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Blog Posts

Crossover Creekin' in the Katana 10.4

This year I wanted to try something a little different, so I got a Katana 10.4 not knowing quite what to expect. Unwrapping the boat, I was super excited to see the hull that looked like it could definitely handle whitewater. Plus, it had all of the extra features to make it the perfect boat for long over-nighters on rivers and even to explore the San Juan Islands outside my back door in Bellingham, WA.…

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Posted by Brendan Wells on July 14, 2014 at 7:00am

Endangered Rivers

Rivers are simple, yet amazingly complicated things in our modern world. Without kayaking I'd never have realized just how complicated they can be.

Thomas Moore runs a slide on the Devil's Postpile section of the San Joaquin.

This year the San Joaquin River was listed as one of the top three…

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Posted by Darin McQuoid on July 2, 2014 at 2:58pm

Colorado Tour - CKS Paddlefest

Every Memorial Day weekend, some of the world's best freestyle paddlers descend on Buena Vista, CO to compete at CKS Paddlefest's BV Pro Rodeo.

Buena Vista is a beautiful little town located in the Colorado Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 7965 feet or 2428 meters. To me that is crazy as 2428…

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Posted by Tomasz Czaplicki on June 9, 2014 at 4:00pm

Colorado Tour "The Golden Games"

Posted by Tomasz Czaplicki on May 25, 2014 at 5:45pm

Dagger Europe Blog

Oxwich Bay toping

Oxwich Bay toping

The Oxwich competition over we had a plan to go for quality fish. I woke up around six and joined John, Martin and Chicky up by the marquee, the last two standing from the night before and set to work barbecuing some pork burgers for my breakfast while drinking three strong mugs of Azeera that John handed me. Result! I had slept well and was raring to go but the rest were still sleeping and we couldn’t get parked up before eight. The others appeared eventually and then we set about tying rigs. Five of us gathered around Mark who had the 8/0's out and while he, Martin and Amos crimped up wire and tied on rubbing leaders I replaced my semi-circle thick gage 10/0s with some of Mark's finer, shinier 8/0's onto my 1mm 80 lb clear mono leader, a five foot trace with a large swivel being my favoured route before a bead and zip slider on the 40lb braid. This would remove the weak point of braid to mono leader knot (it can cut through) and combine both in one. This was fitted to my 7ft Maxximus Nano 10-20 lb rod and LD15 Lever drag reel; Lever drag is brilliant when going for larger fish as you can have it freespooling one minute then flick the drag on to the max for the strike to set the hook deeply then slacken it own to the right level so the fish can take line without the imprecision of fiddling two handed with a star drag. I tied up five rigs, handing two to Shaun and keeping the other two in reserve. Mine were on 80 lb 1mm mono with hooks nicked off Mark, he, Martin and Amos used wire. Then we set off for the beach. Yaks off, game on!

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I had enough waiting around for the others and set off first trolling a string of ten sabikis on a large wedge with the Nano 7-25 g / LP Magnet set up in the hope of some mackerel - I had no bait otherwise. I stopped to jig a couple of times for no result then, on my third stop, while winding it in across the surface I had my first ever English garfish! I was made up, it was one of those species that has been on the hit list for years. I’d had a metre-long one off the Dominican Republic from the side of the ship I worked on the night after I turned twenty one so it was a great result. Great bait too. Beautiful little thing.

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I headed out deeper, jigged for a while, Shaun joining me. Finally a pollack jumped on the hook. "Where the hell were you yesterday when I was looking for you eh?" Didn't escape this time id it, oh no. In the tank well for bait and two more followed in the next ten minutes. Perfect size for bait. Shaun was struggling so I gave him one. Inshore, Mark had Gurnard, launce and mackerel, one of each. No-one else had caught at this point.

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We paddled out past the point looking for somewhere likely, devoid of marks or electronics, just a vague idea from a second-hand conversation. A radio conversation sporadically between us to report what we'd found bait-wise. Mark said Pikey was heading out and he'd managed one yesterday so knew where we needed to go. Then Shaun pulled up a string of four mackerel with me getting one straight after. We had good bait and we stuck the tope rods down while we drifted slowly around, with mine cut as a flapper once it had died after half an hour drifting as a livebait.

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Then, whistling. A couple of kayaks were out a few hundred yards away. We called the Oxwich boats for no reply and went out to investigate. No, they weren't in trouble, there was a comp running and the whistles were to call in the rib to weigh the catch. Oh, they'd had four tope! Shaun told me this...should we drop here? "No, Pikey's nearly here and he knows the mark...sod it, they're here, yes!"

