A Cathartic Account of a Kayak Fishing Mishap, and a Shout Out to Ive of Ione (Warning...Very Long)

Krusty

Outta Here
I want to share a few details associated with a kayak fishing mishap that occurred during a very recent flyfishing trip with Ive, and yours truly, to a small and obscure mountain lake. It will, of course, not be identified so as to protect its innocence and obscurity.

Air temperature was at a record high, the water prematurely balmy (66 - 68), the lake level was high, very light wind, fish were rising and (as usual), Ive was connecting with fish before I had even managed to launch my massive kayak.

I slowly trailed after his little pontoon boat, my barge-like camo kayak bristling with flyrods and gear like a Russian spy trawler, trying to decipher why he was catching fish and I wasn't (despite the fact that he always freely reveals what he's doing, probably because he knows it will only further increase my frustration as I remain relatively fishless).

Even for Ive the fishing was somewhat slow, though ideal weather conditions and absence of the Memorial Day crowd more than compensated.

After a few hours afloat we went ashore to stretch our geriatric legs, bitch about the fishing and things in general, and decided to give it a final shot.

Ive headed to the outlet end of the lake, and I slowly worked my way towards an area in which he'd had earlier been 'double-teamed' by an aggressive pair of nesting loons. I am not much of an indicator flyfisherman (or, as Ive might well say, not much of a flyfisherman in general, were he less tactful), but I was starting to enjoy some success with a red chironomid.

On my fish finder I could see even greater numbers of fish hanging about five feet lower than my current rig, so I set up to add a sufficient amount of tippet.

I had slowly drifted into the lilly pads that completely surround this lovely little trout lake, which was of no concern since my kayak has no problem with such things. I reached off the side of the kayak to retrieve the fly, which had become lodged in a lilly pad....and suddenly found myself underwater, looking up at the deck of my kayak, wondering what had happened. Fishing gear was everywhere, and I bobbed to the surface to figure out how I could correct this mess before Ive could notice that something unusual may have occurred at my end of the lake.

I am not new to kayaking, but I've only ever accidently rolled a kayak in river rapids. This particular kayak (I've 6 kayaks of different configurations/sizes) is a sit-on-top, which are normally quite easy to right by reaching across the hull and pulling the far side towards you....and you crawl aboard as the water drains out the scuppers. But the beast simply would not budge...due to a large heavy gear bag, soft cooler, and anchor effectively behaving as pendulums, as well as a tangle of three flyrods, flylines, paddle & paddle tether, and anchor line strung through the lilly pads further complicating the situation.

Not only could I not right the kayak, I couldn't budge the damn thing to bring it to shore through the lillypads. The water depth was far deeper than my height, and I couldn't gain any traction by swimming.

Surveying the wreckage I manned up, swallowed my pride, and screamed like a banshee for Ive, figuring that in his vast aquatic wisdom (and the fact he was equipped with a functional watercraft) he could help me sort this mess out. I'm sure he damn near hydro-planed across the lake.

By the time he arrived I'd made my way up a beaver channel and was standing on whatever constitutes a shore in this boggy little lake. You could take a step in any direction and find yourself completely afloat....indeed, when the lillypads end the water is suddenly 20' to 30' deep....which makes it fine trout habitat and completely inaccessible to bank fisherman (plus a single shitty boat launch), but somewhat difficult from a capsized boat salvage perspective.

I swam back out to the wreck and we began untangling and retrieving stuff and I was finally able to pull the boat nearer shore, and turn it right side up. Maybe a half gallon of water had entered its hollow interior through the cockpit console hatches. Ive had focused on rescuing my three flyrods (two TFO BVK's and a Sage X) which luckily had their tips above the surface. Amazingly, the only damage was a broken snake guide on one TFO.

The contributing causes of any accident are obvious in retrospect.

1) I had, for the first time (after using it for several years) set the kayak seat in the high position...a good 5" above the low position, which resulted in a significantly higher center of gravity and increased instability. I'm about 225 lbs, and 6'2".

2) I'd increased the size of my gear bag, since it's simply easier to carry pretty much whatever I could possibly need rather than sorting stuff pre-trip, or heading back to my truck near the launch. The much larger gearbag at sat considerably higher than the old one, further aggravating the center of gravity situation.

3) Because I am a glutton, I also carry a soft-sided cooler behind the seat (both the gearbag and the cooler are located in the tank well behind the seat).

4) Having spent time in kayaks on much larger bodies of water I was certainly lulled into a false sense of security. What could possibly happen on such a small mountain lake, especially under ideal conditions?

