Thursday, 9 May 2013

The Stealth Pro Fisha 575: first impressions in the wet

So, the day finally arrived with almost no wind, bright sun and Bank holiday to boot, meaning I got the chance to dip my new Stealth Pro Fisha 575 in the sea for the first time.

Before I start this "wet first impressions", I must say that I'm constantly surprised at how light such a long SOT kayak is, the boat is over a metre longer than a Scupper Pro but weighs less. I can lift it on and off the car without a problem with regards to the weight, but its length is another thing. The yak is so light and long that when the wind catches it on your shoulder it can easily catch you off guard, and once something so long starts to swing it can take a bit of stopping!

I had spent weeks rehearsing how my various paraphernalia would fit in or on the Pro Fisha 575.  The 575 has a truly cavernous interior, accessed by a huge front hatch.  However, this is not quite as large as you first think.  For example, a C-Tug has to broken down to get it into the hatch.  But because the space in there is so big, I decided I could fit my C-Tug, my insulated fish bag and my tackle boxes all inside the hatch!  This does work, but it means that if you want to squeeze your rods in to go through the surf, you might find it difficult to get them past all the various bags.
Plastic bath tub vs. fibre-glass arrow!
First thing you are made aware of is the presence of the rudder. This means you can't easily put the kayak down on tarmac or any hard surface, or at least if you do then it has to rest on its side. You'll notice this most if you try and land on concrete slip ways or pebble beaches, as you have to drag it on its side to avoid the rudder.  Even on sand, you have to drag it on its side. Rods in their holders either fall out or go into the ground when it's on its side, the paddle will fall out of its clip and so on, and it doesn't somehow feel right to drag the yak up a concrete slip on its side...  The on-land aspect of having a permanent rudder is the one thing I don't really like about the yak, I wish Stealth had thought about a retractable system, such as that found on the Epic V6.

Once on the water though it's a different story: the rudder is great.  Almost no drag and very sensitive to careless adjustment by my unthinking feet!  Indeed, for the first hour or so I struggled to remember which foot did what and not to casually push forward in my footrests to stretch my legs, then veer alarmingly to one side! I generally dislike flip down rudders, they add a noticeable drag which means you don't tend to want to use them and when you do need them they can be a major hassle, often jamming in position.

The Stealth 575's rudder has none of these issues, there's no drag and it's always there. It doesn't seem to catch the bottom even on very shallow landing sites. For someone who's been used to constantly correcting their direction using paddle strokes, having a good rudder was something of a revelation. You can just concentrate on your paddle strokes and let your feet correct your course. Love that!

Despite the length of the 575, I found I could spin it round with the same ease as my Scupper Pro, possibly even easier. I was very relieved to discover how manoeuvrable it was.  It's quite impressive in that respect and it might have something to do with the boat having a more pronounced rocker than first meets the eye.

As a paddling vehicle, the 575 seems perhaps at the max about a third quicker than my Scupper Pro. That doesn't sound a lot, but it makes a massive difference when you want to get somewhere in a hurry. On several occasions I looked to see where my mate was before thinking "that'll take about ten minutes to get over there".  But the 575 just eats up the metres once you get the speed up. I found that whereas with the Scupper Pro I quickly reached a sense of the maximum speed of the kayak, beyond which paddling harder doesn't make much sense, with the 575 there seems to be smooth progression that doesn't seem to top out at a maximum. The harder you paddle, the faster it seemed to want to go. When I paddled back to the launch with my mate in his Ocean Kayak Big Game, I was literally taking two or three strokes then waiting 10-15 secs for him to catch up! I'm really looking forward to trying the Pro Fisha 575 out on some of the long distance marks to get a better sense of how much better it is, particularly in rougher conditions. The conditions we had were practically windless at times, and so I didn't get any chance to test paddling across the direction of the swell, or with a following sea.  I'll save those for a later report.

For me the biggest difference between the Pro Fisha 575 and my Scupper Pro was that the 575 is a far, far better fishing platform.  In fact there's no comparison really, the Scupper Pro is horribly designed in terms of fishing space and layout, whereas the 575 is pretty much perfect. I've always been something of a minimalist, but the Scupper Pro was frankly a pain to gut fish on and store tackle securely - my fish bag had to be right behind me and I have lost a couple of fish from them slipping out of my grasp as I reached behind me, missing the opening of the bag and then having them slide off into the depths! The Pro Fisha 575 has everything there within easy reach, secure and protected beneath a hatch. That's a big improvement, and I'm sure I'll appreciate it even more when I come into land with a bit of surf.  The only thing I didn't really like is the paddle clip, which barely holds the paddle in place.  Don't fancy trusting that in rough water...
Perfect fishing platform, shame about the lack of fish!
Fishing wise, it's still a bit early for clear water. The sea had that green murk we associate with the May Bloom, and generally it's a killer for the fishing. There was no sign of diving birds and everything looked pretty lifeless out there.  I tried my new weedless rig fitted with the Fiiish Black Minnow 160.  The rig worked pretty well, but on a fast drift 60g is just a bit on the light side and struggles to hold bottom.  But the big issue I had was that I didn't make sure all hook points on the lures were well inserted into their soft plastic bodies.  If you don't check this, they can work loose to expose the hook point and then snag up.  Ouch! Nearly a tenner's worth left on the bottom!  Didn't make that mistake twice and the rig managed to winkle out a couple of little coalies:
One thing you need to watch out even with a weedless rig is that flourocarbon is really pretty crap when it comes to abrasion resistance - I'm sure it's not as tough as something like Amnesia.  After an hour or so, I noticed the section close to the Black Minnow was within a whisker of breaking:
But today was not about the fishing, it was all about a practice paddle in my new yak. The final thing to do was to try out some self rescues.  We came right into the bay where the water was marginally warmer and shallower.  It's still bloody cold - this is the North Sea after all!  After watching Big Paddle's review and self rescue on the 575, I thought it looked pretty easy.  He certainly made it look easy in his video!  True, I had the Stealth Deluxe seat fitted, which does get in your way a little, but eventually I got the hang of it.  I definitely need more practice though!
In summary, the Stealth Pro Fisha 575 is a brilliant fishing platform.  It's a long, light, quick and responsive boat on the water.  It may not have the agility of a smaller boat in the surf, but that's not something I generally ever need.  It's eats up the kilometres with ease, and I've heard it actually performs better with a load of fish on board, so bring on those big catches of cod and mackerel in the summer months!

All in all, I'm really pleased with the kayak.  It's everything I hoped it would be and some things I didn't think it would be!


  1. Glad you are liking the new ride looks awesome

  2. Them little coalies are actually small Pollack!

  3. Well spotted! Anyhow, whatever they were they weren't worth keeping!


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