiddly bits, with an ergonomic layout. It’s like this vest was made for me, right?

Not quite. I actually bought the Astral V8. Two relatively useless pockets – an open top chest slot pocket on the left side and a snap closed mesh pocket on the lower right hand side. One lash point on the right chest. Totally slick faced, vented body, and very low profile.

Most of you who know me in my day to day know that I am almost never without a knife or three, two or more flashlights, and various other little bits of gadgety goodness. Heck, when I saw the Reef sandals with the built in bottle opener, the gadget fiend part of me just about wet myself. I go by the mantra that one=zero, and two=one. Expect failure at the least convenient moment. Murphy’s law and all that.

“So why,” you ask, “did you buy a PFD that has virtually no ergonomic storage?” Great question, and it comes down to setting limitations and having a clearly defined purpose. My PFD is first and foremost a personal safety item, and secondly a handy space to cover with gadgets and stuff. With that clearly in mind, I made the purchase. The V8 is slick faced. Zero pockets protrude from the front of the vest – the mesh pocket on the right is off to the side, and I wouldn’t really use it for much more than keeping a bottle of sunblock kind of handy. So there is little to snag on the side of a boat or kayak if you do have to make a re-entry while wearing it. The other thing that I have learned while fishing and carrying groceries is that, if I have a pocket with something in it that I need right now, the hand that can reach is occupied. So pockets, while wondrous creations that allow us to carry all kinds of goodies, are sort of a hindrance in this situation. And I already have a fishing vest.

The lack of pockets brings me to the next issue. Without convenient lash points or pockets, how can I carry all of the useful bits and pieces? The short answer is, “streamline.” I do not need super redundancy on the PFD. I will ideally be sitting on a kayak with plenty of storage space. I “need” the minimal gear on the PFD to remain safe in the water, and to have that gear immediately available while in the water. This equipment is, in order of importance to me
1. Knife - Having “only” one lash point for a knife on the vest is desirable. The knife that I choose for that attachment has to be the correct one. I am right handed, so the mounting option is the correct one for my handedness, and is in a location where I can reach it with my off hand as well. If you take a look at the picture, I have mounted the knife on the left shoulder strap, altogether foregoing the lashpoint.
2. Emergency strobe - The emergency strobe is not a flashlight. It is an emergency strobe. The PFD is such that if I am conscious and in the water and have to activate the strobe, it needs to be on the vest, and ideally on the highest point of the vest – so that it is visible from as many angles as possible. The V8 has nylon webbing for shoulder straps – this webbing is an ideal attachment point for a clip on strobe beacon. Check out high on the left shoulder strap, and you will see a Glo-Toob beacon light. Loads of settings, right now it is on slow strobe.
3. Whistle – Simple. Pea-less design attached to a lanyard just long enough to reach the mouth. Check out the orange thing on the right shoulder strap.
4. Reflector – this is going to be a signal mirror. Strobes are great at night, but mirrors you can point at search vehicles. Since mirrors are flat, this can fit in the pocket on the vest. You can just make it out on the lower right pocket.
5. VHF radio – this is not a “necessary” piece of survival gear, but is a mighty good thing to have on hand - just a hair off of "necessary". Once again, there are shoulder straps on the V8, and they have webbing keeper loops built in. These also happen to be sized right for radio clips, or more securely, a radio pouch. Right shoulder, I threaded a Tactical Tailor Small radio pouch over the adjustment straps. My Rino 530 was the stand-in for the VHF in this pic.

So there you have it. My minimal piece of survival gear, minimized. What you need, where you need it. And, to satisfy my super-redundancy wants, there are other ways of carrying gear separate from the vest entirely.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I’m a Belt and A Suspender Kind of Guy.

Today I want to talk about staying warm and dry. Or mostly warm and mostly dry.

I took the Outback for a short cruise on the Willy yesterday evening out by Sellwood park. Tested out the upgraded turbofins, and the sailing rudder upgrade. Major difference. More on that later.

