When we first moved close to the Potomac river I looked into kayaks with the following criteria: It needed it to be stable (I was new to kayaking), it had to be practical to fish from, and it need to have a place for a dog. All advice pointed to a Sit on Top (SOT). Over the years I’ve tried many different SOTs, and like anything else, each had its pros and cons. But once I made that initial decision to go with a SOT, I just kept trying variations of the same theme. Some of them worked well with dogs. Most were as stable as I thought kayaks could be. None of them, looking back, really worked very well for fly fishing.
My most recent kayak was the only one I could find that had room for two large dogs, one in front and one in back. But I decided the larger of those two dogs doesn’t really enjoy it very much, so he’s kind of retired from boating. I added Winslow, a small wirehaired dachshund to my lineup and the first time I took him out he fell right off the side. I scooped him up easily thanks to the handle on his Ruffwear PFD, but I started to wonder if a Sit on Top was really best for me.
I have an Orion cooler made by the folks at Jackson Kayak, and am impressed with how well it is designed and built. So I started looking at the Jackson line of kayaks. Overwhelmed by the choices, I turned to Jackson Kayak’s Product Manager Damon Bungard, who I met online because we both do blood tracking with our wirehaired dachshunds, and Drew Gregory, a professional kayak angler with experience paddling with dogs. I interviewed Drew a few years ago for a story I was writing on kayak fishing with dogs. Both suggested I take a look at the Jackson Kilroy DT, a tandem boat with an incredible amount of configuration flexibility. I did some research, watched the videos, asked around, and decided to pull the trigger. I combined a road trip to Southwest Virginia with a detour to Jackson headquarters in Sparta, TN to pick up my new boat back in April. Then it rained for like two months straight, and water levels in my stretch of the Potomac River where I live went up and down like an EKG, all the while remaining the color of YooHoo. It was July 4th before my wife Sandy and I finally put it in the water.
At 14’8” long and nearly a hundred pounds completely empty, the Kilroy DT is a beast on land. Add the seats, another passenger, a cooler and other supplies, and I was not confident it would be easy to paddle. But it was. I was astounded, in fact, at how beautifully it paddles and tracks. With both seats in the higher of two offered positions, it was remarkably comfortable and stable. It immediately felt easier to paddle and far more enjoyable to sit in than what I was used to.
Although the fishing was slow, about a half mile into the maiden voyage Sandy christened the Kilroy with a nice smallmouth. I added one of my own right at the takeout, so it felt good to catch something. But typically I’m not a very serious angler when I’m kayaking. Sometimes I’ll take a spinning rod, sometimes a fly rod, but it’s more of a secondary activity to relaxing and immersing myself in nature.
I’ve never really been able to sit in a kayak for an extended period of time without getting out and stretching my legs and back for a while. This was not the case here, after a few hours of moseying downstream in comfort without getting out once, I knew I had made a great choice. Add to that the quality time with Sandy as she could relax, catch fish, watch birds and drink beer while I paddled, and it felt like the perfect boat.
While I got used to the boat as we floated, I realized how easy it will be to bring my good camera and not worry about dropping it in the water, and how fun it would be to waterfowl hunt out of it, with so much space for decoys and other gear.
But before I involve expensive camera equipment and shotguns, though, the next big, critical test would be how to configure the Kilroy DT for Winnie, my Wirehaired Vizsla. I decided to test this out the very next day. This, by the way, is another testament to the comfort of this kayak: As an old, fat guy I can’t ever remember floating in any of my old kayaks, and being very excited to float again the very next day.
As I walked past the Kilroy in my garage every day for ten weeks during monsoon season, I pondered dog placement and comfort. I assumed I would be removing the front seat and seat pan entirely, which is very easy, and buying or fabricating some sort of mat on the floor of the boat for the dog. But once I got the boat outside on the ground I realized the front seat is perfect. I adjusted it all the way forward in the boat, then reclined the seat back all the way. With the foot rests for the back seat pushed all the way forward, the frame of the front seat back rests in the little channel in the foot rest unit made for a standard Plano tackle box. I tightened everything down in place, threw a towel over the seat to keep it cool in the sun, and we were on our way!
With 55-lb Winnie at the very front of the boat and a cooler behind me, I had to move my seat forward a bit to keep everything balanced. And again, it paddled like a dream. I’ve fashioned serviceable solutions for her in every boat I’ve had, but none were elevated and padded like this. After ten years I know when this dog is happy and comfortable, and she’s never been more so than in this Kilroy. After a delightful four or five mile float, as we waited for Sandy to pick us up at the takeout ramp, Winnie stayed in the boat hoping till the last minute we would be going right back out on the water.
Next time out I will bring my good camera for wildlife photography, and I will bring Winslow my little dog along, but the Kilroy DT is already the most versatile, most comfortable kayak I’ve ever imagined, let alone owned, and it’s not even close.
I’ve ordered a C-Tug cart to help maneuver the heavy Kilroy around the ramps, along with some Ram Mount cup holders that take advantage of the omnipresent tracking around the boat. And that’s literally all I can think of to add. This boat came from the factory suited perfectly to my lifestyle and how I enjoy a kayak.