Rob Appleby

Rob Appleby, a 20 year veteran of the UK Navy, is best known as the man behind the popular blog, Saltwater Kayak Fisherman.  With an artistic eye and grand vision, Rob has created a rich online world in which anglers can view trip reports, receive advice, and take in the sights of the UK waters Rob calls home.  A true ambassador of the sport, Rob can often be found assisting new anglers or answering inquiries into his innovative rigging techniques.  Rob is a Pro Staff member for YakAttack and a Crew member for HOOK1.

What first drew you to this style of angling? When was that?

UK fish stocks have been in a constant decline since the 1960’s. I began sea angling from the shore in earnest from the late 70’s, and witnessed my catch rate drop steadily over the years. By the early 90’s I’d become quite disillusioned to the point where I seriously considered quitting the sport altogether, though I decided to mothball my tackle instead. It was in 2006 that I first heard about kayak fishing. Clearly it involved fishing from a kayak, though that was the limit of my knowledge at the point in time!  Initial research indicated one interesting fact – these kayak fishermen were catching far more than I had been for several years. This type of angling clearly warranted further research, something I did for several months before taking the plunge and purchasing my Prowler Big Game in mid-2007.

Do you remember the first fish that you caught from a kayak?

I certainly do; it was nothing special – a pouting of around 8oz, the first of many pouting and whiting I caught during my first real angling session afloat on my kayak.  These were small fish, though my catch during that first session exceeded anything I’d experienced from the shore for quite some time. I was hooked and there was no turning back, and I’ve not fished from the shore since.  I’m a total covert to the sport.

What food and/or music fuels your drive to the put-in?

That’s a good question. Most of my sessions take place outside the normal working day, so my fishing diet tends to consist of junk food, fast food, fish n’ chips, biscuits, etc., with a couple of Cokes to keep me hydrated during the journey.  Having typed that up it doesn’t read too well – I’ve made a mental note to try and be healthier for future trips!

As for music, my tastes are generally easy listening, and local radio stations generally suffice. That said, I often lose the signal in the more hilly areas, and I’ll revert to the CD player. My wife generally has control of the in-car entertainment, so selecting the CD’s tends to fill the car with R&B tunes. Though not initially to my taste, months of brainwashing whilst driving means I’ve actually become quite swept up on the R&B scene, and I’ll admit to enjoying the beats. Music certainly influences my mood, and at times I’ll doubt my sanity when leaving the house at a somewhat unsocial hour. However, with the car full of tunes my enthusiasm soon returns.

Your blog, Saltwater Kayak Fisherman, extends past the typical genre, and effectively and stylishly offers up a well integrated mix of product reviews, technically composed photographs, trip reports, and helpful tips.  It has, in short, transcended from a piece of print media into what can only be termed as “online art.”  From where do you attribute your ability to creatively and consistently draft these posts?

Well firstly, thank you for the compliment. I started off keeping my blog as a basic diary for myself. I’m not alone in that; many people share their experiences and knowledge whether it be through a personal website or a public forum. I pulled heavily on this online information during my early years, and,  after receiving some positive feedback to my early blog posts, decided I wanted to contribute to this worldwide online resource. My website has constantly evolved, and I strive to provide information that others will at times find beneficial.

I do try to be creative with regards to presentation, as it’s adds to the interest and variety. It’s also a challenge of sorts for myself. I’m a firm believer that a picture paints a thousand words, hence you’ll find a generous splattering of images and illustrations throughout my website. Prior to kayak fishing, I spent many hours photographing landscapes, etc. I’ve effectively integrated my passion for photography with my enthusiasm for kayak fishing, and I can easily become fixated on trying to capture a particular angle or image.

The last couple of years have seen me produce several kayak fishing videos. Allied with much editing practice and upgraded video cameras, the quality of these videos has improved to no end, and they’re a great addition to a report or ‘how to’ article. I often have three cams capturing footage at any one time; it allows me to integrate multiple angles into a video, enhancing the video and adding some variety.

