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There’s just something special about kayak fishing rivers that keeps us coming back. Whether it’s the perpetual flow of water, the ease of letting the current carry you downstream, the beautiful scenery and wildlife, or the hunt for the fish that call these rivers home. Rivers are continually changing and no two days will be exactly the same. Kayaking rivers can be very challenging due to these constant changes. Fish move, river levels can change dramatically, and trees and debris can block certain places instantaneously. One must always pay attention to their surroundings and always be properly wearing a personal flotation device at all times. Rivers require respect at all times.

One challenge of solo floating a river is getting back to the start of departure. As a solo outdoorsman I struggled many times paddling upstream to get to hard to reach spots and would float and fish my way back to the landing. It worked but I still couldn’t get to places I wanted to go. Throughout the years I tried to find people to shuttle my vehicle or pick me up at the end of the float. Fortunately my dad my has always helped my friends and I with all the local river escapades. I found myself unable to explore to rivers further away because I didn’t want to jump though the hoops of figuring out who was going to help me. Some rivers were possible to float downstream a few miles and paddle back and vise versa but many of the stretches I was interested in were 5-10 miles long and would have been close to impossible for myself to paddle a loaded fishing kayak upstream. Then one day after seeing a fellow kayaker fisherman drop off a bicycle at an access, the lightbulb turned on. I have a decent Trek 520 Steel Touring bicycle at home and it’s the answer to accessing all the areas I wanted to float.

Solo River Fishing: How to get back to the truck?

After doing hours of research using the onX app, I highlighted the sections of river I would float and separately highlighted the spans of road I would bicycle back to the vehicle. The onX app is a super awesome app which shows detailed maps of all the particular public properties and also shows who owns every piece of property. One feature is dropping pins and highlighting paths for calculating distances. It’s super easy to plan river float trips using this app and it’s full of information.

When I get to the rivers I’m going to float, I stop at the ending point of the float and chain and padlock my bicycle in a discreet area out of view from the access or trail. I sometimes use the same locks and chains to secure the kayak at the end of the float and usually make sure there’s plenty of chain or cable to go around a tree and pass through the kayak scupper hole. Sometimes it can be challenging to find a hiding spot but there’s generally brushy areas to hide a bicycle near the accesses. As a precaution of someone stealing my bike, I hide an Apple AirTag GPS tracker on a hidden spot on the bicycle. If someone were to steal it, I would at least know where it was. I also keep an AirTag in my kayak, wallet, key ring, and truck. If you have service, it’s pretty neat seeing where your stuff is at in case something were to happen.

On the way to the start of the float, I drive the same route I will use to bicycle back just so I can see the road and get an idea of how challenging the ride ride back will be. Sometimes I find that the route looked easier on a map but the challenge and mystery of traveling unknown places adds to the level of excitement. I get to the landing, unload my kayak and gear, double check to make sure I have my keys and haven’t forgot anything. I always hide a spare key somewhere sneaky on the exterior of my vehicle just in case I accidentally misplace my keys. After thoroughly double checking my gear, I depart and start my float. I use maps on onX to track my progress and make sure I’m making good time. The onX app allows you to save maps for offline usage so if you don’t have cellular reception, you can still access the maps.

During the float I often wonder if my bicycle will be there when I get to the finish. Sometimes the fishing during the day is so good that I could care less if the bicycle was still there. Just kidding but a few big fish will make you forget about a lot of things you might have been worrying about. When I get to the bike, I load all my gear into the hatches of the kayak and use a chain and lock those hatches. If the kayak doesn’t have hatches, you will either need to hide your stuff or stuff in in a pack and carry it on the bicycle. I secure the kayak to a tree or fence with a steel rope or chain and tough Masterlock padlock then begin to bike my way back to the truck.

This method has got me on sections of river I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. A cool part of kayaking a float and having to bike back always makes it feel like I have two separate trips, the kayak trip and the bike trip. Sometimes the bike routes back to the truck are pretty brutal even though they are only 5-10 miles long. Steep gravel hills on a steel touring bike is definitely bumpy, rough, and hard to climb, but I always find myself laughing when I make it back to the truck. Once at the truck I drive back to the kayak as soon as possible to get my gear loaded up. Typically the bike rides only last 15-45 minutes and I’m never away from my stashed gear for too long. Other than a few flat tires on the bike, I’ve never had any problems yet but I always plan for the worst by taking a spare tube, tire spoons, and a small rechargeable pump.

If you have been wondering how to float a section solo and make it back to back to the vehicle, this method will work. Do your homework and you can do almost any section of river you want. A big word of advice is to always let someone know your plan and have some emergency plans just in case.

-Tanner Speidel