Rivers come in many forms. They can be calm and flat, rough, fast, slow, narrow, wide, deep, shallow and many combinations of these. As a general rule, sit on top kayaks are excellent for slower, calm rivers and canals. If you want to get into white water kayaking, you are better off getting in touch with a local kayak club who can usually offer some training and advice. Whatever type of river you are on, you should remember that water changes its characteristics constantly, both on top and underneath the surface, so always wear a kayaking helmet, buoyancy aid (PFD) and use a paddle leash.
LAKES: Fishing from a kayak on the lakes can be a exhilarating experience. Having the hustle and bustle of shore life fade into the distance as you paddle out on your adventure. Rising early and dipping your paddle into the still waters, sending ripples through the otherwise mirror image of the surrounding hills and countryside. Your only company the water birds as they drift by, actually catching your first fish will just be an added bonus. Accessing small nooks, streams and other places no other fisherman can access can be the start of a real adventure. Check for permission before paddling on private waterways. With the exception of the tides, large lakes pose most of the difficulties and dangers of the sea. Waves, however, are steeper and more likely to break than at sea.
THE SEA: The sea can be a tranquil and peaceful place to be fishing on a good day, with flat calm waters and fish biting as you paddle around in the blazing sun. But it can be a very dangerous place to be, with conditions able to change very quickly. Respect needs to be shown and if you fail to do so then it may take your life. Exploring the coastline and viewing it from the kayak can be just the start of the adventure. One of the many advantages of kayak fishing is being able to access unexplored coves and gullies.
When at sea, kayak paddling safety depends very much on wind speed and direction as well as tidal strength. Not forgetting ebb and flow, flooding and storms! All these need to be considered if your going to embark on sea kayaking.
It is advised to never embark if the weather looks off in any way and you should never go out in fog.
A fish is not worth risking your life for, there will always be another time to go, just be patient and enjoy the moment when it comes. When your venturing out to sea on your kayak, your representing the sport as a whole, not just yourself.
Make sure you are familiar with how to deal with any situations which can arise in open water. The following is a guide only, consult local experts or available literature for additional information on these important subjects.
Wind – Avoid paddling when white caps are visible until you thoroughly appreciate their effect. Wind can upturn a kayak, can make it difficult to turn, create unmanageable waves, prevent you from holding a true course and slow you down or stop you.
Fog – Fog can result in sudden and total disorientation. You will need a compass, but you may gain some orientation from sounds of beach surf, bells, foghorns, etc., as well as from steady wave and wind direction. Boat traffic can become a major hazard.
TIDES AND CURRENT
You will encounter two principal types of current on the sea: reversing tidal current and continuous ocean current. Strong current can aggravate conditions caused by adverse weather, particularly when current and wind are opposing. They can also cause difficult eddy and wave conditions even on still days, from the sheer force to the flow.
1. Read your chart to help identify risk points.
2. Use any available information to estimate slack or favourable current and time your passage or crossing for that period.
3. Paddle in current under controlled conditions to familiarise yourself with its effect.
4. Exercise caution when the current and wind direction oppose each other (Wind over Tide).
Geography affects wind and water conditions in shallows, beach surf, headlands, cliffs and river mouths.
Shallows – Waves steepen and break heavily on shallows. Avoid those areas when waves are large or strong currents are forced to flow over them.
Surf – Waves steepen and break on beaches and shoals. Generally, try to avoid landing in surf with a loaded kayak. Avoid surf on rocky beaches.
Headlands – Conditions are frequently more difficult off headlands with increased wind, accelerated current and rebound waves. Seas become chaotic.
Cliffs – Cliffs limit landing sites and can cause chaotic rebound wave conditions.
River mouths – Difficult wave conditions occur when a river outflow runs against the waves.
Make sure you are aware of all other water-craft around you at all times. Make yourself visible and never assume you have been seen, or have the right of way. Make sure you are aware of any shipping lanes or commercial routes.