Jim joins us with a quick update from the latest shoot in North Carolina’s Crystal Coast!
Jim joins us with a quick update from the latest shoot in North Carolina’s Crystal Coast!
There is something disturbing about emerging from a backcountry trip after 6 days. An uncomfortable ‘birthing’ back in to the land of the living and urban sprawl. An opposite feeling to that revelation of ease and comfort you have as you realize that you have escaped your life, job, cell phones, smelly people, cubicle, desk chair spackled existence.
On day two of this trip, producer Ken Whiting turned to us and tried to explain a feeling he had just felt. “During that hike, I had this sudden sensation that I belonged here.” Those words rang true to my very core. It was the same feeling I had been having, the same weird warmth that I was having so much trouble trying to explain soon after the packing ended and the paddling had begun.
We talk about it a lot around here. How the average person’s world seems increasingly farther and farther away from the wilderness. Forests are getting smaller and more controlled. People fear things like bugs and fish, and the simple skill of lighting a fire seems beyond far too many peoples grasp. It takes only a short while in the woods to realize that you are perfectly safe and at home out in the wilds. There will be work, pain and hardships, but your body was designed to take it, your body needs it. Your body needs to get out of the office and be set free on nature to feel whole again. A feeling many of us will never ever get to feel as we grow more and more urban, and are less apt to send our kids outdoors. Lucky for, Jim, Ken, Lisa, Jamie, and myself, we have a job that forces us outside and keeps us there. This time it lead us to the banks of the Petawawa river.
Now let me talk a bit about equipment…before I tell ya all about what happened, lets talk about how we did it.
In order to make this adventure possible, safe, and filmable… we needed some special gear. Drybags were our first priority, we needed dry clothes. NRS made bags that were perfect for us, from big bags to hold all our tents, to small bags that would fit in to the gunnels of the Trident 13 kayaks. The bags worked perfect, and everyones gear was kept perfectly dry, on a very wet trip. If you paddle a lot, get some NRS bags, these things are super tough and totally waterproof. Also, on the topic of Kayaks. The Ocean Kayaks we took on this trip served us perfect. In our opinion, no other fishing kayak coulda handled the beating.
Second, we needed to be able to recharge our batteries. We had the chance to test out Brunton’s big solar panel and battery combo. No special gear required, we just folded out the panel and it juiced up a battery that we could plug our cameras directly in to.. just like a wall socket. Worked like a charm and kept Lisa and I shooting for a whole week without a plug.
Now for safety. Jim and I aren’t whitewater ‘yakkers, se we needed a couple of helmets to keep our noggins from getting bonked. Sweet Protection’s helmets were the go to choice, as they are rugged, and still manage to look cool.
As for camping, our tents were all from Mountain Hardwear, and these babies rock. They are super lightweight and the poles can totally take the beating we put them thru running the rapids.
Last, we needed to be fed. We went with dried pre packaged camp food from Backpackers Pantry. Mostly because the food is super tasty and filling.. but as an added benefit, it packs well and is super light. I recommend the cheesecake. It rocks. Done.
The Petawawa River was amazing. Our first two days were spent on lake Traverse with none other than musky fishing legend, Jamie Pistilli. Jamie camped out with us for the first night and made sure we knew where the musky were. (as you can read in his last post) All three boys caught Musky that day. Proving that Jamie is one heck of a guide.
After leaving Jamie behind to run home and celebrate his son’s birthday (which co-incidentally also marked the anniversary of his gong show of a musky catch in Game On 1) we began a rambling row into a wonderland of Canadian fall beauty. The leaves literally changed before our eyes, from green to bright orange, to flaming red. The first day offered little in the way of musky, of which Jamie had given our anglers a burning hunger for the previous day. As we left Traverse behind, the river narrowed and the trees grew tight around us. The bitter cold of the night before finally seeped from our bones as the paddling loosened up our muscles. Jim caught another small Musky, but the big ones would just blow up and spit out our lures, leaving the anglers frustrated.
Our first campsite lay just beyond a small rapid, nestled in the elbow of the river… simply, perfect. There was an awesome little drop pool just in front of camp. In that pool lay a plethora of catfish, you could catch as many as you had soft plastic grubs. Each one was over 6 pounds, and had a fun fight to haul them up. All three of us immediately grabbed rods and jig heads and began hauling them up until our arms tired. This is what we were looking for. No one fished here, so the fishing was easy. Catfish may not be a 45 inch musky, but it sure was fun, and as long as our rods were bent, there were smiles on our faces.
