Submitted: 11-07-2008 by Big_D
First, know that I'm a hard grader. 7 is a good score from me.
I have had an Approach for two years. My primary purpose for it is fishing in wimpy whitewater areas. I had a Wave Sport Diesel 75 - Waaaaaaaaay too much boat for my intentions. I was like a Piper Cub pilot trying to fly an F16. I sold the Diesel to a friend (who loves it) and bought an Approach. Good plan.
The Approach is, as far as I'm concerned, the ideal Sit-In Kayak for fishing bumpy rivers. The rivers I fish are narrow to moderately wide, shallow, with lots of rocks and exposed to barely submerged ledges. Mostly Class 1 water with occasional 2's. I have used it in up to easy 3's and technical 2's and it's been GREAT. I have mounted one rod holder, carved out a place in the support beam to strap in a small tackle box, put in a line to tie in a small tackle bag held in the cockpit, and added front deck rigging. Those few modifications has made it ideal for this kind of fishing.
I do not consider the Approach to be a true whitewater boat. I consider it an aggressive recreational kayak. I am 6'3", have size 13 feet, and weigh 240#. I am at the upper end of the weight range for this kayak, but it still performs just fine. I feel as if I have complete boat control in swift water and rough water, it's in slack water where I feel less control without dropping the skeg. That's directional control. No worries or dangers about flipping. I have flipped this kayak a few times, but that has always been user error (read: boneheaded mistakes) and not the fault of the kayak.
There are a few things that would make the Approach better. First, the dry hatch isn't dry. There is so much flex in the bottom that with me in the seat, the hull pulls down far enough to breach the seal. I will be repairing that, but remember that the dry hatch is really a "mostly dry" hatch. It won't fill with water the moment you flip, but it's not going to keep your lunch dry without using a dry bag either. Second issue is that the seat cannot be trimmed out at all. That's one reason I consider this a recreational kayak rather than a true whitewater. An adjustable seat would go a long way to improving performance. Third concern I have is that the back band is not good. I intend to replace it with something more easily adjustable and which holds it's position better. Unlike another poster, I think the thigh braces are fine, but that's because I'm not trying to be hooked in constantly. The way they are, I have the ability to wiggle a bit in the seat, and then when I get to the roaring part of the river I can tense up my legs and be firmly secured. This is not a "boat that you wear" like a true whitewater kayak. This is a recreational kayak that allows for far more solid connection to the boat when you want it than you'll get with any other recreational kayak.
I bought it for fishing, and love it for that purpose. I borrowed one from a friend for a "fifteen minute test." I brought it back to him after two hours of surfing and running some 1+ rapids nearby the campground. He took the rental price out of my cooler, upon which I found him seated with a small pile of empties nearby when I returned. Anyway, as soon as I sat in his boat, I knew I wanted one.
The foot pegs, though definitely recreational in design, are just right for how I use this boat. When I get to rough water, I can shorten them up to have my knees bent more and really hook into the thigh braces and solid foot placement. Then for the slow water, I can release them to get myself some wiggle room. It's a nice "bridge the gap" feature.
I always use a skirt with his kayak. I have a nylon skirt that does OK, and even holds in place when I flip. But I intend to replace it with a neoprene in the near future. I bought this boat for fishing mid-Atlantic karst rivers, but my first use and now my favorite use is for the mid-Atlantic's small creeks. It is perfect for the Class 2 creeks we have around here.
There are some problems. When you lean forward to attack a wave train or drop, the nose dives DEEP and submarines. With the volume of this boat, that's not a big problem, but it can be a little annoying. Without the skeg down, you have to pay close attention to paddle technique - far more than with a Perception Swifty or other similar sized recreational. The boat has essentially zero glide. That's good for a river fishing boat. Slow is good - it allows for accurate casts and long drifts. Just be aware, you aren't setting any speed records in an Approach. The material could be stiffer - especially on the bottom. But stiffer material would carry a higher price. And, by the time you're looking at a higher price then you're likely looking for a real honest-to-goodness WW kayak.
If I were going to be doing class 3 or technical water consistently rather than every once in a while, and if I were planning to be a hot-shot WW guru, I'd want a different boat. But, for class 2 creeking and fishing, it's tough to do better than the Dagger Approach. I have been very pleased with my Approach. It puts a smile on my face every time I use it. There are some minor, easily overcome issues (except for the seat not adjusting), but overall an excellent choice for a medium to large sized person (up to 260# or so) for mild river and creek paddling and fishing.