Successful anglers are often celebrated for having one-track minds when it comes to fishing, doing whatever it takes to grind out a catch and leaving everything else in the dust. But is that really the best way to fish—and enjoy yourself at the same time? Find out how paddling for fun can help to build the mindset and skills to make you a better angler.

Paddling for Fun is Seriously Worthwhile

A couple weeks ago, after our fishing plans were kiboshed by the wind monster, my buddy Nick McIntyre and I loaded the kayaks and headed to another kind of secret spot. Nick is an amateur tree sleuth. He spends his weekends searching out the largest and oldest trees in Virginia. Among the tree-hugging clan, there is a legend of a grove of old-growth cypress hidden in the middle of thousands of acres of paper-company trees. The only way to reach this Shangri-La is by paddle.

Learn to paddle for fun and you’ll enjoy your time on the water, even if you don’t catch fish. | Feature photo: Nick McIntyre

Searching for a Watery Shangri-La

It didn’t take much for Nick to talk me into driving two hours away from the ocean to search for old-ass trees. We arrived at the launch but we had no idea which way to paddle. That’s when a grizzled local bounced up in a dusty pick-up truck.

“Y’all from ‘round here?” he asked. We explained our mission and he was happy to help. “I heard it’s in that direction,” he offered, pointing up a side creek that disappeared into the swamp.

After a short paddle, the flooded forest opened up into a Jurassic world of monster trees dripping with moss and ferns. Eyeball measurements put the twisted and knotted trunks at over 30 feet round. We paddled through tea-stained water among six-foot-tall cypress knees. Nick explained that some of the trees were over a thousand years old. They even had names like Big Mama and Tea Kettle. To think that these ancient lives had survived settlers, pioneers, revolutions, civil war and paper-company harvests put me in my place as a speck in time. We took dozens of pictures posing next to increasingly larger and older trees.

Increase Your Capacity for Fun

Many of us forget that the first word in kayak fishing is kayak. Believe it or not, there are millions of people who paddle rivers, lakes and oceans and never take along a fishing rod. It’s true; I’ve met some of them. They are perfectly happy to paddle for miles oblivious to what is swimming below.

Next time you’re sitting at home because the fish are not cooperating, load the boats and head out sightseeing. Take the family, hook up with a guide, pick a spot on Google Maps, consult your local paddle shop, practice paddle skills, build stamina and take advantage of your kayak for more than just chasing after fish. My fishing friends suggest I bring a rod and test the new waters, but that would only distract me from enjoying the other parts of the experience. When the wind blows or the fishing sucks, I’m happy to paddle for fun.

Look for Fun When the Fish aren’t Biting

With ancient trees dancing through my head, I had all but forgotten about fishing until we returned to the launch and ran into a kayak angler bowed up on a spastic shad.

“Y’all fishing?” he asked, looking suspiciously at our rigged-out kayaks minus rods.

“Nah,” I replied, “we were looking at trees.” He laughed at us as he hooked into another wildly jumping silver bullet. “You’re missing some great action,” he chortled. I laughed, too.

This article was first published in the Early Summer 2016 issue of Kayak Angler Magazine. Subscribe to Kayak Angler Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.


Learn to paddle for fun and you’ll enjoy your time on the water, even if you don’t catch fish. | Feature photo: Nick McIntyre

 

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