A fisherman in the truest sense of the word, Ron Sauber runs Groundswell Kayak Fishing, a kayak angler guide service based out of Oregon City, Oregon. Combining passions for science, education, and the culinary arts, Ron is making a thoughtful and unique impact within the industry and sport.
What first drew you to this style of angling?
I had recently sold my offshore powerboat, as $500 fill ups and $600 a month slip fees were making heading offshore less than practical. Several of the spots I used to fish were less than a 1/2 mile offshore and it didn’t take many days stuck on the sand when the ocean was perfect for me to look for someway to access the action. The “kayak fishing” episode on Oregon Field Guide came along at just the right time, the next day I snagged an old Cobra Fish and Dive warhorse off Craigslist and its been a blast ever since!
Do you remember the first fish that you caught from a kayak?
Black rockfish and a barely legal lingcod. First trip out in the salt. Launched by myself off the beach at Oceanside, Oregon. Paddled out past Three Arch Rock, entire time I was on full alert. Had fished for years offshore but a 12ft kayak was so different than a 30ft sport-fisher, I half expected to be eaten by a shark at any minute. After a bit I mellowed out, caught the fish, and to this day I still feel proud of that trip.
What food and/or music fuels your drive to the put-in?
Early morning finds me fueling up with Bob’s Red Mill Muesli and an iced coffee (man, I’m getting old). I’ve been known to sneak in a Payday bar and a Coke for a pre-launch snack. Depending on how I’m feeling I range from Cake, AC/DC, and The Beastie Boys, to NPR and John Prine.
Who is shaping the future of kayak angling?
I think there are two groups shaping the future of kayak angling. Group one are the folks like many of us who have really ingrained the “lifestyle” of kayak fishing into our everyday lives and feel passionately about its future. The second, and more important group, are those that come to the sport after others unveil the potential. They may have never owned a boat, or even fished much but once the possibilities of kayak fishing are revealed to them, they latch on to it. The more cubical jockeys that actually get out on the water in a kayak chasing fish the better. A kayak in every garage! With regard to specific individuals, there’s not really anyone in particular on the big picture kayak stage. I could care less what some big name blow from Texas, California or the Southeast is catching. “Wow, thats a big redfish…Who gives a shit?” I’m a local guy that catches local fish…salmon/steelhead etc. I grew up in a culture/family where fishing wasn’t a fun hobby that you just picked up after you got bored with disc golf, it was who you were, its what you did, and people knew, and respected you for it. I’ve got plenty of respect for local folks who get out there and put fish on the deck out of a yak. Not just once but consistently and not after someone else shows them every damn step. They get out there and figure things out, make things happen and inspire others to get out and do the same. Michael Rischer, Bryce Molenkamp, Mark Veary, and Rory O’Connor are a few folks that make this happen. I have a strong connection to the rivers and ocean. Before I went on a first date with my wife (I knew she was the one) and before my wedding, I went down to the river and asked the river for permission and its blessing. Having spent probably more time on or near the water than anywhere else, I have strong feeling for the place and the activity that brings me there. In my family when someone dies, the word “fishermen” almost always makes the first sentence of the eulogy. So I have little patience for the big talkers but no walkers in the kayak fishing world.
What sparked the idea to start a kayak angling guide service?
Working as a substitute teacher and a personal chef in the winter allows me lots of flexibility in how I spend my time. In the summers I needed something to keep me busy, and as I have watched kayak angling explode here in the NW, I thought it might be getting mainstream enough to support a guide. In the past I had considered going the traditional NW, big sled, river guide route, but talk about a saturated, not to mention high overhead, market. Kayak fishing has so many positive features and possibilities, its hard not to get excited about sharing them with others. As a life long fishermen, as well as someone with a background in science and education, it makes for a fun and easy job for me. Its a blast taking what I have learned over the years fishing Oregon rivers, modifying it for a kayak, and then sharing it with others. Time flies when I’m on the water with clients and I get home hardly believing someone just paid my to spend a day on the water.
What’s in your milk crate?
Instead of a milk crate I rock the “Vittles Vault,” which, mind you, might not be a bad title for a food related section of “The Milkcrate”. My Vittles Vault carries all of my trip specific gear, tackle, food, etc etc. I try to keep things simple and effective when it comes to yak fishing gear, and take the same mind set when it comes to everyday life. I don’t have much time for flash crap - gear, people or otherwise - that don’t work or get the job done.
Barring money or logistics, would tomorrow’s fishing trip take you to the local lake or far-off lands?
I fish quite a bit, most of it in Northwestern Oregon, and although I dearly love the angling opportunities it provides, it would not be a hard decision. I’d head off somewhere warm and exotic. Somewhere so unlike here that it would seem like the surface of the moon. An island in the Indian ocean or an atoll in the South Pacific. Wouldn’t even have to be “trophy” fish around; just the idea of warm water, hot sun, tasty food, maybe a nap and a cold drink here and there would be more than enough.
Tell us about your best day on the water.
Any day where I can help someone with a totally new yak fishing experience. Be it their first time on the ocean or their first salmon or whatever. Nowadays, I get way more out of this than any personal angling accomplishment.
What is the kayak angling lifestyle?
All people have some core activities they value that makes them who they are. Bicycling, or photography, or hunting, or mountain climbing etc. These core things shape their lifestyle, and often dictate the direction of their lives. It might influence what they do for a living, where they go on vacation, where they live, who their friends are etc. For some of us it’s kayak fishing that fills that niche and gives direction and meaning to a significant portion of our lives.
What does the future hold for you?
Work to mold and shape my guide business into something relevant and meaningful. Work to expand the sport both as a concept and, in a more practical sense, its expansion into more and varied fisheries.
Photos by Jeff Anderson and Ron Sauber