I’m constantly looking for ways to enrich my website; it’s a personal challenge and a thoroughly enjoyable one at that.

Who, specifically, is shaping the future of kayak angling?

That’s a particularly difficult question. If you’d asked me that three to four years ago, specific names would have come to mind. However, there are clearly many excellent anglers and innovators out there at this moment in time. There’s a huge amount of information readily available online, and I’m guilty of spending way too many hours surfing the web to keep up to date. Within the online forums there are a lot of forward thinkers and innovative individuals who are, without a doubt,  moving the development of the sport forward at a good pace.  If I had to name an individual within the industry, it’d have to be Luther Cifers. He’s a highly creative chap who’s doing a great job at producing a high quality range of aftermarket accessories that can be fully integrated as required to suit an individual’s needs. Keep up the good work, Luther!

With regard to kayak angling, what issues are important to you? What, if anything, can be done about them?

I’m constantly amazed by how many people take to the water without basic safety aids, whether it is a PFD, VHF radio, water-proofed mobile phone, flares, etc. I’ve spoken to people who’ve been kayak fishing for some time yet have never practiced re-entry drills. I often notice that individuals are poorly equipped, and I regularly read articles about individuals who’ve faltered due to being poorly prepared. There are anglers who fail to research new venues and those who over-estimate their abilities. It’s essential that kayak anglers are suitably prepared when taking to the water, that they understand how to use their safety equipment and can carry out their emergency drills should the need ever arise.  I know from personal experience that you cannot prepare yourself for every eventuality, though it’s a somewhat foolhardy person who overlooks this important aspect of the sport.

Barring money or logistics, what is your dream kayak angling trip?

I’ve read multiple reports of trips to Costa Rica, and it has the making of a dream trip. However, I have my heart set of making the journey to Ascension Island in the southern Atlantic. The fishing there is clearly incredible, though very few people has fished there from a kayak. I’ve spoken to several people who’ve fished there from both the shore and boat. Their stories are quite thrilling, and given the opportunity, I’d be there in the blink of an eye. Shark, tuna, sword and sailfish – what more could any kayak angler ask for?

Your name, as it pertains to kayak angling, is often associated with altruism.  Among the sport’s beginners, you are seen as a trusted resource and repository of knowledge.  When coupled with your experience and blog-related popularity, your willingness to welcome and guide newcomers has placed upon you a label of trusted mentor.  What does this responsibility mean to you?

I’m a big believe that when in doubt, ask. To some, a particular question may seem stupid and the answer obvious, however if they’re asking they clearly don’t know. I receive many questions, and I’ll always endeavour to answer them. Failing that, I’ll point them in a suitable direction. I’m a big believer in sharing knowledge, and I often sit for many hours writing articles for my website. As much as I endeavour to provide comprehensive articles, there’s always a few follow up questions. It’s then a case of making the time to answer queries and taking additional photographs as required. After all, there’s no point in providing half a service!

I’m always happy to share my experiences, give an opinion or a helping hand to modify a kayak. If a person is clearly making a mistake that could result in personal injury or damage to kayak, I’ll certainly point them in the right direction. However, with regards to general kayaking, there are often several solutions to a particular task or problem. I’ve witnessed people being quite blinkered when offering advice – it’s their way or no way. I always urget people to take their time, to research, and to ask the same question to several people and ultimately to form their own opinion. What works for one person won’t necessarily suit another.

When it comes to rigging, so many people have obviously fitted accessories then realized too late that they’ve positioned them poorly. I often find myself stressing to people the importance of trial fitting items prior to drilling holes in their pride and joy. I’ve spent many hours in the garage sitting on my kayak with accessories gaffer taped here and there. I’ll leave it overnight, giving it more thought, before assuming the same position the following evening, making adjustments before repeating the process. My wife seems quite indifferent to these nocturnal activities, though it goes a long way to preventing expensive mistakes and enhancing the kayak fishing experience.

What’s in your milk crate?

