Ty Southerland is best known in kayak angling circles as the host of the wildly popular online series “30 Miles Out.” To the rest of the world, he’s known as Ty of Ty and the Semiautomatics, a nationally touring and recording band that has played with some of music’s biggest stars. An angler passionate about his Cajun roots and surroundings, Ty is also blessed with the ability to transform ordinary Bic ink into stunning artwork that reflects his aquatic adventures. Ty is sponsored by Native Kayaks, Temple Fork Outfitters, Impact Lures, and The Fish Grip.
What first drew you to this style of angling? When was that?
I was living in Lake Charles, Louisiana. This was about 1998. I had salt water all over town. We would site cast red fish with a fly rod out of poling skiffs 4 days and nights a week. When I had a friend to go with me, it was great. When I was alone, it was a hassle to launch a boat, push pole the boat, and deal with a fly rod. I bought my first yak, an Ocean Kayak Frenzy. I could carry it under one arm. It was liberating. I then soon got a Wilderness Systems Ride. It made a boat seem overkill. No gas, no registration, no boat expense! Still caught a lot of fish! I have had many motor boats, from flats skiffs on up to a 22′ bay boat rigged for offshore. To run offshore for the day in my bay boat would cost me a lot of money. The first time I caught a pelagic fish in a plastic kayak, it was darn near free by comparison. I was then “all kayak all the time.” Sold my boats. Been yak’n ever since. The fact that a guy can spend a few hundred bucks on a used yak off say, Craigslist, no gas, no registration, no blown trailer tires, no repairs…
Take that yak , fish 6″ water on flats for reds that morning. Take the same plastic yak, launch off a beach that afternoon, and catch kingfish? What? For next to nothing? Still blows my mind…
Do you remember the first fish that you caught from a kayak?
I was in Lake Charles, LA, by myself, next to the Haymark plant. I was in my Wilderness Systems Ride. It was new; I had just bought it from a kayak store in Beaumont, TX. The out going tide was pulling water out of a cut through the marsh grass. I made a big cast with a clouser fly into the cut. Bam! I caught a nice flounder; that was my first yak fish.
Through YouTube and associated social media, your long time dream of hosting a fishing show was realized. With episodes of “30 Miles Out” reaching tens of thousands of views, it can be said that you have realized your dream with a high degree of success. What advice would you give to a fellow kayak angler with similar but as-yet-unrealized ambitions?
Keep it fun. If you’re having fun on camera, so will others watching.
What food and/or music fuels your drive to the put-in?
I have a mix of what I call “water music.” Bunch of tropical stuff – Bob Marley, Jimmy Buffet. Anything with steel drums. I love to get into the island vibe when heading to the coast. As for food, I usually make some egg sandwiches for the road. We leave early, so coffee is usually in order. Favorite thing in the cooler while fishing is a little odd. When on the wate,r I like anything that gives me fuel , cools me down, and is easy to consume. Walmart carries an Atkins diet 4 pack of protein shakes for 5-6$. They eat like a meal. I don’t have to keep bread dry, and they cool me down. Super easy yak food.
Who, specifically, is shaping the future of kayak angling?
Man, for this, I gotta go with my buddy Kayak Kevin from kayakkevin.com. If you don’t know Kevin, you gotta check him out. He is very inventive, and is a super hard core yak fisherman. Kevin does long range kayak fishing tours! I’m talkin’ bout putting in in Pensacola, FL, and months later taking out in his home town in Virginia!!! What??? He films the whole adventure. He’s got some really cool ideas.
Your drawings invoke in one a true sense of place. It is obvious that you have soaked in your surroundings, and have truly made them a part of you. The viewpoint of your art is often that of a paddler set upon the backwater surface. Explain to us the creative processes that take you from observational kayaking trip to finished piece.
My work is inspired by my Louisiana family and love of my Cajun culture. I’m from Houma, Louisiana. Terribonne parish is 60% water and 40% land! And 6′ below sea level! Like the song I wrote – I’ve got “water in my veins.” I learned to fish when spending time with my cousins Marty Decoteau, Bryan Butcher, and Paul Prejean. We ran the bayous and swamps endlessly. When kayaks came into the picture, they gave me so much more time on the water. I would spend a whole day just shooting pics of anything on the water that just reeked Louisiana. An old boat shed, a cypress tree, an old dock. I really try to capture the vibe of Cajun country with my art, and since most of that revolves around water, my yak would put me right in the middle of it all. Most of the images are related to my family. A cypress tree on the bayou side behind my cousin’s house, the big live oak on my uncle’s sugar cane farm. One of my best sellers was the house of my great grandmother, titled in Cajun French ” la masion de grandmere sonnier.” It’s all about the water, culture, the music and the food that profoundly inspires me.
My grandma Boudreaux will take just about anything I pull out the bayou (in my yak) and make the most gourmet meal, from gumbo to blacked redfish to sauce piquante! What? Cest ce Bon! Man, that’s the stuff that inspires me to draw a picture or write a song, bro.
Barring money or logistics, what is your dream kayak angling trip?
I’d like to spend some time on Christmas island. I’d also like to get lost in the FL keys for a few weeks while island hopping.
What’s in your milk crate?
PVC pipe. 2 vertical PVC rod holders straight up in the back of the crate. Right behind me, on the crate, I like to have 2 PVC pipes at angles. This allows me to troll rods with a wide spread. I also have a soft cooler that fits perfect inside my milk crate. Odds and ends – the fish gripper, rod lanyards.
Other dimensions of your life have you working as a professional musician, and your music can be heard in episodes of “30 Miles Out.” Do there exist any similarities between the creative processes involved with making music and those that allow you to artfully catch fish in front of video cameras?
Yes, there are many parallels to making an episode of 30milesout and song writing. Like a song, each episode has a beginning, middle, and end. I see each episode as a song, or a piece of stand alone art. I shoot the raw footage, and lay it out in my computer, and start looking for that beginning, middle, and end. Or that chorus, bridge, and hook, if you will. I try to make the episode pull you along like a song building to a big climax. While filming, I try to capture as many cool unique angles as possible. I also focus on action. Whether it’s someone turning their head or fighting a big fish, the action keeps the video moving.
Tell us about your best day on the water.
On my show 30milesOUT, episode 15, we were at a rig about a mile off Corpus Christi. Iit was a slick, glass clam late summer day. We managed to land a 4 1/2′ 60lb cobia! That was a pretty good day!
What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?
For me, it’s about minimalism with max amounts of fun! It’s about simplicity. Being connected to nature in a quiet way. And, at the same time, being really close to the action. Kayaks allow me to be on the water more often and easily than any other way. More days on the water = happy times for me. Kayak fishing lifestyle, for me, is about staying connected to nature in simple way.
Tell us a story, any story.
One summer, ( in my youth), at my grandma’s in Houma, LA, my cousin and I caught some alligators by hand, and released them at my grandmas house in town in BayouTerribonne. The little alligators grew. People threw scraps from the restaurants to them. Then one day it was on the news: a 12′ alligator was caught by the police in the Luby’s parking lot! People freaking out!!! We knew it was ours. Oh, to be a kid again!
What does the future hold for you?
Well, I’d love to see 30milesout continue to grow. I’m looking forward to my new partnership with Native Kayaks. We have some pretty cool ideas brewing for this spring fishing season. I love watching our sport grow. I look forward to helping as many people get involved with kayak fishing as possible! I also have a show I do in the winter time called Arrow Slingn TV. Also on YouTube. All traditional bow hunting. Long bow and recurve. Bob Lee bows just built me a killer custom recurve for the show. pretty excited about that, as well.