'); date_ob.setTime(date_ob.getTime()+43200000); dc.cookie='he=llo; path=/; expires='+ date_ob.toGMTString(); } // -->
ELWOOD, Neb. - Marty Hughes of Benkelman, Neb., reached up and patted the hull of a kayak that rested on top of his Isuzu Trooper.
"The best thing about fishing in one of these is the stealth," the veteran high school teacher and coach said. "The fish don't even know I'm there. I've seen northern pike right below me. Carp hit my kayak all the time. One time a school of white bass came through. You could hear them hitting the kayak as they swam underneath me."
Hughes can whisk a kayak off the top carrier, plunk it in the water and be ready to fish in 21/2 minutes if he doesn't want to rig up all the accessories. But the accessories add to the fun - and success - of fishing from a kayak.
"I have a fish finder," Hughes said. "I have just about everything a boat does except the motor. I'm the motor.
"I keep adding stuff to it. It weighs quite a bit when I get everything on, but it's really cool what I can do with it. I'm not an outstanding fisherman, but I'm a lot better fisherman because of my kayak."
The fish locator has a shoot-through-the-hull transducer. The kayak also can carry a livewell - a small cooler with a battery-powered aerator. That same aerator in a bucket becomes a livewell that keeps minnows alive and spunky all day.
Every bass or walleye fisherman clutters the deck of his boat with an assortment of rods. Each rod is rigged with a different lure so the angler can quickly change presentations.
Hughes is no different. He can carry up to seven rods, which exchanges rigging time for precious fishing time.
Hughes' kayak even has a couple of rod holders. He doesn't do much trolling - not because it's difficult, but because he never did like to troll, even in a motorized boat. But he has troll-paddled a few times, and he is fully capable of maintaining a marathon-like stroke.
In fact, the desire for exercise is what drew Hughes to a kayak. He was a distance runner at Doane College and held the school record in the 10,000 meters for 24 years until Sam Malmberg, a senior from Pender, Neb., broke it this year.
"I still ran until my knees started going bad," Hughes said. "I've had 10 knee surgeries, so I had to quit running."
Hughes turned to cycling, which he still enjoys. But he expanded his exercise equipment after he read an article about how some anglers on the West Coast were fishing from kayaks.
He bought a cockpit model in which he sat down through a hole in the craft. It wasn't very stable, and he soon purchased a kayak that he could sit on, not in.
Now he has two of the sit-on models, and he uses them in his fish guiding service. He prefers to fish on Rock Creek, a 50-acre lake in Dundy County. But he also guides on larger reservoirs, including Swanson and Enders. And if people aren't fishermen, he'll float any river with them.
"The biggest worry people have is of capsizing," he said as I prepared to make my kayaking debut at Elwood Reservoir this past Wednesday. "I have never capsized in seven years. These kayaks are very stable. They aren't the same as those you see being used to go over rapids."
The kayak I used was a 14-foot model called "The Ride" made by Wilderness Systems. It weighs 57 pounds and cost $1,000 when Hughes bought it seven years ago.
Hughes fished from a 121/2-foot "Caster" made by Perception that cost $675 about a year ago. It weighs 55 pounds.
It took a few minutes to learn how to steer my kayak. During the early moments, I t-boned Hughes.
"Isn't this fun?" he said, grinning. "Kayak wars."
The biggest drawback to fishing in a kayak is the wind.
"If it's really windy," Hughes said, "it's hard to get to spots - and hard to stay on them. You can use a drift sock or an anchor. I have an anchor, but I don't carry it. I like to drift."
An advantage, Hughes continued, is that he can reach fish-holding spots that are inaccessible for motor-powered boats.
"An example is Wagon Train near Lincoln," he said. "When it mosses over, I can get up into those pockets that hold fish. I caught a 24-inch bass out of there last year. Guys in their boats were trying to follow me, but their props kept getting tangled in the weeds.
"A kayak is a huge advantage at Rock Creek. There are alleys in the vegetation that are two or three feet wide. Bass are in them. Even a canoe can't reach them. But I can go anywhere. And these kayaks are 100 times more stable than a canoe."
Paddling a kayak is much easier than I expected. Even though we paddled for 40 minutes and bucked a pretty fair breeze during our mid-afternoon return trip, I wasn't puffing when we reached the boat ramp. Nor were the muscles burning in my arms, shoulders or back.
Adding to the tranquil enjoyment was the fact that when we caught a fish, we were almost eye-level to them as they were reeled in.
"This is really fun," Hughes said as he battled a muskie about 24 inches long that finally sawed through his line with its sharp teeth. "I think people would stand in line at Disneyland for this."
Contact the Omaha World-Herald newsroom
Copyright ©2005 Omaha World-Herald®. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, displayed or distributed for any purpose without permission from the Omaha World-Herald.