(Above) Paula standing on Atsena Otie Key near Cedar Key Florida. This large island is one mile offshore from our condo. The kayaks are 13' 5" long and 32" wide. They are self bailing and almost impossible to turn over. The kayaks are equipped with rudders that are controled by two foot pedals. These rudders proved to be essential. (Below) I am about to release a redfish. Notice the tannin colored water which we found at times.
(Above) Jack changing flies on a beach we found on an uninhabited island. This area of Florida has many islands that are protected by a National Wildlife designation. At certain times of the year, on some islands, when birds are nesting you are not allowed to step foot on them. (Below) This is the view from the condominium we rented at Cedar Key.
Cedar Key, Florida was once a commercial fishing village. The net ban put many of the residents out of work. The University of Florida and the State helped the displaced fishermen learn to raise clams. Now they are the largest clam producer in Florida. We bought fresh clams at a processing plant. They were great. In order to raise clams a sewage treatment plant was built. As a result, the water here is very clean. That turned out to be good for everyone.
Jack holding a beautiful young redfish.
Paula and I were fishing with Cpt. Les Flaherty in an area near Horseshoe Beach, Florida. It was very shallow and we entered the skinny water at high tide in his large flat bottom boat. Redfish started tailing but we had not figured out what flies would work. All of a sudden Les announced it was time to go. We couldn’t stay or we would be stuck in a maze of oyster bars. Darkness would fall and we would be there all night. That is when I decided we need a way to get to places where a boat can’t go. That was three years ago.
That event has haunted me ever since. I was talking to Joe Hatton one day. I knew he liked fishing from kayaks. Every time I was around Joe I brought the subject up. He taught me a lot about the boats and suggested we buy Wilderness Systems Ride 135 kayaks. He told me they were extremely stable and would hold a lot of gear.
I spent hours online and searching charts of the Big Bend area in Florida. It is hard to find a condo for rent in that region unless you go to the higher traffic tourist towns such as Crystal River. But I finally found a small town, on an island with a few condos for rent. I found Cedar Key. I found Cindy and John online thankfully. They own two condos on the island equipped with high speed internet, two bedrooms and both were on the water. I booked two weeks, one in September and one in October.
Jack Gregory and I made the first trip down to Cedar Key. The weather was not great. The wind was out of the North and it was cool. One day we couldn’t go out at all due to the wind. But on the fourth and fifth days the wind died down and the fishing was pretty good. We drove down to Crystal River and fished just outside the mouth of the river where it flows into the Gulf. We caught a few redfish and several other species on the trip but the fishing was not great. Most of our fishing was in the Cedar Key area. It is very shallow there which is perfect for kayaking.
Paula and I went back to Cedar Key a month later in Late October. The weather was terrible. The wind blew out of the north, the gulf was white capping and it was cold. One night the temperature dropped to 38 degrees. We couldn’t get on the water until noon on the fifth day. We paddled about 5 miles that day looking for fish in shallow water. We couldn’t find them. They were holding in deep water. The bait fishing guys were doing well but the conditions were not right for fly fishing.
Fly fishing out of a Kayak is not easy. The hard part for me was getting the boat into position when I saw a fish. There is a lot to handle in the wind when you are trying to drop an anchor while holding a paddle and let out the rope to get your boat into position to cast to a tailing fish. It was tough for me. I found out later that stake out poles are the way to go. You can push them down into the mud or sand through the drain holes in the bottom of the boat. You are then locked into position. If your pole is long enough you may have four feet sticking up out of the cockpit so you could stand and hold on to the pole and cast.
Another thing I found to be hard was reaching behind to get stuff out of the storage compartment. When Jack and I were fishing at Crystal River a wildlife officer pulled up to me in a fairly large boat. He wanted to check my license and fish which I had not caught. My fishing license was in a box in the large storage compartment behind me. It was hard to get to the box and we were out in the gulf in deep water when he checked me. I finally got to the box. He wanted to look in my dry compartment in the front of the kayak. That would have been another struggle. Finally he decided he didn’t need to check the front compartment.
Rudders make paddling much more enjoyable. Our boats are equipped with foot pedal steering. You don’t have to be constantly changing your paddle stroke to keep the kayak on track. You simply push with your left foot to go left and do it with your right foot to go right. Our rod holders point the rod straight to the bow of the boat. You can use the rod as a sight. Keep the rod pointed to your destination using your feet to steer and you will track well and get there quicker.
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