Walk­ing on Wa­ter

From their ease of de­ploy­ment and stealth, through to of­fer­ing an ex­cep­tional plat­form for spot­ting and cast­ing, Derek Grzelewski dis­cov­ers that stand-up pad­dle­boards – or SUPs – could just be the ul­ti­mate fish­ing craft. He adds the cau­tion­ary note, howev

NZ Fish & Game - - Front Page -

IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT FLY FISH­ING IS much like prob­lem- solv­ing: ba­si­cally, the fish

are feed­ing, and you can’t catch them, so here’s a prob­lem need­ing a so­lu­tion, ideally a quick one. De­pend­ing on where you’re at with your fish­ing, and the na­ture of the game it­self, there are many vari­a­tions on this theme – flies, tech­niques and strate­gies – though my par­tic­u­lar quandary had to do with ac­cess to some of the most ex­plo­sive dry-fly ac­tion on the planet.

I live amongst the Southern lakes, which are mas­sive bod­ies of wa­ter and full of trout, yet sur­pris­ingly they are lit­tle fished ex­cept by the usual brigade of putt-putt trollers who tend to stick to pre­dictable lanes and deep wa­ter. So, the best stretches of sight-fish­ing shore­lines – those with plenty of struc­ture and abun­dance of food – are rarely touched by an­glers. Trou­ble is, they are also the most in­ac­ces­si­ble.

These are the crum­bling cliff-lines and nat­u­ral break­wa­ter shores of giant boul­ders, over­hung with trees and shrubs, hard to get to, even more awk­ward to fol­low, not to men­tion cast­ing from them. The wa­ter there is deep- blue or black, with lit­tle or no lit­toral zone and, in sea­son, the trees and shrubs are alive with in­sects, many of which end up fall­ing into the wa­ter. There, just un­der the sur­face, large trout cruise in quick zig-zag­ging pat­terns, re­act­ing to any­thing that hits the wa­ter, ex­am­in­ing twigs and leaves, gulp­ing bee­tles, hop­pers or ci­cadas though never bees or wasps.

It is a sight that makes your mouth go dry and sends the heart rate spik­ing, for these are not the spooky fish from any pop­u­lar drive-by river that can shy off at the mere wave of a

fly rod but the top-of-the-food-chain preda­tors worked up to a feed­ing frenzy, cu­ri­ous and con­fi­dent. If you’ve ex­pe­ri­enced such a sight, even once, like me, you’d be com­ing back again and again, hop­ing to re­live it.

But, as I say, ac­cess is a ma­jor prob­lem, rang­ing from hard to dodgy, through to im­pos­si­ble. Belly boats and kayaks are next to use­less (too low to the sur­face to see from), mo­tor­boats too noisy and clunky. So, it all seemed a bit hope­less and lim­ited to a few ac­ces­si­ble rocks un­til, some­where on the web, I saw a pic­ture of a guy sight-fish­ing the Florida flats from a stand-up pad­dle­board. My eyes lit up. Now here was a ves­sel per­fect for the task – stealthy and por­ta­ble, quick to de­ploy, ideal to see and to cast from. A few emails later, my fish­ing-spe­cific in­flat­able BOTE pad­dle­board ar­rived and changed my lake fish­ing for­ever.

You’ve surely seen them around, as stand-up pad­dle­boards – SUPs – have be­come one of the fastest-grow­ing fit­ness fads… and for a good rea­son. As a way of get­ting into shape, pad­dling a SUP is right up there with swim­ming and cross-coun­try ski­ing, a low-im­pact full­body work­out. You pad­dle with your arms and up­per body but the power trans­fer is through your legs and feet into the boat so that all the mus­cles are en­gaged.

Your legs get stronger, your ‘flab­dom­i­nals’ tight­ened and toned, and as your core strength­ens and sta­bilises – just through mere bal­anc­ing on the board – a lot of back pains and nig­gles tend to dis­ap­pear as well. And it’s not like this kind of fit­ness reg­i­men is a chore, right? You’re out there, in fresh air and beau­ti­ful places, with a fly rod in your hand. Get­ting fit while fish­ing? Def­i­nitely my kind of work­out.

I’m not say­ing it’s easy, but then most worth­while things usu­ally aren’t. If you just grab your rod and fly vest and hop on a SUP you will most likely spend more time swim­ming than fish­ing. Yet with a bit of prac­tice a SUP be­comes a re­mark­ably sta­ble fish­ing plat­form. The pro­gres­sion is a lot like learn­ing to ride a bike: your bal­ance, turn­ing and propul­sion need to be­come al­most sec­ond-na­ture before you start fang­ing down tech­ni­cal trails.

To start, I put a good few weeks into just pad­dling, with­out the rod. This was a rev­e­la­tion in it­self be­cause the first thing you no­tice from the SUP is just how many more fish there are on the flats and shal­lows than what you could ever see from the shore.

CHRIS DORE WORKS A NICE ROCK LEDGE AND DROP-OFF

GEAR­ING UP AND PRE­PAR­ING TO LAUNCH IN PER­FECT CON­DI­TIONS FOR SUP FISH­ING

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