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

MGTom

Living at the place of many waters
WFF Supporter
I'm still waiting for the memory of the experience to subside. Really 'rattled my cage'. Focusing on reducing a chance of any reoccurence. The purpose of the thread was to share what I've learned, as well as get suggestions that I'd not thought of, but it's also personally therapeutic to objectify the event rather than dwell on the associated feelings.

When I was young, like in my mountaineering days, accidents were mainly things that happened to other people because they'd screwed up....I certainly wouldn't do such a thing. ;)
It took a tight rope and a broken tooth up by Index for me to give that sport up. I always seem to learn the hard way.
 

Gyrfalcon21

Active Member
This was on the scanner on the coast here in the past couple of hours:

xxx lake Rescue - overturned kayak 300 - 400 yards from shore subject still in water unknown if wearing life jacket

(Reading other posts. There are no other boats on the water)

Was wearing a pfd.

Final update, subject is out of the water and onto the sheriffs Dept boat. Figuring person was probably in the water at least an hour and 10 minutes call time and maybe 15 before the call to 911 from bystanders.

The lake is not super rural. 20 minutes from city boundary, 40 minutes drive to lake actual.

Got to be careful out there.
 

jwg

Active Member
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.
Thanks @Krusty

I have a whistle on my PFD. But I used to always have a whistle on my flytools lanyards too and need to restore those.

I have lost track of my rescue knife in a quick release holder, I should find that and put it back into use.

Last time I fell out of a boat was at the north end of priest lake, ina canoe on a windy day. I paddled out sitting in the bow seat directly into the wind with the intention to let the wind blow me back to shore and troll along the way.

Made it out, shifted to a drop in bench seat for the ride back, to more center my weight. Those seats are hard and smooth.

Mistake was sitting on a thick square boat cushion.

I reached for a rod in a rod holder clamped on the side gunnel.
The cushion put me too high, making this motion tippy, and worse, the cushion slid on the smooth plastic bench toward that side.

So, over I went as the cushion slid into the gunnel.

I had the presence of mind not to resist, choosing to go over the side myself without capsizing the whole canoe.

So I grabbed the canoe, and floated and kicked with the wind back to shore.

Lost the rod and reel.

Funny, just this month I had a scare in my portabote.

I have a folding thin padded seat strapped on the smooth bench seat. I reached to the side of the boat and the padded seat slipped a bit in that direction. It can only go so far as there is a center support under the bench, but I have become lazy about tightening the padded seat straps. I should always tighten them up to prevent shifting !

Thanks for the reminders everyone, it’s easy to drift out of ones safety envelope.


Jay
 

veilside180sx

Active Member
@Krusty which kayak? I’m curious.

Any time it’s cool weather that I’m wearing waders in my yak…I wear an splash top. It’s not waterproof, but it kept most of the water out. Basically just my shirt sleeves & a little around the neck.

High seating positions def change the center of gravity quite a bit & require a fair amount of getting used to.
 

Krusty

Outta Here
@Krusty which kayak? I’m curious.

Any time it’s cool weather that I’m wearing waders in my yak…I wear an splash top. It’s not waterproof, but it kept most of the water out. Basically just my shirt sleeves & a little around the neck.

High seating positions def change the center of gravity quite a bit & require a fair amount of getting used to.
Ocean Prowler BG II.
 

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