Saturday, July 16, 2016

4-0 Bday Road Trip... night 1

Having spent nearly 9 hours in the Jeep, I finally made it to Trois-Rivieres where I had booked in advance a hotel room online.  My first time in this community, I can see that it is a thriving tourist hub and one that I wish I had brought Anna to in years past.  There is a wonderful mix of old Quebec, along with a healthy dose of modern day shopping, plus what looks like a swarm of great restaurants to cater to many different tastes.

My stay here tonight really is a mix of good and bad.  Using I booked a room at a local hotel not really needing a lot of amenities.   A clean bed and shower, Wi-Fi and that really was all I was looking for.   Unfortunately, it took Hotel L'Urbania three rooms before they finally found me one that the maids had actually cleaned from the previous guests.  Even at about 8 PM, it took one of the staff to check ahead on the third room, and I suspect he actually cleaned it on the spot, before I was finally given a room where the bed was made and used towels didn't line the bathroom floor.  it is honestly the first time in 40 years I was given a room that hadn't been yet cleaned in a hotel.   Bottom line, even at the discount rate this hotel offers, I'd choose another location the next time around.

So moving past the hotel, I decided to drive to the downtown/waterfront area and walk through that area while I decided on a restaurant in which to have my birthday dinner.    I wandered across a nice little brewpub with great atmosphere (I give the beer a 6/10) and then onto another bar with a healthy selection of commercial beers on tap (I give the waitress am 8/10, lol).

After sampling a few IPA'a it was time to find dinner.   I wandered around until just out of the main corridor of tourists (and there were tons!) I found  a place called "Le Buck".    Now, I do not speak French, and I was not exactly dressed up, and this is a high class French restaurant....  Yet they found me a space at the bar immediately and all of the staff working the bar area were extremely accommodating to this under-dressed Newfie who was clearly out of his element!

While I had no idea what it was that I ordered, all of the food turned out to be excellent and in total completely filling.   Even in English, I suspect I would have selected the same dishes!  There was a mushroom based entree, a beef/bacon side and then a beef main dish that came across to me as an excellent steak stew disguised as a plated dish.  Watching what others had ordered, I only seen one dish that I would have been disappointed in, a salad that likely had a ton of taste but lacked on what my round tummy would call substance!

At the end of the meal, the bartender, having earlier ascertained that tonight is my 40th birthday offered me a shot of whisky topped with a piece of smoked bacon for a chaser.    Now really, how does one top that!   The bartender and the girl working with him both joined in a birthday shot to end the meal.   Fantastic! 

If you do find yourself in Trois Rivieres and want to treat yourself to a wonderful dinner, be sure to consider Le Buck, just find yourself a better hotel than I ended up in!

I'm off to bed now with an early rise to get groceries and some supplied at Canadian Tire tomorrow, then off to Mount Tremblant.   Once I get Wi-Fi access again I'll post another update!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Introducing the Old Town Predator PDL!

ICast is this week down in Orlando.   Last year I attended ICast as part of the Johnson Outdoors Crew and had a wonderful time meeting not only my fellow Old Town and Ocean Kayak pro-staffers, and the full time folk who work hard to bring us these fantastic kayak, but I also got to meet a lot of great people from the fishing industry.

ICast is THE show where all the brands in the fishing industry release their new products for the year, and for Old Town the new product is a new member of the Predator series of kayaks:   The Predator PDL!   Edit:  The Predator PDL won the Best Boat award at ICast 2016 beating out a number of competitors new product offerings!!

The Predator PDL brings in a pedal drive system into the kayak, allowing the user to pedal with their feet, as like on a bicycle and steer the kayak using a hand controlled rudder.  Now with Hobie, Wilderness Systems, and as of this year a whole host of other brands all either previously existing or also jumping into the pedal drive kayak market, I can't claim this is a revolutionary change.   Well, it is for the Predators, but not for the kayak fishing market as a whole.

Then again, let's look at this new PDL kayak and see what we have exactly.  Then go take a look at the competition and see how they really stack up.

The kayak itself is a big boat.   Coming in at 13'2" long and 36" wide.  It weighs 117 lbs, including the 21 lb removable pedal drive unit.   Edit:  When you remove the seat and pedal unit, the kayak itself is under 80 lbs making it far more manageable to load on a car! It has a generous capacity of 500 lbs, so even big guys like myself can load of up this kayak with no worries about exceeding the payload.    You will however want to get a set of wheels, like the Railblaza C-Tug to carry it around!

