The Flying Kayak

Hunting, Fishing, Rambling, and Complete Outdoor Hilarity

Month: January 2012 (page 1 of 2)

Stuck in the mud

Last weekend I got an opportunity to drive over to Jacksonville to visit my sister. I was lucky enough to get a chance to go kayak fishing with my brother-in-law, Nels as well.

I’ve had almost zero experience fishing around Jacksonville, so I was relatively excited about getting out and giving it a try. I was told that kayakers were catching numerous redfish in the area we were going and I hoped my luck would hold out for this trip.

We woke up early Saturday morning and drove out to the launch point along with Nels’ friend Chris. Since my kayak is back home, I was borrowing one. This kayak, however, was slightly different than any I’d paddled before. What made it so different? Well…it folded in half.

Yes, directly under my seat was a hinge that allowed the kayak to be folded and stored easily. To add, the entire thing was lined with an innertube that could be blown up for extra floatation. It was kinda like a surfboard/innertube/kayak mix. So when Saturday morning rolled around, I did my best to make sure the kayak was securely locked into -one- piece, and began to paddle out.

The biggest difference that I noticed between Jacksonville fishing and fishing back home in Pensacola is the tides. We launched at high tide and it wasn’t long before we were being practically sucked out to sea by the outgoing tide. However, one thing that -wasn’t- any different than Pensacola fishing was the incessant gale-force wind. We fished for several hours as my little inflatable kayak was essentially sailed throughout the oyster bars. It wasn’t long before I realized exactly how much the tide had gone out. Areas that were easily paddled through just hours ago were now 3-4 feet up on a mud flat.

The day was not without fish though. Nels landed a nice Red directly off some oyster bars.

And it wasn’t long before I had the same sort of success.

What was strange to me was the fact that I had to cast several times in the -exact- same spot to hook a fish. Water clarity was that of chocolate milk, but I wasn’t expecting the hook-up ratio to be so low.

With the tide completely out and the wind only picking up speed, we decided to begin the paddle back to launch. We fished our way in for a couple of hours and right before we got back to launch, I started catching fish again. Two casts resulted in a little rat Red and a nice 20 inch speck.

It was getting late in the day, so we called it quits and made our way to the launch. There was a slight problem though: There was now a 50ft mud flat between us and the launch. To counter this, I paddled backwards, and gained ramming speed in my little folding kayak. The result was….less than spectacular.

Each stroke kicked up a mud mound

I had now managed to get the kayak stuck in less than 2 inches of water, but still 30 ft from shore.

Guess I’ll just have to get a little muddy, I thought to myself as I casually stepped out of the kayak…

I never realized that at age 23 I would find the direct route to hell via a Jacksonville mud flat. I immediately sank up to my inner thigh, and that was because I still had another foot in the kayak. The mud practically sucked at my soul and it took quite a bit of grunting, straining, and colorful expressions before I freed my muddy (and now EXTREMELY foul smelling) limb from the death trap.

Turning around, I could see that Chris was also stuck in his kayak. Since there was nothing else I could do, I rested my head down on my arms, and fell asleep to await the tide. I woke up to find that my little mud mounds from paddling in were underwater and that the water almost reached shore.

Chris managed to claw his way to shore after only falling completely into the mud once, and he was able to toss anchor lines to Nels and I to pull us the rest of the way to shore.

Overall, my fishing trip around Jacksonville was a blast. I never go out expecting to actually catch fish, and I -certainly- don’t do so in an area I’ve never fished before. So catching a few made my weekend. I look forward to going back again. Next time I’ll hopefully have my own kayak, a fly rod, and I might even time the tides a little better.

2012 Hog Hunting

With only one class this semester that’s only once a week, I’ve suddenly found myself with an absurd amount of time on my hands. To add, my new job doesn’t start until February so I’ve had plenty of time to go hunt and fish. There is, however, one problem with that plan…

I don’t have my Jeep.

Thanks to so problems with my radiator, I got stranded halfway between Pensacola and Tallahassee. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, I couldn’t have planted myself any deeper in the middle of no-where if I’d tried. 3 hours later I was finally rescued by my parents and a tow truck, and I took my mom’s Ford Taurus the rest of the way to Gainesville.

A few days later, I found myself pacing the apartment in sheer boredom. The urge to get out and try hunting for hogs was too strong, and I finally loaded up the car with hunting gear and drove off to the woods.

I drove out to Goethe State Forest and found a place to park just off a paved road. Prior to driving out there, I searched google earth extensively to find what looked like good areas for hogs and I got as close as I could when I arrived.

I set off toward an area that accoording to satellite pictures was wet at least some parts of the year. Dragging the slug gun and my hunting pack, I meandered about a mile before I reached the area I was looking for. I came to a large clearing surrounded by cypresses. Unfortunately there was no water to be found, but since I was there, I decided to trudge out into the middle of the clearing to have a look. After stepping just a few yards through the tall grass, I was surprised at what I found: Acres and acres of rooting by hogs.

