Some of the best ideas are spontaneous, but then again so are some of the worst. When the weekend forecast went from thunderstorms to pop-up showers, and my home river level was at its lowest point since the fall, I knew a decision needed to be made. I hooked up the boat, texted a buddy to inform him that he was busy fishing with me the next day, and headed back into town Friday after work. The plan was to fish a section of the river that we typically wade, and then to float through the deeper sections opening up much more water. The only problem? No put-in ramp, 1 lowhead dam, 3 diversions of the river for dam repair, and an unforeseen event at the takeout. A smarter person would have stayed home, and a wiser person would have scouted the river more thoroughly prior, but we don’t pretend to be either of those things. We slide off at 9 Saturday morning with 9 miles of diversions, dams, and thunderstorms with a chance a smallies ahead.
We started by disrupting a group of Frisbee golfers by sliding the boat in somewhere off the 1st hole fairway. From there it was on to our prime water, long riffles with deep holes that we knew held fish. After Justin had reeled in his second smaller fish, we decided to pull over next to a hole and cover it thoroughly. It didn’t take until the second cast to know we had made the right decision to fish that day.
From the riffles, we went into a long pool section of the river, but could not get a fish to move. The next few miles were urbanized section of the river, and we found ourselves in competition with bank fisherman and some hardcore or lost kayakers. Reports from them was that the fishing was slow, it had started raining, and the river was growing wider, deeper, and slower. After pushing through much of this water, I told my buddy Justin that this would be the best place from him to learn to row. He jumped on the sticks, and I couldn’t help up start throwing some meat at the bank, maybe I would tempt a largemouth I thought—and then all hell broke loose.
The deep muddy banks that was littered with evidence of bankside cat fishermen gave way to a rocky shoreline with overhanging branches and fallen timber. Within a half mile over a dozen were put to the boat, half of which were over 16”. The fun was short lived when around the bend came the biggest challenge of the day. The roar of the lowhead kept increasing the closer we got, and we started to wonder whether it may be a bit larger than it appeared from the distant highway. Armed with a couple of long ropes and level heads it proved to be a rather simple task.
The water below the dam turned out to be less than desirable. The rocky limestone bottom turned into clay and mud, and with the combination of weather turning sour, river diversions, no boat buoys, and some entertained construction workers we finally made it to the boat ramp. Although not before taking a few snap shots of the city.
At the ramp we were greeted by a large crowd of people practicing for a dragon boat racing event (you will have to look this up) who graciously let us through to pick up the boat. While I have fished this water countless of times throughout the years, this was the first time to fish it from a boat, opening up previously unreachable water. The trip was difficult. There were many times I though the boat would have to be stranded. Other times I was expecting the sheriff to show up and ask how stupid we were—a fair question. But the fish gods smiled down on our efforts, and even rewarded us with a few. Till next time Mr. SmallJaw.
By Andrew Cook
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