Tyler Rich

legacy

In correspondence with veteran angler and author, Cory Routh, the name Tyler Rich came up as one belonging to a truly inspirational and talented angler. Though a young man of college age, Tyler has already amassed more volunteer hours than anglers twice his senior. Widely known for his passion and ability to inspire and teach others, especially wounded warriors benefiting from services provided by HOW, Tyler truly embodies the best aspects of our sport.

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

I was first drawn to this style of angling as an alternative to wading when fly fishing. I wanted to get off the bank, but a lot of the places I fish are too tight for something like a drift boat. Not to mention I wanted something that would be moderately easy for me to maneuver on land by myself. I finally got my first kayak in the summer of 2009.

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

Not specifically, though I know it was a bluegill. They’re pretty prevalent in a reservoir about two miles down the road from my house, and that was the first place I took my boat. To this day, I still love fishing there as it’s so close; just throw the bare essentials in the truck, tie down the kayak, drive two miles, and you’re there.

A young man carrying with him a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, you have made quite the name for yourself in this sport. Share with us the advice you would give to other mobility-challenged anglers looking to move into a kayak-centered pursuit of fish.

Try as many boats as you can, in as many ways as you can! What sounds great in theory may not work out as well in practice, and vice versa. As I mentioned earlier, I started with a Ride 135. I bought it without ever paddling it, as it was billed as the most stable thing in the shop. While it was incredibly stable, I quickly found that it was too much boat for me to be able to handle without help. I’ve since moved on to smaller, lighter boats that are easier for me to handle by myself. Had I been able to live with the Ride for a little while before purchase, I would’ve figured this out beforehand and tried something different. Demo days are your friend! I’d also recommend keeping your rigging as minimal as possible. It will most likely take you longer to load and unload your boat than an able bodied angler, so by limiting unnecessary rigging, you’re shortening your setup time. Less time spent setting up means more time on the water.

 

tall grass

 

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

In terms of music, my tastes vary wildly, but I typically listen to a mix of Aerosmith, Boston, Gov’t Mule, and Mac Macanally, and Zac Brown to get me pumped up for a day of paddling. As far as food is concerned, I typically grab a chorizo burrito and a cup of coffee from a little gas station in Crozet before heading out. I know, a gas station burrito sounds incredibly sketchy, but I assure you, this place is legit. Inside this unassuming gas station lies homemade Mexican food, including homemade chorizo.

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

It’s tough to be specific given the shear number of folks out there, but if I had to name names I’d say Cory Routh, Mark Lozier, Rob Choi, and Kayak Kevin. Cory and Mark are shaping the future of the sport given their sheer visibility. They’ve gotten so many people into the sport that may not have become involved otherwise, be it through HOW, books, DVDs, radio shows, or guiding business. Both Rob Choi and Kayak Kevin have also been shaping the future of kayak angling through their footage, and Rob with his blog, as well. I know among my non-fishing friends there is this stereotype of ANY fishing, kayak or otherwise, as being boring, If you can watch any of Rob or Kevin’s footage and be bored, you need to check your pulse. In general though, I’ve found that the future of kayak angling lies with whomever ever is the next angler to set foot in a kayak.

 

Ty Hooked Up

 

You have to your name a lengthy volunteer history – one that teems with experiences related to the helping of wounded veterans. These outlets have you serving organizations such as HOW and an outfit dedicated to the supplying of Segway units to returning warriors. To what do you attribute your propensity for volunteer service?

I really don’t know to be honest. I guess I enjoy hanging out with the physically wounded guys. I feel I owe them a debt of gratitude. These guys have risked life and limb so that I have the freedom to go out and be a fishing bum, the least I can do is spend some time with them as a way of saying thank you. It is my hope that by being there I am helping to show them that there are no problems too great to be solved. I have a distinct advantage over them in that I’ve been “disabled” my entire life, so I know nothing different. Many of these guys are just getting used to the way their bodies work since being wounded, so maybe by seeing me they will be inspired, or learn some ways of getting around or tips and tricks that they may not have otherwise been exposed to.

 

sailfish

 

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

In my particular experience, the biggest issues that concern me in kayak angling are launch accessibility and accessible gear. The hardest part for me about kayak fishing is when the boats are on dry land. The easier it is to navigate the dry land leading up to the launch, the more fun it is to go fishing. By allocating more parking closer to launches, and making launches more accessible with smooth pathways and clear ingress and egress, you make it easier on everyone. Young, old, disabled, able bodied, it doesn’t matter; no one should have to scrub a fishing trip because they can’t get down to the launch.

