Monday, September 23, 2013

Surviving Summer...

I will be the first to claim that the hottest of days are behind us here in south Louisiana. That's not to say it won't get hot but the inferno that a day in august brings us is in the past. I've spent more than a few long days on the water this year and have learned a few things about surviving the sun, heat, humidity, bugs and doldrums that our sweltering landscape provides us every year. This post may be more apt to be posted in the spring when it can do you some more good, but hey, better late than never.

The most important thing that many people neglect to do in their kayak is to drink enough fluids. I am certainly guilty of this myself when fishbrains sets in. There were days when i'd be in the kayak for 10+ hours and only drink 1 liter of water. That is not smart. Kayak fishing is exercise at its core and you need to replenish your body. Paddling, casting, poling, is all physical work, sometimes made more difficult with headwinds and tides. Here's a few tips that have helped me get through.
While coffee is always a mainstay on the way to the put in, i've been better about trying to drink atleast a liter of water on the drive in. Most of us in Lafayette have an hour and a half drive or more to any spot we want to fish so there is plenty of time to start your fluid intake. I keep a liter of water or gatorade in a Nalgene bottle and designate that to be drank in the morning. 

Now keeping cold fluids once you're on the water gets a bit more tricky. Taking an extra cooler specifically for drinks in my boat is inconvenient. I would usually take an Evernew 2L bag and leave it under my chair once I put the first fish in the cooler to keep it from getting slimy and gross. You can imagine how fast the water lost it's cool. Hot fluids are far less appealing to drink when the heat index is in the triple digits and humidity hovering around 94%. Better late than never I've found a fantastic way to keep cold fluids without the need for an extra cooler. 

Hydroflasks are a godsend. Yes, they are fancy and expensive water bottles. I was not sold on them for the longest time. My skepticism said that nothing could keep fluids cold in the Louisiana sun for an entire day. Glad to admit I was wrong. Two of these beauties accompany me to the marsh now. My 21oz. bottle is filled up with ice and gatorade and drank during the hottest portion of the day. The big mama 64oz. is filled with ice up to the brim and filled up with cold water to drink regularly. And yes, it will keep it cold ALL day. I've put ice water in the bottle on a wednesday night and fished for two straight days with this on the deck of my boat topping it off with tap water and still had cold water 40 hours later. Yes, it works. The best thing about them is I can fill them up the night before and stash them in the car so they won't be forgotten. If there was some kind of "hydroflask challenge" you could try before you buy, i'm positive there would be a lot more of these "overpriced water bottles" on the deck of kayaks all across south Louisiana. Just take my word for it, pony up the dough and kick yourself for not doing it a year ago like me!

Clothing & Sun Protection
10 years ago I would have told you that all the technical fabric mumbo jumbo was a load of BS and would wear a good ol' cotton t-shirt to do just about anything. Thankfully my viewpoint has changed for the better. My closet is a gammut of shirts, shells and layers for almost any conditions I may encounter. We'll try and stay on course and talk only about HOT weather gear and the pieces that have worked for me. 
Lets assume that everyone is already wearing a hat and sunglasses. Ok so the next thing would be the iconic BUFF. Seems more trendy than anything right? HHHhhmmm, not so fast. So if you're anything like me you are at the put in a half hour or more before civil twilight. Our state birds have already consumed half of your blood supply in the 10 minutes you've spent rigging up rods and parking your car. Put on a buff and your face is about 80% more protected. 

It's dead nuts hot and the water is glass. How many times have you prayed for a headwind? It's the doldrums. Everything is calm and you can feel your skin starting to crisp up and fry like the flounder filets you're searching for. Put on a buff! It is almost counter intuitive to think that putting on MORE clothing at this point can keep you cooler. That's exactly the religion I am preaching. Personally I am not gonna be messing around with skin cancer when I get older. And if I do it won't be for lack of trying to prevent it. Just remember to buy the UV protection addition. Save to classic and wool lined buff for the winter. 

