I’m interested in poling my canoe. I live on a river. Some days I like to put in at my little dock and paddle upstream, do a little fishing, and drift back home. I can paddle upstream about ¾ of a mile before I reach a place where the river current becomes too strong for me. I think I could go much farther if I could pole my canoe through this section of heavier current and then switch back to paddling. Also, if I choose to start off from my dock and go downstream, I think I’d feel more confident about getting back home if I had a pole on board.
So I’m asking any of you folks with experience in poling canoes to send in your words of wisdom on this topic.
Also, I’m looking for info about where to find a good pole, what makes a good pole, what kind of money should I be setting aside to purchase a good pole, etc…
Thank you for your input.
Poling is the only way to go upstream in current, and I find it is the only reasonable way to go downstream too, if the water is too shallow to maneuver without beating your paddle blade to crap. I also like the ability to stand in the canoe for awhile if I get tired of sitting or kneeling.
Where to get a pole? I had a really tough time finding one on line. If you do a google search on "canoe pole" one of the first sites that comes up is for instructions on making a cheap pole with a closet dowl and hardware from Home Depot...not the best of quality, but certainly enough for you to practice and get the feel of it (looks like somebody posted the link. I was fortunate to hook up with a group of canoe racers in New England, one of which makes a good aluminum pole for $70. Also, go to www.poleandpaddle.com to see some of his poles, although shipping costs could be real expensive from Maine (I bought a pole from him...gorgeous, excellent pole, $105 with the shoe, but shipping would have been over twice that amount, so I went up and picked it up myself). If you don't get one of his poles, consider at least buying a shoe or two (an iron point for the end of the pole) from him...he has about the best there are out there. My advice...try to find any poling racing events and go to them...there's always someone there selling aluminum poles. For wood poles, buy a 12' piece of clear spruce and keep sawing off the edges with a table saw (assuming you have access to one) until you can finish rounding it off with sandpaper, unless you're lucky enough to know someone that makes them in your area. Then you can just add the shoes. You'd be looking to get a diameter of about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches.
Perhaps Topher will check in here too...I know he's made quite a few poles.
Come down to Raystown next year...all sorts of polers show up there, I was happy to discover this past October. Also, Harry Rock has a couple good books on basic poling technique, although you'll find out what works best for you as you start poling and falling out of your boat...or not.
A few more links and tips
I made a home depot closet pole and it works reasonably well but I prefer a stiffer, springier, pole for working upstream.
I’ve also used a 10’ piece of 3/4" electrical tubing in a pinch.
It’s not unusual to snag your pole and have to let it go else be dragged out of your boat. Having a spare makes it much easier to retrieve your snag.
Working upstream you want to stand aft of center. Right in front of the stearn seat is a good place to start.
Conventional wisdom is to go forward of center to snub down stream. I prefer to stay aft or even sit down and paddle.
Being able to walk around, or at least fore and aft in your boat makes things much easier.
I don’t think any of us here are experts so take what ever we say with a grain of salt and don’t hesitate to experiment.
DougD taken by ScottB, Man I love this picture!
My Best Advice…
…Keep your head over your nuts and think like a hula dancer.
The best part of poling is that it lends itself well to a variety of different styles. The important thing is to get out there and horse around with it.
Alum - wood - contact info
Ed Hayden sold me a two-piece aluminum pole for $85 plus $20 shipping. It’s a nice pole, but I only use it when I need to because I don’t like all the clanging noise, and if the water is cold, the pole is cold. But in strong current, I like a stiff pole, and I use Ed’s.
Otherwise I prefer a wood pole. I bought a 12 foot, basswood, pruning pole from a store that caters to professional arborists. It is not nearly as stiff, but weighs the same as Ed’s and cost less than $30. You need two poles anyway, so why not try both and post back and tell us your favorite.
Ed Hayden’s email was (1/2005) email@example.com.
Good luck and have fun with it.
~~Chip Walsh, Gambrills, MD
That’s some pretty scenery.
Yeah, that’s the guy!
That’s the guy I got my aluminum pole from. A two piece pole would definitely be cheaper to ship. I ordered a one-piece and picked it up at his house.
this is a good book:
Nice cover shot
Looks like he's snubbing down stream in a pretty fair current. Got all of his gear forward so the stern won't get pushed around. Got his pole on one side rather than across so if it snags he can just let it go without getting swept out of the boat.
I’ve read that too
Excellent book, but out of print right now. Must be why it is so expensive. Great info on portaging and ice conditions too in this book.
Beyond the Paddle
Thanks to all of you for your tips and advice. Yes, I noticed that this book is pretty pricey on Amazon. However, my local library has copies of it. I reserved a copy and will be checking it out in a day or so.
I’m looking forward to this new aspect of canoeing. Luckily for me, my river is right here in the backyard—so if [when?] i dump into that nearly ice-cold water this winter i’m only a couple hundred yards from dry clothing and some hot chocolate.
Again, thanks for pointing me in some focused direction, folks!