As far as accessible gear is concerned, the paddling public has spoken, and it would appear that the manufacturers are listening. When I first started paddling, I started out with a Ride 135. At the time, it was really the only SOT on the market with the absolute bomb proof primary stability I required due to the CP. It was a good boat, but the outfitting left a lot to be desired, and it was a tad big. Unfortunately, there just really wasn’t anything in the twelve foot range that had the rock solid primary stability that the Ride had. Fast forward four years to 2013, and the market is just awash with these super stable boats. It’s really great to see. No longer must the paddler requiring that extra stability be pidgin holed to the longer, heavier, boats. With stuff like Native’s 12 foot Slayer, and the Ride 115, you’re really getting into a more manageable size that’s easier for folks with disabilities to handle, without sacrificing the stability. I personally paddle a Ultimate 12 Tegris, and a Mariner 10 from Native, both of which give me all the primary stability I need without feeling slow, or unwieldy when loading and unloading.

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

My dream kayak angling trip would be flats fishing in the FL Keys. I wish I could come up with something more exotic, but I just love it down there. I used to go down the keys quite a bit when I was a kid, and ever since getting into the kayaks, I’ve always thought it’d be fun to go back and fish from the kayaks for tarpon.

What’s in your milk crate?

My gear load out varies depending on whether I’m fly or spin fishing, but regardless of what type of fishing I’m doing I never leave home without a good sharp knife, a Leatherman, extra water, sunscreen, pliers, a book of knots, and a visipole.

 

how cory shot


Tell us about your best day on the water.

Every day on the water is a good day for me; I relish any opportunity to get out on the water, good or bad, because unfortunately, being a full time college student, they are few and far between. The one day that sticks out in my mind didn’t actually involve a kayak, but it was a great day nonetheless. In January 2010 I was able to go fishing off of Islamorada and managed to catch my first sailfish, a 60 pounder, on 12 lb test. It was a pretty awesome day! As far as kayaks are concerned, I fished in Crystal River Florida a few years ago. The fish weren’t cooperative, but it was pretty awesome to be able to fish at the confluence of two rivers and within a stones throw of the Gulf of Mexico. The scenery more than made up for the lackluster fishing.

What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?

In a word, simplicity. I love my kayaks because whenever I am kayak fishing I feel like I am tapping back into a simpler time and style of fishing that seems to have been forgotten by the rest of the fishing world. Some of my best times out kayak fishing have been merely watching the world go by, or seeing those I’m with catch fish. Kayak fishing puts me back closer to nature, which seems to be a precious commodity these days. In essence it’s the joy of fishing, without all the extraneous distractions.

Tell us a story, any story.

The first time I ever saw a fishing kayak must have been about 2008. I was in the Orvis store in Richmond, VA and Cory Routh was there giving a talk to promote his book. As a tie-in they had his fully loaded Manta Ray to show off as an example. Cory was sponsored by AT at the time, and was showing off the latest iteration of the Fishstix paddle. He was leaning on the paddle showcasing its strength, saying that it was kevlar and very hard to break. Moments after saying this, the blade promptly snapped. If you’ve never heard carbon kevlar snap, it’s a very loud, sickening crack. The entire shop went deathly quiet, followed by a collective groan. Cory promptly went out to his truck and got another paddle. It was a freak occurrence, but funny nonetheless.

 

panfish

 

You now reside 240 miles inland from the salty waters in which you cut your angling teeth. How has this predicament impacted your angling outlook and focus?

My distance from the salt, coupled with my busy schedule, makes it difficult to get out as much as I’d like. On average I’d say I get out maybe six to eight times a year, more so if I have nothing going on in the summer. The scarcity with which I get out makes me appreciate my trips even more, it’s also given me a greater appreciation for freshwater fishing, though I still prefer fishing salt water. Having said that, I’d rather go for panfish at the reservoir than no fish at all. I’ve also come to enjoy fly fishing, as that’s what is most prevalent in my area. It’s really just a question of adapting to what’s available around you. Given how far I live from the coast, saltwater fishing is less of an activity, and more of a series of epic quests.

What does the future hold for you?

I plan to finish my Bachelor’s degree in Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication at James Madison University, and head south. Ultimately I would like to be a freelance writer, living someplace warm, within close proximity of salt water and good fishing. Writing more, fishing more, studying less. Also wouldn’t mind catching a billfish or two out of a kayak.

 

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