Work, school, kids, commitments, they all dig into the time we swear to set aside at the start of every new year. It seems for me the more I’d like to plan the less time I have to actually see the trip unfold. This year, I’m going to become the master of the micro adventure, taking advantage of every waking hour between work and sleep. Pick your favorite micro adventure below, or choose to cross them all off your list this year one-by-one. Whatever you choose, just make sure you’re taking every chance to hit the water and fill your days with adventure. After all, you only get one shot. –Ben Duchesney
1) The Weekend Overnight
Look at your kayak and tell me that you can’t fit a few weeks worth of camping gear in probably a single one of your hatches (SUP anglers, you can do this too, just not with hatches). You know, those doors that lead into a storage compartment you probably don’t use very often. Even amongst the bustling parks you visit all the time, there’s probably an island in the middle of the lake, or some far-off beach that you are allowed to camp at for a night. Check your local regulations for any required permissions or permits.
Instead of going out to the lake all day, coming home, waking up and going back to the lake, now you can crawl out of your tent and casually make a morning cup of coffee, with no rush, as you watch the sun rise over the water. Without the annoying commute your time can roll on at a slower pace. Spending even one night out in nature has been proven to raise levels of satisfaction and happiness in adults. You can’t argue with science, you need a weekend overnight trip in your life. Probably a handful a season.
Gear Needed: Even with all that gear storage space it’s still a good idea to get a lightweight, high-quality tent. Always choose a tent one “man size” bigger than you need for the trip. If it’s you and a buddy splitting your tent, get a three man or you’ll be on top of each other, especially if you keep your gear or a dog in the tent with you. A good headlamp is a good idea.
2) The Dawn Patrol
Yes, you have to get up early for this one, but with just a little bit of effort, and a lot of coffee, you can make even your workday a day to remember by setting your alarm a few hours early. Plan to get on the water at sunrise so you can watch the sun come up as you fish and to maximize your fishing time. The earlier you get up the more time you’ll have to fish. Of course, this also means you’ll have to find a spot either on the way to work, or nearby.
To make things easy, let’s figure that sunrise will be at 5:30am and you have to be sitting at your desk at 9am. Fingers crossed, you found the perfect little launch spot halfway to work, which means it’ll take 30 minutes to get to your desk once you leave the water (and assuming your commute is a hellish hour slog through traffic). That means you want to leave your house, boat and gear ready to go, at at least 4:30am so you have an extra 30 minutes to rig up once you hit the water and get into your spot before the sun comes up. Then you have until 8:15 to fish, unless you plan to put things away neatly, and still make that morning meeting.
Gear Needed: You may want some locking cam straps so you can make sure your kayak is still yours after sitting in the parking lot all day. A good headlamp is a must and you’ll probably want to throw in some deodorant and wips to clean off that fish smell. Unless it’ll impress your coworkers.
3) The 5 to 9
You have 16 hours from the minute you’re off the clock to the time you have to begrudgingly punch back in. 16 hours! What are you doing with all those hours, sleeping? Watching TV? Even with three hours of driving to a cool spot and six hours sleeping, you still have another nine hours to fish. So what are you waiting for, plan your route and pick a day that you can slip out for a night. If you spend the night out in the woods fishing on a Wednesday night, the rest of the week will fly by, and then it’ll be the weekend. (Time for trip #1)
At 5:01pm you should be out the door and into your car. The kayak and all your gear should be locked and loaded already, ready for anything that comes your way. Pick a spot you can to within a couple hours that still leaves a few hours of falling sunlight to fish (talking summer daylight hours at least). Don’t worry about hotels, you don’t need those. Tonight you’re sleeping in your car or truck so that you can maximize your time fishing. Add in a morning of fishing (trip idea #2) and plan enough time to get back to your desk by the time your boss walks in.
Gear Needed: A good sleeping bag or bivvy. Being cold sucks, you don’t want to wake up shivering or lose sleep–that’ll mess up your fishing time. A sleeping pad and some folding seats can make your car as comfy as the Ritz and a solar battery pack can really add some class to your rig and let you camp like a pro.
