I couldn’t remember the last time I took someone completely new to kayak fishing out on the water. My way of helping yak-fish-cherry-poppers usually consists of answering questions in emails, forums, social media, and doing the occasional seminar. And the little gestures of gratitude, usually through a computer screen, is all I hope for in return. I enjoy helping people, but my time on the water is almost always reserved for myself. I made an exception, and by the end of the trip was really glad I did, not only because I helped out a friend, but I was reminded first hand of what it was like for me when I first started.
Last year, I met Mike randomly while out having a couple of beers and shooting pool with friends. One topic lead to another and before we knew it, our 8-ball friends got tired of listening to us rant about fishing. Mike ended up buying Kayak Kevin’s old Trident 13, had a baby, found it hard to get out, enjoyed daddy-life stuff, got a spork crammed into his eye by his baby, you know… stuff…
Fast forward to me agreeing to take him out on the water, I could feel his excitement while getting the kayaks down from the roof racks. We skipped the weekly pool tournament and decided to try our luck on the James River in Richmond, VA for the shad run. From simple things like paddle blade shape preference and tackle storage management, to some not-so-easy things like anchoring in current, my answers came effortlessly. Do’s and don’ts, how and where’s, all got explained at the beginning, along with “yes you will wish you had your waders on especially when the sun goes down” and “nice Kokatat PFD you got there”.
Everything went without a hitch and he expressed his gratitude several times during the trip. However, my real reward was watching the pure elation on his face after landing two new-to-him species. They weren’t the biggest fish, but to him, it was a big deal, which in turn was a big deal to me. Every time he hooked up, I shared his excitement. Helping him get to the spot, building his confidence on the water, and watching him accomplish what he wanted, far exceeded the joy of catching my own fish that day.
Caught on fly and ultra-light spinning tackle, the ready-to-spawn male hickory shad dripped baby batter on our decks (sorry no pics) then became cut bait. The white perch was an added surprise to him and served as live bait. We were hoping for big catfish or stripers, but like I told him, it got pretty cold later in the evening. Plus, the lack of action from the bigger fish had me craving a beverage back at the ol’ watering hole. After a couple of medium sized blue cats, we packed it up and swung by the bar to share our fishy smell with the pool junkies. We toasted to a kickass time, and like that feeling of the first chug after a long hot day of working in the yard, that beer was really freakin’ good. The cherry on top is that an hour later, it was my birthday.
Mike, thanks for a great time on the water and reminding me that this sport I love so much is not always about catching the fish. Cheers, buddy.