kayak-fishing

Flat-calm water for kayak fishing in Scappoose Bay.

I have always liked the idea of fishing. The idea, that is. The reality of fishing, not so much.

Yes, it is peaceful and good to be immersed in nature, on the water or the water’s edge. But unless you are in Alaska, you aren’t going to be catching something on every cast. The waiting can seem endless, particularly if your preferred method of immersing yourself in nature involves waist-deep powder or wild whitewater.

So why not combine your fishing with a little paddling? That way even if you catch nothing and don’t even get a bite, at the end of the day you’ve still had an adventure paddling some remote stretch of water. And if you do catch something, the fact that you are balanced in a kayak or canoe will definitely add to the excitement of reeling in a 30-pound king salmon or a thousand-pound sturgeon. Or a two-pound bluegill for that matter.

Portland-based Next Adventure runs kayak fishing classes and guided kayak fishing tours out of its Scappoose Bay Paddle Sports Center, and my 14-year-old son Andoni and I decided to go give it a try. I contacted Paddling Center GM Tanner Preciado to set up a tour for a weekday morning and he set us up with everything we needed to get out on the water, including fishing licenses and lightweight tackle and rods. A scenic 25-minute drive from Portland, a short gear session to figure out life jackets, paddles and rods, and we were on the water.

That's Tanner and Andoni with Mt. St. Helens in the distance. The paddling center is right on the water in Scappoose Bay, with easy access to miles of inlets and open water ringed by lush green vegetation. Within a quarter mile of paddling I had seen my first great blue heron,

followed by a not-so-rare sighting of the mighty Scappoose Moose,

and the skeletons of a dockside past faded into history:

My brother Alan, who runs a successful commercial fishing operation in Alaska these days, is the fisherman in our family. He always had the instincts, the patience, the touch. Not me. As I was reminded several times over the course of our pleasant but fruitless day of fishing with Tanner, I still lack basic skills when it comes to fishing. But in a way that's a good thing.

The cliched story of an outing between father and son often involves a competent man teaching a respectful young man the art of this or that skill, be it skiing, baseball, fishing, or whatever your family tradition is. But in my experience as a father of three, the best interactions sometimes result from a situation where the adult has absolutely no expertise. This takes the burden of pressure off the poor son or daughter, humanizes the parent, and allows for a better connection. I experienced this phenomenon in a profound way when I took snowboarding lessons with my oldest daughter, Emily. It was the first time snowboarding for both of us; she was a young teen; I was over 40; and she pretty much shredded me. She was linking turns and I was still crashing every time I got off the chairlift, pointing downhill like a skier, catching the front edge of the board, and SLAM. I was sore for about a month but it was worth it, seeing that powerful boost of confidence propel my daughter ahead of me. Because for all of the sports and skills I had taught her over the years (me as expert, she as apprentice) this was the first time we had started on equal footing.

Andoni didn't exactly shred me fishing and paddling Scappoose Bay that day. But he did learn the basics from scratch, and by the end of the day he was in a nice casting and paddling groove, moving with confidence in a lovely natural setting. 

Also, he wasn't the meathead who got his hook and line hopelessly tangled in the branches and then later inexplicably dropped his rod into the water without even realizing it. That would be me.

Looking back, I can visualize the ill-advised cast that got me in trouble in the branches. But I still can't believe I dropped my pole into the water and lost it. Ironically, this happened while I was helping Andoni untangle his line. See the competent father, gallantly assisting the awkward teenage son. How confident he seems! But wait!

In the end it was no big deal at all, just a cheap rod that slipped off into the drink without my notice. But I am so glad it happened to the over-confident adult, and not the awkward teen son. Confidence is so important when you're an awkward teenager. For fathers sometimes the lacking element is humility. If I need to pull a bonehead move every now and then to be reminded of that simple truth, so be it. Better me than him!

In the end we had a good time. Tanner was a delightfully laid-back guide. We didn't catch any fish but we will, and we did explore some lovely portions of Scappoose Bay together. It can get harder and harder as a father to find things to do with your teenage son as he works his way through the torture chamber of adolescence. I think we just found a new activity to share, and that means a lot.

Now if I can just manage to keep the fishing pole on board next time.

Next Adventure offers freshwater and saltwater kayak fishing classes and tours out of its Scappoose Bay Paddling Center, targeting steelhead, sturgeon and crab in winter,  walleye and warm-water species in summer, and Pacific salmon in spring in fall, among other species. The paddling center also offers classes for kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and SUP Yoga for all ability levels. Reserve online at nextadventure.net.

Shred Hood Editor Ben Jacklet is a lifelong skier and writer based in Portland, Oregon.