I grew up fishing. I started too early to remember catching my first fish. I do remember my first significant catch at around six years old and it began a life pursuit of the scaley, elusive prey.
When we fished, whether with my dad, grandfathers or cousins, it was by any means possible. We fished from inner tubes, the bank and various boats that were owned by different family members through the years.
I craved the outings to try to outwit the fish. If the phone rang I would secretly wish for it to be PaPa asking if I could go “perch jerking”.
Capturing the attention of a child with the outdoors is important and hopefully plants a seed for lifelong enjoyment. I’m not sure my family could have predicted the forest of fishing fever that would spring from me.
Perhaps I was a bit spoiled. I had been able to be off the bank most of my life and now with a new bride and little money, I had to find a way to do that.
I thought about just using a float tube, also called a belly boat, but I had always hated bumping into trees and logs with my feet. Anytime I would catch a tree limb under the water with my foot I would move my legs like a sprinter to try to propel myself away from it as fast as possible.
That may seem a little cowardly for an outdoorsman but an encounter with several water moccasins while floating in a fishing tube in the Rio Grande caused the fear to take hold in my “fear factory” and take up residence. If you had a six foot long snake peek up from between your legs in a float tube while trying to relieve you of a stringer with fish on it, you too might have a fear. And a new pair of waders.
A float tube was out. My only other options were a used flat bottom boat or try to fish out of one of those yellow kayaks they sold at Academy Sports. In 2003 at my local Academy, they only sold one kayak. It was a yellow Pelican Endeavor. Less than 10 feet long and a sit in but all I cared about was a way off the bank whenever I wanted. I had $300 in my pocket that had received clearance from my wife to be spent on a kayak (after negotiations, pleadings and a well thought out rebuttal to the first answer of no).
I had a Chevy Tahoe at the time and couldn’t afford a trailer too so I laid down $220 of my $300 and bought a kayak. The remainder of the money went to a paddle and life jacket. I spent the next 45 minutes in the dimly lit parking lot, with crickets dive bombing me from the overhead lights, trying to figure out how to get it on my roof rack and tie it down. Luckily I grew up outside the city limits and knew a thing or two about knots. Once I figured out how to leverage the kayak and get it on the roof I used about 100 feet of yellow nylon rope to tie it down. Was it overkill? Yes but I needed to protect my investment! Ratchet straps were outside the budget and cam buckles weren’t even a thought back then.
I was smiling like a kid who got an extra scoop of ice cream all the way home. Little did I know that a desire to get off the bank would lead to a passion that burns even brighter today. There will always be a bigger, faster, more stable, more expensive kayak to think about in the future but the six and a half years I spent in that kayak changed the trajectory of my life. The friends across the world I have, the shared stories and intermingling of lives with others who share the passion of kayak fishing never would have blossomed without the $220 yellow kayak.
That double scoop smile returns every time I push off from the bank into my next watery adventure.