I gave the ground a little kick and watched as the dust rose. Even though I’d found sign, I was -way- behind the hogs. A few yards later, I came across a tree that confirmed there were hogs in the area (as if the rooting didn’t).

The marks are caused by hogs rubbing up against the tree. Apparently hogs have itchy butts…Who knew?

I followed a heavy game trail further into the woods in hopes of finding a wet area. The temperature was in the mid 70’s, so I knew the pigs wouldn’t be -too- far from a water source. After weaving my way through an area of cypresses, I came across something that made me chuckle.

There -used- to be water nearby

Posed ducks? I guess I’ve found weirder things in the woods, but I certainly wasn’t expecting these.

I followed the trail about another 1/2 mile before I sat down to take a break. I drank from my canteen and watched as 10-12 vultures circled around, looking for something that had died. They never landed, and never stayed over the same area for any length of time. Otherwise, I might have walked over to see what they’d found. After a few minutes, I looked at the trail I was following, and noticed that it started going up hill and away from the cypress clearing. From what I could tell, I was in the lowest spot within a square mile. Drenched in sweat, and with no water to be found, I packed up and headed back for the car.

Once back at the road, I was relatively thankful I hadn’t shot anything. Lord knows what I would have done with the thing. The trunk? Buckle him up in the front seat?

I start my new job next week and should be getting the Jeep back shortly thereafter. To add, I’ve been given permission to shoot any and all hogs I see at this job. So hopefully, my hog hunting for 2012 isn’t quite over.

The One That Got Away

What is it about -that- fish? The one that got away.

Was it the biggest fish you’ve ever hooked? The fish that would make the whole trip? The whole year? Your lifetime? What makes us so upset to lose that fish?

The planning and execution. The time invested. The money put forth to get the angler into that perfect position. Everything, be it smooth or not, has led up to that moment. The moment when -that- fish takes the presentation. Whether it was a beautifully crafted fly, or a stinking bloody piece of bait, the angler has now hooked -that- fish, and the fight is on.

For some, the reason to fish is complex. The thrill of the chase, the experience, or the sport as a whole drives the angler. The reason, whatever it may be, is what justifies the angler’s need to spend money on gear or completely consume his or her time. Though it’s often not about the fish, but the chance to fish and the experience involved with it, when -that- fish strikes it is suddenly the most important thing in the angler’s mind.

Now I’m not speaking of a strong strike, or even a brief screaming of the drag. I’m talking about a real honest-to-God fight. Ten minutes, twenty minutes, an hour, two hours. Often the longer the fight, the worse it hurts when the fish gets away. While that fish is on the line, it is only you and the fish. As the fight continues, you will eventually see it. Seeing the fish makes the desire to land it even stronger. It jumps, makes a run toward the boat, or circles the wader. When it’s seen, that’s when the angler knows it’s -that- fish. It craftily circles the boat out of gaff range, uses the current to its advantage, or avoids the landing net by mere inches. During the fight, you almost feel as though you know the fish. You can already taste it on the grill, or see the pictures that will soon make everyone on Facebook green with envy. You look forward to retelling the tale, like all fishermen do, and maybe even exaggerating bits and pieces here and there. Anyone can disbelieve a story. It’s hard to challenge the picture. You simply -must- land this fish.

The fight continues on. You employ everything you’ve learned along your fishing career. You keep tension as you stumble over rocks. You keep the line from tangling up in the nearby trees. You even manage to swing the fish away from the hungry alligators, sharks, or barracudas. The fish is nearly yours. It’s almost within grasp. Everything has gone right and the moment you’ve been waiting for is at hand.

Then it happens.

The line snaps. The hook pulls. And you watch as -that- fish slips away.

You simply cannot believe it. The fish that had just consumed minutes…hours of your life has just slipped away. No landing. No glory picture. No grilling. No nothing. Just a broken hook or line.

You soon begin to question everything. Was there a knot in the line? Did you force the fish too much? What if you had just gone ahead and spent the money on stronger hooks? What if you let it tire itself out longer? Or gotten it in sooner? What if, what if, what if….

What if there was nothing you could have done? What if what you did would have worked 99 times out of 100? Should you change anything?

None of this matters now, of course. -That- fish is now gone, and chances are, it’ll never be fooled into biting again.

Questions remains though: Was that really the fish of the trip? The year? Your lifetime? Will you try to hook that fish again? Or even ones like it? Could there even be a bigger or better fish?

You must remember the reasons why you fish in the first place. The experience. The thrill of the chase. The entire atmosphere of it. The reasons to fish must outweigh the pain and frustration of the loss. One thing is for sure, and it’s the fact that -that- fish will never be landed if you don’t continue fishing. Keep at it. Tie on another hook or fly. It’s your hobby. Your sport. Your passion.

After all, few want to hear or believe the story of the one that got away.

Everyone wants to hear the story of -that- fish you landed. 

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