This is a large kayak, the kind people use in big saltwater, with a weight capacity of about 650 lbs, so it wasn't an issue of too much weight, but rather where the weight was located.... far above the waterline. I've had this boat in large swells on the north end of Priest Lake on windy days (if you're acquainted with the outlet of the Thorofare to the main lake you'll know what I'm referring to) with no issues of instability....no doubt because I had it loaded properly (there's plenty of cargo space in the sealed hull below the deck).

What went right?

1) I am compulsive about wearing a good PFD, fully zipped and adjusted, and on the day of the incident the fact that I was able to start thinking about taking care of the situation, rather than trying to stay afloat, was incredibly comforting.

2) While, I was in no real danger (comfortable water temp, a small lake, and wearing a PFD), having a cool-headed fishing buddy like Ive help me rescue my gear in short order was a real game changer. I'm pretty sure if left to my own devices I'd have likely busted the shit out of things, cut entangled lines, likely lost a rod (or three), and quite possibly a lot more.

What I've changed....

1) Obviously, lowering the craft's center of gravity is critical for stability. The damn boat has a large center cockpit console with double gear bins...no more massive gearbag behind the seat.

2) The seat is going to remain locked in the low position. It's interesting to note that I found a YouTube video by an open ocean fisherman who has the same kayak, is a moderately big fella like myself and notes that the craft feels unstable in the high seat position.

3) For many years my PFD's were always equipped with a rescue knife attached to the lashtab. I got complacent, and hadn't bothered to install one on this jacket (they can be a real bitch to attach). I had a leatherman that I used to cut the tangled leaders, but had I been entangled by other lines and submerged I doubt I'd have been able to remember where it was, manage to open it, and could easily have dropped it. A rescue knife (with lanyard) is now installed on my current fishing PFD.

4) I generally have three flyrods rigged (floater, intermediate, and type 5 sinker) and setting in three Scotty rod holders. Two of the rod holders are on the rear tankwell gunwales, and the active rod is only in the holder when I'm paddling uplake to set up for a winddrift or changing tippets or flies.

Like a great many Scotty rodholder users, I haven't been using the elastic retaining strap they're equipped with....in fact I removed them years ago. The orientation of the flyreel and the holder configuration results in a very secure rod....as long as the boat remains right side up. Needless to say, those retaining straps are back in place, and being used. Had there been no lillypads all three rods would now be sitting on the bottom of the lake.

What's unchanged? My firm conviction that there's no finer fishing buddy than Ive of Ione.
 
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_WW_

Geriatric Skagit Swinger
WFF Supporter
Thanks for the reminder to keep safety in mind. Happy you're okay and so is most of your gear. One friend of mine that had a mishap and lost a guide on his rod rewrapped in a different color as a reminder. Considering the predicament you were in, I doubt that you'll need to do this and I suspect as time passes there will be a few chuckles about your adventure.
 

Krusty

Outta Here
I should have added that I always carry a Garmin InReach satellite transceiver (pre-tested before each trip) when I'm in the sticks. I frequently use use it to consult its GPS map, let my wife know I'm staying late because the fishing is good, or that I'm heading to a different lake. In this instance, had I been alone on the lake, I sure as hell wouldn't have used it to summon the calvary to save my gear. I was unhurt, in no danger, and I'd rather send my stuff to the bottom of the lake then expect emergency rescue personnel to deal with my bad judgment.
 
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Buzzy

Active Member
Krusty - thanks for sharing and summarizing what went wrong and your actions to prevent this potential tragedy from reoccurring. I too wear a properly fitted pfd, zipped up and buckled in place. I don't have a rescue knife, never thought of it.
 

jangles

Kicked
I did somewhat the same thing with a Nu Canoe Frontier , a rather large vessel in it's own right . Since then I got rid of every POS kayak I had and now have a few rafts and a Saturn Kaboat , no more kayaks for me .
 

Krusty

Outta Here
Krusty - thanks for sharing and summarizing what went wrong and your actions to prevent this potential tragedy from reoccurring. I too wear a properly fitted pfd, zipped up and buckled in place. I don't have a rescue knife, never thought of it.
If you get a rescue knife get one with a flat blunt end so you have less chance of stabbing yourself in a panic, and don't use it for other tasks...they're generally stainless steel which often (depending upon the alloy used) doesn't hold an edge all that well. NRS makes several excellent quick release models.
 

Zak

WFF Supporter
If you get a rescue knife get one with a flat blunt end so you have less chance of stabbing yourself in a panic, and don't use it for other tasks...they're generally stainless steel which often (depending upon the alloy used) doesn't hold an edge all that well. NRS makes several excellent quick release models.
This knife was not cheap, but I love it. It lives on my PFD.

Spyderco Enuff Salt Fixed Blade Knife with 2.75" H-1 Stainless Steel Sheepfoot Blade and Premium Custom-Molded Boltaron Sheath - SpyderEdge - FB31SYL​

 

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