NRS ambassador Isaac Miller discusses the equipment and apparel that can improve our level of comfort and kayak fishing safety.
Most kayak fishermen are fishermen first, kayakers second. Though we love to talk gear, we tend to focus mainly on tackle and boats, while other important gear topics rarely get discussed most notably, the gear that helps us stay safe while fishing from a kayak.
More important than the tackle you use, more important than the kayak you paddle, is your personal flotation device, or PFD. Its inevitable if you spend any time in a kayak, you will at some point end up in the water. A swim might be caused by rough surf on the coast, small rapids in your local river, or even getting hit by a bird (no, really, I know of at least two cases!). Regardless, every kayak fisherman needs to wear a life jacket. Always.
Thanks to stringent certification programs in the U.S. and abroad, any properly sized commercially available life jacket can be counted on to keep you afloat. However, not all PFDs are created equal. The number one factor to consider when choosing a vest is comfort, because if your PFD isnt comfortable, then youll be less likely to wear it. NRS PFDs like the Clearwater, cVest and Chinook are especially nice for kayak fishing; each features a mesh lower back panel designed to work comfortably with even the highest-backed kayak seats. Made with kayak fishermen in mind, the Chinook features plenty of front pockets for holding tippet and leaders, small tackle boxes and fly organizers. (There are also a couple of tabs to help hold your rod for those hero shots on the water.) Dont think you need all the bells and whistles of the Chinook? The Clearwater is just as comfortable. Worried about keeping a VHF radio nearby? Then check out the cVest; it’s an excellent choice for the saltwater kayak fisherman.
Now that weve made sure youll float if you swim, its time to consider the water temperature. A good rule of thumb: always dress for immersion. While fishing on a gorgeous, 80-degree bluebird day last spring, I was wearing my NRS Drysuit with a layer of fleece underneath. A couple out on their SUPs paddled up and struck up a conversation about the weather and how nice it was. One of them asked me why I was bundled up compared to them wearing shorts and bikini tops. My only reply was have you been in the water? While it was a nice day, the water temperatures were only in the mid-40s. Should they have ended up in the river, they would have experienced quite a shock. If they couldnt have gotten out of the water in less than 30 minutes, their SUP outing could have ended badly. The nice part about wearing a drysuit is that if you start getting too warm, just practice a self-rescue! The quick dip will help cool you down for a while!