Dagger Approach, first impressions

I test paddled the Dagger Approach on Saturday and liked it well enough to buy two of them, one for a friend. Stable, easy to turn, comfortable, dry hatch, not easy to roll, not especially fast. The dry hatch cover is tight, foot pedals are good quality, foam piller in front is solid. Seat is molded plastic with a thin seat pad and the back band is typical less expensive Dagger outfitting, useable but not especially comfortable so I bought a NSI Reggie to replace the stock backband.

We tested it yesterday on the 5-mile section of the James River at Balcony Falls. I was impressed with the stability and ease of turning. It is slower to accelerate than a typical recreational kayak or whitewater kayak. It handled the rock gardens well but it tends to dive into the wave trains for a wet ride so the spray skirt is a necessity in Class II-III. The Seals 2.2 nylon spray skirt with adjustable tunnel tends to leak a bit, but the Mountain Surf neoprene skirt is just fine.

I ran a dozen Class II and two Class III rapids yesterday and felt secure and in control all the way. Now that I have a little time in the boat I won’t hesitate to use it in bigger water such as the Upper New River Gorge in West Virginia. I would say the boat is not heavy duty enough for the New River Gorge Class IV-V.

I weigh 215# with my pfd and paddle and the Approach rides low in the stern. I could pass over rocks with the bow and midsection and scrape at the stern. This could be corrected by either weighting the front end or moving the seat forward which will not be easy because it is molded into the boat.

I carried 5# of gear and 8# water in the dry hatch which probably affected the stern load. On the way out I put the water and gear in front of the foot pedals and that made a little difference, not much.

The boat surfs very well, front, side rear. Edges are not grabby. It’s too big to spin on a wave as a ww kayak will. Tends to pearl in bigger waves. Carved turns into and out of eddies are smooth and effortless. Attaining is a bit more difficult than in my white water kayak, but not a big thing.

On the lake at the end of the run I could only go 2.5 miles per hour with the skeg up. Pushing beyond that speed kicks up a bow wake that pushes the bow off line and requires extra attention to steering.

By putting the skeg down I could push the boat up to 3 mph before the bow wake became troublesome. This is about the same cruising speed that is comfortable for the Dagger GT 7.5 whitewater kayak and the Esquif Paradigm whitewater solo canoe that were paddling beside me. We were able to carry on an easy conversation while maintaining 3 mph with a steady, easy cadence.

At the end of 4 hours of playing in rapids and practicing ferries, peel outs, eddy turns, back paddling and attaining I wasn’t sore anywhere, which means the boat fits me reasonably well and there are no pressure points. There is a lot of room in the cockpit so I could move around and stretch my legs for comfort. Overall it is a very nice little boat and I’m pleased with it. I will use it as a introductory level student kayak on rocky rivers.

Good review. Bad news about stern
down with no gear in the rear, and a seat that doesn’t move.

What class 2-3 rivers do you know where a decked boat doesn’t need a sprayskirt? I watched some newbies repeatedly filling Jackson Rockers because they didn’t have skirts on a class 1(2) river.

Sounds familiar
Honestly, it’s got to be a near perfect boat for casual WW on class I-III rivers with the skeg for flatwater sections and the dryhatch. Just the other day, the wife and I hit a 13 mile stretch of class I-II on the Pembina River in ND. We threw a medkit, snacks, and a few drybags with keys etc, in the hatch. While the hatch doesn’t leak when the boat is upright, she did manage to flip the boat somehow (no clue how, it’s so stable!) in an eddy and we did get some water in the hatch… just enough to slosh around a bit. No worries as there is a drain plug at the stern.

The other thing that works out for is the cockpit size which is the same as my Carolina 14.5. I let the wife use my snapdragon XL+ deck glacier trek and it works out great.

No kidding about diving in wave trains… I’ve nearly submerged the entire boat crashing through a few waves.

I will say that the boat may be troublesome for smaller paddlers… I know I’ve mentioned this in other threads, but I’m 230lb and the boat feels large on me, part of the reason why I got a dedicated ww boat… I’m not sure I want to learn to roll with the approach :wink:

couple of additions
I was using a 197cm white water paddle and the Approach is so deep and wide that the paddle was too short. I had to be mindful to keep from banging the sides with my hands. also, the “catch” thingamajiggy that holds the skeg cord is too far forward and I hit it several times while surfing and holding a rudder position.

The wet hatch is true on both these boats here, too. We’ve determined that a small bit of water is leaking under the minicell bulkhead. Easily fixed with a heat gun to dry things out and a tube of silicone caulk.

My friend told me this morning he was able to get his Approach to trim level by tightening the backband and moving it forward about 2 inches. The seat pan is plenty ample so moving the backband forward is easier than trying to move the seat.

This is in my opinion the best cross over Rec-to-ww kayak yet designed and built. Perfect step up boat for rec kayakers wanting to run a little more whitewater.

I own the best crossover kayak,
a 1982 Noah Magma. Fast, lots of stern storage, good (though strange) whitewater handling. Weighs 35 pounds with 3" walls and full flotation bags. Nearly as fast as a Crossover, and completely outhandles it.

Just thought you’d want to know. I’m glad they made the Approach, but even the Prijon Tornado is a better boat.

The Prijon Combi 359
Another boat we considered was the Combi 359. Looks like a good cross-over, but a quite a bit more than we were willing to spend.

Thanks for the info.
I purchased an Approach from ARC a few weeks ago but have not had a chance to put it in the water yet.

Prijon Combi is a good boat
I had one for a while and liked it. In my experience the Combi is about 15 pounds heavier than the Approach, which is not such a problem if you aren’t portageing very much.

The Combi has a front deck day hatch as well as the rear hatch, and it has a snug fitting cockpit-thighbrace-hip pads arrangement that fits me better than the Approach which is looser and more roomy, but acceptable.

The Combi will track better than the Approach but will be harder to turn. The Combi front surfs better without any sign of pearling, rides over waves better, and ferries effortlessly. The turning is a problem for white water use with the Combi. Adequate for river running but not a play boat ability to turn as the Approach does. The Combi has a larger (dry) rear hatch and lots of room forward of the foot pegs for dry bags. For weekend river camping the Combi is roomier, primarily because its 2 feet longer and the decks are a little higher.

Both are excellent cross-over boats IMHO.

One other note on the Approach, the stock back band is comfortable enough for normal use, so adding the cost of a Reggie isn’t necessary unless you plan to spend day after day in the boat. The Combi back band and seat pan are both very comfortable right from the start.

A ligher person…
I’ve been thinking about upgrading Lori to something like this for a while. Andy, how do you think the boat would do with a lighter paddler? Most posts I’ve seen seem to indicate the boat really is best for someone around 200 lbs and up.

Not so sure it matters
Hi Daryl, I think this is an ideal kayak for Lori for the Shenandoah, James, Tye, Rockfish, Maury, New. The 200 pounders among us are mostly the ones posting about the Approach, so it sort of appears to be a heavy person’s boat. But, I don’t see any reason why Lori wouldn’t like the Approach. Dagger lists the weight range from 110 to 240, and up to 300 pounds total. I’m skeptical of the 300 pounds high end, but I’m not skeptical about the 110 pounds low end. We had a 60 pound kid in this one for a while last weekend and he had a blast paddling around on Buffalo Creek.

Best thing to do is join us at Balcony this weekend and have Lori try it out. Or stop over any evening and we’ll do a short run on the Maury. I think she will like the Approach for its stability and ease of turning and it is still fast enough to keep up with your canoe without hustling.