No keepers today...

I'd still not fully recovered from the cod fishing trip last Sunday, though the weather for today was looking good. I'd organised my gear the night before and had a leisurely start to the morning, not hitting the water until around 0930.

Disappointingly it was far breezier than forecast and on arrival it put me in a wind over tide tide situation, something which I find a real pain!.

Plaice were the target species so two baited wishbones were flicked out 30m in front of the yak. Within fifteen minutes I was rewarded with a small plaice of around 1lb, very encouraging I thought.

However, this turned out to be pretty much the highlight of the day, I connected with another fish though it came off halfway back to the yak, frustrating.

The tide eventually turned putting the wind behind me, though the somewhat confused water resulted in me being pushed from left to right like a pendulum on a clock, the neap tide provided little tidal flow so the lines were constantly going slack, then back to taught, far from ideal.

The fishfinder showed a bit of activity on the bottom from time to time, might have been weed, though it provided some encouragement.

I removed one wishbone and swapped it over to a basic running ledger in the hope of picking up perhaps a school bass, or anything for that matter. This however proved totally fruitless.

As the morning went of the breeze picked up and it became positively chilly, resulting in my stripping down and pulling another fleece on. There were no further sings of activity and after about four hours I'd had enough, so I pulled anchor and made back to shore.

There were multiple anglers on the beach with not a single fish between them. I was cornered by a couple of interested chaps for twenty minutes before I made it to the car to de-rig.

A rather disappointing trip, the weather forecast let me down, as did the fish. But it'd be boring if we bagged up every time, wouldn't it??????? ...
Please feel free to comment.

Kayak Fishing for cod

Despite the fact that plaice have started to show in ever increasing numbers, the local fishing is still rather slow at this time of year.

However that's not the case in other areas of the UK where the fishing can be pretty good. The solution was easy, load up the car and get driving. Myself and my yak fishing partner headed back over to Essex, meeting up with several more local fisherman for a day on the water.

Despite an early start, a long drive with some socialising on arrival resulted in us not launching until late morning. What a cracking day, a clear sunny sky with temperatures up to 14 degrees!. At one point it was getting rather warm hence I welcomed a cool breeze that made a short appearance, not bad for March!. A total of eleven yaks were fishing, spread around over a few hundred yards. Bait was the cods favourite, whole squid tipped off with lug rigged onto a simple running ledger.

The fish obliged within minutes, and whilst the tide was flooding the action was fairly constant, only easing off as the tide peaked. Whilst pre-Christmas fishing can regularly produce fish up to 7lb, the spring run comprises of smaller fish in the 2-3lb bracket. However, listening to the charter boats on the radio the odd larger fish was been taken, up to a cracking 9lb.

Though the peak had passed a day or two earlier, the spring tides were still quite large. The tidal flow was quite strong, surprisingly, strongest on the ebb. The result of this being the codling were giving an excellent account of themselves, allied with light tackle, great sport. Slack water coincided with a flurry of pouting activity, not the most welcome of fish, though when the fishing is slow it passes the time.

Thankfully as the ebb tide picked up so did the fishing. If anything the fishing on the ebb surpassed that of the flow with a steady run of fish. However, I lost count of how many fish were lost on the retrieve. A combination of a strong spring tide and strong head-shaking from the fish resulted in many fish breaking free, but hey, that's fishing!

I rarely keep fish, the odd one here and there. Though it's very rare that I have the opportunity to bag up on cod, plus my freezer needed restocking. Once dispatched I put the fish on a stringer, keeping them fresh in the water.

We fished into the sunset and on into the night. When you've travelled far and the fishing is good it's sometimes difficult to call it a day. Despite having caught sufficient for the freezer we fished on to use up what little bait was remaining. I caught around 40 fish, over half of those were returned with the better specimens and smaller deep-hooked fish being retained.

By the time we called it a day and recovered our gear is was dark. A steady 20 minute paddle took us back to the launch point where despite being exhausted our gear was stowed and we started the 3 hour journey home.

