Most Recent Reviews
It works well under power. I use a 2.5hp Mercury four stroke motor. It's very convenient for motoring upstream and floating back down to fish. It eliminates the need for a shuttle.
As far as initial stability, it has that by the container full (cargo ... container...). I stand to cast and sight fish frequently and am very comfortable doing so. As far as control in squirrelly water, it's easily controlled by oars and doesn't seem to mind squirelly water even when motoring up through it.
You will not win any races in this boat. It is slow, which you'd have to expect from a 17' four seat squareback canoe. So I'm sure that doesn't come as a surprise to anyone.
It's heavy, but lighter than other large squarebacks I've had.
The surprising thing is how well it steers and drifts. This is a terrific fishing canoe for those who fish medium to large rivers (my usual rivers are the Shenandoah and the Potomac). It's easy to set up for simple chutes and ledges. It rides through nicely, even when weighted (I have to use ballast in the front when it's me alone with the engine in the back), and has a surprisingly shallow draft. I easily slide over ledges that have given me fits in other canoes.
Also, when I am guiding someone sitting in the front, it's easy for me to control our drift to give him/her good targets and can come as close to surfing this boat in surprisingly small currents. All it takes is some finesse on the oars - no power - to hold position to give someone fishing in the front really good angles on targets.
I love the boat. It's a real river boat, not for whitewater but thrives in current. It's a real fishing boat, with a weight capacity that's unreasonably large. It's durable. Compared to other canoes its size, it is maneuverable and easy to steer. Under power, I couldn't ask for much more. It takes power against current very well.
The only drawbacks is weight (I use a trailer to avoid having to lift it).
A friend brought a Riviera to a summer trip August of 2011. I thought it was an interesting looking boat and asked to borrow it. I took it for a short test paddle - about 90 minutes. I paddled upriver then came back down. In paddling upriver, I surfed it easily. Accidentally actually. At the first riffle, I had a hard time getting up against it and decided to portage. I stopped paddling to let the current take me back down and... I didn't go. The boat sat there and surfed in the tiniest little wave you ever saw just as long as I was willing to let it. That surprised me.
I did get it up stream and coming back down through the main current found that it was very easy to steer and control. It was a bit disconcerting with my 240# frame so close to the water surface, but I grew used to it quickly. As I got more bold, I found that the kayak responded well in bumpy or still water. At the end of the test, coming back into camp, I tried a few eddy turns. I've not paddled a kayak that took an eddy turn more easily - and I used to paddle a WaveSport Diesel. That surprised me - a lot.
I rate it well for how easy it is to paddle. I think novices could be trusted to take this boat out and have a good, safe time with it. I didn't rate it higher because there's no attachment points for thigh straps. I don't suppose with the molded in seat back that a back strap is necessary. Also, scuppers would have improved the rating.
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.
My purpose is for fishing. I had a Wave Sport Diesel, which is a far better whitewater boat, but not a good boat for fishing. I sold the Diesel and bought an Approach. I put on a single rod holder, some deck rigging, and bought a nylon skirt. That's all the modifications needed. I feel like I have complete control of this kayak in the Class III or lower waters that I fish.
I can surf, others with skill can surf better. I can turn well. I have only wet exited twice in it, and both times were user error not a problem with the boat. It is roll-able, I just don't have a solid roll.
It does go nose down under power. I'd like an adjustable seat, but the footpegs being adjustable from the seat is a nice feature. I'd prefer a better backband, but the one that comes with it is OK.
The dry hatch is what I call a "mostly" dry hatch. Mine leaks around the bottom of the bulkhead. I could reseal it, but it's not a big deal to me. I use dry bags in the hatch anyway. It's nice when it doesn't fill with water and I don't have to mess with stern flotation.
I'm about 245#, which is the upper limit for this boat. I weighed less last year and it did better when I weighed 230#. Again, user error - not the boat's fault that I like pizza.
I rarely use the drop down skeg, but it does make a big difference, especially when attaining. It's a slow, slow kayak, but I mostly float downriver through the slow stretches seeking fish so I don't really care about paddling speed.
Control through rough water is terrific. A skirt is a necessity, but also a preference for me so not a big deal. The boat's responsiveness is allowing me to step up my paddling skills from the sloppy recreational kayaking skills I've been using. Eddy turns are far easier, ferrying is well controlled and nearly effortless, and it is roll-able to someone with that particular skill. Something that you don't see in a recreational kayak.
That said, I consider this to be an aggressive recreational kayak and not a true whitewater boat. But that's what I want, so for my needs and my skills, this boat and I see eye to eye.
I can't recommend the paddle highly enough. I gave it a nine, because I notice slight wobble when I accelerate rapidly in a largish boat. The light weight is wonderful. If you're one of those folks who have concerns about the weight of your paddle and aren't going into whitewater as a destination of your paddling, get a Pacific Designs paddle. You'll be glad you did.