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The anchor went straight down, a 2 kg borrowed off John after mine had been left in the wreck the day before. I dropped the bait down, mackerel head and one remaining fillet on it, the other ripped off in the snags from drifting it. Shaun moved around to get position ... tap tap tap ... tap tap tap ... ZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

Rod in hand, thumb on the lever drag, wait, two seconds, five seconds ... don't miss it ... ten seconds (might well have been two!) lever right up to the gate, rod up, strike! Strike! Hook up! The rod arches down and it goes mental, banging and runs, good weight, good fish ... "Tope on Shaun, don't drop yet, don't know where he's going or where the anchor's laying and I want pictures!" He circles, the fish goes uptide a bit, around, crosses the bow a few times, I pump it up, the drag lightened off to just the right amount so it can pull line every time it dives. I'm not going to bully it. It comes up, we get a sight of it - twenty-five I reckon, decent fish, the size of the only other one I had, up in Scotland a few years back, we've done it! It fights hard, comes up close, Shaun is filming and snapping, I get a couple of it in the water and then it's alongside, still quite fresh, the hook in the scissors, perfect hook-up. I grab the leader, disengage the drag, stick the rod in the flushmount, get it close to hand, can't grab it ... it pulls, takes line, the leader goes through my hand, I'm holding the braid, it rubs the braid on the side of the yak as it goes under, runs it over something and it parts. Damn, no trophy shot! I call Martin and Mark up, they've just got to Pikey's mark, going to try there.

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Shaun drops anchor. I put down half one of Shaun's mackerel, head half, hook going up through the head from the bottom as per the mackerel. Down it goes. Shaun is setting his anchor and it's tap, tap, tap ... take it ... tap, tap, tap ... come on ... tap, tap, tap "here fishy fishy, come on fishy fishy ..." it goes quiet. Teasing does nothing, I wind up. Bait gone. Tail end and down...two minutes, tap, tap, tap...I call Mark and Martin, they're coming now!...tap, tap, tap...goes quiet, bait gone. Half a pollack, head half ... tap, tap, tap ... wait for it ... tap, tap, tap ... here fishy fishy ... tap tap tap ... quiet, bait gone. Mark and Martin drop anchor. tap, tap, tap a few times then quiet. Five minutes later I pull up a good brown crab, he drops off at the bow. I replace the bait. Shaun's drifted out further, he's into a tope. It snaps him as he's landing it, a good fish too. We're fishing like amateurs. Amos drops anchor nearby. Martin and Mark are getting taps but no hook ups. Me? Tap, tap, tap...I stroke my lucky hat, here fishy fishy, come on fishy fishy ... tap, tap, tap. I have a pollack head on with guts. Crushed a bit and slashed a bit. Tap, tap, tap ... ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

He's off, I leave it, leave it, leave it, thumb the drag and hit it ... Bang! Bang! Tope on! Off it goes, doesn't like this one bit! The drag is reset, line is being taken the fish is being pumped up two to one, it heads uptide, downtide, across ... Amos moves over to take video and stills, I play it, take my time, don't bully it, tire it out for landing but not too much ...it breaks the surface. Good fish! A PB, UK PB too, looks 35-40 lb, a belting fish, a nice fat-bellied male in prime condition. I get it alongside, can't reach the tail with the dorsal at my hip, good length...but you don't want to grab the tail anyway, shark's tails are ticklish and they go ape if you grab them there...the hook looks like it's working loose...I grab the pectoral and get a soaking from the tail, it's fighting me hand to hand now...I lift him in and onto my lap. I've done it! YES! I was happy enough with my weekend yesterday, now I'm ecstatic! Amos comes and hooks onto my bow, starts snapping. Camera vertical, getting a nice shot of my bow, me, the tope, the sea, the point...I want some close-ups too but that's not going to happen. I take some from my own camera, camera overhead and far back, the bow mount video steamed up (turns out it does harm and the file is unreadable as it wouldn't go off until the battery died. Gutted.) Job done I reposition it to remove the hook, it's dropped out. I put the fish over the side, holding the tail to let it recover. It gets a breather and then goes for it, splashing me a goodbye. Fantastic!

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Right, I have two choices. The first is to bait up again and catch another. I could have, I would have but we're all really tight on bait. Mark and Martin made it out here with a single mackerel. Amos has a couple of gurnard. The fish are under me, I give Amos my spot and go to share my bait out with the others. Pikey is out here now, his anchor is lost so I tell him the fish are here, he can clip to Amos' anchor set-up. I go off to Martin, give him half my remaining bait, move over to Mark, give him the rest - it's a bit of a mess after some tope nibbling but times are hard ... I paddle over to see Shaun ... that's when his second hits, he's just managed a fresh mackerel, it's gone down whole and live and been picked up immediately. His Fladen Powerstick arches south and he's in the money.

