Monday, November 21, 2011

Quick release DIY kayak anchor system + bottle opener

Whether you prefer the store bought variation or some other form of anchor, having the ability to quickly disconnect from it is crucial when kayak fishing.  Although not recommended, I often anchor in river current to get close to the fish I am targeting.  Using this simple setup in conjunction with an anchor trolley, I can deploy as well as release my anchor in seconds.

The blaze orange dog training dummy from Remington is a cost effective, durable float that makes anchor retrieval a cinch.  Nite Ize’s stainless steel “S-Biner AHHH…” carabineer serves as a sturdy anchor line holder and doubles as a bottle opener back at camp.  If experience has taught me anything, it is that you can never have enough bottle openers.

Key Components:

Remington 2” x 11” Vinyl Dummies - $4.99 each or a 3pk for $12.99 Academy Sports

Nite Ize “Figure 9 Carabiner” small size - $3.99 Sportsman’s Warehouse

Nite Ize “S-Biner AHHH…” in stainless steel - $3.99 Sportsman’s Warehouse

Velcro Strip – I recommend and use Velcro’s “One Wrap” 7/8”X 23” straps as they work well even when soaked.  A 3 Pack is around $4 at  and they are also available at select hardware stores and Walmart. 

10’-14' section of cord, preferably a different color than the anchor line.  Home Depot and Lowe’s sell 75’ length packs of 5/32” diameter cord for less than $3.

Length of anchor line and anchor of your choice.

Start off by securing the “S-Biner AHHH…” to the vinyl dummy as pictured.

Take the 10’ - 14' length of cord and make a small loop in one end that will fit over the “S-Biner AHHH…” Attach and position the cord against the dummy as pictured and secure it with one of the Velcro straps at the top.  This setup allows the pressure exerted from the anchor line to pass around the vinyl dummy instead of through it.

Tie the end of the anchor line to the 10’ length of cord as pictured and tuck the knot under the Velcro.

Wind the anchor line around the dummy to take up the slack.  Use one of the extra strips of Velcro to keep the wrapped anchor line secure on the dummy.

Lastly, clip the “Figure 9 Carabiner” to the side handle of the kayak or similar location that is out of the way yet easy to reach.   On the setup on my 2012 Ride 135, I use this carabineer to control the anchor trolley line and keep it from riding up.  It can be easily removed in seconds for full front-to-back operation of the anchor trolley if desired.  95% of the time I have the anchor trolley in the forward position anyway.

To use this setup, slide the blue cord through the ring of the anchor trolley.

Leave a foot or so of excess line free on the tag end and secure it to the “Figure 9 Carabiner” as noted in the manufacturer’s instructions.  This allows the anchor trolley to be placed in the desired position before the anchor is deployed.

Unwind the anchor line from the dummy and drop the anchor over the side.  When the desired length of line has been let out, simply wrap the anchor line around the “S-Biner AHHH…” carabineer 4 times - two wraps between each opening as pictured.

It only takes a couple of seconds to accomplish and creates a non-slip, yet easy to remove connection.   Toss the dummy into the water and get ready to fish.  The location of vinyl dummy in can be adjusted by simply taking up or letting the slack out of the “Figure 9 Carabiner” line.

To come off the anchor, simply yank the tag end of the line connected to the “Figure 9 Carabiner”.  The line will slide right out of the entire assembly.   The blaze orange Remington float will be easy to spot when you return to retrieve your anchor.  Tight lines - Paul

Note:  If you need a beefier setup, upgrade to Remington's 3" x 12" training dummy that runs $6.99.  Switch out the small “Figure 9 Carabiner” for the larger sized one that costs around $6.  These substitutions will allow for much larger diameter ropes and a heavy duty setup if needed.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cold Weather Kayak Fishing Gear on a Budget

Saluda River trout fishing last winter

It was just two weeks ago that I was kayak fishing on the Congaree River in Columbia, occasionally wading through the shallow sections in the 68 degree water.  Dressed in my normal summer fishing attire of shorts and Tevas, I soaked up what would become one of the last warm weather days of the season.    While the river was a little on the chilly side, the combination of the water and air temperatures was well above the 120 degree mark where things start to get dicey.  It is an easy calculation– simply add the water temperature to the air temperature.  If this number dips below 120 degrees, the right combination of clothes becomes critical. 
I'll assume every kayak angler reading this uses a PFD.  While I recommend you wear it all the time, without fail, keep it on during the winter season.  I don't think I need to elaborate on why this is crucial in cold water.  