I put in wearing just some flipflops, cotton ripstop pants and a cotton tee. I knew in advance that I would get wet, that I was only going out for about an hour, and that the water temperature and air temp were warm enough for me to be running around like an idiot in cotton. For those of you who don’t know already, cotton is one of the absolute worst fabrics you can wear while in the out of doors. It absorbs moisture and holds it next to your body, instead of wicking it to the outside surface of the fabric away from your skin. Great for wet t-shirt contests, bad for playing outdoors in anything cooler than 70 degrees.

Luckily, nothing bad happened to me (the turbofins got chewed up by a gravel bar that I didn’t know about until I was on top of it, but minor damage). But I did get wet. The chop on the river last night was up, as well as the wakes from several powerboats (PBs from here on out). Pointing the bow of the boat into the chop or wake results in quite a splash coming over the bow, and being diagonally to moving water has it coming up over the sides. Which isn’t really a problem – the ride on a SOT kayak is a wet one, and the Hobie Outback, because of its hull design, is wetter than most.

Which brings us to the belt and suspenders bit. Bearing in mind how wet I anticipate getting on a regular basis, and knowing a bit about outdoor gear, I fully intend on purchasing a drysuit in the near future.

But, being the impatient, instant gratification type that I am, I want to go out on the ocean now. Or as close to now as possible. I plan on hitting up Pacific City tomorrow in the early, early am.

The surf forecast and ocean forecast looks okay for me. I anticipate getting knocked around in the surf, and getting wet.

But it is going to be cool. So I need to dress appropriately. Since I do not have a drysuit, I need to figure something out. Instead of spending money that I should be saving for the dryuit on something like a wetsuit, I plan on using gear I already have. Which means waders and a hardshell jacket. The upside is that I know that this combination works to protect me from rain and wind. The downside, and this is a huge downside, is that they really don’t do much for you when you get dunked. A Drysuit has gaskets at the neck, wrists, and possibly ankles (if it doesn’t have attached drysocks). My waders are chest waders, which means I am good to go in water cresting at about four and a half feet. If I huli, it is probable that my waders will fill with water. Which is bad. Luckily, my waders came with a belt. The idea behind this is to cinch down on the waist, so if you do get dunked, your waders aren’t going to ballon open and fill up. Instead, your torso down to the belt line gets soaked, and everything below may experience a little bit of a trickle.

I haven’t tested that theory. In fact, I have done everything in my power to avoid testing that theory.

We will see.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Speed, and the need of.

It is all subjective as far as speed goes with the Outback. The Hobie Mirage drive is an outstanding design, and allows for some easy paddling. But the hull design of the Outback, while nice, wide and very stable, does not lend itself towards speediness. It is amazing how much of a practical lesson in physics a short, wide boat can give.

Of course, I didn’t purchase the boat to go fast on. I bought it because of its stability. A stable platform means that I can experiment and learn various things about moving around on a SOT kayak and not be overly concerned about a huli.

I clocked my speed over ground using my GPS the other day at about 5.5mph. This translates to about 4.8 knots. Not bad, considering I am out of shape, I was pushing against the current and the wind, and I am out of shape. Since I was measuring my speed over ground, and not how fast the boat was actually moving in the water, it is hard to judge. If I really wanted to get picky, I could probably pickup a pitot tube to figure out my speed in the water, but speed over land is actually more important.

To give myself a little mechanical bump in speed, I installed the ST Turbofin upgrade from Hobie on the Mirage drive. The standard fins on the Mirage drive are teardrop or blade shaped. The ST Turbo fins are shaped more like wings or airfoils, and are about 3 inches longer and larger overall. In addition, the ST fins have a rigid section in the middle of the vertical plane, which alters their hydrodynamics even more.

The upgrade should equate to more torque from the fins and an increase in speed.

Of course, I am still out of shape. Unfortunately I can’t fix that in 20 minutes like I did with the fin upgrade.

More soon,

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Proof of life, err, Plastic

I just wanted to show off my boat. My picture taking habits are basically nil - I don't think to take pictures, and so they rarely get taken.

Here is the green boat on top of my orange car.
From Kayak pics

More soon,

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Shakedowns and Stirfry

I took the boat out on the Willamette up by Sellwood park on Monday night, and we went out to Henry Hagg lake yesterday. Cruising up and down the Willamette the other night was pretty cool. I was out on the water as the sun was setting, and so the view of the West hills was very nice. There was some sort of regatta going on off of the west bank. That was fun to watch. Unfortunately, I only had my IPhone with me, and took some craptastic photos. Not much to see in the photos. Oh well. The boat tracks well, the drive system is easy to use, and getting up to a decent cruising speed takes very little effort.