Early to rise on day two and a short row to ‘crooked shoot’, with a few fish along the way (mainly bass and a bunch of musky blow ups, nothing big landed).This was the only technical whitewater on our route, and we knew that the raft wasn’t gonna take the beating. So we broke down our equipment and prepared to portage it to safety on the far side of the rapids. This was fine for our packs and barrels, but there was no way the four of us could haul the raft through the kilometre long trail. While ken ran the kayaks with painstaking perfection through the complicated pools of rushing water, we brainstormed a solution. It would be rough, but we could do it. We had to haul the raft over a rocky outcrop, and down through and old logging chute. It took us most of the day to finally get back in the water. Ken had the stamina to keep fishing (which amazed me since he had to run the rapid twice, do a 1 k portage, and help line and haul the raft), Lisa and I needed to jump in the lake to clean off the stink of sun beaten labor, and Jim simply passed out in happy exhaustion with a glass of wine and a book.
Third day started sluggish, but offered the first real signs of musky. Ken called us over as he had stalked a musky in to a corner and felt like it was gonna strike. As we got the cameras rolling that fish exploded to the surface and finally stuck on a hopping frog. This began the ultimate musky fishing trip ever.
Musky are a tough fish to catch. Trust me, I have sat and watched the best try and fail for hours on end. That’s the way musky are. A frustrating fish, but when you catch one you will be willing to spend days trying to get the next monster. In pressured waters like the Madawaska River, we have sat for days with only one musky even bothering to bite a line. In Jim’s words, “You gotta be really patient, or a bit nuts to wanna catch one of these fish.” The Petawawa was different. Here, the musky were plentiful, powerful, and hungry for lures.
Ken had it dialed in for the next two days. The weather turned a little rainy and that only seemed to help the bite. Four big musky in 6 hours became the new record of the day as the veteran kayaker hauled in monster after monster. The trick was to hit the pools just before the rapids and just after with big Sebile Lures.
The musky were hungry for the little bass in the pools and the Sebiles were the perfect treat. This was the special day when lady luck shone down on our producer. This was Kens ultimate fishing day.
Jim was getting frustrated. He caught the only walleye of the trip and lots of little ‘skis but so far, no monster musky. The walleye made for a nice dinner, but his arm was getting sore from casting and no fish. His eyes were on the prize as our final day loomed on the horizon.
On the morning of the sixth day, there was fish for the great Sammons. First he conquered the bite, as finally a massive 38 incher stuck to his big silver Sebile. The rest of the day was followed by fish. Many fish. In three hours Jim caught 3 monsters. Bringing our count to 15 musky in 6 days. That many in a year would be a respectable amount. That many in just a few days is insane. Perfectly, wonderfully, Insane.
We even managed to walk away without lodging any hooks in our hands…
The most serene and wonderful camping trip of all time, complete with great food (from Backpackers Pantry) and great friends. The Petawawa river was an adventure of a lifetime. Amazing that it could be so close to home. Proves that sometimes, in order to find great adventure, you don’t need a lot of money, you just need to look a few miles from your own back door.
A quick thanks to the folks at ExOfficio, Ocean Kayak, NRS, Backpackers Pantry, Sweet Protection, Brunton and Mountain Hardwear for making this trip possible. Please give these guys a visit, and keep your eyes on the blog, as soon we will be telling you all about our crazy adventure in San Diego and northern Baja. We are hooking up with out old friends Paul Lebowitz and Matt Moyer for some more big game adventures
See you all in San Diego!
(Photos provided by Lisa Utronki and June Veenstra)
We finally got a chance this past week in Montana to put the latest addition to the Ocean Kayak‘s rack to the test. Oh man, am I ever excited!
