Kayak Angling Confidence: Confessions of a Scaredy-Cat Kid

I meet folks at the ramp when I’m launching or returning from a fishing trip in my Coosa HD and they often remark that they would be nervous to kayak fish and to go out adventuring on the water alone. “Aren’t you afraid of alligators?”, “Do you get scared being alone out there?”, “Can you load that kayak by yourself?”, “What if you tip over?”,  “Oh, that looks like fun! I wish I had the confidence to do that!”. 

What used to terrify me is now my happy place!

I totally understand their angst.

Little do they know that I was once hesitant to try new things despite a huge desire to do so. Not only was I shy but my wild imagination often got the best of me. 

I was a scaredy-cat kid. 

When I was ten years old I longed for the confidence and bravery of thirteen year old, Lois, our family friend. She and I would paddle a canoe on the river where we encountered free-range longhorn cracker cattle munching grasses on the bank. They stared at us with a look that I imagined was a plot to hurt us badly! I was terrified that they would stampede into the water, overturn our boat and trample us. Or at least I might fall out of the canoe and have to swim through the scary eel grass to escape the herd. When we paddled over the 70 foot deep spring, I imagined that we would capsize, the canoe would sink out of sight and I would be swallowed up by this giant gaping hole. Lois didn’t seemed phased by any of it and I wanted so badly to have her air of accomplished independence.  

The camaraderie of kayak camping and fishing. A quiver of Jacksons raring to go!

I didn’t fully realize the wonders of the river that I would discover as a much older me. I was too busy worrying and imagining the worst back then. 

I’m in awe of people who seem to have a natural disposition to bravery, confidence and daring. My jaw drops in amazement watching world-champion freestyle kayakers like Eric “EJ” Jackson do backflips in whitewater kayaks off rock cliffs into rushing water below. He and his “kids”, Dane and Emily, accomplish monumental athletic feats that make my heart quiver. They and many other extreme athletes tackle rivers and waterfalls around the world in superhuman abandon! 

Rescuing a poor, entangled anhinga. I brought her onboard my kayak to set her free.

One of my fellow Jackson Kayak Fishing Team mates travels to new fishing spots every weekend for fun and for tournaments. He often shuttles himself for river floats by car and bicycle, often making that long bike trek through back country dirt roads in complete darkness. He has fished close to one hundred rivers so far, and just shrugs when I express amazement at his sight-unseen solo adventures. 

Giant manatee munching vegetation and cruising beneath my Coosa HD.

In comparison my kayak angling and adventuring seem somewhat tame. But for me, this sport has been a lifesaver with its never ending joys of fishing out of an awesome plastic boat that takes me to amazing destinations and new discoveries! 

The wonders that come from the eel grass! A nighttime double-digit river largemouth bass.

I confess to those early moments of misery that seemed to hold me back from really enjoying experiences fully because I want others with similar fears and trepidations to know that they can be overcome. In fact, I attribute my huge strides in becoming more confident to my years of kayak fishing. It’s been wonderful finding something that I absolutely love doing outdoors year round. I’ve been growing in skills and experiences along with this sport since it’s early inception. What’s nice is that kayak fishing can be experienced in many ways that suit a myriad of interests and temperaments. From simple, stress-free, calm water fun fishing to wild water, offshore adventures and highly competitive tournaments! I was able to progress and experience things at my own pace and increase the excitement level as my confidence grew. The camaraderie and security of fishing with others, especially early on, was so helpful to my progress. The ease of loading, traveling and sliding the kayak into wilderness spots gives me the autonomy of solo fishing that I crave. Of course, having a great angler kayak that I can count on is a big part of feeling secure in some of these wild waters. 

Exploring the coastal creeks. A slob of a trout.

My kayaks get me closer to the animals and plants that I love to observe. Entering a hidden creek to rescue an anhinga ensnared in twine, paddling along with a herd of giant manatees as they cruise right below my very stable Coosa HD, taking the winding salt marsh way back up into its woodland beginnings to find trout and reds stacked in the temperate springs, learning to read the waters, fish and plants in all seasons, fishing in quiet darkness under a faint moonlit sky until a giant bass explodes on my lure. These are some of the thrills and “conquests” I seek out as I am also discovering myself. 

Portaging over and under logs in the backcountry wilds.

The benefits to making these strides in skills and confidence has allowed me to be more empathetic with those new to kayaking and kayak fishing. I see the longing looks of those wanting to get out there and do it with bravado when timidity holds them back. And I see the absolute delight when a fear is overcome and the confidence blossoms. 

My wonderful and constant companion!

I might not ever attempt a steep, rocky whitewater run but I am no longer afraid of those crazy riverside cows or the deep magical springs or the beautiful, undulating eel grass brushing against my feet. 

And to think I was once a scaredy-cat!

~Jean Wilson

Jackson Kayak Fishing Team

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