The middle section of the Youghiogheny always has action.
I’ve spent nine years working on the Youghiogheny river and the middle section is the least traveled of sections for me. I know it ok but I just haven’t spent a lot of time on it. I fish it and bike along side of its banks and when relatives come in I take them down this section if they are scared of the lower. It’s a fantastic section full of scenery and tons of lunker trout.
Recently I’ve been going on this section more and more on my stand up paddle board the Angler designed for fishing made by Imagine. I really like this board. It’s sturdy, wide, rigid, has tons of handles everywhere, tie down bungee areas for your gear and even Scotty Mounts for all kinds of accessories like rod holders. The bright orange color is also perfect for the river. It really stands out. Another great aspect of the board is an extremely important one that is easily overlooked, this is the fantastic retractable skeg desinged by Corran Addison. The beauty of this skeg is if you hit a rock the design will allow it to move rather than break. It’s a river running design that I just happened to stumble on when I bought the board but makes it stand out above all other river SUPs without a similar skeg design. For all I know they may all have them but I’m glad mine does and Corran has never stopped revolutionizing river designs. He’s one of a kind.
I decided that I was going to do more fishing on the Middle Yough and I was going to do it on my stand up paddle board and this account was the first day I was ever on river with the board. I figured I had better try it out with out a pole, tackle and all the fishing paraphernalia to see if I could manage it. So I put in at the bottom of the Youghiogheny Dam and paddled to Ramcat which is the actual put in for the Middle Yough. I just added on a couple miles or so.
The river level was 4.7′ and a bit overcast and off and on rainy, perfect river day.
I was excited to be out there. Paddled to Ramcat and had a great time hearing and seeing the train chugging along on river right and feeling like I was getting some really good exercise. I really like the board on the water. To me it’s like canoeing with a long paddle. It’s surprisingly fast on the water. I was really impressed how much speed you can get going.
My stop at Ramcat was good to get a rest, sign in for the Ohiopyle State Park DCNR folks and talked with some of the boaters that were going down the middle on my wave. It was great. I met some rafter’s of course that were putting in with guides and they were stoked about the water level. I also met a guy paddling a Daggar Katana 9.7. This was a really nice boat and he was talking it up. I was agreeing with him more and more looking it over. It would’ve been the perfect video kayak and I quietly wished I had owned it during my career as a videokayaker and photoboater. It was great talking with this guy so I asked to join him to go down the river and we did.
Before meeting him though I talked with an older couple that were canoeing with their grand kids who were in their teens. They had some fiberglass canoes and really nice wooden paddles that the women had made herself. These were nice. I was blown away. Jim Snyder and Keith Backlund would have done a double take on these blades they were good. They were bent shaft too with multicolored wood and super comfortable T-grips, we’ll done.
Talking with these folks and seeing these paddles I never thought twice that they may be in trouble and I would be rescuing them on a 5′ river, but I did.
Rescuing a canoe on the Middle Yough with a Stand Up Paddleboard.
It was so surprising how intuitive and familiar the board felt during this scenario. My throwbag was clipped into the rear bungee area and it was high out of the water and easily accessible. I was tethered to the board by my rescue vest which is another element that worked well. By the way my friend Nikki Greg has some really good information about tethers on rivers that I go by and other good information about SUP on rivers in general.
Wadding with a paddleboard made sense.
So I paddled to the left shore eddied out and got a plan of what I was going to do. The people were ok and I knew it was the older couple and the kids. I saw a canoe moderately broached left of center in the river and a person standing on some rocks downstream left of center as well with another boat and people on the river left shore. It looked calm to me and seemed like just a boat unpin or retrieval.
I paddled toward the boat slowly lowered myself into the water and began to aggressively wade down to the scene.
The SUP felt like a great platform for this. I could wade and felt like if I got into trouble or may get a foot entrapment type element happening I could easily use the board to assist me. I do know the Middle Yough and understand this section and that is what you do when boats get stuck up here so wading is what a commercial outfitter would do. But the main aspect that I was really thinking about was how it felt right with the board to assist me and could enable you to possibly, aggressively wade in more swift whitewater.
When I got to the broached canoe the tether to the board worked for me.
I could establish my footing thanks to the inflatable platform and easily unclipped my gear and was able to have two hands to work, rather than wrestling two crafts. The board was just right there and I could control it too. I feel there is a threshold here on water level and rapid class for sure but there is with any system of rescue and knowing when and how much is important. I simply clipped into the bowline on the canoe payed out some of my rope and started wadding and pulling it to shore. Moving slowly and supporting myself with the SUP and just tugging the boat in was the method employed and it was quick. I kept on thinking that it would not have been this easy in a kayak.
Stand Up Paddleboards may have a place in Swiftwater Rescue.
After I got to shore it was easy to grab one of the many handles all over the Angler SUP and place it on shore without losing the swamped canoe. The main thing I was grateful for was the retractable skeg. I just moved the small bungee cord that makes it work, place it up and put it up on shore where I knew the rig was safe then secured the canoe. The whole rescue was quick, simple and intuitive and I was really left with the impression that these boards could be used for SWR. I checked on the people and they were good to go.
The boat was in need of a repair job and the sweet wooden paddles were accounted for.
The paddlesmyth was holding her creations and the grand kids had a story to tell their classmates. Everyone had a big day and they were on the water maybe five minutes. They had gotten around the bend out of site from the take out and flipped at the first hydraulic left of center. I’m sure it has a name but I don’t know it. They got their gear together and hiked it up to the trail and went for some dry clothes. My first day paddling a SUP on the river was fun and it was great that I could be the white knight. I’ve always liked that and it was a fun day. Surprisingly enough I took my Go Pro on this day and captured the whole thing in HD. I put this edit together for instructional purposes and laid down a banjo guitar track for some background music. See what you think and give the SUP boards a thought for Swiftwater Rescue but make sure its a board with lots of handles like the Angler.