Out on Hagg lake I basically ran a shakedown of the boat. Tested out launching and landing in shallow water, casting from the boat, sitting sideways, and accessing hatches. I am trying to figure out rod storage for surf launches and landings – having rods above deck may be my only option, as I was unable to stow m 6’6” trout set up using the center hatch. Of course, I didn’t bother to break the rod down, but from the little practice that I got yesterday changing the terminal rigging, I don’t know that I would want to do that. Having to re-thread the guides would be my biggest concern. A little more practice and I should have the solution worked out.

Dropping and retrieving a crayfish trap was pretty easy, which I hope will translate into crab pots in a couple of weeks. I have a Hobie livewell for my boat. Basically it is a big bucket that has a water pump in it. Since the use of livebait is a no-no on inland water systems in Oregon, my plans for it are as dry storage, or on the days when I drop traps, as a holding tank for crabs or crayfish. So I think I have the handling of live pinchies taken care of.

I think I may take another shakedown cruise or two to really figure out the mechanics of moving around the boat, but the overall ergonomics of the Outback are good.

High on my list of add-ons will be extended rod holders, a fishfinder/GPS combo, and an anchor system. But those are projects down the road, and for another post.

While on the subject of shakedowns, I want to touch on the burn that I got yesterday. I burn pretty easily, and I know it. Being on the water makes the burn even more likely. Not only are you contending with the Sun beating down on you, you also are dealing with the reflection of the Sun bouncing up at you. So even if you are wearing a nice wide brim sun hat, you may end up with a bad burn on your face, because of the reflection. Here in Oregon, the hours between 11am and 2pm at the height of the summer are when sunlight is at its most intense. If you are going to burn, chances are those four hours are when it will happen. But even in the late afternoon – or perhaps I should say, especially in the late afternoon, the risk of a burn while on or near the water is high. Now the sun is coming in at you from a very shallow angle, and so you get both the direct rays and the bounce, often times in the same area of your body.

Yesterday out on Hagg lake I kept all of this in mind. UV blocking sunglasses, brimmed hat to cut glare and help protect my face from direct exposure, and SPF 35 sunblock liberally applied to every exposed body part every 35-40 minutes. And I still got burned. Not terribly, but enough to remind me.

Of course, the burn is on my legs. Which are not normally exposed to the sun, as I tend to wear long legged trousers on a regular basis. Yesterday I chose shorts. So my whiter than white legs got an enormous amount of sun exposure compared to what they normally get.

Wear your sunblock, and limit your exposure.

More soon,

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kayak in hand. Okay, on top of the car.


The kayak is purchased. I’m still working out the details of storage, but foresee PVC piping construction in my future. Good thing I played with Legos, Erector sets, Lincoln logs and Tinker Toys. Ahh, Tinker Toys. I actually had a pretty immense (or so I thought) collection of Legos as a child. Which I dutifully passed on to my little brother when I outgrew them. When He outgrew them, he just sold them. Shows you what I know.

Anyway, pictures will soon start appearing in this blog, as I will actually have something to take a picture of.

Props out to Dave and staff at Next Adventure.

Of course, I was talking with one of the girls working there - she asked me what boat I was buying, I told her, she said "so you're a fisherman?" Evidently most people in Portland who buy the Hobies tend to be fisherman.

I have kind of put the cart before the horse with the kayak. I take delivery of it this afternoon, and I am still in a pickle as to where to store it. It is 13 feet long, which means that it is unlikely that I could take it inside of my house, around the corner that leads to the basement stairs, and down said stairs. The casement windows that lead into the basement are likewise too small and do not have the correct angle available.

So I am working out either storing the kayak on top of my landlady’s garage, or perhaps out in the side yard, on risers under a tarp. Either way, I have to figure out how to keep the ‘yak from walking off when I am not around.

More soon.

Friday, June 19, 2009

My new obsession

I am about to embark on a fishing adventure. I have new skills to learn, new risks to take, and hopefully rewarding experience – and fish.