For a base layer, I prefer light polyester, capilene or polypropylene long john-style pants.  I stay away from standard long johns that tend to be on the bulky side.  I use the Terramar brand of thermal base layer pants that sell for $6.99 at Rugged Warehouse in Columbia.  They are constructed of high quality 100% polypropylene and have a nice thin design.   Whatever you end up purchasing, be sure to read the label and don't buy blends that contain cotton.  

Marmot wool/fleece hat - $9, FTP 80/20 polyester/spandex compression shirt - $5, Terramar 100% poylpro pants - $7

I look for the same materials in the long sleeve shirts I use for my torso base layer.  Many folks may already own these style shirts for summertime fishing to block UV rays and stay cool.  The purpose of this layer is to wick sweat away from the skin.  Again, outfitters like Rugged Warehouse offer these shirts from a variety of different manufacturers at deep discounts.  While RW's inventory changes all the time, I can usually find what I need.  I picked up a few extra FTP brand long sleeve compression shirts (80% polyester, 20% spandex) this past weekend for just $4.99 each.  

Source: Dick's Sporting Goods - $59.99 Caddis Neoprene Waders

Caddis Neoprene Chest Waders are available online from Dicks Sporting Goods and make up the key component of my outerwear.    At around $60, the price is right and they come in tall sizes as well.  I have been using these same waders for over 2 years now.  They are durable and quite warm thanks to the 3.5-mm thick neoprene.   Although the product picture can be deceiving, these waders are fully footed, waterproof and sealed.   Purchase the most inexpensive pair of wading shoes you can find.  After all, you'll be sitting down in the kayak and secure footing on riverbed rocks isn't exactly an issue.

I wear an inexpensive ($20) but warm fleece jacket and keep a spare in a waterproof bag in my hatch.  To keep the wind and rain at bay, buy a quality 100% waterproof and breathable unlined jacket shell.  Outfitters like Sierra Trading Post (take advantage of the coupon codes that are always available) and even Eddie Bauer will offer Gore-Tex like material at low cost.  Watch for seasonal sales especially through Eddie Bauer.  I use one of EB's "WeatherEdge" jackets for kayak fishing and paid less than $30 for the waterproof/breathable shell that has held up and performed as well as Gore-Tex.   

Eddie Bauer WeatherEdge waterproof/breathable shell - $30, spring clearance sale

Lastly, make sure you have a quality wool or fleece hat.  The great thing about both of these materials is that they insulate even if they get wet.   I wear a Marmot wool/fleece blend hat that I picked up at a clothing discount store last year for $9.  When it comes to keeping hands warm, I have found that waterproof Neoprene gloves work the best for me.  They don't absorb water and insulate well.   I've been using the same pair of Remington neoprene gloves for over 12 years now and they are still going strong.  If you need extra layers, stick to the basics I have pointed out here.  I'll sometimes add an Adidas ClimaLite pullover (clearance section, T.J. Maxx $9) into the mix if I need it.  A number of lightweight layers that can be peeled off or put back on as conditions change make all the difference in the world when managing comfort.

This guide should serve as a starting point, simply adjust layers according to your specific needs.  Just remember, dress and prepare as though you plan on taking a swim and be sure you are skilled enough to get back into your kayak in case things go south.  I have practiced deep water kayak reentry in the summer months wearing waders and a base layer just to make sure I could succeed without issue.  If you have any doubt in your abilities, wait until it warms up.  

Another good idea is to throw a backup set of clothes in a dry bag so that you are prepared for the worst.  When I head out on the Chesapeake Bay, things become a little more extreme than the more urban kayak fishing I do in Columbia.  In addition to the extra clothes, I toss in a couple of Pop Tarts, a waterproof/windproof jet style butane lighter, a roll of toilet paper and a tube of alcohol-based hand sanitizer into the dry bag.  The last three items will get a fire started quickly even in the most adverse conditions.