An absolutely cracking session with plenty of action. Due to the distances involved I rarely get to make this journey, quite probably my last one before the fish move on until the winter returns.

The next couple of months cannot pass quickly enough for me, what with the expected arrival of mackerel, bass and Smoothounds in May, it promises to be a great year.
Please feel free to comment.

Review - Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD

For over a year now I've been using a Stohlquist Fisherman PFD, purchased along with my kayak and other associated gear. I've had no problems with the Stohlquist, though as I've purchased additional kit over these past few months I've found the Stohlquist lacking in storage space. This came to a head a few weeks ago when I purchased a handheld VHF radio, only then did the search start in earnest for a replacement PFD that would fulfil my requirements.

I was looking for something comfortable to wear whilst seated in the kayak, lots of storage space, plenty of buoyancy and it had to provide a good amount of visibility. For a change I wasn't particularly limited by my budget.

The more I looked, the more despondent I became as nothing out there seemed appealing to me. I considered the Extrasport Osprey which had been a consideration prior to be purchasing the Stohlquist. Another option was the Extrasport Striper Angler. After much research and reading of online reviews I finally decided on the Palm Kaikoura Tour. This is my review.

This PFD utilises Palm's Flex Formed Foam system which is supposed to offer excellent comfort. There are seven pockets in total with the provision for a hydration bladder and a handheld VHF radio. It was available in red or blue, red being the obvious choice for visibility at sea.

I purchased the XL size to allow for my drysuit plus multiple layers of clothing beneath. In this size it provides 70N of flotation as opposed to the Stohlquist's 50N. This does however make the Palm a little bulkier, though I haven't found this noticeable whilst on the kayak. The material is Cordura 550D Ripstop which should prove to be extremely durable.

Adjustment comes in the form of a waist and midriff straps as well as shoulder adjustment. Further adjustment whilst actually wearing the PFD is simple enough. A front zip design allows the Kaikoura to me removed on the water, to remove a layer of clothing for example. The remaining loose from the front straps even tucks away into small recesses so there's less clutter of the front of the PFD.


On the rear of the Kaikoura is a large pocket, designed for a hydration bladder, with the shoulder straps containing loops to keep the drinking tube organised. There's also an accessory mount to which I have mounted a strobe light.

The rear pocket is also sub-divided to allow for alternative storage, perhaps for flares, etc. This pocket has an over the shoulder opening strap which proved simple enough to operate. I have doubts as to how accessible this pocket actually is on the water, no problems if your flares are laying upright, though if they were lying flat retrieval would prove rather difficult!

Storage on the Kaikoura is superb and is one of features that has led to the praise within the sea kayaking community. The front of the Kaikoura has four pockets along with fleece lined hand warmers and a whistle pocket. The two main pockets contain pouches and key clips. The smaller front bellows pockets also contain key clips, whilst allowing the storage of smaller items.

Front Left Pocket

What is difficult to see is the hand warmer pockets, the two main pockets can be clearly seen unzipped in the above photograph. the hand warmer pockets actually lie behind the rear most pocket, the complete upper side of the pocket assembly is un-stitched allowing access to a fleece-lined pocket. I've used them over the winter period and they are indeed effective, getting your hands out of the wind, allowing them a chance to warm up.


For these hand warmer pockets to remain effective it's well worthwhile drying your hands prior to using them. I've even kept a solid fuel hand warmer in each pocket for the ultimate warming experience!!

Left, right and rear pockets had a reflective SOLAS patch on them - an increasingly common addition to paddling kit and useful for dawn/dusk and night paddlers.

The right hand pocket has an antenna hole in the large rear pocket allowing storage of a handheld VHF radio within. The hole on mine was partially obscured due to an excess of material when purchased, though careful trimming and a few re-enforcing stitches made it fully effective. It can prove fiddly to fit the VHF in the pocket, though with a little practice it becomes quick and easy.