The reality is that there are situations where paddling is huge hindrance, such as people who just don’t have the upper body strength, or when you absolutely need to troll for certain species of fish at a controlled speed… or if you are a photographer or videographer, shooting 5 guys fishing spread out across a lake and need to zoom from one to the other while never putting your camera down. This is when a pedal powered or motorized kayak is a handy thing. As a camera man I admit to staring at the guys that could zoom across the water with their hands free with a whole lot of lust. If I had something like that, I could keep the camera rolling instead of burning valuable time trying to get to my subjects… who inevitably catch a fish as far away from the camera as possible. Trust Ocean Kayak to come up with the ultimate solution. As soon as the Torque was announced I saw the possibilities.
One of the very first Torques off the production line was sent to Jim for us to try out in Montana. I thought we were gonna be in a bit of trouble when he told me he was bringing an electric kayak with him. The rivers in Montana are extremely shallow. Perfect kayak fishing waters, but absolutly no good for something with a motor. The local anglers all row down the river in specially designed drift boats, not a motor in sight. A motor would only hang up on the rocks and dense weed beds. On the lakes it would be fine… but we had 4 anglers, and two crew… and Jim only had room for 6 kayaks… someone was gonna be banging that motor down the river.
Jim laughed at me, and pulled out the Minn Kota motor and the battery and replaced it with a fitted keel piece that comes with every Torque… In skinny water the torque wouldn’t be a problem. It quickly converted back in to a standard kayak, just as lightweight as any Ocean Kayak Prowler. Consider my skepticism squashed.
Jim ran the Madison River for the first 4 days in the Unmotored Torque. Nothing much to say there, without the motor it paddled just like any other Kayak. He eventually took out the removable keel to let him get in even skinnier waters, and that made it a bit harder to paddle, as without it, the currents would push up in to the open hole and swing him around from time to time. Thats his fault for wanting to be able to get closer to shore than everyone else.. not the kayaks fault. (it paid off… he caught a ton of fish)
Finally… we got out on Ennis Lake for a real trout fishing fiasco. It was time to put this baby thru her paces. We swapped in the motor and the battery in less than one minute. The hook up was super simple. Jim got in, and proceeded to zoom accross the three miles to the fishing hole… while the rest of us slogged out the paddle. He arrived first.. and was fishing long before we got there.
A storm rolled in at about 2. It had been raining all day so we didn’t think much of it… until the first lighting strike. We needed to get back to the put in, and fast. A three mile paddle. Enter ‘Super Torque.’ Jim’s son, Randy, was having trouble fighting the wind and rain and was falling behind. Jim quickly rigged a paddle leash as a bow line and hooked Randy up to his kayak. The damn little Minn Kota never slowed down for a second… he pulled both of them to shore (and safety)… once again beating the pack. (Narrowly beaten by CG and Kendal, who wanted to beat the motor on principle)
The Next day it was my turn. I had a theory about being able to do sweet pans and fly by shots using the motor on the lake. It took some begging… but Jim finally gave in. So on the 6th day, Will got his wish, and was now motor powered.
Like many folks, when I fish, I want to paddle. It lets me tell my wife that I am “Not just fishing… I am getting exercise!” Which in turn gets me out fishing more. As a camera person, I hate paddling. I am always having to stop rolling because I have drifted away from my subject, or need to paddle like a maniac to get to a hooked up angler. The Torque is perfect for me. I can paddle it on fishing days, or swap out the motor for those long musky trolls… ahem… I mean days where I need to film people… yeah…
For those worried about Motor noise, fear not… the thing is very quiet, (no louder than a frustrated angler muttering curse words on the water) I got some awesome fly by shots, and was able to, for the first time ever, get Jim hook to release on a trout while moving. No time lost. I was able to zoom in tight from a long way away… and there was little to no camera shake. This is the ultimate shooting platform. Kendal just drooled as I zoomed in to position for the shot.
We got a good chance to put the battery time thru the paces. It will run about 2.5 hours at top speed. We also tested it’s pulling capacity. It can tow about 5 other kayaks without losing significant speed. Thats pretty amazing when you think about it. If you have a long way to go to your fishing hole, and lots of kayak fishing buddies… one Torque might be the solution.
Jim and I both loved the Torque. I can’t wait to get one of my own for all shoots. Go out and give one a spin, I think you will be a convert.
I will leave you with a shot of Jim rolling down the river. Oh Montana… how did ya get so darn pretty.
Oh my LORD!