I don’t actually have a milk crate. I produced a ‘dry box/live well combo,’ which I take afloat on all my trips. What’s in there? Quite simply everything I require to sustain a fishing trip for eight to twelve hours. You’ll find a flask of coffee, a Peli case for valuable and keys, gloves, hats, first aid kit, headlamp, box of emergency spares/kit (line cutters, nav light bulb, headlamp, knife, batteries, superglue, spare rod rings, bungee cord, etc.), Cyalumes, scales, spare anchor, food, mosquito spray, sunblock, ‘pot buoy rope’ and a ‘relief bottle’. I don’t exactly qualify as a minimalist!  However, after traveling for an hour or two, paddling a mile or more offshore, the last thing I want is to have to cut a trip short. A basic equipment failure, personal injury or something as simple as dropping a vital piece of equipment such as a headlamp or filleting knife overboard can end a trip, so I try and safeguard myself against such occurrences.

Tell us about your best day on the water.

Myself and a good friend have an on-going competition to catch the largest Cod from a kayak. The honours have changed hands several times as we’ve witnessed some specimen fish of 16lb, 21lb and 27lb come to the kayak over the past couple of years. It was during a night session whilst fishing the Bristol Channel last February that I landed my most memorable fish to date. As the tide slackens at this venue, the fishing tends to go quiet, though that night proved to be an exception. I hooked into something solid towards high water, fifteen minutes and a memorable tussle later, a large cod rolled onto the surface. It’s always at this moment that I dread losing the fish. If I’ve not eyeballed it, the loss of a fish doesn’t hurt too much, though once it’s been sighted it’s a different matter! Fortunately the cod came aboard without drama, and weighed in at a cracking 29lb. I was so satisfied that I was about to pull anchor and head home, however I decided to persevere in the sub-zero temperatures for another hour or two. Ten minutes later I pulled up a 14lb Cod! So I fished on hoping for a another! A third fish never materialized, though it was irrelevant. I’d enjoyed the Cod fishing session of a lifetime.

What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?

I appreciate the independence, the peace and tranquility of getting away from it all once afloat. For me it’d be enjoying a perfect sunset whilst floating on a tranquil sea, before the serenity is broken by the scream of a reel… perfect!

You have stated that you have, on at least a few occasions, nearly given up the sport of fishing.  However, it was the addition of a kayak that helped you rekindle your fondness for angling.  Tell us a bit about how a small plastic boat guided you back to the sport you have enjoyed from an early age.

Well, I’m not a natural kayaker. In fact, if you’d informed me ten years ago that I was to become an enthusiastic kayak fisherman, I’d have cracked a few ribs laughing!. During the mid-90’s, I partook in a week’s white water canoeing in South Wales. It was a highly unpleasant experience, especially for someone who lacked confidence underwater. I was renowned for the speed at which I could vacate an upturned canoe, at times pushing the canoe totally clear of the water as I pushed out. As for paddling in a straight line, that was a skill I struggled to master. I swore that I’d never take to the water on a canoe again. As I mentioned earlier, the decline of UK fish stocks had a detrimental effect on shore fishing to a point where I seriously considered quitting the sea fishing scene altogether.

On hearing about kayak fishing, I commenced months of research, though as much as I found myself fascinated by the possibilities the sport offered, I was struggling to forget my previous experiences. It was the re-sale values of fishing kayaks that enabled me to take the plunge. I deduced that if it wasn’t for me, I’d be able to sell my outfit with minimal financial loss.  It was worth the risk.

As it happened, it was worth the gamble. The freedom of being afloat, being able to fish over ground that shore fisherman can only dream of whilst seriously enhancing my catch statistics was exceedingly pleasing!. I knew after my first trip afloat that I’d made the right decision.  Looking back, I’m delighted that I made that leap of faith; it resurrected my passion for angling.

Tell us a story, any story.