4) The Type III Trip
It’s been said that there are three kinds of fun. The first sounds like fun, is fun while your doing it and maybe produces a quick anecdote at the campfire next weekend. Type II fun sounds like fun but something goes wrong on the trip and it ends up being not as fun as you thought. Type II fun provides a couple good stories for the campfire that you can repeat once or twice before they get old. Type III fun is the end all to be all. The trip sounded like a bad idea and was a total sufferfest during the trip. Type III fun provides many stories that will sustain themselves over years and years. These are the stories you’ll tell your children, as long as they’re old enough to not get nightmares.
The key to creating a Type III fun trip is adding the chance to fail. If there’s a chance you’re going to fail, there’s a moment that you have to push yourself beyond what you previously thought was possible. That’s where the great stories are born. No one wants to hear about your sunny day paddling around a wind-free lake catching bass after bass. They want to hear about that one time you planned a crazy paddling loop that took a whole weekend and battled torrential downpours and wind to catch three good fish.
Gear Needed: A good friend that you know you won’t lose once the trip turns for the worse, one that loves punishment is a big plus. When in doubt, adding a particularly long or hellish drag through the woods to get to the spot always amps up the fun…when talking about it later.
5) The Dual-Sport
Whenever you’re stumped on a new idea for a trip, just add another sport. Adding another sport increases the level of difficulty, which then increases the reward when talking about it later on (See trip idea #4). For example, if there’s a spot 10 miles down the road that you could drive to easily, try biking there with your kayak on a trailer. Long crossing on a lake? Try sailing across in your kayak instead of paddling.
Instead of portaging around those Class II rapids in your local river, aim for the tongue and run them! After spending the morning fishing besides giant boulders or in the shadow of a mountain, try some light bouldering (with a friend that knows what they’re doing) or try hiking to the summit before dark. Instead of storing a break-down rod into your pack, try Tenkara fishing instead. Adding a sport that you’ve never tried before adds another level of difficulty and another level of fun.
Gear Needed: Pick your added sport and then plan gear accordingly. Other helpful items would be some Advil and/or IcyHot. Trying new sports means you may be sore.
6) The Lure Challenge
Limit yourself to make your fun unlimited. Sounds cheesy, but it works. What could also be known as the pickle challenge, anglers draw from a list of potential lures that they will be allowed to fish, and aren’t allowed to fish with anything else. Whether you want to choose two lures to fish with, only one, different lures for each angler or the same for the group, the lure challenge can add some excitement and good practice for kayak fishing tournamens at the same time.
Even if your buddies can’t make it to the water with you that day, you can still play the game by yourself. Pick one lure at random, it’ll have to be the honor system that you’re not choosing your lure, and then fish with that lure all day, without changing. It’s also a good idea to have a duplicate, just in case you lose the one lure you’re allowing yourself to fish with. See how many fish and how big a fish you can catch with the same lure. Once you realize how much time you’ve wasted while swapping lures or choosing the right lure, you might just start fishing with only one lure from now on.
Gear Needed: With all those lures in your tackle box, you should be able to pick one. Having a backup or a duplicate lure is a good idea. Have a camera or a sheet of paper to tally up your score and/or record which angler is the winner.
7) The Slam
In any body of water there is likely more than just one species of fish worth hunting down. Even if you’re fishing a backwater bass pond, there’s likely a few bluegill and if you’re lucky, maybe some pickerel that you can tempt to bite your lure. Adding a level of uncertainty, not knowing whether or not you can complete the slam before the end of the day, adds interest into an otherwise complacent afternoon.
Fishing in my neck of the woods, the main game is striped bass. While bluefish are looked at as trash fish throughout the season, they’re still tons of fun to catch. Since I never fish for fluke, trying to get a slam of all three of these species makes my day much more challenging and therefore more interesting. Whenever I’m fishing with a friend in the same spot we’ve caught fish too many other times in a season, we’ll start looking for a different species before the word “Slam” even hits the air.
Gear Needed: No new gear, other than a quick search online to find out what other species are present in the waters you’re fishing. You never know what could be lurking in the deep below.
