flyfishing

Ocean Kayak ‘Torque’ Hits Montana

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Will

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Big Drifts, Blue Sky and Brown Trout

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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…

Rainbow Lodge

Rainbow Lodge

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.

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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.

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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.

_MG_9124On 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.

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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.

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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.

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Three more days of fishing ahead. Can’t wait to tell you the rest of the story.

Will

ExOfficio Gear for Panama!

 

Packing all our stuff in the tiny bushplane

Packing all our stuff in the tiny bushplane

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.

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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…

 

Jim sportin' his undies

Jim sportin' his undies

Thanks ExO, You people rock.

Will

Kayak Fishing: GO 2 Texas by Jeff “Birdsnest” Herman

(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.

The crew:

 

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?:

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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.

Bueno!

Bird