A few years ago I was fishing some heavy structure for Bass with my good friend Jim. The venue was challenging to say the least. Now I have to admit that it was Jim who suggested that we fish this mark; it was new ground for me. We were anchored perhaps ten yards apart and settled down to fish into the night. Within a few minutes I was into a good sized fish, though it caught me off guard as I wasn’t used to such an aggressive take. I was primed for the next bite, moments later I was in again, and brought a nice sized bass into the kayak. Baits down again, a brief pause later my rod was bent double again, another good sized Bass being the result. Meanwhile Jim was looking on quietly; he’d not had so much as a tap. Minutes later, I found myself hooked up yet again; the bass came onto the kayak and was the largest of the evening. Though by this point Jim was clearly not amused, and due to too much laughter, I managed to drop the fish back into the water. Justice was served and Jim’s morale took a leap!. A short time later I hooked into a huge fish, though I was smashed before I knew what’d happened. The evening drew to a close, four fish to me, none to Jim. Having scouted the venue, then introduced me to it, Jim’s frustration was no doubt justified… but hey, that’s fishing.

Upon viewing your numerous videos, one could easily deduce that you have established some mastery over the positioning and use of your GoPro cameras.  The lack of display screen and required use of mounting material often cause kayak anglers a good deal of grief.  What advice can you offer to anglers wanting to better their on-water videography prowess?

When it comes to producing kayak fishing videos, there’s a lot of trial and error involved in the early stages. A lot of mistakes will be made before you finally reach the point of producing something respectable. I think that the head-mounted GoPro’s offers the best all round coverage, though it’s also the easiest one to screw up. Keep your head movements steady whilst recording, and trial the camera to find out which angle works best.  I’ve set all my GoPro’s to single button operation for starters, it prevents a lot of mistakes and lost footage. There’s nothing worse that thinking you’ve caught some great footage only to realise after that you didn’t record a thing.

I’m currently using three GoPro cameras on the kayak, which allows me to capture multiple angles simultaneously. That’s a real luxury, certainly not a requirement. A single GoPro can be used to good effect when swapped from one fixed position to another during a trip. There has until recently been a real lack of dedicated kayak camera mounts. I’m a big fan of the YakAttack range of camera mounts, though there are also some great examples of homemade camera mounts out there. As you mentioned, there’s not a viewfinder as standard, so it’s well worth taking trial footage in your chosen positions prior to hitting the water. Check out the resulting footage, making a mental note of what camera angles produce the best results. I can’t stress enough the need to trial and practice prior to getting afloat. It’s massively frustrating to realise after a trip that your cam was tilted up too high, too low, etc. There’s no ‘take 2’ on a kayak, especially when a memorable fish is involved!

What does the future hold for you?

I’m a member of the UK Armed Forces and I’ve two years or so left to serve. Myself and my family have always intended to emigrate, so the future will be ultimately dictated by our final destination. One thing’s for sure, it’ll be close to the ocean and I’ll continue to fish from a kayak. I’d love to run a small tackle shop or become a part time guide… I’ll get back to you with a better answer in 2-3 year’s time!

7 Responses to “Rob Appleby”

  1. Luther Cifers says:

    Rob is a great fellow and performs an important service for the kayak fishing community with his website His preparedness and commitment to safe kayak fishing are fine examples to many in the sport, and his thorough and informative blog is definitely one to keep in the favorites!

  2. Mark Crame says:

    Nice one Rob, I enjoyed that! Thoughts and feelings, philosophy and all that never really gets a mention on the various forums so it’s good to get that other handle on things. Keep writing fella.

  3. Dan Cooke says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading that. I also hit the water for the same reason. Watching guys a few hundred yards further than I can cast pulling in fish after fish.
    I thoroughly enjoy the blog

  4. Ian Harris says:

    A great read Rob. Hope to meet up when you get back. Keep up the good work with the blog.

  5. Lozz Taylor says:

    Super read Rob.Stunning blog youve put together.

  6. That’s a great read Rob and demonstrates your years of experience. I also read somewhere that you have a bit of a beach casting arm on you – I may sneak my beach rod along the next time we meet up for a few quick pointers ;)
    See you when you get back.
    Stay safe.

  7. Mark Knowles says:

    Incredible read ! I was smiling the whole time.

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