Carolina Mountain Sports
123 West Broad St
Statesville, NC
(704) 871-1444
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July 16, 2024
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  Carolina Mountain Sports
■  Tips for River Paddling and Fishing

If you are buying a craft for river paddling and fishing, do some research and ask questions of folks that do that.  Don't trust that a boat salesman actually is giving you good advice unless he is a river paddler.  He may have good intentions but no experience..  Designs that work fine in  ponds/lakes may be undesirable for river use.

The surge of interest in kayaks, anchor trolleys, hybrid boat designs and advertising can lead folks to make bad decisions when buying and using these new styles of watercraft.   It's hard to beat tried and true designs and techniques… proven over the years.

Study about river hazards like strainers and sweepers.  Learn to avoid these hazards and what to do in the event of an accident.  Paddling and fishing in moving water, especially when river levels are up, is different than ponds, lakes and sounds...and presents different hazards and challenges.  Plan for the unexpected.

Navigating and handling a boat in moving water can be challenging.  Often, turning around obstacles is not a good idea, because it can present the boat broadside to a hazard.  Instead, you push or pull the boat to one side or the other using draw strokes and pry stokes.  Learn about boat handing in currents and the proper stokes to use. 

Study about anchoring techniques and systems.   Don't try to anchor in swift water, especially from the side of a boat or at an angle to the craft.  Anchors ideally will come directly off the bow or stern of a craft. . A quick release system and a sharp knife may be critical when your anchor gets hung…

Learn what to do in the event that you swamp or capsize.  How will you deal with a boat that is full of water?  A boat full of water is very heavy and the force of the current can pin a boat against a rock or tree and become impossible to rescue.

Have a  watertight bag or box for valuables (phones, cameras, wallet,  keys etc.   This container must be sealed properly in order to function as intended when submerged.

A valuables bag or box is of little benefit, if it floats off downstream, or sinks to the bottom.  It needs to be secured to the boat to prevent loss.   Always have a spare car key hidden on your car, or a spare secured in a zippered pocket or cord around you neck.   Plan and be prepared for the unexpected.

Have  dewatering "systems" for your boat.  This may be a hand pump and/or  something as simple as a bailing bucket and big sponge.  Some boats like sit-in kayaks and hybrid boats are difficult to empty.  A traditional canoe can even present a challenge for folks unless they know what to do.   It's not always easy to  empty a boat of water, especially when you are standing waist deep in swift water...or treading water...   Plan for it.

Have some decent rope for anchor systems  and for attaching  lines to bow and stern of your boat.  Rope that floats is ideal but make sure it is soft and flexible enough to allow for good knots.   Rope should be about 3/8-1/2 inch in diameter so that it is thick enough to comfortably hold onto

Don't have "stuff" lying around inside the boat.  If you aren't using it, have it stowed and secured.     Have coolers closed and secured.  Have tackle bags closed and secured.  Have spare paddles secured.    In the event of a capsize or swamping, you don't want all this stuff floating off downriver and jeopardizing your ability to rescue your craft and you.  Loose fishing rods sink to the bottom and  often cannot be found.

Much of this info is also applicable to paddling in lakes, ponds, sounds and ocean.    Although there, you usually do not have the force and flow of a river current, you do have the challenge that water is deep and you may not be able to stand and touch bottom anywhere near where you capsize.    Plan and prepare for the unexpected.

Wear your lifejacket.   Spend the bucks and get one that is comfortable and functional.   Pockets are handy.   This has nothing to do with your swimming ability and your swimming ability has little to do with keeping you alive while you are trying to deal with your efforts to re-right, dewater, and get back in your boat.

Have a good knife readily available.  This means on your belt, on your lifejacket or in a pocket...not stored in a tackle bag.  This is not a macho image issue.  A knife can be a critical tool when your anchor is snagged in swift current; or when rope is tangled in a strainer preventing rescue; or when discarded fishing line has tangled around your foot or ankle.  A sharp, serrated edge knife can quickly improve a bad situation.

Wear good shoes.   Flip flops and most sandals are not really suitable for river conditions.  Some sandals that offer full foot protection may be okay....but still let in rocks that can be uncomfortable and cut.


Updated: July 17, 2021
Carolina Mountain Sports

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