Exploring the River Helford by Kayak

Searching for Flounder on the River Helford

The weather this January has been reasonably settled. Another calm weather window presented itself. It was bitterly cold though. The plan was to go for a paddle and fish on a local river estuary – the River Helford. The target would be flounders, a species of flatfish which can be found over tidal mud flats particularly in the cold winter months. We arrived  at the launch spot just after sunrise to see the entire river valley full of freezing mist…. luckily we had our dry suits and thermals!

 

 

 

The cold isn’t a problem if you dress for it, and a day on the water can still be enjoyed even on the coldest of days. We had several layers of thermals on to trap warm air against the skin, to keep us comfortable on the water. The dry suits form that important barrier between you and the icy water – an essential piece of clothing for kayak fishing and touring in the colder months. A warm hat topped things off. We were ready and wouldn’t be getting cold!

Ready to launch and everything was eerily still and quiet…

Searching for Flounder on the River Helford

Forget the cold, and these were perfect paddling conditions! Liam was paddling his favoured RTM Rytmo Angler and Andrew opted for his Ocean Kayak Trident 13 Angler 2017. The kayaks glided effortlessly across the surface as we made our way up river. The icy air definitely wakes you up in the morning! As we made progress up river the surface went super calm and glassy. Something didn’t look right though…. there was something on the surface ahead. On closer inspection the surface in front of us was covered in a thin sheet of ice!

Andrew paddling through ice on the Helford River
Paddling through the Ice on the Helford. You can just about make it out if you look closely beside the kayak!

It was so still, and so cold that the surface had frozen. That’s not something we had seen before down here in Cornwall. The sound of the kayaks and paddle blades crunching through the ice was quite satisfying. In between patches of ice lay mirror-like water.

 

Time for a quick low brace to see the reflection
Time for a quick low brace to see the reflection!
Andrew paddling in the mirror calm conditions
Andrew paddling in the mirror calm conditions
Liam paddling in mirror calm conditions
Liam paddling in mirror calm conditions!

We carried on paddling to the place we would try for a flounder, some 2 miles from our launch spot. We soon broke off from the main river and headed up a tree-lined creek. The scenery is quite beautiful here.

 

Andrew spotted a chance to get a panorama
Andrew spotted a chance to get a panorama

The tide was flooding into the creek but due to it being a very small neap tide, there was little tidal movement. We cast out running ledger rigs baited with ragworms with the intention of drifting up the creek with the tide. We soon found out that our 2oz weights were enough to hold the kayak stationary!

 

Drifting up the smaller creeks in hope of some Flounder
Drifting up the smaller creeks in hope of some Flounder!

We persisted with fishing static but the fish weren’t biting. A few moves to different locations didn’t find any feeding fish. We pulled up to the side for a coffee break….

 

Quick coffee stop with time to drop the lines
Quick coffee stop. Sipping the finest Kernow Kenco!
Quick coffee stop near the top of the creek
Quick coffee stop near the top of the creek

Refreshed and fishless, it was time for an explore. That’s the great thing about kayak fishing, if the fish aren’t playing then you can just go for a cruise around or explore. It was now high tide. We headed along the tree-lined creek and paddled as far as we could to where a small stream met the main river.

 

Exploring at the top of the creek
Exploring at the top of the creek

With the kayaks beached on the side we continued on foot, clambering through the overgrown river bed.

 

Liam exploring the stream at the top of the creek
Liam exploring the stream at the top of the creek
Andrew exploring where the kayaks couldn't take them
Andrew exploring where the kayaks couldn’t take them

We got so far and then it was time for a cool down….

 

Liam testing out his dry suit in the fresh conditions
Liam testing out his dry suit in the fresh conditions
Andrew also went for a quick dip in the icey flow
Andrew also went for a quick dip in the icey flow

We negotiated the foliage and rocks and arrived  back at the kayaks. It was time to paddle back before the tide disappeared from the creek. We paid a visit to a old stranded wreck on the banks, where somebody had been collecting/hoarding various marine litter items that had floated up the river.

 

Liam taking a closer look at an abandoned boat
Liam taking a closer look at an abandoned boat

The 2.5 mile paddle back was a joy. Despite the lack of fish we had a great day on the water and eyed up a few more fishing marks for another day. We will be back!

 

Andrew heading into the frozen cornish mizzle
Andrew heading into the frozen cornish mizzle!
Taking a moment to capture some of the amazing scenery
Taking a moment to capture some of the amazing scenery!

 

Below is a video with some footage and images from the day on the water, check it out!

 

 

Liam and Andrew @ Cornwall Canoes