8) The Three Dollar Bet
You may have heard me talk about the three dollar bet before, as this is an easy way to raise the stakes with your friends or family, without losing all your cash. The premise is simple, there are three possible ways to win, either catch the first fish, the biggest fish, or the most fish. Each category (first, biggest or most) wins a dollar. If you catch all three, you get three dollars.
Raise the stakes by making the prize a free round at the bar or back at camp, instead of a dollar (make sure to bring a DD, though). You could even get creative and come up with prizes of your own, like a pair of shades or a reel, if you really want to make things interesting. The sky’s the limit, just make sure the prizes aren’t too good or you’ll start losing friends.
Gear Needed: Friends. Three dollars, each.
9) The Spouse
I’ve saved this one for further down the list because this one is probably the hardest. Yes, even harder than trip #4. Instead of ditching your spouse and going fishing by yourself or with your buddies, take the time to bring them along and show them how awesome kayak fishing can be. Make sure to pick a day that the weather is beautiful and a spot where the fishing is easy. The faster they can get on fish and the more you can keep them on fish, the better day they’ll have and the less they’ll hate you for dragging them out onto the water.
Warning: Do not, and I mean it, do not try to force them to like it, or even focus on fishing yourself. Your goal is not to catch fish, it is to get them to catch fish. You catching a giant won’t matter if they’re miserable, because everytime you go to tell the story of catching the fish they’ll bring up how awful the day was. No one wants that.
Gear Needed: A spouse…and lots of patience. Lots.
10) The Kid
Similiar to the previous trip idea, bringing your kids (or one kid) is a whole different experience compared to fishing by yourself or with buddies. There are some differences though, since kids are generally more willing to try new things than adults. The same rules apply when it comes to the fishing though, the weather should be beautiful and the fishing should be easy. Getting kids their own gear can make the day even cooler for them.
Gear Needed: Kids…and lots of patience. Bring lots of snacks.
11) The Species Quest
There’s nothing more rewarding the crossing a new species off your list (I mean, except for trips #9 and #10, of course). Even if you’ve caught everything your local fishery has to offer, somewhere with a few hours drive, an easy day trip, (see trip #12) there’s a good chance at finding a new species. Even if you have to drive to a neighbor state, the rewards of catching a new species are totally worth every dime of gas money.
I’ve never been able to fish for musky in my home waters, not really even in my home state, but just four hours away, give or take, there are handfuls of fisheries that I know would get me at least a shot at catching a giant Esox. I’ve already started planning my species quest, so what are you waiting for? Get out there.
Gear Needed: Gas money, internet scouting/research to find your new spot. Wide variety of lures to cover any profile or match any local forage you might encounter in the new fishery.
12) The Day Trip
Sundays are for resting, but Saturdays are for adventure. My favorite micro adventure, though I really do enjoy sleeping in my truck (it’s not that bad, really) is the day trip. This lets you maximize your weekend by allowing you to pack in as much as you need to fit in. Need to meet with family? Do house work? Be a valuable member of society and pitch in at your local charity? Save it for Sunday. On Saturday, you’re going fishing. I’ve found the perfect balance of sleep, driving and fishing is no less than three hours of fishing for every hour of driving. I’ll drive three hours before sunrise and then three hours home after sunrise if the fishing in between is really good and lasts at least nine hours.
Here’s you ideal schedule: the night before, pack all your gear into your truck or car and go to bed as early as you possibly can. Going out for drinks the night before is not recommended, though it is fun. Pick a spot within a four hour drive, avoiding any traffic or construction so that the drive is nice and easy and plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before sunrise. Fish all day. I usually pack two lunches, since I’ll be hungry for the first around 10am and hungry for the next around 2pm. Bring lots of snacks and plenty of water and/or drinks (no, not beer). With enough time fishing you won’t have to rush and you’ll be able to enjoy it, leaving you plenty to think about on the long drive home. Either celebrate your epic day with a bite to eat at a cool local gastro pub or pack another lunch to eat on the ride home.