So now lets move down to the shirt. A shirt for kayak fishing should have good venting, bug protection and dry quickly. I have a few Patagonia shirts that do exactly that. The Slick Calm shirt is much like the collared button up that everyone seems to where. Nothing new here but I like the big pockets for a pair of nippers and a cork or for a handful of sunflower seeds. The sleeves roll up to a button so they can be up and out of the way if you need. The vent across the back is big enough to let some air through. So this shirt would fall under the "hard" fabric category for me. I say that because the weave of the fabric is a bit tighter and makes a more significant barrier to keep bugs off your skin.
Now lets look at some "soft" fabric layers. These would be layers like the Tropic Comfort crew. This is what I wear when the forecast says miserable. The fabric used is a little softer and weaved a little more openly allowing for a bit more air flow. You give up some bug protection with these garments but you have to give and take a bit. I've talked to a Patagonia representative and was told that this shirt was made with the same weave as the Sunshade Shirt. So i'm led to believe it holds the same UPF rating of 30+.  Anyways this style of shirt is great on the absolute hottest of days!

So for leg protection I ALWAYS wear pants. Your legs don't do as much moving around and they bake in the summer sun the whole time you're on the water. The amount of sunscreen you'd have to reapply and remembering to do it are irritating to me. I've used a pair of 100% nylon Royal Robbins pants for over a year now. They have a UPF 50+ rating and dry very quickly when they're wet. And yes your pants WILL be getting wet. Whether from paddle drip or fish slime the ability to dry quickly is a must have feature in your paddling pants. I'm currently gonna be testing out a pair of the Global Traveler pants and they seem almost perfect. There are a bunch of pants on the market but if you find a pair that dry quickly, fit loosely and feel good, try em out. Just remember to buy them with an inseam one size bigger to accommodate your sitting position and cover your ankles more.
I've yet to find the perfect shoe and still resist the impulse to wear crocs. I just can't do it. I've tried old tennis shoes, so called "water shoes" that should be renamed "hold your stink shoes". Currently wearing a pair of Keens sandals and would like to try the Owyhee sandal because of the heel guard that protects the back of the heel that always rests on the deck of the boat. Still a work in progress in the foot area.

Bugs, Sun & Lagniappe
Have you gotten the memo about how bad DEET is? It is not something I really like to use, ever. Now this is south Louisiana and you can quickly be driven insane by our flying friends in the morning and evenings but remember all that clothing we just talked about? That will get you about 90% covered. Research that a bunch of scientists I've made up say that it is bad for your skin, eats away at your fishing line, puts out a fish repelling scent when in contact with your baits, destroys technical fabrics and is more than likely not to safe to inhale. I don't know about you but I spend good money on my gear and don't want it ripped up and eaten away by this stuff. And it's scaring away my fish!!
I will take every precaution NOT to use DEET. Now there are a plethora of "natural" and deet-free repellents you can google but one that semi works for me may already be in your house. Victoria's Secret Amber Romance perfume is said to work just like any other bug repellent. I've tested this stuff the past year and I will say that it works. To a certain degree. It will not be 100% protection when those little bastards are feeding but it does help a lot. Best part is that you get 8.4oz for about $12! One word of warning, it smells like a women's perfume, so be careful when your significant other is suspicious of your "fishing trip". 

There are a few more pieces of gear that I like to wear. Like the Buff Water Gloves. These keep the sun off your hands and give you some grip on your paddle. The fingerless design keeps your digits free to tie your line and use tools. They can also help prevent blisters and fatigue on the longest days paddling. They get pretty dirty when handling fish and mud but throw them in the washing machine and you're good to go.

Last but not least, i've employed an umbrella into my sun fighting arsenal. My preference would be for a Golite Chrome Dome umbrella for the reflective material its made of. Not for all day use, but taking a break for lunch or a quick nap in the afternoon lulls under your own shade is invaluable. Everyone has an umbrella at home so just bring it along next time! I made some drawcord loops on the back of my seat to hold it during the day and allow for hands free shade when I need it. And those days the afternoon squall popped up and my rain jacket was in my closet I surely appreciated the umbrella.

Now I certainly spent more than a few days last year marathoning through cold days in the marsh last winter and will share a few tips and tricks when it's needed. Mostly ways to comfortably stay warm and dry without feeling like the michelin man. With fall coming on we have a few months before your fingertips freeze up while trying to tie on a lure. Let's just enjoy the cool weather and everything that comes with it.