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I stick close but far enough to film him without being in the way. He's being spun around, he's laughing and swearing, his feather rod gets in the way o I move in and retrieve it from his yak. The tope picks up the line before I retrieve it from the bottom so we have to cut it off lest the braid slice through his mono. It's up, dives again, looks twenty five, comes back to the top, it's alongside. "Grab the pectoral" I tell him and he grabs the tail getting a soaking and a battering ... "get him in" ... "he's in the bag!" “Photobucket”

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Shaun is over the moon, there's one angry fish aboard and his toes are its target again, as they were in the water...it's bleeding from the mouth and spits the hook while in his lap. Maybe we want a wider gape next time? No matter, our job is easier now and we've got our fish in. I move in for photos and then he's ready to release it ... I switch to video after he gives her a kiss for luck!

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Hold her tail and when it's ready it'll go" It was already ready and with its pectorals in the water it goes for it giving us both a soaking. We're laughing and head for the others.

">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIvdHoGjl8c

I go to pick up Amos' anchor as Pikey has tied on his spare and dropped it but the tide has picked up now and from leaving getting to Mark and passing him the buoy has been dragged under with not enough warp. I circle for twenty minutes but can't find it. It'll have to drop in height and strength before it resurfaces but no, Amos is going to come in with us. He unhooks and I get the reel but on the wrong side; Shaun comes in and clips to it and starts to haul.

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The tide is ripping but we can't drag it out even through the weak link is felt to snap. Two of us are on it as Shaun has water coming over the gunwhales, we get up as much warp as we can, we're straight above but it's got to go; I cut free. Mark, Martin and Pikey haul up and follow the three of us in; they've been unlucky not to connect with anything other than dogfish while Shaun and I have had a field day.

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We land, say our au revoirs and head the seven hours home, trying all the way to get James on the phone, James, our usual fishing buddy who couldn't escape work. I send him a text eventually ... "You know when you get a tope on the kayak? Oh, no, sorry. I'll ask Shaun instead. Ignore this text" I hit send and we wait for a bite ... two minutes. Home for half ten, I'm going to bed.

A short guide to kayaking in Mexico

S-Bend on the roadside section of the Alseseca

A short guide to kayaking in Mexico

Mexico, a place famed for its white sunny beaches, ancient Mayan ruins and steep creeks. This guide will, I hope might make planning your trip a little easier ...

When to come: we arrived on the 10th of October and left on the 13th of November (2012), before this is the rainy season and following this is a drier period. It seems like October/November is a popular time of year, as there were plenty of other kayakers. Over the time we were their we saw fairly low water levels, it only really rained twice, but their was still plenty to paddle.

How to get here: after much research on flights it was decided we would fly with Virgin as they take kayaks for free. The downside was that they only fly into Cancun, which is a three day drive up to Tlapacoyan (where the bulk of kayaking is). It must be said that Virgin were great to fly with and very helpful with the kayaks. It cost us roughly £700 for direct flights from the UK. If you fly into Mexico City its only a five hour drive to Tlapacoyan.

Currency: the Mexican peso (MXN). In 2012 it was 20 MXN to £1. This definitely made the British pound feel like a strong currency.

Language: everyone speaks Spanish, and only a few speak English. Speaking fluent Spanish is not essential, as we proved! It always seems to work out somehow or another.

Living expenses: we traveled around a lot, and found that living expenses varied quite a bit. In general if you are in a city it will be more expensive than in a smaller town. On average I probably spent about £7 a day on food and £4 on accommodation.

Accommodation: in big cites such as Cancun you can expect to pay about £20 – £30 for a three person room, however when you get into smaller towns prices drop to more like £10 – £15 for a three person room.

In Tlapacoyan we stayed with Aventurec, who are a family run raft company with accommodation set amongst their beautiful site. They have three different options: camping, a bunk style hostel and several different size cabanas. We hired one of their larger cabanas which slept nine of us (£3 per night per person, amazing value). They can provide awesome breakfasts and dinners for a reasonable price. They are able to provide transport from and too the river, as well a hiring out a modern fleet of boats – this makes it possible to fly into Mexico city without boats or having to hire a car and Aventurec can provide the rest. www.aventurec.com

Food: tacos, tacos and more tacos! Possibly not as you imagine. In reality when you order Tacos you usually get five small taco wraps, usually fried, often with a kebab type meat on top, finished with some chopped vegetables and chili sauce. These definitely became our staple, some of us loved them, others, myself included were not so fussed. One of my favorites was the BBQ chicken experience – you see a few of these about and its all about finding the right one! When by the sea, make sure you try some fresh fish, you will often see the fishermen brining in a healthy haul each morning.

Beer: of course this is an important substance on any kayaking holiday, expect to pay 10–15 pesos (50p–80p) per bottle.

Getting around: we hired two cars to get about in, which worked out as £1,350 per car for five weeks. The cars we had were Dodge Journeys, a very comfortable two wheel drive SUV. These did the job very well, they were capable of taking five people, with all our kit and kayaks. A 4x4 is not really necessary but some of the put in and take out roads can be interesting!

