Wednesday, July 22, 2015

NuCanoe's Pursuit should be a big hit in the kayak fishing world

The author's new NuCanoe Pursuit on its successful maiden voyage.
I've always wanted to design a fishing kayak, but I just don't have that talent. I'll leave that to the folks with that expertise.

This tarpon was the first fish out of the new Pursuit.
However, I've paddled quite a few different brands of fishing kayaks over the years, and I've had a few ideas that I would like to incorporate into a fishing design.

Most of all, I've always wanted an open cockpit, uncluttered and simple. I'm a fly fisher and I don't need knickknacks, gadgets and gizmos that would attract my fly line like lead filings to a magnet.  I've envisioned simplicity. Clean. Smooth.

I do need a place to stow a few things, but that area doesn't have to encompass most of the kayak.

Comfort is also a must. You could have a great kayak, but it does you little good if your rear end is sore or your legs uncomfortable.

Snook on fly.
I found my kayak last March when NuCanoe owner Blake Young brought his new concept to town for a few days or fishing and filming.

I paddled the prototype Pursuit and fished from it for two days. I was impressed.

However, I'm even more impressed with the finished product. Young has come up with what I consider the finest "fishing" kayak available today.  You can check it out at

The Pursuit is a well-designed, well-planned fishing craft that is characterized by simplicity and clean lines.

In the Pursuit's case, less is more.

Let's start out with the specs:

Length: 13 feet, 5 inches

Beam: 35 inches

Height: 12 inches

Draft: 3 inches

Hull weight: 82 pounds

Max load: 500 pounds
One of two oversized redfish.

At 35 inches wide, the Pursuit just might be the most stable fishing kayak available. I'm not overstating when I tell you I can literally tap dance on the deck.

What is particularly interesting is the kayak features a total of 82 inches of Freedom Tracks distributed from the bow to the stern. There 14 inches of Freedom Track in the bow, 54 in the cockpit and 18 in the stern.

The ergonomically designed high/low seat plugs into the track as do a myriad of accessories.  You can add as many -- or as few -- accessories as you want. If you choose, you can add rod holders, cup holders, GPS holders, speaker holders, depth finders and other gadgets to your tracks. It's up to you.

Rig it as you like, but the proof is in the paddling. When I launched my Pursuit for the first time, I was amazed by the way it glided over the water. The boat felt swift and easy to control. It tracked very straight and was almost effortless to control.

The openess of the Pursuit is impressive.
One feature that is unavailable is most other kayaks is the Pursuit's paddle holsters. They're located toward the bow on the starboard and port sides. They allow you to quietly slip the blade into them and stow your paddle securely while fishing. The holsters are a refreshing change from your typical paddle holders.

Talking about stow, I can't tell you how impressive the Pursuit's four internal rod tubes are! I can stow four fully rigged fly rods out of the way and protected. You can't do that in any of the other kayaks I've owned.

While I'm a paddling purist, you do have the option of added a trolling motor or even a small outboard (It's rated for a 2.5 HP engine) to the Pursuit. The square stern is designed for those who prefer to power the boat in that manner.

The spacious kayak has plenty of room for a tackle crate, camera box, cooler and whatever else you might envision.

You can stow four fully rigged fly rods.
The gear vault in the bow features a hard shell liner and can hold whatever you like. It can serve as a cooler or can hold rain gear, first-aid kits, tools, etc.

The boat also comes with a pair of flush-mount rod holds behind the seat.

The only things I added were an anchor trolley system and a taco-style paddle clip for my 9 1/2-foot pushpole.

Some might consider the boat's weight to be a negative. That weight comes with the width and stability. It's a tradeoff I can live with.

And the weight is actually of no consideration when loading and unloading my kayak. I use a Transport Cart (which I purchased from NuCanoe). It plugs into the stern and makes transporting the boat to and from the water very easy.

I'm tough to please when it comes to kayaks. I've been doing this for a long time. When I first started to fish from a kayak in 1986, I was usually the only paddlecraft on the water.

It's different today. When you launch your kayak, you'll often see a veritable armada of plastic paddlers in your area.

If you're in a Pursuit, rest assured you'll stand out (and up) from the crowd.

The Pursuit is a simple design that will turn heads and put a smile on your face.


I launched the Pursuit at the Buttonwood Harbor launch off eastern Longboat Key on Sarasota Bay a couple of hours before daylight. My plan was the fly-fish around lighted docks until dawn, then head out into the bay.

It didn't take long to "slime" my new vessel. I hooked a small tarpon on my first cast and landed it about five minutes later.

One cast.

One hit.

One tarpon.

Can it get any better than that?

It did.

I just five more tarpon and landed one. I also added a pair of snook.

When the action died at daylight, I paddled into the bay. There I was able to land a few small trout and a mangrove snapper.

At mid-morning, I decided to call it a day and head back to the launch. It has been miserably hot in this summer.

A funny thing happened as I paddled along. I saw a tail in 18 inches of water and made a few casts. I hooked a 36-inch bonnethead shark and landed it after a few minutes.

I decided to drift the area and make a few more casts. I caught and released a pair of 30-inch redfish.
My maiden voyage resulted in a rare Super Slam: redfish, spotted seatrout, snook and tarpon.

I don't claim to be the greatest angler in the world, so I just chalked up my success on this maiden voyage to the mojo of the Pursuit, the best fishing kayak I've paddled since in all my years on the water.


I am extremely proud to have been named one of five to the original NuCanoe Pro Staff. It's an elite group consisting of some really fine paddlers and anglers.