We are in the midst of day 4 here in Montana and let me tell you, nothing has prepared us for the wonders that the river has brought forth. I will start at the beginning…
We arrived to a huge surprise, our own personal lodge looking over the town of Ennis, Montana. The folks over at Rainbow Valley Lodge really set us up with a great home base. We have a full kitchen (which is good to feed 6 big guys) , beds for all and a nice big porch to enjoy a brew and tell fish stories from. From our private oasis we can easily tell how the wind is blowing over the lake… but the real magic lies in the nearby Madison River.
The first day of shooting we hooked up with our friend Jason at Bozeman Angler, and he took us on our first drift down the Madison. It really helps to have a guide out there from the get go. Fly fishing is tricky business, you need to know what bugs are hatching, and what the trout are eating, and every river is different. Jason showed us how to handle the Madison, and his drift boat was a top notch platform to shoot the Kayakers from. The fishing was a bit slow (or we were a bit slow.. one or the other…) Didn’t matter to C.G… he still managed to haul a fish out of the river.
I would say, as always, the fishing is only half the story out here. As usual the real fun is the people we meet along the way. I am happy to include C.G. as a member of that group of amazing people I get to shoot with.
Not only is he an amazing angler, managing to find the fish even when there seems to be none, but he is also a great teacher. Both Randy and Jim have quickly become great casters under his instruction. Proving that with the right teacher, anyone can chuck a fly.
He knows the area, knows the hatch, and can tie a knot faster than you can say… “Hey CG.. can you tie a knot for me?”
We did get to share a bit of knowledge with him however, and I am happy to say he can add a bit of fast moving water to his skills. He was a little nervous when we first hit a few long wave trains… but now he hits em all with a huge grin. What a great guy to spend your week with.
On the second day of our adventure, the training was over and it was time to hit some serious fish. First stop was a quick visit to our friends at Bozeman Angler to grab a few flies and meet up with our guide to the Yellowstone River, Cole. The Bozeman Angler is a very cool shop down in the heart of Bozeman. The people are super nice, and the guides are top notch. If you are heading out here to fish, give them a call. The best part is that they figured out how to guide the kayakers down the river, which should have been a bit of a challenge.. but Cole and Jason took it all in stride.
The Yellowstone River provided a ton of fish for us. Both Jim and Randy got some one on one time with our man Cole and he showed them how to spot the flash, toss the fly and land em. It was only a matter of time before they both snagged their first trout… and not long after that Jim landed his first from the kayak.
Not all was peachy however. Although C.G., Jim and Randy all caught fish.. many fish… on the Yellowstone. One man stood alone from the pack… watching and waiting for the right moment to catch a fish.
Mister ‘Birdsnest’ Herman watched over the group in cold, calculating silence… waiting in the wings for the right time to show his skills. By the third day, with a return to the Madison river, he still hadn’t managed to break a streak of slight misses and big chances. By day four he was getting visibly frustrated… but that all was an act it seemed.
Every trip we do, something special comes at one point or another. Double hook ups, record breaking tuna, and Montana was no slouch… Bird pulled out of that river the fish of a lifetime. A trophy brown trout. I can’t show ya the pictures yet, we want to keep em under wraps for now. Let’s just say that it is gonna blow your mind.
Three more days of fishing ahead. Can’t wait to tell you the rest of the story.
The time is almost here, and the intense prep work before we head in to the great unknown begins.
Whenever we travel to any location there are a few things we need to do before we leave. People often ask what I do as a documentary film director to get myself and the crew ready for the adventure… here is the answer to that burning question.
The first step happens pretty early on. We choose the location.
Since we started making these movies, we have been flooded with suggestions for places to go. Seems like everyone wants the crew to come out and muck around in their favorite fishing hole. From going to “Egypt for Nile perch” to hitting the “pond behind my cottage”, we get a lot of great ideas from a lot of great anglers… so first we need to narrow it down.
A great fishing seg has to have a few things to make it really sing.
If a location has all those things, then it is booked and we set a date. Often there is a ton of prep work that goes on for the next few months before we leave. From setting up plane rides to film from, to getting kayaks shipped to the location (that can take months depending on how far out the spot is)
A week before is when my job as the director really ramps up. I need to know as much as I can about where we are going and who we are shooting with before I go. So I settle down for a few days and start mining the internet for every bit of info I can find. I collect everything I find in to one big document and it becomes my almanac during my trip.