Before leaving people had told me that driving around Mexico was dangerous, we did not really find this to be the case. There is a well developed road system across Mexico. For the longer drives I would recommend using the toll roads, these tend to be in good condition and allow you to comfortably drive at 70 mph. They do charge, but I think they are worth while and are definitely safer to drive on. The free roads (libre) do the job around towns, and for getting to places which do not have a toll road. Beware of the speed bumps, they jump out of nowhere and will send you and your mates through the roof!

Police: it's worth knowing a little about the ‘long arm of the law’. In five weeks we were stopped countless times by different road blocks (set up to stop drug trafficking) Have your passport, drivers license, rental documents and passenger passports to hand. They may ask to check around the car, this usually did not take long. Some are serviced by army personnel and others by police, the army tended to be less corrupt and more friendly, but have bigger guns! We ended up paying three bribes; one because the Police were being naughty, one because I was being naughty (I ran a red) and the other because we were in Mexico City with the wrong type of number plate.

Hospitals: no trip seems to be complete without a visit to the hospital, on this trip we had to deal with a broken back. The hospital care seemed OK, but nothing to advanced. We also had a trip to the dentist with a broken tooth, he did he a good job fixing it for a tenth of the UK price – Any fillings get them done out here!

Night Life: the classic tourist nightlife is in Cancun, as for the rest of Mexico, its how you find it and what you make of it. Locals always seemed friendly towards us, even when walking about some of the dingier parts of town.

Rivers: the following is not intended to be a river guide, just some helpful information on the rivers that we paddled. Many of the following rivers are quite steep and technical, and as such are filled with horizon lines. Mexico has its fair share of clean drops and slides, but also its fair share of the bad and ugly, so don’t be lazy, get out and scout!

Tlapacoyan area

Filobobos ruins section (class 2–3+): a good off the plane warm up run. This section takes you down cliff lined jungle on fun boulder garden rapids. It is used as one of the local raft runs. For added perks there is a Mayan temple hidden within this section, although I must confess we never found it

Rio Alseseca Is one of the main rivers in Tlapacoyan, here are a few different sections:

Alseseca roadside section (class 4–4+): a classic creek. Bed rock fun that just keeps giving in a pool drop style. This is a great run for most abilities, everything here can be scouted with ease, and portaged if necessary. The first third of the run is filled with fun drops and slides which will bring you down to S-Bend, the main event. S-bend is an impressively long, steep slide (portage left if you don’t fancy it) Some ways after this you will go under a small concrete bridge, which is a possible take out. Other wise carry on down to the main road bridge and take out on the left.

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Big Banana section (Class 4–5): wow. This run is a definite step up from roadside and it holds some amazing white water. This is a run not to be taken lightly, the put in is hard to find and it can take quite some time to paddle your way down the river on your first time (it took us six hours) so best to find someone to show you the way. In this section you will find some classic drops such as Silencio (40 foot boof) and Meat Locker (a double drop affair) and many other fun drops. Towards the end of the run you find your self in the Pesma section, and then take out at the road bridge before Tomata one.

– photo Jeff Colgrove

Alseseca Pesma section (class 3–4): A shorter but fun section. From Tomata falls carry on driving up the hill for roughly 2km, on a tight left hand bend you will see a turn off for a camp ground. Drive down here and put on for a shorter section back to the main road bridge. The main event in here is a fun double drop.

Alseseca, Tomata 1 (20m waterfall): it's big, and scary, but its flat above and flat bellow! There are two lines one on river left, and one that is right of centre. When we were there I opted for the right of center line, which has a harder lip, but bigger boil. The important thing to realize is that Tomata 2 lurks just bellow! Once you have run it, paddle the next small drop, and take out immediately in the small pool on river right. From here traverse along the river bank for 30 meters or so (in a downstream direction), then climb out, and pull the boats up with throw bags afterwards.

– photo Jeff Colgrove

Upper Jalacingo (class 4–5): another jungle filled event. It has a few magical drops such as Bukaki, which is a steep, twisting slide straight into a 20 footer it looks like nothing else! The rest of the run is a mix with the good, bad and ugly, so don’t be to surprised when you are walking yet another rapid! Again this is the kind of run which would be sped up massively with someone knowing the lines, and showing you where to portage. There is a longer portage near the beginning of the river around a nasty 50 footer. Its also worth noting that the put-in and take-out tracks are quite steep and bumpy.

North of Tlapacoyan

Cascada Micos (grade fun in lower water): the Rio Micos is a playground for kayaks. Located a few miles west of Ciudad Valles is the rafting company called ‘Aldea Huasteca’. They have several beautiful cabanas located at the get off for the Micos. Accommodation worked out at about £6 per person per night. Its a brilliant clean camp, surrounded by mountains with nice facilities.

The Rio Micos has an intriguing geography to it, Its formed by episodic deposition of Calcite which comes from the high mineral content in the water. The accumulation of these  minerals over the steep gradient of the river bed forms dams, which form water falls for us to paddle on. The Calcite in the water is also responsible for the funky blue colour of the water.

