Poling rocks!!!

A while ago [11/14/6] I asked you folks for some help with poling. Among the good replies I got back you referred me to “Beyond the Paddle”. I borrowed a copy from my local library. Great book!

I look forward to next summer when I can stand up in my canoe and experiment more with this mode of travel. In the meantime, I couldn’t wait to try out the ideas I’ve been reading about. I cut a shorter pole from a local tree/weed and have been experimenting with this idea while seated [I’ll stand up and pole when the water temperature exceeds 60ºF next spring] in my canoe. I’ve been intrigued, and have been spending every non-working/non-sleeping/non-otherwise-committed hour working towards upstream travel.

I cut a 7’ pole [from some wild local stock—I took some photos of this wild tree if anybody would like to see it and try to identify it] and added a little metal shoe so I could get the feel of this sport. This little pole beats the heck out of what I was able to do pushing my canoe upstream with a paddle. Seated in my canoe I have push-poled my way upstream much farther and much more easily than I could with a paddle.

The shallow, fast water that thwarted my attempts at paddling was fairly easy to pole through. The deeper fast water that is too strong for my 7’ pole has made me want to do some more experimenting. Today I bought the hardware to build a “cheap canoe pole” per the instructions at http://www.brockeng.com/AmusingRaven/pole.htm. Tonight I assembled a closet-rod pole while listening to “A Prairie Home Companion” [i.e.—the assembly took me about 2 hrs—and BTW Jerry Douglas is a kick-ass dobro player]. In the morning I’ll wipe off the excess oil and give it a try.

I look forward to putting my new creation into the riverbed and pushing my canoe a few miles upstream. Although I already have found that the only true way to learn the art of poling is to get out there and try it, I’m still seeking guidance from you folks with real poling experience.

Tomorrow [12/17/6] is supposed to be sunny and 60ºF here where I live. I plan to go poling upstream with my brand new $17 homemade pole. I’ll check back tomorrow evening with my findings.

Peace on earth.

Happy holidays.


It is pretty cool to be able to get up stuff that has stopped you before.

IMO the best way to learn is by doing and watching others.



No guidance here.
Just sharing your anticipation. Got my “kit” in the shed, beautiful local river to try poling on next spring. Got some very experienced polers coming to our get together next spring including these guys…


imagine I’ll learn a lot or have fun trying.

It may be the only way…
to efficiently go upstream, but wait until you try it going downstream too! In shallow riffles and rapids (and even some beefy Class II or more) you have a lot more control. The first trip that opened my eyes to the advantages of poling was a downstream trip down the Nachaug in CT in low water. If I had tried to paddle the 4.5 miles, I would have hit or scraped over hundres of rocks since the water was too shallow for the paddle to control the canoe. With the pole? I think I hit five rocks, 3 of which were in an obstructed drop that I would have scraped over no matter what.

Better visibility to see what’s coming up when standing too.

Snubbing and the ACA crew
One of the wildest things I’ve ever seen was Rick Monroe and Chris Malik poling down the Bears Den Rapid (cl III). That one always puts me on my knees!

Chris posts the ACA poling schedule early in the spring and puts a link on NPMB.


Most of the ACA stuff is in Connecticut on the Farmington, Natchaug, Salmon and Shepaug rivers.

They do cruises, clinics and races.

Years past I’ve had the good fortune to pole with Rick, Chris, Ed, Harry Rock, Shawn Rock and many others willing and able to help newbies and experienced folks be better polers.

The only money it ever cost me was for the two finished poles I bought from Ed Hayden for less that what I’d have paid for the aluminum tubing.

I can’t recomend then enough.


Appreciate the info…

– Last Updated: Dec-18-06 7:11 PM EST –

I'll probably just mess around on the farmington after work in the spring, maybe make a pole for my son as well. Tommy, we got space for ya' at our rendezvous on the farmington if you're interested. Was going to paddle with you a couple years back, never did get together. Info on the NPMB site "rendezvous" if you're interested. Got 13 canoes coming so far, and probably a few more, some yaks and my "peeps" are most all yakkers , we'll have a lot of variety and fun.

Thanks, folks-
I spent a beautiful afternoon on the river on Sunday. The weather was great. The water level is at normal pool. The only scary part for me was the fact that Ohio opened December 16 & 17 for two more days of deer shotgun season and I heard a few hunters driving deer towards me in a couple of places. No harm, no foul—but that does tend to raise one’s adrenaline levels up a bit. Yes, I wore an orange hat and a red jacket—and my canoe is red too—but one never knows what buck-fever will do to hunters.

