Yippee for the Gumotex Halibut - Old Duffer is happy!
For a while I was starting to think my kayak fishing and bird watching days afloat were nearing their end. I got my first kayak in the late 1950’s which gives you an idea how old I am. I got my first kayak shop in the 1990’s and kayaks have always been a big part of my life.
You may wonder why the author of this review is so pleased to own a Halibut when he can choose whatever kayak he wants...
Firstly I like everything we stock in Canoe Shops Group - if we did not rate the product we would not stock the product. That said its obvious I would like some products more than I like some others. The list of kayaks I have owned is long and as I have said for years your kayak should fit you like your favourite pair of slippers. From that list my favourite sea kayak is the North Shore Polar Buccaneer my favourite club boat was the Jive 8 10 and surf kayak was the Ballistic – All now out of production so what do I know? I have fished for more years than I have kayaked and some of the kayaks I have enjoyed the most are my Hobie Outback, Feelfree Moken 10, Feelfree Moken 12, Perception Freedom and Ocean Kayak Trident 11. I would happily fish from a barn door if that’s all that was available.
We have sold inflatable kayaks for many years but I never had the need for one but that has now changed. I no longer have the need for a 17ft Sea kayaks or a Surf kayak but I am still breathing so need to fish and go bird watching. If I’m heading off on my own for a few hours R&R with fishing rods or binoculars car topping or van topping a rigid kayak is hard work without help. Gone are my days when punching out through challenging conditions to fish in tidal currents.
What I want to do now is to slip quietly up a Cornish creek chasing Mullet or Gilt Head Bream or watching Kingfishers and spoonbills whilst soaking up some quality time out. There are some stories linked to anything called Halibut. I have fished for Halibut inside the Arctic Circle and loved every minute of it and to see a long and boring video of Duffer tackling a Halibut Click Here. I ordered the Halibut in a restaurant in Poole and the portion was half the size of a fish finger – how they ribbed over that dinner. Now I want to take my time, chill out and catch and release some PB estuary fish and get up close and personal to some indigenous bird species.
I can lug 21kg into the back of the car or van quite easily and reckon I can do that for a good few years yet. I can inflate the boat next to my launch site using a 12 v pump run off the car battery. I can buy some bait if I can’t be bothered to collect my own and I’m good to go. The Fridge Fairy is happy to see the back of me for half a day and knows I’m paddling in a sheltered spot well out of harm’s way and in a couple of years time my grandson can take the bow seat when I hope to teach him how to fish and enjoy nature.
A bit about inflatable kayaks and canoes.
Simply put - you get what you pay for and Basic, Better and Best is clearly visible in inflatable kayaks. The basic kayaks are little more than a shaped air bed and are vulnerable to puncture and tearing, suitable only for shallow water use with a limited life span.
Better inflatables kayaks have inflatable bladders encased in a fabric cover and suitable for more general use. The Best are made of fabrics similar to that used on Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIB’s) and have extended life expectancy. The Best inflatables we can bring to the market are made by Gumotex in Nitrilon fabric in a factory approved to ISO 9000.
We have visited the factory and seen the production and testing procedures in place and were impressed with what we saw. All inflatable components are pressure tested before assembly and then pressure tested for 12 hours after assembly – we don’t know of any other manufacturer with such stringent production methods. Gumotex make a wide range of high value products using Nitrilon from kayaks and canoes through to pollution control products and parts for high value cars.
Another reason for my selecting the Halibut is it helps me manage sciatica and stiffness and I have an ample supply of both these days!
The seating position on the Halibut is superb for a kayak and the duck boards firm up the seating position. The back support is also good and the boat pushed easily through the water. Years ago I would paddle my surf kayak up onto the beach then roll out of the cockpit until I was able to stand up again - those days are long long gone – I want some comfort.
Kayaking in sheltered waters is not only for wrinklies with grey hair like me. The beauty and reward gained from a quiet paddle in some of the UK’s stunning environments is not the preserve of the old but is for everyone. Not everyone is keen on the extreme forms of paddling on white water or at sea with assumed risk that can be life threatening at times.
Metaphorically speaking “do whatever floats your boat” and enjoy yourself. Apart from all the usual paraphernalia about tides, weather and on water safety, my advice for anglers fishing a Halibut is “catch and release is most rewarding” and for bird watchers please stay well away from nesting birds.