To find the put-in, drive from the camp ground on river right for approximately 3–4 km. You will come to a lay by with locked metal gates. Walk down from here to find a large bore water pipe, follow the steps down to a big pool below a 70 foot water fall.

The Micos is a completely different kayaking experience and is the very definition of ‘pool drop’. Each pool is separated by a river wide horizon line, simply pull up to a shallower part of the lip, peer over the edge, and spot your line, brilliant! The main event is a very clean 30 foot fall on the right, or a slide into a 20 foot drop on the left. We lapped this one ten times in one run.

– photo Tim Hunt

Salta (class 3–4): the Salta is the upper section to the Micos. Put in on the small road bridge over the dam canal, be careful of the first small drop – a fast shoot with a cave on the right. Following this is a fun 15 footer. The rest of the river is filled with shallow ledge drops, which reminded me of a garden water feature. Take out river left above the very large cascade, you can get a beer in the bar that over looks it.

Río Santa María: we paddled the section above the Cascada de Tamul. I would not recommend it to anyone, there are many long flat sections which link the gorges and they are filled with horrendous sieves – Don’t do it!

South of Tlapacoyan 

Agua Azul:  we had seen some amazing photos published in Kayak Session showing off vivid blue water dropping over waterfalls. As it was on our way back to Cancun we thought  we might stop in. The Agua Azul, is located in the state of Chiapas, 60 km from Palenque. When we arrived we were not particularly inspired by what we found – heaps of low volume falls and slides, most of which were a no go. Instead we spent our time swimming in the pools. Perhaps with more time and energy you might find the goods?

The Oro: the Rio Oro is a rare beast, crystal blue water carves it’s way down through glorious dark basalt gorges, pool drop rapids await at each corner until she finally gives way to the much warmer Gulf Of Mexico.

You need to drive to the small village of Punta Roca Partida, ask for a man named El Flaco. This sounds mad, but its what we did and it worked! On arrival we found El Flaco, who hooked us up with accommodation, food and showed us the put on to the river! To put in you have to walk for about an hour across various farmers fields, so you will need his help. Once on the river you will paddle a few fun class 3s that lead you down into a couple of meaty pour overs. Its worth setting up safety here as they can hold boats.

Follow the river down to a big horizon, here you will find a sweet looking 30 footer – we had an epic here, one of our group broke his back, which resulted in a six hour rescue. The lesson learned, don’t boof this one! If you decided to run this first fall you will be locked into the gorge, the only easy way out of here is to run the next 30 footer, which has a delicious rolling lip. If you don’t fancy these you can portage river right, and walk down to the bottom of the second drop.

From here follow the river down through easier water to where it meets the sea, enjoy surf, beer and food!

In summary, Mexico as a kayaking location lends itself more to the advance paddler, with plenty of harder runs, and relatively few easy sections. So if your looking for a place to kayak countless waterfalls and steep slides in an exotic setting, this is a definite contender. Hope this helps – Jake

Oxwich Bay Competition 2014

Oxwich Bay Competition 2014

Having got released after a week of doing nothing on Jury service (straight after Runswick) at the cost of a third or my months shifts (and pay) for minimal recompense from the court I was suddenly stuck. I had to go back to work but wouldn't finish until the Friday morning. This meant that I was now skinted and unable to pre-fish the bay. With the event planned as soon as it was announced I was gutted. However, I got a request to do some video stuff up there if I was going and with the promise of the free barbecue on the Saturday night, a huge prize table and a couple of small Premium Bonds coming through I reckoned I could justify dipping into the savings, especially as Shaun was still home and very willing to do the driving and split the costs as he fancied the weekend too. That was decided then! We'd managed a bass on the Wednesday but things at home weren't looking all that great so Thursday saw us messing around with very light gear at Lake Lothing, from the shore, hoping for mullet and trying to identify a shoal that keeps feeding right at the water's edge in inches of water. I'd had some small smelt in my kiddies net - and a stickleback - so we went armed with some isome worm and had a play.

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It was hard to get them, both of us missing our first bite and getting no more for ages. Twitching worked if you could land on the fish and finally one took the size 16 ... so they were bass then! I managed two and finally Shaun got his. We spotted some small mullet to but they were having none of it. Back home, sort gear out and get ready for the off!