Anyhow, I really enjoyed my 1st outing with the closet-rod pole. I foresee many more good times in the future. Anybody else out there tried this pole? The only thing I may change is the shoe design. The shoe doesn’t seem heavy enough to get the wooden pole down to the bottom very quickly. The trade-off there would obviously be handling a heavier pole over time and thus using more energy. I’ll keep playing with it just the way it is for a while.

I actually bought hardware to make two of these poles. I’m going to make another one this week as a Christmas gift for my lovely bride. She wants to try this out too. Man, I hope we don’t bonk each other on the head with those poles.

One really cool thing I noticed in the deeper areas was that as you drive the pole down into the water you can hear a very musical rippling liquid tone through the wooden pole. The ‘clank’ when the shoe hits bottom isn’t as pretty a sound, but those of you who have used a wooden pole probably know the sound I’m referring to. It’s unique. Some of the stuff I’ve read stated that aluminum poles are very good, but noisy. I’m assuming that meant noisy in an annoying way. Not so with the wood.


P.S. - I notice that I posted this thread on two separate boards. I’m not sure how that happened, and in future I’ll avoid doing that.

Poling shoes
If you want to replace the poling shoes for a heavier one, check out the poling shoes at www.poleandpaddle.com. This guy has some of the nicest ones around, designed after the shoes loggers used to use. Heavy, functional. My wooden pole only has a shoe on one end (for upstream work, I’d recommend you use a heavy shoe on one end, but a lighter shoe on the other in the event it is faster to flip ends).


To rid yourself of that unwanted
tinny noise when the pole bottom taps a rock dip it a few times in liquid plastic. Not only does it dampen the “tink”, it also won’t slip nearly as bad as bare metal does on slippery rocks.

First and Most Important Rule…
… of poling. When the pole gets stuck in the bottom, and it will regardless of having a foot, LET GO!! I speak these words of wisdom from experience and have lived by them from my lessons learned the hardway. I always carry a spare paddle or two so I can retrieve my pole. Glad to hear you’re into poling, nothing quite like it. When ya get more practiced at it try poling across ice, now that’s a rush!


Good points, dougd—
The let-go-of-the-pole mindset seems counterintuitive to what we learn about paddling [i.e. NEVER let go of your paddle] but I can see its value. I’ve already been telling myself that a time will come when the pole gets jammed between the riverbed and the canoe with the power of the current adding pressure—dropping the pole will be the thing to do. I always carry a spare paddle.

Funny you mention poling on ice. During one of my 1st outings with a pole [a couple weeks ago] I poled out of the main stream into some flat water behind an island. As I pushed myself up this back channel I suddenly heard and felt a loud rumbling sound throughout the entire hull. I had poled onto a sheet of ice. The water was so flat and the ice was so new and clear that I hadn’t even seen it. It was cool! The ice was only about ½” thick at first. As I continued poling up the channel the thickness of the ice increased. I got some very cool sound effects from the combination of sheet ice/cold water/wooden pole. It was an unexpected pleasure.


but then again…
I have this horrific temptation to NOT let go of the pole when it is jammed, especially if I have been snubbing across my body (another thing to never do), just to find out what it feels like to be launched backward out of my canoe. Wahooo!! splash

But only on warm days when I’m wearin’ my brain bucket. :wink:

Yes it does , yes it does

– Last Updated: Dec-25-06 5:32 AM EST –

I wouldn't have considered poling the Osprey. Standing in a boat with a 30 inch beam seems to guarantee a swim. But last summer up on the Pemi, DougD got me to try it and, well, I didn't go right in. So it is possible.

I took it out on a new to me stretch of the Charles Friday. I'm working towards paddling the whole river source to sea, one chunk at a time. My plan was to paddle upstream about 5 miles then return to my starting point.
About 4 miles up I came to a short shallow pitch. It was just steep enough that I couldn't paddle up it.I really didn't want to turn back. But there was ice on the slack stretches and I was dressed to wade. So I really didn't want to swim.
With some trepidation I stowed the paddle, raised the pole and pushed on up.
Won't say it was pretty. I will say that I thoroughly tested the secondary stability of the Osprey and I'm quite impressed. I made it up and got to finish my paddle. No swims. No step outs.

Poling rocks!