Great Canadian Adventure

Drew Gregory with Canadian smallmouth bassIn August Eric Jackson and I were in Salt Lake City, UT, for the Outdoor Retailer Trade show, where we met Chris Bailey who hosts a TV show called “Reel Outdoors.” Now, a lot of the time at the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show you run into folks and sort of talk about “lets do this” or “lets do that this year” and it sort of gets out of sight and out of mind. Of course if you know Eric Jackson you know that when he gets an idea and is onto it, he’ll make it happen. After all, that is how Jackson Kayak started with EJ not just wanting to do something, but actually taking action to do it. So, it was no surprise to me when, just a couple weeks after the trade show, EJ said “We’re going to Canada with Chris Bailey and Reel Outdoors” so get ready to catch some smallmouth and pike out of the new Coosa Kayak we’d designed.

I, of course, said “Alright dude, I’ll see you up there in a few weeks.” I was excited because I had never fished in Canada before and a big northern pike was on my list of fish to catch in my lifetime. It never hurts that the Ottawa River has great smallmouth bass in it too, which if you know anything about me you know they are one of my favorite bass species to target. I was also excited because this would be my first chance to try out some of my colder weather gear from Kokatat that I had yet to use, since I got it by the time the weather here in the southeast was warming up.  I was using the tempest pant, innercore shirt, Gore-Tex pullover, Bahia Tour PFD, Destination paddling shirt, the hand jackets and as expected they all made my trip so much more comfortable and productive.  I also was able to try out the new Go Pro HD Hero cameras that and I was absolutely amazed at how well they work.

I actually flew into upstate NY and had to attend a trade show in Killington, VT, before I took the Coosa and loaded it on top of my rental car and made the drive into Canada. While at the show I fortunately ran into the good folks at Aqua Bound Paddles and was supplied with a suuuweet carbon fiber re-enforced Manta Ray paddle that made my days in Canada so much more enjoyable due to its light weight and ease of paddling. Thanks again to Aqua Bound for hooking me up with that because I had used their paddles before and enjoyed them but this one was a step up and boy was I impressed with how it handled.

EJ and Chris Bailey had already been fishing a couple days by the time I got there and I was eager to catch up and get in on some of the action. They had already landed some nice smallmouth and pike and EJ even took the Coosa down the biggest whitewater on the Ottawa River, which boasts world class whitewater paddling. Dane Jackson also took the Coosa down some serious turbulence and I have to say that he made it look so easy that the video below will never do this rapid justice. I rode the rapid in a raft I nearly thought the raft was going to flip so to see Dane take it down so smoothly is just a testament to his paddling skill and what kind of water the Coosa can handle.

Day one for me was about a half day really but I got acclimated to the river and the wild environment that these fish live in. The entire landscape of this river was like something out of a Dr. Suess book, or the Avatar movie, it almost didn’t seem real with how beautiful it was. The weather was equally strange in that one moment it would be hot and I would have nothing on but short and my Kokatat PFD and then the next I’d be slipping into my Kokatat paddling jacket and wading pants because it would get cold, cloudy and even rain. Of course as expected the Kokatat gear was awesome and I was warm and try when the cool and wet weather rolled in. By the end of the day we were fortunate to find a secluded lake that was cut off from the main river due to the low water and a very impressive beaver dam. This is where we got into our biggest smallmouth of the trip and it was a blast catching one after another and even two at a time!

Besides catching two smallmouth at a time on several occasions another highlight of the trip for me was when I lifted my lure out of the water only to notice that a northern pike was right behind it but just a little too late to get it. However, I noticed that pike decided to hide right underneath my boat for cover since it was now out in the open water with nothing to hide under. I quickly picked up another rod with a chatterbait on it and dropped it in front of my kayak and began to circle the boat hoping that it would ambush the bait from underneath my kayak. Much to my surprise, it worked!!! Ha, she attacked my bait by the time I was about to go around the back of the boat. The video below really says it all.

Still, I hadn’t caught my large northern pike yet and it was the reason I had made this long trek. Chris and I decided to portage the beaver dam and head to a beautiful lilly pad filled area off of the Ottawa River. I had caught a decent sized smallmouth on the flats just off of the main lilly pad line so I figured I was onto a good pattern with my Zara Spook. I made another long cast along the flat adjacent to the lilly pads and it wasn’t long until the water just exploded with chaos! Was this my trophy pike? You’ll just have to watch below to find out!

Chris Bailey scored some real nice smallmouth on the fly rod as well but I don’t want to give everything away here because to see all the action you’ll just have to tune into the Sportsman’s Channel to check out the Kayak Fishing Canada Reel Outdoors episode in the spring when it airs.

Here are some of the photos from the trip that everyone fan of unique and wild places to fish needs to schedule at some point in their life…Thanks again to Eric Jackson, Chris Bailey, Kristine Jackson (for cooking up such good food), James McBeath for really being the mastermind behind this trip and getting some great shots, Nick Troutman and Dane Jackson for taking us and the Coosa’s down the Ottawa safely and getting some great footage.