River fishing can be full of obstacles, including rapids, falls, logjams and more. But once you’re in the thick of the action it’s too late to brush up on your defensive paddling skills. That’s why Torqeedo sales manager Jeff Little teamed up with swiftwater rescue technician Jed Plunkert to teach anglers about river strainers. These four paddle strokes will serve you well when debris piles up in the water.
4 Strokes River Anglers Need to Know
Little defines a strainer as: “Any object in current that water passes through, but you and your boat will not.” The relentless force of the current can trap unwary paddlers against the object and hold their head underwater. Once you’re tangled up it’s often too late, Plunkert warns, and these situations can quickly turn lethal.
As both men emphasize, the key is to stay aware and identify strainers in advance, while you still have time to navigate around them. “The most important thing…is just having our head on a swivel,” instructs Little, “and seeing it coming before we get into trouble.” This is especially important when your bow isn’t pointed downstream.
What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
Little demonstrates four paddle strokes to help you change your trajectory and avoid obstacles. The first is the sweep stroke, used to turn your kayak away from the direction it is travelling. “It’s basically a big C,” Little describes as he turns his boat. The second stroke, a reverse sweep stroke, turns you with greater force in the opposite direction.
“But sometimes you have to do a corrective action that’s much more dramatic,” says Little as he introduces the draw stroke. With the draw stroke, “you insert the paddle blade out away and you draw it into your hip, then you turn it 90 degrees,” Little says. This stroke moves your kayak sideways at a high rate of speed.
The sculling draw stroke is a variation that “doesn’t require that you pull the blade out of the water.” As Little describes it, the action of your paddle in the water is similar to a knife spreading peanut butter on bread. Like the regular draw stroke, the sculling draw stroke moves your kayak laterally.
Other Techniques to Survive Strainers
Watch the whole video for more advanced techniques to deal with river strainers, including the safety swimmer position and how to pull yourself up and onto a brushpile in an emergency.
For more great videos on all things kayak fishing, check out The Little Stuff, produced by Jeff Little.