Fishing alone in a poling skiff

Tis will mark the first post in what I think will be a new tradition, every Thursday I’ll post a full length article. It might be something new or something old but it will definitely not be borrowed or blue. Check out this first one:

So you got a fancy new poling skiff? That’s great! Now you can get in the shallows after the sneaky redfish and bones that you know you just know are back in there. You just figure you’ll go ahead and check it out for yourself the first time to make sure you have everything checked out. You get to the spot and the boat floats shallow and you are pretty sure you just saw a fish tailing way in the back. Perfect! You climb up on the platform with your trusty push pole…wait a second…where are you going to put your rod? You just lay it down in front of your feet. Now you start to pole. Hmm…the boat seems to be slapping the water a little. That never happened when you went out with the builder for a test run. You will worry about it later. For now that fish seems to be moving slowly further away from you so you lean on the pole a little to catch up. As you get closer the fish seems to move faster, still not spooked. Now you are in range. What are you going to do with your push pole? You stick it between your knees and reach down for your rod. You look up again and you can’t see your fish anymore…oh there it is, it’s moved further away but you can still reach it with a long cast on your new spinning outfit. Now the push pole is sliding between your knees. So you have to get a better hold on that. The fish is a little further now. You snap out a long cast at the edge of your range. Pretty good but not really where you hoped it would end up. You are just behind the fish and reel in quickly to make one last cast before he gets away for good. Now the push pole is sliding down again. You reach down to adjust it again and you drop it. The rattle it makes against the platform shatters the air. Then you drop your rod and watch helplessly as it clatters into the cockpit. Needless to say, your fish has become a memory as it torpedoes towards points unknown. What could have been done differently to give this adventure a successful outcome? Let’s break it down:

First of all, a well designed poling skiff is meant to pole best from the platform with another person on the front casting deck. When a sole angler poles from the tower, the bow lifts and the stern squats. This does two things: it enables water to slap against the underside of the hull and the boat now needs more water to not scrape the bottom. Both of these make noise and push fish away. The solution is to pole from the bow. Many builders are putting forward platforms on board now and the new premium quality coolers are strong enough to stand on and can be strapped down. When you see a fish you can get quite close and your boat will be even shallower than usual. Of course you can get some wave slappage off the stern so you have to stay downwind. Then it’s a matter of making a slight push to the side when you are in casting range so the rest of the boat is not in your way while you are putting down the pole and getting the rod.

Speaking of which, how are you going to do that exactly? It takes a combination of the right equipment and a little practice. First thing you have to do is get your rod to where you can get it easily. There are a couple of products that allow you to wear your rod on your hip with the use of a belt and a clip. These are good. If you mainly fly fish, strip the fly line into either a wearable line basket or a tub of your own design or purchase. Then put the rod into it. The push pole can easily be clipped onto a belt wearable device designed specifically for this purpose. There are a few on the market. Now when you are poling you have your rod ready and stowed in a safe fashion. When you see a fish it’s a simple matter of clipping the pole to your belt and grabbing the rod from its easily accessible location. With just the right push the boat will pivot slightly as you make the switch. The added benefit of this is that as the boat pivots you will be 16 feet closer to the fish. Now if the fish moves away your push pole will be right at hand to make a quick adjustment. At this point it depends on your casting skills and I hope you don’t need extra lessons on that…

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