An Introduction to Kayak Fishing - Part 1

It’s that time of the year; Summer, when everyone is out fishing the coastlines, LRF’ing and surfcasting. Occasionally you see kayakers paddling around, but they aren’t just paddling about, they have rods protruding from their craft. Watching a group of kayaker’s fish about in sheltered bays and moving up estuaries got me quite interested. We’re happy to stand on Harbours and fish out the odd Mackerel, Blenny or Goby, but watching these groups get access to Cod, Mackerel, Pollack and Wrasse that are beyond casting range, makes us want to get afloat.

So, with so many anglers deciding to take the plunge and take up yak fishing, just what should you take with you on your fishing expeditions? When you do an Anglers Afloat training day, the instructors are adamant that they will not take anyone out for the training who did not have at least two items of safety kit – the first being some means of keeping afloat, the second being some means of attaching your paddle to your yak, so the two stay together if you fall in the sea. In the kayaking context, some means of staying afloat means a device known as a PFD (personal flotation device) and most of these look like a waistcoat with some form of buoyant foam lining. They differ from lifejackets in that they are intended primarily as a means of keeping you afloat, but enable you to swim, whereas the lifejackets you are likely to see used by yachties are mainly the self-inflating type. On a kayak, where you are very likely to get wet without falling in, this type of jacket is of limited use. Kayak PFDs are generally cut so that there is good freedom of movement around the shoulder area, so that you can still paddle, and are rated according to their buoyancy or lift, usually measured in Newtons, where more is generally better.
The second item that trainers will insist on is a paddle leash. This is simply a method of keeping the paddle attached to the yak if you fall in. If you then hold on to the paddle, you ensure that you will not become separated from the yak. Expect to pay around £15 for a decent paddle leash. At one end it will have a Velcro collar that fits the shaft of the paddle and at the other end, you find some method of attaching it the yak. Some leashes have plastic clips that attach to an eye on the kayak, stay clear of these as they have been known to come away from the kayak. It is recommended to for the type where you just have a loop and have to pass one end back through the looped end to secure it or go for one with a carabiner type clip. Cheap leashes are available and can be used to secure rods and other items to the kayak, but it is not recommended to use them for securing your paddle because this is such a vital part of your safety equipment when at sea.

What else should you be taking to the sea with you? The RNLI produces a leaflet outlining some of its thoughts on kayak safety. The RNLI kit advice is split into two sections, one for sheltered inshore paddling and one covering stuff you will need when you start to venture further afield. For inshore trips as well as a PFD, the RNLI recommends a suitable means of calling for help and mentions either a portable VHF radio or flares. Note that although excellent for back up, a mobile phone even the waterproof variety isn’t really up for the job. A marine VHF radio will tell everyone in the vicinity that there is a problem and will enable you to talk directly to rescue services. It also has the advantage that you can listen in to other boat users often other fishermen and can even talk to your friends in other kayaks, so you will find that almost all kayak anglers carry a handheld VHF.

The other item that would be recommended is a decent knife which should be attached to your PFD so that if you end up in the water, tangled in rope, cords or line you can quickly cut yourself free. A Proper rescue knife should be used as these knives have a rounded tip to the blade so you can’t stab yourself by accident. A folding knife is also beneficial if you can’t get a hold of a rescue knife. The RNLI advises that a whistle should also be carried on you, attached to your PFD in case you fall in and need to draw attention to your location. If you are going further afield the RNLI list of items gets longer, where it recommends having the following with you: A Two-piece Paddle, A waterproof torch with working batteries, a GPS, Compass and Watch, Tow Rope, Basic First Aid Kit, Sun cream/Sunglasses/Sun Hat, Spare Clothing and an Exposure Bag. Furthermore, they also recommend you carry a Trip plan as well as appropriate waterproof charts.

On the face of it, this seems like overkill and we are sure that there are some of you out there who just want to paddle out from the beach for an evening and catch a few mackerel. The problem with this approach is the sea is unpredictable and can change rapidly, even with a good weather forecast. If you really want to enjoy your kayak fishing experience then it makes sense to think, long and hard about the safety procedures and kit before you go out to the sea.

It is highly recommended that you seek the appropriate training and kit, that way you can relax and enjoy yourself, knowing that if the unexpected does occur during your session, you will have a plan to cope with the worst.

This article was brought to you in association with Sea Angler.