With the Ottawa river kayak fishing episode of our show airing this week, I thought I would republish the article I wrote about the trip.
My Adventure on the Ottawa River.
If you are going to try and kill yourself do it in spectacular fashion and at least get it on video
Well I am just back from the filming of the next segment of Game On, our kayak fishing adventure video . This segment was filmed on the Ottawa River in Canada and to my surprise would prove to be the most extreme segment so far. I would be spending time on the river with two former world champion white water boaters, Ken Whiting and Brendon Mark, so I felt was in good hands.
After a long flight from San Diego to the small airport in Ottawa I was dragged into immigration for a closer look. I was given the second degree and we had to go through the process of them deciding if I needed a work permit to be in Canada. From the entire airplane I was the only person they pulled into this secondary process. After a long debate and convincing them I was not getting paid they let me pass. It was after midnight when I was finally released and I was met by our videographer Will for the ride to his place to crash for the night. He told me we would be getting up early to meet the guys to fish the next morning.
This was an adventure I was really looking forward to and got no sleep just itching to get on the water. This would be the first of three days of running whitewater and fishing the eddy lines and pools that most anglers had no access to.
Other than floating down some small rapids in streams on inner tubes when I was a kid I had zero experience on rapids, but I have a ton of time in the surf on my kayak so I was feeling fairly confidant that I would handle it OK. The start off point on the river was as flat and calm as could be and I got slammed on my first cast of the lure in this spot.
I figured they were going to take it easy on me for the first day even though Ken, Brendan and Will had joked about humbling me on this trip. I was feeling pretty good, that is until I saw this.
We watched three rafts in a row dump their passengers on the very first section, sending the people floating down the river. All except this one girl who took the raft for a rodeo ride.
We watched and laughed, mine was a very nervous laughter.
Ken gave me a run down on running the river and made a plan, which was I would follow him closely down the rapids and the raft, which they were filming from would follow me down. I asked Ken “what happens if I get dumped” he said “just climb back on the kayak if you can, if not you should just float down river and the raft will pick you up.
I took a couple of deep breaths and said “well lets go, it’s only water right”. This was the start of what is, to this point in my life, the scariest thing I have ever been through. I quickly learned that running rapids is nothing like surfing, and unlike surfing there is no break between waves, the water just keeps flowing and pounding and comes at you from multiple directions at once.
I did as instructed and followed Ken closely down that first section, passing one of the large rafts still stuck in the hole, and was quickly ejected from my kayak. As they told me I was right next to my kayak and quickly was back in the seat and setting up for the next section. So far so good all things considered. The next section was a different story, though to me it did not look as challenging there was a hidden obstacle that my inexperienced eye did not see and that was a hole that reached out and grabbed my kayak. I went from gliding down the river, to my kayak coming to a complete stop and me shooting right off the deck into the water and into the hole. I was later told this was Joe’s hole and I was not the first person to fall victim to its grip. Upon hitting the water I was quickly dragged back upstream and into the churning water which, even with a PFD, forced me under water. I popped up a few feet away and was quickly sucked back into the churning water to repeat the process over and over again within seconds. I could not catch my breath and even when above water could not get a good breath of air because my PFD had been too loose and was covering my face. I knew in my mind that I had help but I was scared to death that they would not be able to get to me, how could they in these conditions? Thankfully they did get to me in what felt like my final breath. First in was Ken, when you see the video you will understand why he was a champion kayaker. He side-surfed his kayak in the hole leaning over so far it is hard to believe he stayed in as I was doing my best to pull him over. He lost me once but quickly got back to me and finally pulled me out of danger zone. Brendan was next in with the raft and dragged me out of the water, adding one final insult to injury, baring my backside, as he pulled me from the water, to the crowd watching on the shore. Will did his part by keeping the camera rolling so we have some cool and exciting footage for the video. Which would have been shown at my funeral had I not survived, I have shown the footage to a few friends and the general response is “Holy Shit”. The rest of you will have to wait for the show to come out to see it.
This was a pretty scary introduction to kayaking the river and something I will not ever forget. Thankfully I had these experts there to come to my rescue, I will be forever in their dept, then again they put me in that spot I may have to try and get them back on our next trip.
Though I was pretty shaken this was only the first day on the river and we had a lot of rapids and days of shooting to go, so after about a half hour of regrouping I was back in the kayak, this time in some flat water and doing what I love most and that is fishing. Catching my first pike and several small mouth bass.
I still had to face the music and that meant running the next set of rapids. Though pretty intimidated I was assured this set was much easier and I should have no problems. The guys were right and I ran that set without incident and actually really enjoyed it. We ran several more sets of rapids over the course of the day with me only hitting the water a couple more times but always getting right back on board my kayak. I was so happy to have sacked up and run the river the rest of the day, it would have been easy to sit in that raft all day but I know I would of never forgiven myself. I opted not to tell my wife about the scare until I returned home.
Here are a few more shots from the first day.
With a little bit of poetic justice I managed to catch the biggest Pike of the day right after the guys had taken their kayak out of the water at the end of the day.
Day two on the river was to be the same plan on the same section of river as the day before. Though I was glad I got back on my kayak the day before, I was not ready to run that top rapid again so I took a side chute of the river and fished my way to the bottom of the big section, while the boys ran it again. This time Lisa had raft duty and she flipped it in the top section. I was fishing and missed all that action.
I am happy to say I ran the rest of the rapids that day and managed to stay on my kayak for the rest of the trip.
The next day was supposed to be the start of a two day camping trip on the river but heavy rain was predicted for that night so we opted to investigate a nearby lake the guys had never fished. The water was super clear and the lake was a very cool spot to fish, we all caught bass and Pike.
As predicted the rains came that night and we were all happy to be sleeping in beds not a wet tent. The forecast for the next day was rain until about 3:00 pm then clearing and cool.
Once again the predictions were correct so we loaded for our camping trip and headed out fishing in the rain. The fishing this day was pretty steady on small mouth bass, pike and Will got one four pound large mouth. Even better the sun came out and turned into a beautiful day.
We only had to run one section of rapids this day and I managed to get through unscathed. After that we were in some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen, It was almost too beautiful to be real, of course my camera battery died and I only got a few photos from this, our last day on the water.
Dinner for our camp out.
The last morning we had to jump in the kayaks and make an hour and a half paddle in the fog back to the car so I could make my plane. I did manage one last cast on the paddle in and landed one last Pike.
I have landed a lot of what could be considered extreme fish in a kayak but at my skill level this was the most extreme kayak fishing I have ever done. I can’t wait to do it again, this time with my PFD nice and tight and my rescuers near by.
I hope you enjoy the episode of the show that documents this adventure.