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I finished work, headed home and got a couple of hour’s kip. I was very nice to my wife, who had the day off which meant I could leave the house without worrying too much. Nice! Shaun arrived, we filled the van with fishing and camping gear and loaded the MidWay onto the roof as Ian had picked up the Tempo for Johnnie's brother to use as I didn't think I was going. So ... I'd have no electronics. No matter, it was going to be good fun anyway; I wasn't too expectant as I'd only managed one species when I went five years ago. Off we went, the first tractor hold-up within ten miles. We should have gone Diss-Bury-Duxford-Royston but took a punt on Norwich - Thetford only to find a road closure and then a jam on the alternative route. This put us in traffic at London too and the seven hour drive ended up as nine and we pulled in after a quick Chinese in a scary Port Talbot at around 10:30 at night. That was the first nourishment since Cambridgeshire where we'd managed a quick thickshake and cheeseburger, the jelly babies having not made it out of Suffolk! It was a sweltering day and we roasted all the way to the £12.80 fine for using the Severn bridge; what a bore. We were tired and people were drifting off to bed so it was a short meet and greet before I jumped into Steve's spare tent (thanks mate!). Within ten minutes of getting my head down my cold required a nose blow which became a nose bleed of epic precautions following a week of paracetomol. All I had to hand was one of tomorrow's clean socks ... Awake too early I went and mugged someone for coffee and a bacon roll, as you do, before we headed for the queue at the car park. I found one, I found a lucky coin! Into the front hatch it went, it'd be a good day, Shaun was jealous, we weren't too far from the front and once the fella arrived we were in and unloading, grabbing sabikis and hokkais and lures and wedges and rods and reels and leads and shads and sandeels and rigs and and and. Then it was off to the tent to register before picking up the bait; mud rag and king rag.

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Down on the beach at the start with Shaun, Martin, Mark, Jeff, Steve and Amos, an interloping Cuda and Scupper amongst the Tempos, Abaco and MidWay! Around us the beach filled up and then it was time for the briefing before an unhurried launch to get out and put the rigs on ready for fishing. I put my lucky pink/silver Warbird Minnow 12 on one rod as I planned a quick troll up the rocks first of all in the hope of bass and pollack and a size 6 sabiki rig on the other ready to drop down here and there.

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In terms of gear I decided to fish light with a matched pair. My brand new Fladen Maxximus Nano Plus 7-25 g 7 ft spinning rods would give me power where needed and sensitivity for the smaller stuff. The 6 bb Maxximus LP Magnet baitcasters and 40 lb braid would supply the strength for cranking and would hold enough line while being low profile. The balance of these two is perfect and my favourite set up for summer use.

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I found some sub-surface rocks and had a go down the side of them hoping to scratch something out. Nothing. I tried trolling, nothing. I tried getting tight into the little bays on the rocks; nothing. I got up near the point and decided to head deeper. Dave was there on his hobie and had caught two species so I dropped down ... five minutes and first fish in the bag, a pollack! I unhooked it and went to take a photo - the camera strap was twisted around something and then while I waited for it to turn on my little yellow buddy decided to leap about and make a dash for freedom ... an hour had passed and I'd lost a point like a fool, I could have cried! This is what should have could have would have been:

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I tried for pollack again for a while, drifting around near the deeper rocks but no joy. It was time for a move and a change of tactics. Out towards the centre but in the deeper water. There was a bit of tide here, could I get a gurnard? Hound ray or dog? Sabikis drifted down on a 4 oz lead to the bottom on the left hand rod, a wishbone pinned down on the other with half a king rag and a squid head on one hook, half a king and a peeler on the other ... I waited. Tim and Pete turned up in a canoe with Pete filming and taking photos while Tim paddled and held station. They'd just moved off when I called them back, fish on! Point one came with a dogfish photographed and returned. I was off my marks! I showed them how I was fishing and baited up, cast the rod, badly, and the lead plopped down 2 ft off the bow. It'll at least look like accurate casting on cue for the camera I'm sure but I thought I had almost killed him!

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Then the Raymarine Hobie paddled up for a chat, told me there was a shoal of fish around me and as he said that my sabiki rod started bucking; Mackerel, full string of four! Job's a good 'un. Two points and fresh bait, down went a fillet for bass/tope/ray/whatever might take a shine to it but nothing did. Time was getting on; I decided to try a couple more drifts and then head for the wreck. I managed another mackerel before going, on a mud-rag baited sabiki.

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“Photobucket”

Out on the wreck there was a cluster and a half but it was fishing well. I pulled up behind fellow RTM team member, AKA boy and Team M (me he and Mark for the day) Martin and started to fish. He was catching plenty and I was straight into point three, a pouting on mud rag and sabikis.

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Point four in minutes, poor cod and very brightly coloured too!

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Made me realise that I had them last year in the species hunt most legs … oops! Martin moved off with Mark after the fella in front, hauling bream and pollack, had left and we'd failed to connect with them. I couldn't catch a fish for love nor money and was getting few bites but enjoying the spectacle of Lozz trying so so hard to get an inch-long fish on what were probably 16/0 sabikis! He may not like or understand targeting stuff that doesn't bend an 80 lb class et-up to the butt but I think he was enjoying himself really. It's just a different challenge! The determination was hilarious: "That little $%@:< I’ll have you you. He's pinched my €3%&'n bait again the ‡#¢" was the kind of conversation I was enjoying for half an hour!