I started fishing at a relatively young age. Initially my dad would take us out the night before and we would collect worms from the compost heap and the garden. The next day we would end up down on the Potomac river, and I am guessing we would bobber fish the worms. Ah the heady days of being six and not knowing a thing in the world except that you love your dad and that worms and fish are both slimy.

We eventually graduated to the point where Dad would take us out in a little rented rowboat. We would leave the dock and dad would row us up or downstream, in the relatively rocky and fast part near Chainbridge. I remember catching eels more than anything else. Most of the time the eels would meet a bloody end.

My early years included going out on a 17’ Boston Whaler in the islands of Maine, and pulling up an enormous Ocean Pout on the hand line. That trip was my first experience with sea urchins. Later we would take a small boat in Cape Cod, and pretty much only caught dogfish. Another year we would fish from the bank of a river near Rehoboth Beach, as well as dig with our toes for clams.

My father’s side of the family is Southeastern Chinese, and has an affinity for all things fish. I remember an unusual evening during a vacation to Kauai. My Grandmother discovered that we could harvest sea cucumbers off of the reefs near our rental. We brought back a few, and Grandma cooked them. The problem was that she had never cooked a sea cucumber in her life. At least not a fresh one. Boiling sea cucumber is an unforgettable smell. Kauai was also were I went on my first deep sea charter for Tuna. That was a great ride.

My mother’s family is from the Tidewater area in Virginia and Maryland. Gloucester and Saluda, Virgina. I did not spend nearly enough time in that part of the world, but as a little boy I fished from piers and jetties and beaches along the mid-south Atlantic. Blue fishing in the Chesapeake bay, crabbing, and getting stung by jellyfish all along the North Carolina Outer Banks.

I stopped fishing at about the age of 17. The last trip that I clearly remember was with my mother, her father, and my sister. My grandfather had wanted desperately to be closer to us, but family decisions kept that from happening. We went out on a small boat, about a 30 footer, with one of his distant cousins up in Maryland. I can’t remember if we actually caught any fish.

My family history is full of boats and fish and fishing, but because of the way that I grew up, very little of that was apparent to me. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I actually learned how to tie a clinch knot. I am, for all intents and purposes, an autodidact fisherman. Yes, some people have shown me some skills, but a great deal of my knowledge and working experience has come in the past three years. My father would rig everything up for us when I was a child – hooks are sharp, and bait is potentially yucky. But now I want to be self sufficient, and have many books on knot tying and fishing, and the Internet is a goldmine at times.

About five years ago my friends dragged me out to Henry Hagg lake to do some trout fishing from the bank. That re-kindled my interest. But it wasn’t until about three years ago that I realized I live in a truly bountiful region. And I set my sights on Steelhead and Salmon fishing. That demands that you learn knots and the names of rigs and what goes with what. Which is great. I still have a tremendous amount to learn, and in three years I have not even had a nibble. But one of these days I will get it right.

The newest component is a kayak. I realized, while digging clams a couple of months ago, that the bays that I regularly dig in have crabs in them. And that crabs are generally easier to catch in quantity from a boat, and not the shore. I also realized that these bays and estuaries have fish in them. Which again, may be best accessed from a boat, and not from shore. I live close to Sellwood bridge on the Willamette river. This section of river is a hot spot during salmon runs, as it is a narrow section of the river. For the most part, the salmon in this part of the river are accessible by boat.

I could go on, but suffice to say that I wanted a boat of some sort. And a power boat or drift boat while cool and all, just isn’t practical for me. Not enough money and no real storage space for one. It boiled down to a pontoon boat or a sit on top kayak. Both have their merits, but I decided I wanted a kayak. Pontoon boats really are great fishing platforms, but the conditions and locations that you can use them are limited. Additionally, I am limited to a car top carrying system, and getting a pontoon boat six feet overhead without a lift seems a little awkward. Plus, pontoon boats depend on inflated pontoons made out of fabric. Which, given my propensity to be really, really rough on my gear, sounds like a bad idea. Rotomolded thermoplastic sounds good to me.

I take delivery of a Hobie Outback this upcoming Monday. And thus begins the fishing adventure.