My fellow Pro Staffers include my buddy Joe Mahler of Fort Myers, Danny Barker of Citrus Spring, Drei Stroman of Fort Myers  and Graham Tayloe of Birmingham, Ala.

Since I'm a Pro Staffer, you might anticipate a positive review of the new Pursuit. However, I wouldn't be on the Pro Staff if I wasn't more than satisfied with NuCanoe. The last thing I want is to represent a product that I deem sub-par or inferior in any way.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Channel catfish are strong, fast and great on fly rod

Fly-fishing pro Joe Mahler of Fort Myers battles his first Manatee River channel catfish.
I am sure there are lakes, rivers and other bodies of water around the country where you can target channel catfish on fly rod, but I don't know where they are.

I do know Lake Manatee and the Manatee River have to be among the finest places to catch these hard-fighting whiskered fish on fly rod.
Steve Gibson show off a cat.

I found that out years ago while casting a light-weight fly rod for bluegill. I had caught a good number of the diminutive panfish that morning and expected another one when the strike indicator darted quickly to its left. I set the hook and knew immediately it wasn't a bluegill attached to my No. 12 nymph.

The fish was heavy -- and strong. I not only had to hope that my light tippet would hold, but also that the fish didn't head for the vegetation along the shoreline.

Almost as if the fish was reading my mind, it swam away from the shoreline cover toward the middle of the lake.

"I've got this battle won," I thought to myself.

All I had to do was keep pressure on the fish and allow it to tire itself out.

Easier said than done.

For one of the few times in my lifetime, I was into the backing on my fly rod. The fish was very strong and bulldog-like. It was surprisingly fast, too.

This Lake Manatee catfish hit a Myakka Minnow Jig.
Just when I thought I was gaining the upper hand, the fish made a 90-degree turn and headed back toward the shoreline. Even though I applied all the pressure that I could, I wasn't able to keep the fish out of the vegetation. In a matter of seconds, my light tippet broke.

While my initiation into fly-rod catfishing may have ended on a down note, it was only the start of something good. Since then, I have landed quite a number of channel catfish on fly rod.

Until recently, however, I never set out to catch them. Most simply were incidental catches while I was fishing for panfish.

But I decided recently to forget about bluegill and other species . I would concentrate on channel cats.

I don't know why Lake Manatee and the Manatee River produce so many channel catfish. I can speculate, but it's only that.
Joe Mahler casts a tight loop toward a deep bend.

I do know that I don't encounter them in any other body of water I fish: Upper Myakka Lake, Myakka River, Braden River, Evers Reservoir, Shell Creek, Deer Prairie Creek, Cocoa Plum Waterway or the Everglades. I've not hooked them on fly in larger lakes like Okeechobee, Kissimmee, Istokpoga or Tarpon.

But I find them almost every time I fish Lake Manatee or Manatee River.

I can only speculate that the state might have stocked them heavily in years past. And the water in those bodies of water is perfect for them to survive and multiply.

Just recently, a buddy of mine, fly-fishing pro Joe Mahler ( launched our NuCanoe Frontier kayaks at Ray's Canoe Hideaway (  on the Manatee River shortly after daylight. The tide was incoming, so I knew we'd have to bide our time until it began to ebb. Experience told me I rarely do much on the incoming tide.

Joe and I paddle upriver and spent an hour or so in a small bayou until the tide turned. When we left, we found the water pushing downriver. Perfect.

I most often find channel catfish on the deep river bends around fallen trees. So, that where I spend most of my time. I'll fish one bend, then move to the next.

There is decent current in the bends and the cats hang out around the tree limbs to dine on whatever swims by. Channel catfish aren't your typical bottom feeders that forage for dead fish. They prefer live fish.

For this outing, I was rigged up with a 6-weight TFO Finesse rod, floating line, 7 1/2-foot 12-pound leader with an 8-pound fluorocarbon tippet. It probably wouldn't hurt to use a 7- or 8-weight fly rod.

My fly of choice was the Myakka Minnow, a pattern I created about 10 years ago. I'm don't know if it's the best pattern for channel catfish, but I do know that it produces consistently.

I made three casts in the first deep bend without success. My fourth cast produced a feisty 4-pound cat. The hit was strong and quick. Luckily, the fish swam away from the cover out into the middle of the river.

Realize, you just don't bring a catfish in. It's not that easy. You must tire it out before attempting to land it.

I had forgotten the landing net that day, so I had to subdue the fish by hand. No problem. You have to be careful of a catfish's dorsal and pectoral fins. If you avoid them, it's no big deal.

Contrary to popular belief, most of the channel cats I hook seem to be hanging out near the surface. They most often take the fly shortly after it hits the water. I've even taken a couple of cats on popping bugs.

We didn't set the world on first during our outing, but we didn't expect to. I usually do best in the cooler months: November, December, January, February, March, April. In summer, it's much too hot, rainy and the water level is usually up.

Joe landed a smaller cat downriver for his first.

"I didn't really think you could target channel cats on fly rod," said Mahler, one the nation's top flycasting instructors. "I'm amazed."

The largest channel catfish I've ever taken on fly rod is about 7 pounds. I've hooked several substantially larger, but wasn't able to land them.

That could change during this year because I plan to target them with heavier gear.

My best day took place two years ago on the upper Manatee River when I caught and released 18.

Some anglers might snub their noses are targeting channel catfish on fly rod, and that's OK. I'll take them any day.

They pull hard and will give you all you want. In addition, they just love flies.