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I decided that enough was enough, I wasn't catching, I'd pull up and try another bit of the wreck. I span myself, started to pull in and found the anchor was stuck fast. I decided to stay, locked off the anchor at the front six feet from where I'd been and dropped down. Straight in to poor cod after poor cod! It was so precise that I would put the line down, wait until it shifted about 2 ft and then it'd go. Same on the other rod so I pulled one up, stuck on a string of eight sabikis and fished one rod only for a while. These are too long though and a second disaster occurred when I had to fiddle to get a bream aboard; it dropped off. I cried again. Back to four and four. No more bream, still no Pollack though both were jumping onto hooks around me - and I'm talking feet away. Steve was into dragonets or pogge, which I would have loved but then my left rod rattled with the first wrasse, a corkwing. Yes! Number five.

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Same rod, next drop, first ever rock goby! Six!

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Five minutes and in comes my first ever Tompot Blenny, one of three ... seven! And beautiful too, I could have had a lovely selection in my aquarium had I been closer.

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Terry pitched up, he'd stopped fishing for a while to enjoy playing in the overfalls by the point, having a blast as he was off the usual freshwater. He was grinning!

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Unlike some others who'd ventured too close and got sucked in. In fact, one of them was the guy on my Tempo ... "Snapper this is Valleybuoy, we've just rescued your kayak", "Ain't me mate, leant it to a mate for his brother to use", "We've got him he's okay", "I don't care, he'll float, is my kayak okay?" Cue an eruption of laughter around me! It was light-hearted, I knew he'd already been sorted out and was paddling in. Got to have the occasional funny transmission in a comp! Gareth was with Terry, good to see him again and as we nattered I continued on the (numerous, constant) poor cod, tompots and wrasse with John the other side unable to scratch out a poor cod. Then came number eight, the first ballan! Brilliant!

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Lozz returned, he'd been playing with the big hounds. Martin came back, said he was also on eight, John reckoned he was on that too, I was the only one telling the truth and they thought I was lying so told their own lies!

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This is part and parcel of comps apparently but it was to have serious ramifications ... with half an hour or so to go Martin decided to head in. He was 300 yards away by the time I'd sliced through my anchor warp and was chasing him to the beach! I get close, there's Pete filming my landing ... my nose hits the beach, I've gained on Martin but he's still got a couple of hundred yards head start ... Pete opens his mouth: "No time to talk, I've a competition to win!"

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“Photobucket”

... and I'm legging it up the beach, across the sand, in boots, bib and brace, PFD and an empty belly, a screaming headache, dehydrated after someone ten years younger. I never could run either ... I can see him smiling too! Behind me people are shouting encouragement, insults, laughing and I'm wasting oxygen shouting back and then I see Pete running behind me still filming; I'd better stop swearing then! I flag as I get to the top of the beach, start walking quick, he is too. He thinks he's lost me, I start to run again at the top and he runs too, I make it in behind me. "I thought you were lying, I'm on ten!" If I could breathe at that point I might have decked him! Checking in, I'm placed well by the look of things, how well time will tell; I'm currently fourth, could have been should have been second after the marathon man pipping me to the post (though i'd have left before that). Registered, we headed back to the beach to look for our kayaks and dragged them up the ramp to the cars. I stole water from Amos and returned to the beach. John had made it in with three minutes to spare on ten or eleven, would he take Martin? Yes, they gave him eleven. I looked through; I was joint fourth in numbers on eight, seventh on the board after the time factor. Mark was on fifth having got in twenty minutes earlier but result! I'd got the same species count as him which to me, after chasing him all last year and knowing he was the specialist at this, was a real success. Earlier when asked I'd said I wanted seven, to hold my own and I'd managed to beat that too and also get on the prize table to boot so my weekend in terms of the competition was justified. Well, Prize giving. Mingling around chatting with all my old mates, some met for the first time but known online, some new and the team from Palm and then it was into the prizes. Wooden spoon for a local (no idea why) …

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... then 11th, 10th, ninth, 8th, Snapper ... a Werner Tybee from System X (thank you very much gentlemen) handed over by Ed with a word of thanks as well as he knew how close I'd come to not being there …

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... 6th Keith, 5th Mark, 4th Tim Morgan, the first of the nine species, 3rd Cyril Cross, then Martin as runner up, holding up the AKA banner …

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… to John on his eleven species, his poor cod coming after I left and right at the end, worth the gamble! Not convinced he wanted to win when he chucked his trophy at the ground!

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Then onto the teams ... stuck for a name I'd put 'M' on the sheet, our shared first initial. Somehow - and I deny any responsibility - this got written on the board as Team RTM, much to Mark's panicked dismay, being a Jackson boy! I figured it was Jeff, Amos and Shaun so hadn't twigged. I'm not certain but I think all three teams had the same points (it was combined species count rather than totals each added) with it decided again on time. Team OK came third, we were second - twenty quid apiece - and I’ve forgotten the name of the first placed team, sorry!

