Poling Question

OK, a bit of a nutty question for all you polers out there:

I sold by trusty Penobscot 16 over the winter, and replaced her with a Bell Yellowstone Solo. It was a good decision given my situation, and I really like the YS, but she’s near impossible to pole in any traditional sense. I can barely stand up in her in flat water, never mind standing on the gunwhales. Keep in mind that I was never a very good poler to begin with.

I was out paddling on the Willimantic River last night, and I had to ascend a couple of easy rapids. One I was able to paddle up, and the second made me wish I could pole the canoe. And then, the idea struck me that I could pole the YS kneeling with a shorter pole. The boat is rock solid kneeling.

So my question is: What length pole to try this with? I’m thinking 8 feet. Any thoughts? Am I nuts?

What do you got?
If you have a twelve footer I’d go ahead and try that.

If not I’d be inclined to measure where my hands were kneeling vs standing and subtract that from the 12 foot “standard” length.

I sometimes pole with my 58" Mitchel whitewater paddle.

If you have a paddle as rugged as as that or say an old Mohawk, you could even try that.

You have me curious now. I’ve poled my Osprey a bit, standing up. I wonder if I could do the same in the Bell?

The reason I ask
is that I HAD a 12 footer, and lost it somewhere on the highway coming home from the Quinebaug river a couple of years ago. Right now, I have no pole at all, and will probably make a “Home Depot special” based on some plans dougd pointed me to a few years ago.

Maybe I’ll just make a 12 footer, and if it’s too long, I can always cut it down.

I could stand on the gunwhales in the Penobscot, but I can’t even get comfy standing on the bottom of the YS.

I have an 8ft pole
that I have used in my Argosy. I think that length would work fine in your Yellowstone. I almost bought the Yellowstone instead of the Argosy. I liked the alternate lower seating position in the Argosy for those times I want to double-blade the canoe. I need lots more practice.

You can see my first really pitiful poleing try at


Good luck.


I sometimes
for some strange reason, end up kneeling or seated in my canoe with a 12’ pole still in my hands. It’s kind of on the awkward side when in this position, way too much pole above the hands. I think, when kneeling/seated, that you’re not going to really get the travel with the hands going(walking the pole), and I find the pole gets used more like a cane when the forces of granite and gravity have overcome my normal olympian form…heehee. I’d have a short pole, guessing 5 or 6 feet tops. You can always cut the 10-12 foot home depole in half.

In Morris’s Skin-on-Frame boats book he shows one solo canoe that was designed to be poled from a sitting position using two poles.

Here’s what he says:

“From the scanty information I have been able to gather, Upper Yukon river canoes were used close to river banks and in shallows. In photographs, the paddler is shown sitting on the bottom, legs ahead of him, as if in a kayak. The paddles were pole ended, rather than “T” shaped. These canoes were tender and fast, and as well as paddling, they were propelled by poling with a stick on either side like skiing.”

from “Building Skin-on-Frame Boats” by Robert Morris.

He doesn’t give a length for the poles, but in the illustrations, they look to extend about a foot above the canoeist’s head when he is seated on the bottom of the boat.

For what it’s worth . . .

Maybe a two piece?
Sounds to me like an excuse to make a two-piece aluminum pole. That was part of my motivation for making one. Actually, it had more to do with a couple of particular river stretches that involve going under low bridges - but the need was the same.

Although I have thought of it (and it seems we even discussed it here once before) I haven’t tried kneeling with one half of the pole yet, I guess 'cause it hadn’t occurred to me and I haven’t visited those low bridges yet since I made the pole - and I don’t have a solo canoe.

Anyway - if it doesn’t work out for your solo, you’ll still have a handy two-piece for which you’re sure to find a use at some point.

looking at mjamjas photos

– Last Updated: Sep-03-09 4:42 PM EST –

I notice the pole out at a pretty wide angle, fine for flatwater, but if you're doing attainments, you'll need the pole pushing behind, so I think Freds 2 pc. design would be the best of both worlds. Of course, Wayne, living in eastern Ct., you're probably close to Ed Hayden, who's in Waterford and probably has a 2 piece with your name on it already made. E-mail me if you want his e-mail address. Ed loves poling.

Here's Fred's link if you make one yourself
If you go 6061-t6 I'd just buy one from Ed. They're good poles and he gets volume discount on aluminum.Cheaper to buy one of his than make one in the same material.
Fred and Ed
Guys like this close by make me a lucky poler :-)

If you get back into it look us up!

pole the Indy kneeling
When paddling alone and poling I will pole up some drops kneeling for safety and stability. I use a 10.5’ Cabellas collapsible aluminum pole.

Do you need a pole for a specific area you routinely pole or do you travel to new rivers where you will meet unknown conditions. 10 to 11’ is all you need to cover everything. Works for kneeling as well.

Wide angle ?
In the picture where the paddle is at a really wide angle I am in deep water and was using the pole just like a double blade paddle. If you look closely you can see that I am holding it with my hands fairly close together in the center of the pole.

I was really suprised at how well I could “paddle” upstream in the deeper water where the 8 ft pole would not reach the bottom. In the shallows where I was really poleing, I had no problem keeping the pole vertical. In the really shallow water, 3-4 in, the 8ft pole was longer than I needed, but for the 2-3 ft deep sections I do not think it would have worked well if it had been much shorter.


poling rapids

I’d still go shorter for quicker shorter movements with minimal pole overhead, due to lack of ability to “walk the pole”. Personally I think that 2 piece idea sounds good. Gives ya’ a spare as well, which is a definite neccesity when standing in rocky rivers. I’m thinkin’ the rapids Wayne is mentioning are probably well under 2’ deep, created by rocks.

Video is of Carp. Wayne, if you know the salmon river, Tommy C1 and I were privileged to watch carp attain the broken dam…come Wayne…join us…:wink:

here’s Tommy


And Carp after attaining the dam



I’ve never heard of two poles for poling but we had some good posts for balance and technique over at adventure canoe.

Zep thread?
Outside of the articles from Tim Smith and Eric Neilson that were pasted there, it seems to be more of a discussion of classic rock music. :wink: Those are two of the better online articles that I’ve seen though.

But to cover the subject well requires a book - such as Harry Rock’s “Basic Essentials of Canoe Poling”. Even so, that book never mentions poling while kneeling or reasons why one might use a shorter or two-piece pole. So that leads back to here. Viva-la-p.net!

Really, there is a lot of valuable info on poling right here in the archives - including the links to instructions for building a two-piece pole. Here it is again, so you don’t have to search…


Now that’s impressive!

– Last Updated: Sep-10-09 6:40 PM EST –

I aspire to much easier goals when it comes to poling, like just being able to go upstream when a paddle just won't do it. Carp is pretty talented!.

I've run that dam at flood in a WW kayak, and it's a blast -- good sized standing wave waiting for you after you make it through both breaches (For those of you who don't know where we're talking about, it's a double dam that's been breached). Also watched a rec canoe go over it sideways after missing the line - they got lucky and flushed out.