Articles for November 2015

Backpacker Fishing Team Eric Fey

Fish Don’t Mind Getting Wet!

Written by:  Eric Fey

Don’t let a rainy day keep you off of the water. As you may have noticed, the fish don’t seem to mind getting wet and neither should you. Now safety should always be the primary concern. Be mindful of any thunderstorms in the area and leave yourself plenty of time to get back to the launch should you see lightning headed your way. Keep in mind that as the weather takes a turn for the worst, the wind will often pick up making the paddle back to the launch a little tougher. It is even a good idea to carry a VHF radio so that you can listen in on the NOAA weather broadcast and have the ability to communicate with the Coast Guard should your situation become dire. All that being said, if you are a weekend warrior who only gets one Saturday here and there to hit the water, don’t let a bad forecast deter you.

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While the typical patterns of fish may change during fronts or impending storms, I can assure you that they do not stop eating. Some species are a little more predictable than others. I took to the waters of Delacroix, Louisiana this past Saturday to chase after some big redfish. The weatherman predicted a cloudy morning with temperatures in the low 50’s and winds in the 12-15 mph range. Since I knew I would most likely end up wet and cold, I slapped on some wool base layers. Cotton is a terrible material for trapping body heat, especially when wet. For more information on the wonders of wool come talk to the crew at The Backpacker. No one has tested that particular material more than those who frequent the backcountry.

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Since the weatherman wasn’t calling for thunderstorms, I peddled out in the Hobie Pro Angler 14 with the intention of quickly returning should I spot lightning in the distance. As we roll into the winter months the water turns crystal clear and sight fishing is possible even without full sun. In fact, almost every redfish that I caught was first spotted within about 20 feet of the kayak. Kayaks are perfect for fishing the shallows of the Louisiana marsh and the clear winter water is an excellent compliment. One or two of the redfish were nose down in the mud trying to uproot their next meal. I could see their tails waving around like a flag signaling to me where my next cast should be. In this instance, I would just throw whatever lure I had tied on just a few feet past the fish. I would drag the lure about 6 inches in front of its nose and more often than not, the fish would jump all over it. Some of the reds were cruising through the underwater vegetation presumably to feed, but perhaps just to relocate. These were a little more tricky. Soft plastic swim baits or spoons are the favorite in this particular situation. Again I would cast the bait a few feet past the anticipated path of the fish. This time I had to time it perfectly so that the bait would pass the fish at the same 6 inch distance while the fish was on the move. Sometimes that required letting the bait sit before reeling while other times I had to pick up line quickly before slowing the bait down in the strike zone. Other times I would have to pick up the bait completely and recast if the fish changed direction. But again, if the timing was right and the lure was at the same height in the water column as the fish, they would never pass up the opportunity for an easy meal.

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Sure I got wet, and at times a little chilly as well. I never said that fishing in the cold rain would be comfortable. I am saying however, that you will never catch fish from the couch at home. Every once in awhile you should be ok with trading a little comfort for a great day on the water. Just be sure that you take your safety seriously. Always wear a PFD and let someone know what your fish plan is. Be mindful of how the weather is changing and get off the water should lightening start popping up. Wear the proper clothing that will keep you warm and that will dry out as soon as possible once the rain stops. Maybe even bring a VHF radio or cell phone in a waterproof bag just in case you get into real trouble. Here is a video that I made from my trip this weekend. I hope you enjoy and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask me directly or the folks at The Backpacker. If you are new to the sport, or looking to get started, come drop in. They’ve got everything you could need to get you on the water and catching fish!

 

Eric Fey is a new member of the Hobie Fishing Team and Team Backpacker.

The Backpacker Bushwacker Adventure Race

written by Nicki Klein

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I’ve never participated in an “adventure race,” so when I was asked to be one member of a three person coed Masters team for the Backpacker Bushwacker Adventure Race (the final of a series of 4), I was immediately on board.

We received instructions via e-mail in the weeks and days leading up to the race. Information was vague, purposefully so, because the element of surprise is a big factor in these races. I’d realize this even more so come race day. I knew that we would run between 5-9 miles, bike approximately 9-13 (teammates must bring their own mountain bikes and helmets), that there would be a ropes course (at least one pair of full finger leather gloves required per team), and that there would be a stand-up paddleboard portion. And then that there wouldn’t (cancelled). And that there would be lots of “fun extras.”

The race was to start at 8am on Saturday, November 142015. My teammates and I arrived at the West Feliciana Sports Park in St. Francisville, LA at approximately 7:15 AM. This park is home to “The Beast” trail, one that I’ve raced on twice, at night, as part of the Forge Trail Racing series (how I found my love for trail running). The park is beautiful, with a pond, baseball fields, pavilions, miles of trail, and other amenities available for public use. As we and other teams arrived, people began to get their gear in order, give their bikes last minute checkups and practice rides, and try and talk strategy as best one could with little knowledge about what the race would entail.