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The Anglian boys had held their ground across the country!

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Great stuff, now back to the campsite, the camera left to one side for tomorrow's fishing. Out comes the San Miguel. Martin's off to the shower. Shaun looks at me, looks at him and says "What?" "I'm going for a shower" says Martin. Shaun looks again at me, his lower face red, the rest, covered with shades and hat being white, and, still confused, asks what he'd said. "He's from Essex". Shaun, satisfied, hands me another beer and we go for a mingle. Johnnie’s tent, my kayak is fine. His brother has dried out too. I ponce some cheesy biscuity nibbles then remember that Andy and Nick have invited me for cheese and wine ... we make our excuses and leave. There they are, brie, dolcelatte and caerphilly, crackers, estrella (I don't do wine) grapes, olives and feta ... "Tuck in, we aren't taking it back". Shaun's from Gorleston, he's almost as confused with Devon camping habits as he is with the Essex ones, but we tuck in all the same and while he turns his back I pounce on the dolcellate (he loves blue cheese) and eat the lot. The brie and caerphilly disappears rapidly too and then we're done. Like a smoothound pack on a crabby bank we empty the area and move on; we can smell that the barbecue is about ready and go a-grazing on absolutely top notch beef burgers followed by amazing pork burgers all washed down with more San Miguels. I was falling asleep, my night-shift timezone rebelling and forced myself to stay on my feet for the raffle by eating more pork burgers - no thanks, I don't want a roll thanks, that's carbs and they’re fattening, I'm Snapper and if you don't have to kill it you probably shouldn't eat it! Scalded fingers are a small price to pay for the body I had at twenty having kicked middle age spread into touch a couple of years back. I wish I'd not waited for the raffle though, my lucky coin had run out of power. I went to bed, leaving Shaun with the keg of ale in the tent! A huge thank you to Ed and all the SWKA team for organising the best event I've been to, it really was great and I'm a definite for next year! Also a huge thanks to Palm, Escape, System X and all the other sponsors of the event and barbecue, it really was a fantastic input from you all.

Kayaking lifestyle

Kayaking lifestyle

I love sport. I like that feeling when I'm tired after every training and that satisfaction when I learned something new but sometimes everyone need a short break. After the last World Cup event in Sort which was my ninth competition in the last ten weeks me and Zosia made two days off from kayaking and we went to Barcelona. 
 
 
We were sightseeing Park Guell which is famous from Gaudi's benches and we saw the Sagrada Familia church, but we didn't see it from the inside. Queue was so long and we didn't want to wait a couple hours to buy a tickets. By the way this place is still not finished but it is a chance that Sagrade Familia will be ready in 2027, so maybe it is a good idea to wait a little bit and finaly see more.
 
 
We spent all day in Barcelona and started our journey to Cunovo where we will train before European Championships. Of course it would be too easy and boring to go straight to the destination point so we made different plan of our trip.
 
 
From the capital of Catalonia we went to Millau where we were trainging for a three days. Zosia finally had enough time to paddle more in the Dagger Jitsu 5.5 and try different moves. She was competing on that boat in Sort and made fifth place in K1W but in Millau she fell in love in that boat. Zosia started to go really huge. Every loop and space godzilla was looking really good and better than in her old boat. I enjoyed making photos of Zosia's huge aerial moves. 
 
 
When Zosia was having fun with her new boat I was working on some new moves and combos. The French paddler Sebastien Devred showed us during the World Cup in Millau how important is a trophy move (woo tricky), so I decided to learn that move too.
 
 
After three days and five training sessions in Millau we went to Gui-Gui Prod place where my new freestyle gun was waiting for me. It's a new black and blue carbon Jitsu 5.9. That kayak looks sick and I can't wait to try it in Cunovo. 
 
 
From Carmaux we started our way to Cunovo through ... Italy. Why Italy? We asked ourselves in that way when we paid more than seventy euro for highways. But destination point was a big award. We were in Venezia. We didn't ask anyone or try to find information is kayaking there is illegal. We took our boats and paddled into city center. A lot of people where surprised. Maybe they didn't see so short kayaks so far or maybe we were the first kayakers there from a long time. 
 
 
We spent magical five hours paddling in wide and sometimes very narrow streets of Venezia. We must to be focused on the main streets which were really crowded. A lot of small and sometimes very big boats were going in different directions very close to each other. For me very funny was fact that they have the traffic lights on a few intersections. 
 
 
We finished our kayak trip in Venezia when the night came. Our way back to the place where we left our car wasn't easy. We didn't have any light what means that we could me invisible for other boats, but fortunately we had to paddle only a few minutes without the light from the street lamps. That was the best sightseeing in my life because I was there with Zosia and we were paddling :)
 
 

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