Thursday, December 12, 2013

Winter Woes

       When the seasonal paddlers hang up their paddling gear and bring out the ski's, the die hard paddlers brush the snow off and prepare for the unique challenges winter presents.  Although it's not for everybody, paddle sports can still be enjoyable in the colder winter months, even more so than summer in some ways.  When considering winter paddling it is essential to have the right equipment, experience and a friend to paddle with.

Ice Jam on the Fraser River at the Mission Bridge
      There have been many previous posts on cold weather paddling and so most of us know a drysuit is the only way to go at this time of year.  Just as important as my Kokatat Gore-Tex Meridian Drysuit are the multiple layers that I wear underneath. As a base layer the Polartec Power Dry Base Core works well in combination with a thicker fleece Polartec Power Dry Liner that I almost never go without.  The liners smooth exterior also makes sliding that drysuit on over so many layers a little easier.

     Beyond protecting our core body temperature with warm dry layers; our hands, feet and head cannot be neglected. If you've ever been out on a cold day you will know that your extremities are usually the first things to freeze.  Warm socks, hand protection and a toque are must have's. For hand protection while paddling a kayak I prefer the Kokatat Neo Kayak Mitts or pogies over gloves.  A couple packets of hot shot's to stick inside your booties and gloves go a long way to extending your time spent on the water.

        While winter is not the ideal time of year to be kayak fishing there are still some fish biting.  Sturgeon and Steelhead are both active at this time of year.  Recently a friend was kind enough to take me out to catch my first ever Sturgeon from a kayak on the Fraser River.  This kind of fishing takes patience and a way to stay warm.  Being that you are casting and then sitting and waiting for the majority of the time it tends to make you cold that much faster.

As I mentioned earlier, having the right gear for winter paddling is essential.  Just as important as warm clothing is having the additional safety equipment to avoid incident.  One of the extra pieces of gear I would consider at this time of year is a paddle float rescue stirrup.  The use of such a stirrup in combination with a paddle float can make it that much easier to re-enter your kayak in the event of a capsize.  The addition of this "step" allows one to get a boost into their boat just like using a stirrup to mount a horse. Now you might be saying, I can do that without the stirrup, however once you experience cold water shock, even with a drysuit on, your body may not be as mobile as you thought.  As with most winter activities its also a good idea to bring extra warm clothing and a warm drink.

             Well, although winter paddling is enjoyable, there are other things that we do during the winter months to keep busy.  Rigging your kayak with new my case a fish finder I've owned for months but never had the chance to mount.  Smoking some of that fish in the freezer while it's still fresh is also a great winter task.  I plan on giving some away as gifts for Christmas.

After all the Kayak fishing I did this year I had to do something with all that fish!  Thanks to Marlin Bayes for the help smoking my salmon.

Green River, UT

Green River, UT
Photo: Shawna Franklin