An announcement was made that a pre-race meeting would begin at 7:45, so at 7:40, I headed to the registration table to sign my waiver and collect my race goodies. Being an active member of the race community, I got caught up in conversation with volunteers and other racers I recognized, and was then distracted by all the awesome freebies available at the registration table (Smartwool socks, Backpacker steins and Bushwacker Racing pint glasses, Mountain Hardwear visors, The North Face beanies, etc). As I picked through the gear trying to select my four free items, the race meeting started. I figured after the meeting, I’d finish grabbing my stuff before heading back to our bikes and gear, and the start of the race. The meeting had a jovial air to it-lots of joking and fun. General rules were laid out, maps and score cards were handed out, and suddenly, amongst whispers between the race directors, one of them announced that it was 8 o’clock and GO! Teams, not expected the race to start in quite this manner, scrambled to unroll their maps. Our team, the Backpacker sponsored “Dem Butts,” saw that one of the checkpoints was close, so we took off on foot in that direction, myself and one other team member still carrying our registration info and goodie bags.

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When we got to that checkpoint, we saw that it was the ropes course-the only checkpoint that required gloves-which were back with all our gear at the cars. We sprinted back to the cars, grabbed all our gear, hopped on our bikes, and headed back to the same checkpoint. By that time, there was a long line of people waiting for harnesses and helmets. We decided to forgo that station for the time being, and come back later. We picked out another point, and were off. This led to a pond we’d passed upon entering the park-a pond that now had paddleboards, courtesy of Muddy Water Paddle Company! Our most recent email had said this portion had been removed from the race, so I was pleasantly surprised by the change. This checkpoint was worth 1000 points (the race directors way of saying “do this station, or you have no chance of winning”), and we quickly made our way around two buoys in the water, made it back to land, and then reassessed the map.

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This race (as I was told by my two veteran adventure race teammates), was different than others. “Normal” races include a number of checkpoints that must be reached in numerical order, with no time limit to reach them. The Backpacker Bushwacker race consisted of approximately 23 checkpoints. They could be attempted in any order, and there was a 4 hour time limit. If you came in after the noon cut off, points from your total score would be deducted. Each checkpoint was worth points, ranging from 1 point, all the way up to 1,000. I feel like the way we did this race leads to less “cheating,” or having teams follow one another from point to point. Additionally, teammates needed to stay within approximately 50 feet of one another-this means each member has to go to each checkpoint and can’t split up to cover more distance in less time.

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The next four hours consisted of strategizing, running, biking, orienting and navigating, thorns, poison ivy, crawling, climbing, falling, and laughing. Checkpoints were marked by orange and white flags, and at each checkpoint, there was a differently designed hole-punch to mark our scorecard (different designs so you couldn’t use one punch to mark all your checkpoints).

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Without realizing how much time had passed, it was suddenly 11:52. Realizing we still had 3-4 checkpoints we hadn’t reached, but also realizing we didn’t have time to reach any others, we grabbed our bikes and made our way back to the pavilion where the pre-race meeting had been held. We talked to friends, and then inquired about where we should “check-in.” We were directed to a picnic table where we turned in our scorecard, and then we headed back to the cars to put up our gear and change.

We soon headed back to the pavilion, where we loaded up on Fresh Junkie salad, jambalaya, beans, bread, baked goods, and BEER (including local favs, Tin Roof Brewery)! Teams and volunteers chatted and took care of those energy depletions, and then the raffles and awards began.

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The raffles for this race were some of the best I’ve seen at a race, and I truly think every participant walked away with something. The North Face duffle bags, Louisiana Marathon race entries, backpacks, Grand Trunk hammocks, Tasc t-shirts, jackets, hats, mugs-The Backpacker really delivered this time.

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After a number of raffles items were given away, the awards were announced. There were categories for all female, all male, coed, and coed masters divisions. As it turned out, our team placed second in the masters division. We were tied in points with the first place team, but they had checked in two minutes before us! If we hadn’t taken our sweet time after we’d decided there was no time for another checkpoint, we would have gotten first. That was a lesson learned, for sure. After race awards were announced, series awards were next, and then back to more raffles.

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Overall, the Backpacker Bushwacker Adventure Race was a great time. Adventure races combine so many elements and events that there is something for everyone to excel at. I absolutely recommend the Louisiana Adventure Racing series, and I and my teammates have already decided to participate in the entire series next year. How can we pass up the fun, adrenaline, food, schwag, and (hopefully) first place bragging rights??

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I want to thank The Backpacker Baton Rouge for sponsoring me in doing what I love (RACING), and we hope to see y’all next year!

 

Photos by Lindsey Smith and Robin Gibb Diamond