To make a good movie, you need to know what story you want to tell. The story could be as simple as “Jim catches big fish with tiny boat”, but as I said before.. that doesn’t always happen… and does the world really want to sit around for an hour watching him do that over and over? The people and places are just as important to the story. So knowing who and where you are gonna shoot will lead you to the best shots, and coolest stories.
So that is where I am at today. Research. Here are some fun facts about Who, What , and Where we are going.
Finally… a few days before we leave I have to lay out all my video gear and make sure it works. And give myself enough time to get stuff fixed. This is probubly the most important step. There is nothing worse than being 100 miles offshore in a faraway place and finding out you forgot your batteries.
What we have
Thats just what I carry on the plane in my drybag. (That way if my luggage doesn’t show up, at least I can still make a movie!)
Till next time!
Photos provided by Lisa Utronki
One of the best things about making the ‘Kayak Fishing: Game On’ movies is that we get to take ExOfficio clothing with us on all our shoots, and this season is no exception. Today in the mail everything we needed for the Panama trip arrived in a big brown box, and none of us could resist tearing it open and trying on all the new goodies. It’s like christmas for fisherman here at the office.
Why do we love our ExO clothes so much? Well. Listen.
1. Traveling as much as we do we need stuff that packs light. Jim carries about 3 bags full of fishing gear on every trip, and I have to lug about 50 lbs of camera gear to every location. With the way that airlines kill you over extra baggage nowadays, space is at a premium and that doesn’t leave much room for clothes. This stuff packs super lights and after about 10 minutes on your back it comes out wrinkle free,
2. We film all day on the water most days. Solid clothing that dries fast is a must. This stuff dries really fast… I mean super duper stupid fast. I remember when I first got my Amphi shorts wet and I thought.. damn.. now I’m gonna be wet and grumpy for the rest of the day. I was dry in about ten minutes. Seriously. ON top of that, it can take a beating and sheds salt water like it is made of oilcloth.
3. Sun and Bugs. Most of the stuff we choose to wear on these trips must have good UV protection, and in places like Panama where mosquito carrying viruses are a real danger we have to do everything we can to keep them from biting us. ExO comes thru again with well ventilated long sleeved shirts that are infused with bug repellant. When Greg Bowdish told us last year to make sure we got long sleeved shirts for Florida, we thought he was nuts… but after the very first day on the water wearing a long sleeve ‘air strip’ shirt with the collar up to cover my neck and the sleeves rolled down, I will never go short sleeved on a sunny day again. I actually felt cooler in that shirt than I did wearing a t-shirt.
4. This stuff is super high quality, full of pockets, and my girlfriend doesn’t hate how it looks…. nuff said.
ExO sent us some of their new stuff to try out this year, and you will bet we will be wearing it all the time. This season you will see the team sporting ‘Reefrunner‘ shoes from their new line of hardcore footwear, ‘Neptune‘ T-shirts and because none of us could resist…’Give-N-Go‘ underwear.. well lets just hope that the undies don’t show up in the movie… much…
Thanks ExO, You people rock.
(Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – 9th March 2009) I am convalescing on the flattest, calmest piece of Pacific Bay I have ever seen. I am convalescing from a fantastic week on the water in Texas. Okay, maybe “convalescing” is not the appropriate verbage. How about: “Rehabilitating”? Nay… the constant stream of Rum Punches being brought to my beachside chase lounge makes “rehabilitation” most disingenuous. Ahhh, mobsters…. Here it is… I am refueling. Yep, filling a drained tank after a glorious week of fishing, filming, and, friends.
Jim Sammons, the king of west coast kayak fishing and the infamous videographer extraordinaire Will Richardson (the coolest Canadian this side of the Cobham River) came to Texas at the close of February. Texas was scheduled to be the first stop for Game On Part 2, and we planned to fish the Hurricane Ike -battered but unbowed -upper Texas Coast.
We set up camp at Pointe West Resort, on Galveston Island. A great home base for various fishing options on and around Galveston, and we were definitely going to need options. February weather is so unpredictable in Texas, that targeting a specific species is dubious at best. In planning for the film I had multiple locations mapped and at the ready for whatever Ma Nature threw in our direction.