The PDL is also a boat that is designed to be used in both the ocean as well as fresh water.   Unlike other brands where their boats are designed to be used in calm waters, it can handle rough water with ease and cut through the wind better than perhaps any of the other bigger boats on the market.  Anyone who has used the Predator 13 knows it is remarkable for how it handles in rougher conditions, and this kayak promises to hold true to that standard.

This kayak comes with a one-handed controlled rudder, where you have a knob to turn rather than a cord you have to pull from either side like some other models.   The seat in all previous Predators was always one of the most loved features for being so comfortable and has actually been improved on here.   The seat in the PDL can adjust forwards and back and has been reinforced, positioned at a single high position with a slight tilt to ensure the rider has a comfortable position for using the pedals.

The pedal drive itself is padded so that you can comfortably use it bare foot and with minimum effort will propel the kayak up to impressive speeds of 5.5 mph!   That is mighty fast for a kayak!   Not only that, but reversing your pedal direction will drive the kayak in reverse, allowing for pinpoint control of your kayaks position when fishing those weedbanks.

Speaking of weeds, the prop on this unit is a new proprietary design that is apparently weedless.   I can't wait to put that nifty feature to the test.  If it can handle our pickerel fishing marshes, then I'll be really impressed!   If you do get some weeds in there, or need to go into shallow water, the unit easily lifts up out of the way while you paddle over shallow ground or go to land your kayak.

Edit:  Old Town will also have available a flat floor console should you want to use this kayak without the pedal drive.   Great news that this option is going to be made available!

Here is fellow prostaffer, Kwanza Henderson using the new Predator PDL to land a few impressive fish off the coast of Florida recently.

If you look close you'll see a lot of revisions to the deck on this kayak from other Predator models.   Personally I love what they have done here.   There are two mounting locations on the bow, with a scupper hole in the middle, I imagine is shapes to accommodate a transducer.  A single longer mounting place on either side, plenty long for multiple mounts.   Under these mounting places are storage slots, which is really smart!    And of course you can slide a box or two of gear under the seat as well.

But wait, there's more!   The center console is not only the pedal drive, but also a dry tackle storage compartment!   Here you can safely put your phone, camera or other items you want protected but yet within easy reach!

Finally there is one more notable change to the Predator XL, and that is the storage compartment they added under the seat, just to the rear.   Here you can store more gear inside the body of the kayak which you may not need access to on the water.    Oh, and speaking of the rear, there are still the mounting plates there, but also built in flush mount rod holders!   Just add a Yak Attack BlacPak or a milk crate with homemade PVC rod holders and you have places for 5 rods behind the seat!

So there you have it, a pretty full look at the new Old Town Predator PDL kayak.   When I look at a cumulation of the capacity, comfort, speed, ease of maneuverability, storage and layout, I honestly think there isn't much more that Old Town could have done to improve on this design.

Before I finish, the most common question I see out on social media is why didn't Old Town make the pedal drive fit into the Predator XL?    Well I can't speak for the company but I can give you my opinion.      I think there are 2 key concerns here, and likely more I do not realize.  

First, the seat on the XL cannot adjust forwards and backwards, and there really isn't any room for it to do so.    If you drop a pedal drive into the XL, at best it would only fit for one size of rider, say an average person of 5'8".    For someone like me who is 6'2", or others who may be 5'3", this would be completely useless or very uncomfortable.

Second is the steering.   the XL's rudder is controlled with the foot rests.    If you drop in a pedal drive, then you lose all ability to steer.   Sure you could put up the rudder and steer with your paddle, but then you have gone from hands free, to needing to use both your hands and feet to get anywhere... that again is pointless.

Really the XL and the PDL cater to two very different markets.    There are people would would love to have both options, which I completely understand, but trying to combine the two is really to me like trying to shove a circle into a square.   Better to do two things right, than to do one thing wrong.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

40th B-day Road Trip! Part 1 of many

This Saturday I will turn the big 4-0 and to celebrate I'm going to be hitting the road bright and early for an epic 15 day road trip!   I'll get to to explore several parks, lakes, rivers and ponds in my Jeep and Old Town Predator 13 kayak over the course of this adventure!   I'm pretty sure Anna wasn't planning to throw me any surprise b-day party, but if such an event was in the works, I hope everyone has a great time without me!  

So far I've managed to clean out the Jeep from my last fishing excursion, and I'm in the process of sorting out all the gear I may need to bring in the garage.   Between the camping supplies, foods, clothes, coolers, fishing gear...etc, plus the kayak up on top of the Jeep, I should have a pretty full load!

Having talked with a few very helpful people whom I contacted online, I've come up with the following itinerary.

July 16th:   Hit the road - get a room for the night in Trois Rivieres.