To be honest I did not see this one coming. I have been married to the Fridge Fairy for more than 40 years and she can paddle a bit. She is also Mrs Canoe Shops Group and our top executive. I was surprised when she asked to “try out” my Halibut and later on she set off up the East and West Looe rivers in Cornwall. She is a bird watcher but is only interested in what we have locally and what migrates usually – she does not fish (which is a relief for me). On her return from said bird watching paddle, I was greeted with “I like it but why is it named after a fish”? I would like it more if it was called Avocet or Egret or Kingfisher and by the way, I don’t need the fishing rod holder!
It’s called a Halibut because the “marketing man” can see more pounds in fishing than bird watching said I – well tell the marketing man he could be wrong and call it Avocet! I stand corrected, as usual, and best I get another Halibut/Avocet pdq as two will easily fit in the back of the car.
With that said and done it was time to put the Halibut in the hands of our resident kayak fishing guru.
On-water testing by Cornish Kayak Angler
I was quite excited when Duffer told me that there was a new fishing kayak on the market for me to test. I have paddled and fished from a wide range of kayaks and it is always nice to paddle something different and try something new. Duffer told me the kayak would arrive on the next truck sent down to Cornwall Canoes. The truck arrived, we offloaded boxes and lots of kayaks but there was no sign of a shiny new fishing kayak.... hmmm. A phone call and a bit of laughing later and I was told to take a closer look at the boxes we had unloaded..... And there it was, amongst boxes of stock, a fishing kayak in a box.... the Gumotex Halibut!!
This was quite unexpected and to be honest an inflatable kayak hadn’t crossed my mind. Why would it? I have no need for one. I can see why Duffer will use one but my limbs are not creaking with every step, my back is fine shape, and the thought out zooming around on my Hobie Revolution 16 is much more inviting than chasing Duffers PB small fry around an estuary!! I do get earache though.... i better not say anymore on that before there is trouble!
Now that I was faced with an inflatable fishing kayak I was starting to ponder on the idea of fishing from one, or rather why I would need to fish for one. For some people, it is impossible to either store or transport a solid kayak, so an inflatable certainly offers a means to still get on the water. For others like poor old Duffer (emphasis on the old!), I can certainly see why an inflatable kayak offers a more comfortable way to go kayaking. There is no lifting of a big, heavy piece of plastic onto the car/van roof. There is no lugging of a heavily laden kayak down to the waters edge and back. The whole thing can be carried down to the waters edge in the supplied back pack. Grab a couple of rods and a box/bag with some fishing kit, bait and your lunch and that’s pretty much all that is needed for a relaxing day on the water. And a relaxing day on the water was exactly what I needed.
On paper, the Halibut does look a great piece of kit. The 12ft hull is constructed from tough/durable Nitrilon material and comes equipped with features including a raised seating platform, accessory dashboard with rod holder and even an anchor trolley! This is certainly not a cheap toy but a quality piece of kit designed specifically for fishing. Whilst not my vessel of choice, it would certainly be interesting to see how an inflatable fishing kayak squares up against the usual rigid plastic fishing kayaks I am used too.
Now, there are certainly going to be some drawbacks with having an inflatable kayak. My first concern is performance. Inflatable kayaks tend to have more flex in the hull than a rigid kayak, which may see the Halibut a little slower through the water. Inflatable kayaks are also known to suffer in the wind as they have a higher freeboard than rigid kayaks – this presents a limitation as to when one can be safely used. Not a problem for those who are sticking to the calmer days in sheltered waters such as lakes, inland waterways and calm estuaries. Not so great for large open expanses of water though. Duffer and his estuary expeditions are the perfect habitat for the Halibut! Another concern.... inflatable’s and hooks. Not an ideal combination so a little care will need to be taken when handling these sharp objects on the kayak. Not the end of the world, but something to be kept in mind.
So, stick to calm days/sheltered waters and be careful with sharp objects.... got it. I decided to inflate the Halibut prior to a session so I knew how everything was assembled and to see what space I had to work with on the kayak. A little more on setting the kayak up later, but I had plenty of space to carry my fishing gear. The accessory dashboard comes with one Cannon rod holder but I decided to add a Raymarine Dragonfly fish finder and an additional rod holder because I wasn’t doing anything by halves! I kept the fish finder rigging simple – the unit mount was screwed onto the dashboard, the battery stored in a dry bag at the front of the kayak, and the transducer placed in the water using some cord tied to the grab lines on the side of the kayak... simple but it would do the job fine.....a bit like Duffer! The Halibut was now a super Halibut and ready to fish.
