Friday, February 24, 2012

Rx for Aging by Ken Ziomek

 Old age, with its accompanying aches, pains and physical limitations does not have to mean the end of your kayak fishing.  Two years ago I was facing that possibility when a combination of back problems made it extremely difficult to exit my sit-on-top kayak after only two hours of fishing.  My relationship with my s.o.t. was quickly coming to an end.  I needed a fishing craft, hopefully in the “kayak” category that was going to allow me to sit upright with my knees bent, to easily alter my sitting position, and even to stand up to bring comfort back to my fishing.  All of a sudden, I was really feeling old.
To solve my dilemma, I spent considerable time surfing the internet searching for the ideal solution for my fishing needs.  While I started with the web sites of the most popular yaks, I quickly realized that the fishing craft of my dreams might reside in the non-traditional design of the “hybrids”.  Hybrid kayaks were originally defined as a cross between a traditional kayak and a canoe but have gone far beyond that definition with the imagination of the manufacturers providing designs that address many of the shortcomings of the traditional fishing yak.  Actually, I prefer the term “crossbreeds” rather than “hybrids” because I believe it better describes the innovation in some of these revolutionary designs.    In no way do I regret the six years that I spent in my s.o.t. kayak. Over those years, I caught between four and five thousand bass by being able to access waters that traditional fishing craft could not even enter.  As I’m aging, my needs are different and I need some of the new features being offered by the “crossbreeds”.

After reviewing a variety of innovative designs, exchanging e-mails with manufacturers, visiting dealers, and taking test rides, I chose NuCanoe as my new fishing craft.  For me, it is perfect.  I now sit up with my knees bent; I have a  fishing seat that swivels; I can stand up to stretch when needed; I have substantially more room for storage; and my 12 foot NuCanoe can handle a second seat for a fishing friend.  I have all of this with a fishing craft that I transport in the bed of my Ford Ranger and I can store in my garage using a kayak hoist arrangement available from a number of vendors on the internet.

If you’re an aging fisherman, you may be wondering how someone with a bad back handles the lifting and moving of any kind of kayak.  When I first started fishing out of my s.o.t. kayak, I was able to lift it over my head, carry it in that position, and place it in my truck or in storage with no problem at all.  Now with various medical maladies, it’s just not possible.  I now accomplish all of my moving, transport, and stowing without ever having to lift the total weight of the boat and accessories.  My NuCanoe is stored in the garage in a kayak hoist so as not to take up any room in the garage.  When it’s time to fish, I lower it to a position just above the floor, strap on the trolley wheels and move it to the rear of my truck placing the front on the lowered tailgate.  With the tailgate supporting some of the weight, I have no problem lifting the rear of the NuCanoe and sliding it into the back of my truck.  If I’m going to need transport at my fishing location, I leave the wheels strapped on my NuCanoe in the bed of my truck.  When I return, I reverse the procedure.  While on the water, the wheels are fastened on my NuCanoe behind my seat.

Everyone loves fishing with me in my NuCanoe sitting in their swivel seat with me handling the paddle chores.  One problem that I had to address was that some of my fishing friends, because of knee, hip, and back problems could not get in and out of their swivel seat without a great deal of assistance.  The inside design of the NuCanoe allowed me to build what I refer to as my “kayak cane”.  Using some Ram-Mount components and PVC pipe, my friends have something to hold onto as they lower and raise themselves in my NuCanoe.  With my “kayak cane”, my friends, some of whom can only enter and exit with a certain leg, feel more comfortable taking their time and getting in and out on their own.  Doing this also avoids the embarrassing hugging position that I’ve had to take on occasion with my partners to help raise and lower them in their seat.
My “kayak cane” provides me with one added benefit.  While I am able to stand in my NuCanoe, keeping my “kayak cane” in an upright position allows me to lean against it to make balancing much more comfortable for a maturing citizen.  

If you’re facing some physical limitations and you want to get back on the water, take the time to look at the NuCanoe or some of the other hybrids on the market.  With a minimal investment you can customize your purchase into your perfect fishing machine.  On my NuCanoe, I’ve even installed a Humminbird Side Imaging unit to better understand the fishing structure that I’m addressing.  Recently, NuCanoe announced a new model called the Frontier.  I can’t wait to get delivery on the Frontier to start customizing it for me and my older fishing friends.

I offer all old timers, or soon to be old timers, one last piece of advice.  When you think about retirement and plan your activities, please understand that you are not going to retire with the body strength and flexibility that you currently have.  You’re going to have aches and pains and movement limitations.  Chances are, as you enjoy the “golden years” you may even need some new parts like a knee or a hip.  Or, you may need some major repairs such as vertebrae fusing or rotator cuff repair.  Purchase your retirement fishing kayak with that understanding and you’ll be in for a long-lasting relationship on the water.

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