July 17th:  Stock up at the grocery store and drive to Mount Tremblant Park.  Here I'll start my fishing for Pike, Muskie, Trout, Bass....etc for few days.    A huge thank you to local guide Martin Savard for some friendly advice!

July 20th:  Head out to Madawaska, ON where I'll stay and fish the region around All Star Resort. I may stop at a lake or pond to fish a few hours along the way. 
July 23rd:  Off to spend a few nights at Finlayson Point campground where I'll fish the Temagami region for a few days.

July 25th:   Head back South to Peterborough where I'll stay with Conrad, a friend who came here to NB in the Spring to go sturgeon fishing.   Conrad is a Carp fishing guide so I'm hoping for a few great carp on this leg of the journey!

July 28th:    Off to Fitzroy Park on the Ottawa river where we will target Muskie and Gar, among other things.   I really hope to catch a gar!!!

July 30th:   Leave for Montreal where I'll stay with some friends from University I haven't seen in years!

July 31st:  Drive back home.

Even without the fishing, this promises to be an amazing trip through some beautiful country that I have never had a chance to explore before.    I can't wait!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Pickerel Weekend!

This weekend I went pickerel fishing Friday, Saturday and again Sunday.    Friday night my friend Andrew and I hit the Nerepis area, then on Saturday a group of 4 of us visited Otnabog, and then today I took a guided fishing client back to the Nerepis.    At this point, I'm all pickerel'ed out!

Friday night I met my friend Andrew after work at the launch and we headed out hoping to have a good night.   Up till then we had both been finding the pickerel fishing to be tougher than usual in our traditional places so we wanted to try out new waters and experiment a little.   It's a good thing we did!    I ended the evening with 10 pickerel including a pair that touched the 25" mark on my bump board!   Andrew ended with, I think 7, including one that was a little over 25".   Those are huge pickerel, so we were pretty pumped.

Friday I decided to try out a new lure, that being a turtle soft plastic from Bombshell.    Having not used them before I wasn't sure what to expect, but I they were exactly what I needed.   The pickerel hit time after time for those little turtles, so I kept one rod equipped with them all weekend.

Saturday seen Andrew, Craig, Ipop and myself hit Otnabog lake at Queenstown, NB.   I had been there in previous years and enjoyed amazing pickerel fishing, but on this day, the conditions weren't the same and the fishing was off.   A few of the guys got 6 - 8 fish, I finished with 3 (including a 24" pickerel on a turtle), and one of the guys struck out.   We had hoped for more, but you can't win em all!

Finally today I met a guided fishing client, Ben, back at Nerepis at 6 AM for a morning outing.  Ben had never fished pickerel before, and this was his second time fishing with me in kayak.   Well Ben and I both had a great day landing 15 - 20 each, including several over 20".   We didn't break the 2 foot mark, but there were several pickerel that got away which we think had a good shot at being 24 inches or larger!

All in all it was a great weekend of fishing with a great group of guys.    I'm off next weekend for 2 weeks of camping an kayak fishing through Ontario and Quebec.   Not sure if I'll be able to put any posts up in that time but stay tuned to Facebook for a few updates here and there!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Canada Day Kayaking in PEI

Happy Belated Canada Day!    This weekend, being the long weekend and having both my kids off to Newfoundland to visit with their grandparents, I had to opportunity to head over to Canada's Island province to not only try my hand at fishing there, but also to deliver a brand new Predator 13 kayak to it's new owner!  

Noah had visited me this past Fall to go sturgeon fishing and brought his Hobie on that trip, since then he has decided he wanted to go a different route so he sold his Hobie and joined the Old Town brotherhood!

I got on the road about 5 AM Friday morning, stopping to take a picture or two along the way, and was in PEI and ready to hit the water with Noah by 10 that morning!   For his new kayak's maiden voyage we hit the water in a bay just across from the main downtown area of Charlottetown.    This is an area that Noah fishes often for mackerel though it is currently still a little early in the year, but we figured to give it a try just the same.

There was a ton of boat traffic in the area, clearly a prime recreational waterway, though I suspect much of the island could be considered the same!    Sailboats, jet skis, a few other kayakers, and tour boats were all over the place.

The fishing was slow, but we did catch a few.   Noah and I each landed 3 or 4 mackerel, 1 smelt each, and I also landed a half dozen crabs, being careful to limit them to the bow of my kayak where I could safely nudge them back in the water without having my toes nipped!  

This morning we went back out in another saltwater inlet but the wind picked up soon after we got there and we decided to bail.    The forecast called for ever increasing winds through the day and then very strong winds tomorrow.  So given I wouldn't really be able to get back out in decent weather I called it a day and headed back home to NB.