My best bet for good fishing was putting the crew, which included Perry Trial from TPWD, on to big trout. However with a week of unseasonably warm weather, I had a hunch that the trout would be dispersed and instead that red fish may be skittering about the shallow marshes. The water was warm enough for sure, and if the bait fish were around at all, I knew the reds would be too.
On day one of our fishing I went with my gut and took the crew over to a Christmas Bay canal and salt marsh. We choose our location well because everyone whacked good fish the first day. Reds of all sizes were caught. There were plenty of undersized “rats”, as well as some nice slot redfish between 23 and 25 inches netted for the cameras. As a bonus, some very respectable flounder were brought to hand too. The big flounder were unexpected as usually you only catch juveniles this time of year. All in all it was a great start to the trip.
Jim with a great flounder (I say it was the lucky Lendal hat!):
Perry with a nice red:
On day two we rolled the dice and went to a deep water spot to see if any trout were still hanging around. Jim had a red and a flounder under his belt, and I felt duty bound to get him on a speckled trout so he could complete a proper “Texas Slam”. (Texas Slam = Red, Trout, and Flounder.)
How’s that old adage go? “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Well, our road was unpaved/destroyed by Hurricane Ike, and getting everyone to the trout launch spot was a time consuming affair. Poor Jim and Will were basically 4 wheeling in a Chrysler rental car that was so low to the ground yellow stripes in the road were trying to duck and cover. Alas, we all made it to the launch and set out for fishing. We grinded for a few hours, but with a late start and unseasonably warm waters, the trout hole was a swing and a miss.
Bird on the move:
–Pardon. My drink has been long empty and our waitress Elda has seemingly vanished? I must find my sandals and make way to the beach bar for refills. More soon on our Texas Fishing Adventure, after proper refreshments have been secured….
—Bueno Amigos… mas aventura de pesca Tejas…
On the afternoon of day two Jim and I headed back to Christmas Bay for more marsh fishing, while Perry and Will went to meet a pilot for shooting some aerial footage. Our pilot was no ordinary prop jockey. Nay my good friends, we secured the services of Walker – kayaker, fisherman, pilot, privateer (seriously, it’s on his business card), and just a genuinely cool dude. Walker flew half the crew over Galveston Island, Follett’s Island, and Bolivar Island while Jim and I fished. We each caught some reds, but it wasn’t as hot and heavy as the day before. Regardless, we had quite a time watching Walker fly low circles over us sans passenger doors. Perched precariously, Will hung out the door by his safety belt to shoot video. Cool stuff indeed.
Return your seat backs to their upright and locked position:
Whose shooting who?:
On day 3, we shook off the cobwebs from a night of trading fish stories and drinks. As the big winds were increasing steadily, everyone decided marsh fishing was again the first-best option. Fishing was marginal with no big fish caught and an inconsistent bite. But, everyone went bendo a few times, albeit no bragging rights were cemented.
Wind and Waves:
After breaking for lunch we headed for another spot in the lee of the wind. I still needed to find some trout and figured this particular spot in West Bay would produce. Bah, the wind started humming to 20mph and we fought it and a bigger than expected tide. No joy, no luck. As the sun started to go down though, I suggested we blind cast a marsh on the way back to the launch. With the grinding potential of our blind casting we were finally rewarded with a speckled trout to complete Jim’s slam. It wasn’t a monster sow trout, but it was a respectable keeper caught as the sun was setting. How can you not like that? It was a cool moment. A genuine moment. A moment when potential and opportunity combine into a worthy flash of Experience (capitalization intended). For me, that’s fishing, mobsters…. Not the fish, but the potential of the fishing, the potential of the trip, the potential of the next cast, the potential of experience.
– The sun has set here in old Mexico. The battery on the lap top is almost drained along with my drink. I am back on the rod and reel tomorrow…. My better half Angee and I have secured a panga and the services of Captain Jose for a morning of trolling for bonitos, spanish mackerels, and jacks.
The recounting of the Texas trip was only half over when I stopped above. It was a great experience already, and it was about to become even richer. Hell, it become profoundly richer and the actual fishing was terrible by professional angling terms. However, it turned out to be some of the best “fishing” I’ve ever had the privilege to participate in.
Next time: Heroes on the Water. Fishing with wounded veterans at the Manske Ranch in Vanderbilt Texas.