I hooked up with the New Hampshire AMC for a run down the Middle Ashuelot river (CII), Gillsum to Shaws Corner, just north of Keene, NH.

It was sunny and warm and the Gillsum gage read 4.5 at 9:30 AM couldn’t get much better.

Since Carl,the trip leader, is a poler and a few others were coming to pole I figured I’d snub on down with the best of them.

I’ll tell ya. Snubbing is HARD!

I had a heck of a time keeping my speed down and under control. I lost count of how many times my pole got caught and I had to let it go then scramble to get it back. Lost count of how many times I fell inside the boat too. Boy that stern airbag is comfey! Surprisingly I never pinned or had an out of boat experience. Still it was pretty humbling.

Good fast current, narrow eddies and pretty continous rapids meant keeping the speed slow was important.

Hmm, weight centered in the boat. I’m not jumping that thwart!

Trying to catch the bottom without snagging the pole.

No cross body snubs!

Nut’s! It ain’t easy.


– Last Updated: Apr-20-08 6:57 AM EST –

I prefer, for the most part, going upstream. More control, easier to read the river and find those "water colored rocks."
I have found what I think are advantages with my 1.5" diameter/.063 wall, flat copper end capped monster poles. They don't grip as well due to not having a point, but I think this helps with the snubbing. The other thing is I think the stiffness due to the extra diameter and thickness helps me eddy out. I just get the pole onto a rock above water where I can see, hang on tight and (usually) manage to spin around. No flex with these monsters...
One foot slightly forward of the other helps too. "off side" snubbing :-)

But its a blast
My only real experience poling anything with significant current was with Wickerbutt and Daggermatt on the Shepaug last spring. My first attempt at poling. Same thing - lost my pole a couple of times, lost my balance many times, but overall had a great time. That run was probably class I at that level. In class II, I’d probably be kneeling - or swimming.

Better control than with a paddle, tho!
With one exception, every time I lost my pole it was while I was snubbing down a rapid. Upstream is definitely easier, but I think downstream work really teaches you good boat control. I’ve found that standing forward of center helps a lot; the faster the current the further forward I am. I also find that I have better success trying to snub way ahead of the boat, with the pole fully extended…this gives more of an opportunity for pole recovery when it gets jammed.

But when it all comes together, I love going down a rapid in full control, picking my way through channels I know I would never reach with a paddle.


I always have to preface my adice with “I’m no expert,” which is the one thing in this post you can have faith in. I do a lot more polling upstream than down, when I usually revert to the paddle because I enjoy it.

But I’ve done a bit of downstream, most notably last spring on a class II - III stream. I was supposed to meet some folks for paddling on the Susquahanna, but said folks decided it was too windy. Our meet up point (Cold Cabin) is the take out for the Muddy Creek whitewater run, there were other paddlers there gearing up, and I decided to go with them. The only paddle I had with me was my Zav bent shaft, and I hate using it among rocks, so I poled most of the rapids.

Here’s the advice: trim stern-light when you are working downstream. When you go upstream, I’m certain you trim bow-light so that the current can slide under the bow, and the current pushes the heavy end downstream, helping you maintain the boat in an upstream direction. If you are stern-heavy going downstream, the current still wants to push the heavy end downstream, so you have to fight to keep from getting turned around.

In center-thwarted boats, this is usually going to mean you need to turn the boat around when you switch from upstream to downstream. It’s a pain, but the boat will handle much better with the upstream end lighter than the downstream end.

Happy snubbing,


Just curious
What type canoes were you in?

Riverstrider and I pole Mad River Explorers, the 16 foot version, Eric has an old Mohawk, Matt has a Swift Dumoine (I think) and Chip used to pole an Old Town Tripper but it must have made it too easy because he seems to have got himself an Explorer as well. Hmm maybe it was just too heavy.

Let me tell ya i aint no good at it
but after watching dougy snub his way down some shallow rapids I have great respect for those that do it well. A fantastic tool to use if you know how to use it.

Sigh… Trim
I’ve heard the trim thing before. It sort of makes sense to. When I snub the stern wants to come around even when I’m right behind the portage thwart. But I just can’t get used to sinking the bow like that. It’s like trying to write left handed, awkward.

Part of my trouble is that I think like a playboater . I want to eddy hop down the river. But the Explorer is a BIG boat to stuff into smaller eddies even with a paddle. Idealy with the pole eddies aren’t even required. And yeah I’m much more comfortable going down stream with a paddle.


Is that a driver-side airbag, and which side of the driver?-)

Thanks for the account. Love to hear about the different ways to enjoy the water.

I hear you
It feels very awkward to me to be so far forward. Make yourself do it next time you have a chance and I think you will like the result, but it does feel awkward.


The Under the Driver Side
Or is the Driver Underside?

Your slide show has just mesmerized me for over five minutes. I’m on pause grabbing a cup 'a coffee…

Being a boat collector with a high-stress job, I rarely get to REALLY take off and do trips in my Bell Wildfire, Romany, et al…

Anyway, your photos are taking me to the places I’m salivating to get to (right after I get out’a work).

Gotta get on the Au Sable, the Keewenaw, the Antrim Chain of Lakes, my swimming pool - something that’s wet where I can meditate and zone…

Thanks for the trips. Your site’s going on my Favorites…