Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Father's Day fishing report

Father's Day fishing report:
I headed to the mountains this weekend for a little R and R and family time for Father's Day. My fishing was limited to a float trip down the Cowpasture River, Anna and I in one canoe, dad and brother Henry in the other. Dad thought it was a great idea to make the trip from a put-in place "several" miles up the river, pulling out at the little family cabin that we have downstream. It being Father's Day, who was to question any of his wishes.....like how far or long the float would be or did we have enough to drink or should we bring some food?

As we drove up to offload the canoes, riding in the back of the pick up, I commented to my brother that this was going to be much longer than any of us had planned. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, or the closest to it would be the track of the road around the mountains and through the valley of the Cowpasture River. Several miles down route 42 translates into many, many more miles of meandering river. To further lengthen the adventure, things have been pretty dry up in the mountains and the flow was slow and the water was low. Getting those canoes through some of the "riffles" would be a chore.

Arriving at the offload spot, we loaded the canoes with our small coooler, containing one bottle of water, one gatoraide and 5 beers, lathered up with sunscrean and got our tackle in order, one rod/canoe and a bait bucket. Soon after launching, just above the first set of riffles, I got out of the canoe and started turning rocks in search of hellgramites, cat minnows and crawfish. It wasn't long before I had enough bait to play with. Dad paddled my brother Henry who casts a panther martin, catching "red eye" bass, sunfish, small smallies and an occassional "suckerfish" which I added to the bait bucket trailing behind the canoe in case we ran accross a muskie.

The first couple hours were very pleasant as we leasurely cruised down the river, stopping at likely spots. Although dad wasn't getting much fishing, he was enjoying guiding his son, who isn't a big fisherman like his big brother. Anna was thoroughly content taking in the scenery, catching some rays and dangling her feet in the water. No, she wasn't paddling me as I fished, in fact, she refused to paddle and said that she was not going to paddle at all that day, it was all up to me. Which was fine, the slow quiet pace was just right for viewing wildlife, a doe and fawn, a thirsty groundhog, a startled family of wood ducks.

As we rounded a bend, for the first time, the songs of birds were interupted by the distant sound of cars pounding asphalt. Anna commented that it was good that we were getting close to the bridge, which I told her marked the half way point to the cabin. The sound of cars got louder, then faded away underneath the soothing ripples of water over rock.

"I thought the bridge was around that bend?"
"No, it's just around the next bend."
"Well, I'm getting a little tired (of dangling my feet in the water), you need to start paddling."
"But how can I fish if I'm paddling?"
"Oh, you're not fishing anymore, you're paddling....and you might want to pull in that bait bucket, it will only slow us down."
"But then my bait will die".
"Well go ahead and let it go"
"But then I won't have any bait in case I see that giant smallmouth or a muskie"
"Oh no, you're not fishing anymore, now start paddling"

An hour later and several bends of the river later, dad and brother are far behind us and there is no bridge in front of us. There is a pick up truck parked next to a slow bend in the river and fine gravel beach. She tells me to pull over so that we can ask the sunbathing occupants in the back of the pick up about the distance to the bridge; perhaps even asking them for a ride back to the house. I advise that I did not think it was a good idea to bother the sunbathing couple, just as Anna protests, she says, "Oh!, Oh my gosh! They don't....they don't have any clothes on" For the first time of the trip, Anna picks up her paddle and starts stroking......almost as fast as the couple in the pick up.

With Anna also paddling, the stealth of the canoe was lost as a glance over our shoulder revealed two heads peaking over the side of the pick up. Upon my suggestion that the pick up couple may have had a good idea on how to spend an afternoon by the river, Anna paddled that much harder. Fortunately the sunbathing activity in the back of the pick up resumed, as was reported by my dad and brother who rounded the same bend about 20 minutes later.

The beers were long gone when we encountered the next human occupants of the Cowpasture, a family swimming in the river. Their car was not big enough to carry a canoe, but Anna commented that it looked big enough for her to ride in back to the camp. As we passed, she asked the mother of the bathers how far it was to the bridge.

"Peter's Bridge? Oh darling, that's another good hour of hard paddling from here"

The wrath of the tired, hungry and thirsty were then bestowed upon me and her father-in-law, who suggested the launch site. He may have been able to hear her from several miles upstream, I was overcome with laughter, I love it when she gets fired up and it's not directed completely at me.

The tactical error that I had made was misleading Anna into believeing that Peter's Bridge was the half way point, when in fact it was just about an hour from the camp, which still made for two more hours of paddling. She was not amused and was not sure what to believe after 4 hours in the canoe and being faced with at least 2 more hours of hard paddling under the best case scenario.

I've got to hand it to her, after that "fit", she resided to the fact that this was a team effort and we would get there a lot faster if we worked as a team......except the parts that involved her getting out of the canoe and dragging it accross the shallow riffles.....that was all me.

I did get much joy at threatening to make a cast or two at a likely spot and she got much joy at the thought of wrapping the fishing rod around my neck if I were to put down the paddle to make just one cast.

Finally, Peter's Bridge. Now convinced that the remainder of the trip was only an hour more, we slowed our pace and enjoyed the river, waiting for dad and brother to catch up. When they did shoot down the upstream slough.....and tip the canoe for the 3rd time, we were informed at how much more stable our canoe was compared to theirs. "Did you see the doe and fawn just above the swing bridge?" "Did you see the cliff that dropped straight down to the water's edge?" "Did you spook the cows sleeping by the tree when you came by?" "Was the pick up truck and sunbathers still there?" "What did the lady and her family have to say about the crazy girl who freaked out when she found out how far away Peter's Bridge was?"

Happy Father's Day