Poling, lessons learned

After several poling sessions on lakes, I finally took the plunge (not literally) and tried poling on moving water.

I went to a small flatwater creek (Cross Creek) that at current water levels has a small class 1 ledge. I spent most of my time there.

Things I learned,

(1) Trim is important, even in mild current if that upstream end isn’t out of the water it is hard to control.

(2) Poling is hard work, if you aren’t good at it. The better my technique I got the less I sweated. Kind of reminded me of the saying, “if you’re going to be stupid, you better be tough” just with a small change, “if you’re going to have poor technique you better be tough.”

(3) If things start going bad (stuck pole, loss of angle, etc) don’t fight it, just drop down into the boat and try again. This actually kept me dry. Every time I almost fell, I just dropped into the boat and stayed out of the water. Cross Creek is an urban creek and isn’t the cleanest body of water, not the best place to swim.

(4) I still need a lot of practice, and books just don’t do the skill justice. I’m amazed by what I see in videos of people poling.

(5) Yes, poling is addictive. I can’t wait until my skills improve and all possibilities that will open up. A lot of streams I’ve been eyeing, but setting shuttle and finding paddling partners have limited that. Poling will remove those obstacles.

Just do it
You will improve an awful lot just by doing it. For me at least books were pretty useless.

If you get the chance to pole with other enthusiasts jump on it. I’ve learned a ton just watching others and comparing what they do to what I do.

second that

– Last Updated: Sep-21-09 9:41 PM EST –

time standing in a moving canoe turns your reactions into natural movement with enough experience. I find if I haven't gone for awhile it feels like the shoes don't fit, while some of the moves I've made saving my butt when I'm getting out a few times a week are things I can't do on dry land .
Things I've learned from others include Marshall Moores efficiency by making sure that pole is straight back and Ed Haydens use of the legs making for a strong push. Now Carps going up the side of broken dams don't teach me anything at all ;-).

I’d love to find some experienced…
enthusiasts, but down here in North Carolina there aren’t a whole lot of canoeists let alone polers.

I guess I need to take a trip up north.

Poling Lonesome
I learned the art of poling from my buddy Hal the Gullboy but since he lives in another state I didn’t get a chance to hang with him too much. I ended up going out and learning on my own. A few spills into the drink happened but what the hell, it’s part of the game. A few years later I was ok at it, enough to not beg for shuttles anymore. I don’t think you ever stop learning when it comes to poling.

Up here in New England there is a great bunch of polers, mostly in MA/CT, seems to be the hotbed for it. Any time I go out with a bunch of these guys/gals I watch them and watch there styles. Everyone of them does something different, personalized it. I guess the basic method is there but making it your own style and making it work for you is the way to go.

Some of the best polers I’ve seen are the ones who go tripping, taking loaded boats and go out for a few weeks on end. These guys are good. I’ve never seen Harry Rock nor Ed Hayden poling and hear they are the best of the best. But I can safely say that Carp is perhaps the strongest poler I’ve ever seen, Hal the Gullboy rates right up there and has a nice style. Marshall M. has such a unique style it is a joy to watch. TommyC1 is a great poler as well and is also one of the most colorful dressers while poling, those shorts!! It is rare to get all of us together but it sure is a sight when we do.

Bottom line is keep trying. You are right, it is physically tough, it’s hard as hell on your legs, I like to call it the rubber band leg effect after a hard push upstream. Trim is very important in ascending as well as snubbing downstream which I think is more difficult then ascending. Good luck, keep it up, practice and getting out there is the key to it all.


Oct. 17
is our next big day. ACA poling event on the NewBoston section of the farmington river in mass., just over the ct. line. I dragged my reluctant poler son Aaron to this last year, and he came away a changed youth. had 10 or 12 of us and it feels like we feed off each other. harry, ed, fred, tommy,marshall, chris (deceptively fast) and the rest of us getting inspired and having a ball. Pix in the link in my bio., I know tommys got some too. looking forward to this years event as well

At it for a year and a half now - all you say is true, Davbart. I do get a lot from Harry Rock’s book though. I read it once, then after each session (when I was just beginning) I would think of the things that weren’t working right for me and refer to the book to review what I did wrong and visualize doing it correctly. I find my learning curve really goes up with that practice. Getting out often helps a lot too. And not having to stop for the winter probably helped.

I wish I could get just as excited about using the paddle, but poling is where it’s at for me right now.

Sounds like fun!
I bought a pole but have not been out at all this year and only twice last year. I was reading in this string that trim is important. What do you mean? Should the boat be trimmed out level or front end up? Maybe I’ll learn something here. Thanks!!!


Chicago Burbs

trim depends

– Last Updated: Oct-04-09 7:00 PM EST –

on what you're doing. Attaining in rapids has the bow up, over ledges bow even higher, return trip downstream you can level things out by moving forward, which can also help with stability. Many polers I know have a thwart removed to move themselves fore and aft easily.

Noticed Doug commenting on Tommys apparel. Chris (in the flaming Red shorts with the tights underneath ;-)) is pretty colorful as well.

As Matt says you want your bow up when going upstream. For subbing down stream many folks like to trim the bow down by standing just in front of the center thwart. That helps keep the bow out front when you are moving slower than the current.

poling partner?
I live in south central Va. I pole some on occasion and would be glad to have someone to take a run with if you want to set up a trip some time. PM me and let’s share a shuttle.

Sounds Like Fun
I have yet to make a pole but I’ve wanted to give er a go



I love poling!
I leared how at an early age under the guidance of an uncle who used a pole far more than a paddle in the swamps. I appreciate the lessons even more after two spinal surgeries. My back hurts like hell if I’m sitting & paddling for more than an hour (hey, at least i’m still paddling!). By switching between the two I’m good for 8 to 10 hrs., 12 if need be. I make my own poles from cut down 16 ft. long, 1- 1/2" dia. wooden dowels (I shun aluminum due to living in the lightning capitol of the US). My current one’s painted in coral snake pattern & colors but I when I make more I’ll won’t be using any snake colors or patterns as it seems to draw a lot of attention from big bull gators.