Fishing on the Gumotex Halibut
A calm and sunny day was spied on the forecast and the Halibut was loaded into the car boot along with a few bags of fishing gear and bait. It was a little strange driving down to the mark without a kayak on the roof.
I would be heading down to the local River Fal to fish within the sheltered estuary waters in the hope of Ray. I would need to fish at anchor for these fish, and seeing as the Halibut has the anchor trolley already fitted; it was just a case of taking my anchor reel and a small anchor. It is fairly simple fishing with light gear so i didn't need a lot of stuff with me. Travelling lightweight is certainly a nice change from the usual.
The launch spot requires a 300 yard walk to the waters edge. Within a couple of minutes I was walking down with the Halibut on my back in the supplied storage rucksack, paddle and rods in hand and my fishing crate full of my gear and bait.
Conditions were perfect. Mirror calm water with no wind, a bit grey and foggy but it was due to burn off during the morning. It was time to inflate the Halibut.
The first step is to take it out of the bag and roll out the hull. The kayak includes a tracking fin, and this slots into a patch beneath the kayak towards the stern – this helps with straight line tracking.
The seat sits on a raised wooden platform and this bolts onto the kayak using supplied fixings and eyelets on the hull. The front accessory board and rear accessory board attach to the kayak in the same way. There are several eyelets along the kayak for these to attach to so you can find a suitable position. I positioned the front board to allow me to use it as a footrest whilst paddling.
The Halibut features wooden floor boards to add rigidity to the hull and also provide a solid platform to stand on. These are placed on the floor of the Halibut at the seat/standing area. With all the boards fitted/attached, the next step is to inflate the Halibut. I used a dual action hand pump. The Halibut features ‘Push-Push’ inflation/deflation valves and the kayak is supplied with a push-push valve adapter which attaches to the end nozzle on the pump and then this plugs into the valve securely. Inflate the floor first and then the side bladders. This was a 5 minute job and not tiring. The floor features an overpressure valve so this was pumped up until the valve hissed. The sides were pumped up until they were pretty rigid. All that was left was to inflate the seat – this is done by blowing into a screw valve until the seat is inflated. I rolled up the storage bag and placed this in the rear of the kayak along with the pump, chucked my fishing gear on and was ready to go!
I was quite impressed by how easy the set up was, and also the quality of the Nitrilon material. It is proper tough, and is more than capable of taking light scuffs and knocks without trouble. This is not a cheap inflatable beach toy. Ok, you may not want to ram it into sharp rocks at speed as that would be asking for trouble, but the usual dragging the kayak into and out of the water poses no problems on sand/shingle/pebbles. The whole kayak holds together very well and feels surprisingly rigid.
I like the accessory dashboard - this is ideal for adding rod holder and a fish finder to as i have done.
The seat looked pretty comfortable too - perfect for Duffer to perch on for a few hours without suffering from a bad back.
It was time to take to the water.
On the Water...
I wasn’t too sure what to expect now. I was heading into the unknown. I had never paddled an inflatable fishing kayak before. I jumped into the seat and took my first few paddle strokes. A little rock from side to side to get a feel for the hull. So far, so good! Initial thought.... I’m sat quite high up on this kayak. The wide and buoyant hull certainly negated any feeling of having a high centre of gravity on this kayak. I was away! Wow, this thing is paddling along just fine. Actually the Halibut was paddling much better than I had anticipated. The Raymarine Dragonfly has GPS so I could see my paddling speed.... I was cruising at just over 3 knots. Not bad at all and not far off other 12ft solid fishing kayaks on calm water. I pushed a little harder and was moving at 3.6 knots. Sure, the Halibut would fall behind a solid kayak in choppy or windy conditions but you probably wouldn’t be out on an inflatable then anyway. I was impressed nonetheless and that was good because I had a mile to paddle to the mark.
I was using a Feelfree Day Tourer Fibreglass Paddle that was 230cm long – this was perfect and you wouldn’t want any shorter for this relatively wide kayak. The Halibut has a bungee paddle holder on the side of the hull so the paddle is easily stowed whilst fishing.
