I just purchased my first canoe for use flyfishing, camping, and duckhunting. Most of the time it’ll be on tailwater rivers in AR for flyfishing. It’s an Old Town Predator, 2 seater, 78 lbs, 13.4’ long, beam of 40 inches, and center depth of 14 ". Would a wide, high quality kayak paddle be easier for when paddling solo? I’ll probably sit in the front seat facing backwards and put some weight up front? Suggestions?
I think the easiest way to move a wide boat is to row it. fixed oars that don’t feather work best for most fishing situations. If you are an experienced rower then you might not mind the extra skill and thought needed to use feathering oarlocks, but most folks like fixed better.
It works, and it’s easy
Lots of people use double-blade paddles when solo in a canoe. A very good argument can be made for taking the time to learn the wonderful nuances of the single blade, but chances are, getting the most out of a solo canoe or finding joy in the process of making the boat move is not what you are looking for (based on your choice of boat). For getting up and down the creeks, a double-blade paddle will work fine, and you won’t have to learn “how” to paddle. You’ll get wet from dripping water, and for jump-shooting on little creeks, the ducks will see you coming sooner and flush farther away, and you’ll have a problem if going through overhanging trees, but overall, the double-blade paddle will get the job done. I got my start solo-canoeing with a 230 cm double-blade paddle from Mohawk. It seems most of the people who never get into the whole single-blade thing use monstrously long double-blade paddles. Whatever length you get, I’d recommend a Mohawk double-blade though (assuming they still sell them since the change in company ownership). I found that a true “kayak paddle” (and I had a pretty good one) has blades that are too small to horse a canoe around on turns (way too much slippage and paddle-venting). The big blades on the Mohawk paddle worked great.
Frank’s Idea is Good
You might like rowing better than any other option for going longer distances or fighting the wind. For jump-shooting ducks, you can row “backwards” which means you are facing the direction you are going. I row a lot, and I always recommend longer oars than most people would consider, but you might want to use oars as short as 6 feet if you are on really small creeks, but oars that short waste a lot of your energy by pushing in directions other than in-line with the boat during much of each stroke. Otherwise, 7 feet is pretty good, and 8 feet is better.
Thanks for the feedback. One other question about best place to solo paddle from in my canoe. Would it be in the bow seat facing backwards where I’d be reaching the paddle towards the widest part of the canoe…OR…in a center seat position?
Either method works fine
You already know that sitting in the bow seat and facing backward is better than sitting in the rear and facing forward, which means you understand this stuff better than most casual paddlers that I see. Sitting just barely behind the midpoint is usually best, which is why solo canoes have the seat just behind center, but for most paddling, using the bow seat and facing backward is very good. It's just not so good in a canoe that's strongy asymetrical (an asymetrical boat is designed to go forward, not backward). With a double-blade paddle, it's unlikely you'll be paddling with such a vertical stroke that having the "fatter part of the boat" in front of you will matter. If you need to weight the stern (which is acting as the bow) down, just throw some extra gear up there. The closer to the end you put the weight, the less weight is required to level the boat.
Oh, one other thing. If you put a footbrace in your boat, that will help your paddling efficiency and power tremendously. A footbrace is usually just a metal bar that crosses from one side of the boat to the other, a few inches above the floor, but any good method you can come up with, like a wood block attached to each side, will do the job.