Kayak fishing is growing both locally and nationally, and there are merits to it that warrant trying it out.
"Kayak fishing lends itself to giving you more freedom on the water. You're entirely self-powered, so there's this touch of DIY to it," says Chris Loizeaux of Blue Ridge Fly Fishing in Chattanooga.
Hooked on kayak fishing? Take your hobby to the next level by adding an element of competition. Kayak fishing tournaments are popping up around the country, including here in Chattanooga. Chattanooga Bass Yakkers host two tournaments a year, and many more are available if you're willing to travel.
Unfortunately, however, kayaks aren't the least expensive piece of outdoor equipment. Fortunately, there are guide services that will let you give it a shot for a fraction of the price of a high-end kayak. Blue Ridge Fly Fishing, for instance, recently started offering guided kayak fishing tours, both for fly fishing and rod and reel fishing.
Kayak fishing has always been popular in the saltwater of the Gulf of Mexico, where anglers take behemoth kayaks worth thousands of dollars out to land 300-pound tuna or grouper. Locally, though, it's not so extravagant — and that's its appeal. Loizeaux says kayak fishing in area waters blends the best of wade fishing and fishing from a boat.
Wade fishing is an intimate experience, putting anglers right in the water they're fishing. However, deeper pools in our streams and rivers inhibit wade fishermen from venturing too far. A boat with a typical on-board motor grants freedom of movement, but even stealth engine models can spook fish or native animals. Not to mention that it is easier to track fish while standing in a kayak.
"With kayaks, it's easy to get away from the crowds. There's an element of solitude to it, of silence, that I personally love," Loizeaux says. "Some of my best experiences in the outdoors have come from paddling. I've come across otters, black bears and deer in my kayak."
During Blue Ridge's kayak fishing tours, each person gets his or her own kayak. Tours either last four or eight hours, and can accommodate several anglers at once. The kayaks used are all Jackson Kayak's Mayfly model, which gives fishermen a platform stable enough to stand up, cast and reel their line without risk of capsizing.
Customers get a say in where they'd like to fish, but common spots include places such as Chickamauga Lake and North Chickamauga Creek. Once on the water, the experienced, local guides watch the water, tie lines, give casting instructions and provide general knowledge and expertise. For example, a guide might know that fish are more likely to bite a quarter-mile downstream. But part of the allure of kayak fishing is the independence it gives anglers, so the guides chime in with advice only as needed, Loizeaux says.
Ultimately, Loizeaux says, there's just something special about traversing Chattanooga's blueways under your own power — and that can make your catch all the more rewarding.
For more information, visit blueridgeflyfishing.com or call 423-803-2733.