Taking it to the next level
  |  First Published: July 2012

In my last piece about kayaking, the focus was on the absolute basics – how to get in a kayak, some basic tips on paddling and how to cope with the inevitable capsize.

In this instalment, we shall look at some basic tips and tricks for the less adventurous, yet rewarding none the less. When starting out it is best to head for some sheltered water without too many hazards – calm bays, small estuaries or bigger freshwater rivers with mundane flow.

This sort of water offers the tyro kayaker the best of both worlds – easy paddling or pedalling. Smaller waterways often yield plenty of fish and have the bonus of not too much rough water.

One such example is the South Esk River in northern Tasmania. The South Esk is Tasmania’s longest river – the lower reaches feature kilometres of broad slow flows, punctuated with some riffled water. Access is generally easy, and fishing pressure is practically zero.

At Hadspen, about 15 minutes from the CBD of Launceston, the kayaker seeking quiet water will have plenty of peace and quiet along with smooth waters and plenty of trout and the odd pesky redfin perch.

A trip here a while ago was the perfect exemplar of basic fishing from a kayak.

Getting to and onto the water

While I am as strong as a bull and as smart as a tractor, some of the simple accessories to get your kayak closer to the water such as wheels are very handy. In my past career as a kayak instructor we just slung the boat over our collective shoulders and off we marched. But fishing requires far more gear, so the addition of wheels and a helping hand makes life much easier.

Gearing up

A kayak is your floating fishing paradise, and as such you need to take everything essential and nothing that isn’t. Rod holders are critical, and they need to be located in a place easily reached without too much fuss – the last thing you need to do is to be twisting around all over the place while still getting your confidence with balance.

Place the rods in front of you – leave plenty of space to allow for an efficient paddling stroke – even pedal kayakers will need to use the paddle from time to time.

Any more than two rods is probably overkill – some guys have an alternative set up stashed to the rear, but when starting out maybe head to shore when accessing the back compartments.

While still in the ‘basic’ stage, avoid placing rods behind you – they are awkward to reach. Experienced kayakers may not have such issues – but they are not beginners.

Make sure the key tackle requirements are stowed in easy reach – either between your legs in the case of small items, or for the larger lures/rigs, maybe tuck them down the side of the cockpit.

Most kayakers tend to be lure anglers, and bait isn’t an issue. If you do decide to use bait, plan carefully where the bait goes and think carefully about containers and how you access them – again they need to be within easy reach.


One of the things I love about broad freshwater rivers is that the time between good spots is perfect for trolling. In pedal kayaks this is as simple as it gets – pop a suitable lure about 30m behind and trundle along looking for the next good spot. More often than not some obliging trout or redfin will take a liking to the lure along the way.

When pedal kayaking, the rod can be held in the hand, as your feet and legs do all the work. The paddling option will need rod holders in front of you for two reasons – you can’t hold the rod and paddle at the same time (without sticking the rod in your mouth) and it needs to be in front of you so you can see when the fish smashes the lure.

The flexibility of the kayak means that you are able to troll quite close to structure such as overhanging willows and so on – or in the case of saltwater estuaries you can swoosh past rocky points, sand bars and other ‘fishy’ bits a lot closer than your counterparts in boats.

When the fish inevitably does hit the lure, the holder should be configured in such a manner as to allow for easy lifting out of the holder, the last thing you need to be doing is fighting the rod holder rather than the fish.

Hitting the hot spots

Being based in a kayak means that rapids and riffles can be accessed easily, allowing the water to be fished on foot.

In many of the larger rivers, access is often hard or impossible through tightly held farmland. Paddling up the river fixes that. It is then a case of pulling the kayak up the river into the next broad water or simply drifting your way back to the put-in point.

The kayak makes it so much easier to fish trees and the bank too. Position yourself far enough away from the likely fish holding spot and peg your lures in. I have always had the view that lures swimming away from the bank are more effective than lures swimming to it.

Plan to have an option to get yourself out of trouble before you get into it – one of the biggest causes of capsizes is the unwitting problem of trees over the water. Willows are particularly nasty in this regard – what seems soft n the outside can soon flip you over.

Make sure you are on the up-current side of the spot you want to fish, that way you have a window of opportunity as you drift past. Pedal kayakers have an advantage here, as they can slowly pedal into the current while peppering the chosen spot with relative ease.

Landing fish

By our very nature, we are all optimists – anglers that is! Always plan for the eventuality that you are going to hook a fish and that you will need to land it, handle it and either let it go our keep it for a feed. A suitable size landing net is mandatory – short handled and with a lanyard attached to the kayak is the best option.

Think about what you are going to do with the fish once landed and plan where it goes.


Once you build confidence on the flatter waters, you will soon progress to more challenging waters and species. It is very important to hone these basic skills before you get too carried away, the last thing you need is a kayak in the garage gathering dust instead of out on the water gathering scales.

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