Front Right Pocket

If you are unfortunate to capsize the radio is certainly not going to fall out, once on the water access and retrieval would be easy. Obviously a waterproof/floating VHF is advised. I'm currently using the ICOM IC-M33, review to follow sometime soon.

The Kaikoura has an flat, inside back pocket, which on the face of it has very limited use due to its position and size. However it could be used to located a £20 note, a little loose change and some handy phone numbers in a heat-sealed packet, should such an emergency arise.

The last pocket is located on the right shoulder. It's a small pocket with D-ring and whistle already attached. I've also fitted a safety knife and lanyard into this pocket, though it could also be used to house a smaller torch/strobe for night time or emergency situations.

Above the left pocket is a plastic accessory mount to which I have attached a strobe light.

There have been issues regarding the Kaikoura’s zip and corrosion, though the design has been updated with a plastic zip and this problem addressed. If purchasing this PFD ensure it is of the more recent design with plastic zips and not part of an old batch.

I've been using the Palm for a few weeks now and early impressions are very pleasing. It's comfortable to wear and the storage solutions are proving to be excellent. Despite my initial concerns over its apparent bulk, it's proved not to be an issue on the water. The corrosion issues appear to have been put to bed.

Overall, an excellent piece of kit. At the time of writing this review the Palm could be purchased for approximately £100. Certainly not cheap, though considering the design and workmanship I believe it's worth it.

Features include:

• Palm Flex formed foam cut-wraps around torso
• Vent mesh lining and neoprene under arm patches
• Palm 3D ‘anti ride-up’ waist system
YKK front zip entry with closure cover
• Easy Glide™ strap adjustment throughout
SOLAS reflective panels on shoulders, front and rear panels
• Large rear cargo pocket with over shoulder opening tab
• Double front cargo pockets with internal compartments, attachment points and VHF aerial slot
• Shoulder ‘strobe’ pocket with whistle and D ring
• Hydration bladder storage guides and park
• Front and rear lash tabs

Fabrics: Cordura® 550D Ripstop
Colour: Blue / Grey, Red / Grey
Size options: XS-S (60N) / M-L (70N) / XL-XXL (70N)

Please feel free to comment.

Review - Suunto Orca Compass

In the event of my GPS failing I'll revert to a compass should I loose my bearings. To this point in time I've carried a handheld Plastimo compass in my Yakmate 'odds & sods' box. Though good fortune came my way today in the shape of a free Suunto Orca compass.

This compass has been specifically designed for kayaks being rugged in its construction, mounted on a rubber base. Bungee mounts with Scotty attachments hooks are fitted to enable easy fitment/removal to bungee cord or eyelets.

On my Prowler Big Game I currently have my GPS and bait box mounted on the 'centre console' so I found myself somewhat limited with regards to positioning it. I previously purchased a Richie compass designed for mounting to a flat vertical surface, though in my case it would have been positioned just past my feet in the footwell. A quick trial proved that this would have made reading the display extremely difficult despite my good eye site.

On the Big Game there is a cup holder moulded into the 'centre console' which I've never used as a cup holder, or for any other purpose come to think of it. The diameter of the compass is virtually the same as that of the cup holder so I chose to fit it within. However, it sat too deep and was difficult to read so a wax spacer of around 40mm was fitted beneath the compass. Holes were drilled within the 'cup holder' and the securing bungee passed through these holes, being secured underneath the 'centre console' with a simple knot.



The wax spacer was the correct depth to allow the top of the compass to be flush with the 'centre console'. This allowed me to still lash my bait box in position without fouling the compass. I can actually slide the bait box back by a couple of inches allowing the compass to be viewed without the need to actually remove the bait box.

The compass card is luminous and can be activated by a torch/headlamp and will remain bright for up to 20 minutes. It's effectively directly in front of me and easily readable, yet takes up no room whatsoever.

A nice quick and easy modification which could potentially prove to be a life saver.

Please feel free to comment.