Colin's Epic Fishing Adventure
We always love to hear about the adventures our customers have with their pacrrafts. It is our pleasure to share Colin's epic fishing and backcountry adventure with you today. Enjoy!
I’d been thinking of this fishing trip for a long time. It combined two things that really got me interested: trophy brook trout and a remoteness that would keep the average Joe away. It was a good 25 km hike in through prime grizzly country and would require staying over on the way in and at the lake in order to make the trip doable and worthwhile. I rolled this trip around in my head for a few years until I heard about something that made the trip go from interesting to irresistible. To get to this lake, you had to cross a major river, and the only footbridge to get across was destroyed in a flood and would not be rebuilt. How many people could make this journey now? Not only would you have to be a competent backpacker brave enough to camp and travel for days into grizzly country, but now you would also have to cross a major, unwadable river deep into the trip, far from help. Great - but how would WE cross this river? Can’t wade it or swim it - it would require a boat. But you can’t motor up this river, I don’t think that’s allowed, and it would be too dangerous anyway. No, a boat would have to be carried 15 km from the car to cross the river and then another 10 km or so to the lake because the best fishing spots on the lake were 4 km from the campsite, not accessible by trail and would have to be paddled to.
Not being a real water person, I did my research and discovered the crazy world of pack rafting: ultra-lightweight inflatable boats that can be carried into places not previously accessible. This was just the thing we needed. I ended up with a Barracuda R2 Pro raft from MRS. Not many packrafts are meant for carrying two people, but the Barracuda is. It resembles a kayak or canoe, long and skinny, which also means it can be paddled effectively, unlike most other packrafts, which are generally roughly dinghy-shaped and are generally used for floating downstream rather than for traveling. This was essential because not only did we have to cross a river and carry this thing 25 km, but we also had to paddle it 4 km across the lake once we got there. I assembled our team, my two kids, two neighbors, and a friend who also happened to be an experienced white water canoeist. Since there were 6 of us, we could easily pack in the boat by distributing the weight around a bit. The packraft was about 13 lbs. Two carbon fiber paddles add another couple of pounds and, of course, two life vests. It was manageable.
When we got to the river crossing, I think most of us thought that this was as far as we would go as the river was fast and scary to those of us who didn’t grow up around water, and I had promised my wife before we left that I would bring the kids back alive. But my experienced friend said that this wasn’t particularly challenging and that he would make a run across to test the boat, and we could decide from there. So we inflated the Barracuda in a few minutes using the inflation bag (no pump), and my friend secured a backpack in the front seat and picked a line across the river. He paddled out through 10 feet of calm water near the edge to behind a big boulder that marked the edge of the fast, heavy water. Then he eased himself out from behind the boulder and into the current, and keeping the boat pointing upstream and slightly towards the far bank, he paddled himself in seconds to the other side, not traveling upstream nor downstream - just across - a real pro. Then he unloaded the backpack on the other side and came back across to take either a person or a pack. Altogether, it took twelve trips to cross six people and six packs. In actual fact we still weren’t across yet because we were actually on an island, and there was another channel to cross on the other side, but the water volume was much less and could probably be safely waded, but I took what I had learned from my friend and ferried our passengers and gear across the “junior” channel safely. Packing up, I saw the remains of a cheap plastic raft that did not survive someone’s trip, abandoned on the riverbank, and I wondered how the owner came to abandon his boat on the wrong side of the river. I bet they regretted not buying a better-quality boat.
The next morning, having arrived at the lake the day before, my son and I got our fishing gear out, installed the skeg and inflated the boat. A skeg is a small, removable keel that fits into a slot near the back of the boat and helps to keep the packraft moving in a straight line when paddling in still water. Take the skeg out, and you increase maneuverability - perfect for white water - install the skeg, and you can track straight on still water. We paddled the 4 km in no time and arrived at a location about mid-way down the lake where a small stream enters. This was the spot we found on google maps during our research and was the place we wanted to fish. My son pulled in one huge brook trout after another with a cheap telescopic rod which he had broken the end section off along the way, probably snagged on a bush somewhere. I landed three or four beauties in an hour with my expensive fly rod, probably catching one for every 4 or 5 that my son caught, and that was just perfect as far as I was concerned.
The rest of the story is pretty much the reverse of how we got to that point. The boat worked flawlessly getting us safely across the lake and river, and since that time, we have used it to get us into more fishing spots that were not generally accessible, so we are experiencing great fishing wherever we go.
Some words of advice: don’t exceed your skill level, bring more experienced friends along, bring a satellite phone or SOS-type satellite device with you, have more than one boat on an expedition, and most of all, get ready to catch fish like you wouldn’t believe!