At the mark and I dropped the anchor to the bottom. The anchor trolley on the Halibut is fairly basic comprising of a loop of cord running from bow to stern. I fashioned a small loop within the cord to pass my anchor line through and then shuttled this to the stern. I then knotted off the anchor line to the cord once I had enough line out to hold bottom. Simple and does the job.... just like... ah I’ve already said that one!
I was using light lure rods with running ledger rigs. Hooks baited with squid and sandeel and cast down-tide to wait for a ray to come along. Rods in the rod holders and i was fishing...
The sun finally came out and it was heating up. The seat was comfortable; once the straps were adjusted I could lean back, relax and soak up the sun.
A bite! I had hooked a fish but it wasn’t a Ray, it felt smaller and it was. It was a Bull Huss. Part of the shark family, these fish can grow up to 20lb, and double figure fish are possible were I was fishing. This one was a baby though.
The bites kept coming and they were all small Bull Huss up to the 4-5lb mark. A good bit of sport on the light rods though.
Amongst the Bull Huss bites something different came along, and it looked to be a ray settling on top of the squid bait. I gave it a little while and soon enough it was swimming off with the bait. I bent into a fish which was pulling back!
It was a ray and giving a good account of itself. It wasn’t a proper lump but all rays put a good bend in my light rods. It appeared beneath the kayak.... it was a Spotted Ray! My first one of the species too and it’s not through lack of trying to catch one either. Super!
Soon released back to the depths after a photo or two. The Bull Huss kept coming and I must have had 20 or more by now. The sun was now very hot and the water was like a millpond. Ideal inflatable weather!
I had noticed something about the Halibut, there are no drainage/scupper holes. A small amount of water was on the floor of the kayak, no more than a couple of cups worth from pulling fish into the kayak. It is unlikely you would ever be out in conditions where you may swamp the kayak, but I had not considered that the deck is not self draining. Anyhow, I upped anchor and moved marks further up river. I was paddling against the tide now but still made a steady 2.5 knots. New mark and the bites were non-existent. I did however manage a few starfish. In fact every bait i cast out was getting their attention, so much so i reckon even Duffer could have caught one!
It was nearing low tide and I called it a day. A leisurely paddle back to the beach was made even more pleasant by paddling over sea-grass beds in shallow clear water close to the beach – a stunning sight to see an underwater meadow wafting in the tidal flow.
I landed and started to dissemble the Halibut ready to pack away. The Halibut features a small drainage port at the stern - you pull a small tab out from a slot to open it up. I lifted the bow and the pint or so of water that had accumlated in the cockpit was quickly drained away. Deflation is super easy – the Push-Push valves have a red push button – push and quarter turn this to keep the valve open and deflate the kayak – this took less than a minute!
It was then a case of folding the kayak up and packing it all back into the transport bag. Thank you Gumotex - a company who make their storage bags a bit bigger than is needed - there was no fighting to get the rolled up kayak back into it's bag. I was soon packed away and walking back to the car, passing a few perplexed faces, who had watched me paddle in 15 minutes before, wondering where the kayak was!
Here's a little video of the day:
So what did i think to the Halibut?
All in all it was a rather enjoyable day. Tucked away in the shelter of the Fal estuary on a balmy spring day with no wind, the Gumotex Halibut was a joy to use for a few hours fishing. The Halibut exceeded my expectations and it is a great piece of kit for those who don’t have the means to store or transport a solid fishing kayak but still want to get out for a few hours on the water. Sure, an inflatable fishing kayak has limitations over a solid kayak, with less efficient hull designs and a high freeboard which is prone to windage, but used in calm conditions with little or no wind in lakes, rivers, sheltered estuaries etc., an inflatable fishing kayak has its place and can offer a means to enjoy a few hours fishing.... and that is exactly what I did today on the Gumotex Halibut. It was certainly a different feel from the fishing kayaks I am used too, but it was more capable than I had first anticipated. The hull is very tough and not what you'd expect when the word inflatable is mentioned... to be honest I was pleasantly surprised. Duffer will be most happy escaping earache, errr i mean plodding around the river and estuary creeks searching for bream, mullet and flounders on the Gumotex Halibut. Whether or not he will catch any remains to be seen...