Just below the surface

There are many times in life that a bit of foresight would be nice. Water, and stained water especially, can really leave you guessing sometimes, but in some cases can be your friend.

I reluctantly took my first kayak trip down the Chenango this weekend. Rachelís family will be in town this week and just in case they may want to take a float, I went to pick out the safest route. It was my first time leaving her alone with our newborn, Zeb, for any real length of time. To be honest, it was the most worrying trip down the Chenango I have ever taken and it wasnít because of the submerged obstacles just below the waterís surface. To people floating a river, obstacles like these are totally unfavorable and would rather go unseen, while in some cases fishermen wish they could see more. There are several ways to see what lurks below the surface; knowing what does, for boaters and fishermen alike, can make all the difference.

To anyone who has floated the same strip of river several years in a row, Iím sure you know how drastically things can change. Water, being one of the most powerful forces on earth, has its way with land in reckless disregard. What was once an awesome fishing spot can be reduced to a pile of logs and debris in a single flood, and what was once a dangerous area to pass can be cleared just as fast. For this reason, I prefer to take a safety run at the beginning of season before I take less experienced swimmers, boaters, family or kids. I like to use my hybrid kayak canoe because it isnít too wide; it also has a flat bottom, float rails and is super light. It is easy to maneuver by paddle but really works best while using a large two piece kayak paddle. The boat Iím referring to is a Radisson 12 foot flat bottom. They are by far the lightest, sturdiest and least tippy of any canoe I have ever used and are perfect for the job.



I headed out just after sunrise and was finished before noon. I was so surprised by the river conditions. The water was pretty clear for Chenango standards and was up higher than I had expected. I had a few new routes to take because of logs, shallow water and sand bars, but for the most part all the old bad spots washed out and it was smooth sailing. At the very end of the run, I encountered a submerged log I will be sure to avoid on my next trip out. It was in the water where I used to land the boat every year and was completely invisible until you were right on top of it. I built speed to run aground but instead ended up high centering the canoe on the log. As I teetered, the current caught the rear of the canoe and begun spinning me in place. Round and round I went; it was funny at first until I realized if I got dizzy I could capsize the canoe as I slipped unexpectedly off the log. I decided to force the situation and pushed my paddle into the gravel alongside the log. I slipped back in and managed to complete the landing uneventfully just a bit further ahead.

Fishermen know fish relate to structure, so next to submerged logs are great places to wet a line. If you ever wish you could see what and how the fish are relating to structure you are in luck. Underwater cameras can be amazing tools used to scan brush piles and underwater structure. They are limited by light, depth and movement, but are worth the effort it takes to see whatís below. You can also make an underwater viewing tube that is nothing more than a pipe with a clear lens of glass or even clear plastic. All you do is place the tube below the water and look down it. It completely eliminates surface disturbance and can work surprisingly well, even in cloudy water. The last is the good old goggles and snorkel. I was once told by a fellow it would surprise you how many fish can be located on a single piece of structure and he knew this because he had been underwater to see them. He had floated by and swam up to the structures with goggles on and knew exactly what it looked like down there. He said it made him much less likely to get snagged and helped him focus on and target where the fish were hanging out. I may have to try this someday. I will just have to get the leaches and pollution out of my mind before doing so.

Good wishes and make an attempt to expose that which hides just below the surface.

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