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Lessons Learned on the River: A river fishing camping trip

    Blackwater Bill and his two grandsons, Fishfinder (14) and Fishing Machine (12), joined me on the Broad river for a two day and two night river fishing bash. Below is what transpired...

    I remember the great campouts my dad took me on as a boy and these are the kind that these two young men will never forget as well. After all, it was all the time my dad spent fishing with me on the river or lake that kept me out of trouble growing up. On the one hand, I was forced to sit there and hear about all of life's important lessons, and on the other I was getting into a hobby that would keep me from learning those lessons the hard way later in life. I still got into my mischief, but dad made it clear the things that are to not be taken lightly these days. At the time, as a kid, you felt like, "Here we go again; it's the 'do unto others' or 'a place for everything and everything in its place' talk." Now that I am older, I realized that all those positive lessons were such a blessing to have instilled in me. Turns out I not only heard, but I learned from those trips. Of course, one of the best things I learned about was fishing! So, what will these boys learn on this river fishing camping trip? Well, I guess you will have to read on to find out!

    We got into the river Friday evening and were planning on staying the next two nights on the river and then taking out on Sunday. We only made it downstream about a half mile on Friday evening before we decided to make camp to beat the sunset. Here is Blackwater with Fishing Machine and Fishfinder getting ready to embark on our journey. Looks to me like the boys are already learning a little about teamwork as we worked hard to get in the river before dark.

As you can see by the back of Blackwater's canoe, he is pretty much carrying the load for us on this trip.

    We all wished we could have made it into the river a little sooner that day because we didn't exactly have the pick of the litter when it camp to camping locations. All four of us stayed in a six man tent that felt like it could have held eight with no problem. We had a nice little fire, ate some dinner and soon headed off to bed.

    One of the first things the boys learned was to not believe everything your Poppy says! It was nearing one in the morning when I hear a noise coming up the river. I look up to see a boat headed our way. I turned over to Blackwater and woke him saying "we got company comin' our way, a boat is headed up river." He springs up, half asleep, and sees the spotlight shining our way. "Well, we'll just have to wait and see what happens," he said. Blackwater was the keeper of the firearm on this trip, but we knew this wasn't Deliverance or anything, just a couple good ole boys heading back from a night of cat fishing. They got close to us and their motor cut off as they hit a rocky shallow stretch. "Well, we're gonna have to get out and walk for a while here," is what one told the other. This guy hops out and tows their boat upstream as the moonlight lit up the river. The whole time they are laughin' and swearing like sailors. Obviously, they had no clue Blackwater and I were in the tent glancing over at each other and chuckling quietly after each alcohol inspired remark. They finally get their boat to some deeper water and headed on past us without incident. Somehow, the two boys slept through the entire thing! Blackwater told them about the incident in the morning and finished up by saying "Well boys, Basser and I weren't concerned though because we knew it was Indian Joe from the website." Blackwater and I laughed of course because there is no "Indian Joe" on the website. The rest of the trip was peppered with remarks about Indian Joe and his friend that frequent the river at night. Blackwater and I got a kick out of it at least. So, you can't always believe what your Poppy is telling you because grandpas are known to be quite the pranksters, especially on a good time river trip like this!

    Truth be told we were all very tired, but it was hard to sleep well that first night because we were on the river and we hadn't even made a cast yet. We all couldn't wait until morning so we could wet our first lines and see what lied ahead on this unknown stretch of river.

What lied ahead was some very good scenery and fishing. Here is Fishing Machine with a fine river largemouth that he took on a finesse worm.

Here is Blackwater making his way down river beside some rare and beautiful spider lilies.

Here is Fishing Machine with his big smallie of the trip, a solid 2lb 11oz bronzeback!

    We were all able to get into some decent smallies on day two. As Blackwater approached me the fish cooperated by putting on a show, as I caught three smallmouth over 2lbs on three consecutive casts. All three hit on the first few cranks of the reel on the complete other side of the river. In the second to last picture you can see how swollen my arms are from fighting three fish of that size, three casts in a row. I was exhausted, in a good way of course!

    We decided we would find a campsite much sooner in the day on day two. We found a great sandy spot around 6:30pm and pulled up there. Turns out it was a great fishing spot as well. Another lesson to be learned here, when possible camp where there is good fishing close by! This way you can set up camp and then go back out for the good evening bite.

    I was able to cast from our campsite and pull this largemouth out from the depths using a 1/4 oz jig head and a straight tail worm. Blackwater had just gotten out his filet knife to go to work on a few fish that we had kept for dinner, so I unhooked this fish and passed it to him as well. That fish was in FishFinder's mouth less than 10 minutes after it was caught. Now that was a fresh fish!

    Here is Blackwater working the frying pan for myself and the boys. He sure knows how to take care of a few guys on the river. We enjoyed a nice well rounded meal that evening and still had time to take a bath in the river and catch a few more fish! Thanks again to Blackwater for hauling all that gear in the canoe for us, it sure made our kayaks a lot lighter. Another learning moment for the boys here as Blackwater showed selflessness by doing all the hard work so that we could spend more time playing. I may not be around to see it, but I promise you one day these two young men will be doing the same thing for their grandsons.

Now this is a meal!

    I wasn't joking about that bath either! FishFinder took about two a day and even brought conditioner! I donít know of too many boys that would have done that. I am sure his momma is proud! He may not have learned this one from Blackwater or I, but he learned that good hygiene is important on the rivers as much as it is in the city. At least three others that shared the tent with him that night sure appreciated it!

And rinse...

   

     Now, Blackwater didn't do all the work, the boys did learn how to work together as they promptly gathered firewood at each stop and dug a nice pit for us to safely have a fire. It came in especially handy one night when we were craving a midnight snack. We were in the mood to roast something, but didnít have marshmallows or hot dogs. However, Fishing Machine did remember that his Poppi did bring some Vienna Sausages! Hey, it tastes a lot better than it sounds! Somewhere along the way these boys learned how to be creative.

    The next morning I again was able to catch four fish before we ever left the campsite. This fish was still half asleep I guess because I caught it and turned it loose right back in the water and it just stayed there. Blackwater said we should get a picture of it so I had time to walk over, get my camera and snap this picture. Right when I go to snap it, he finally decides to scatter. He probably sat there for nearly two minutes before he took off. We thought it was pretty cool.

    Another cool thing happened to me on the last day of the trip. I was flipping a tube into a heavy matted area that even had some weeds growing on it, it was so thick. After I got my bait out of the hole I was jigging it in, I began to hop it along the thick matted surface when all the sudden a four foot snake came out of nowhere and strikes my bait! The fight was on as she didnt want to let go and neither did I, especially since that tungsten weight cost me $7!! After a short struggle, the more advanced species (that's me) came away victorious. Still, that is going down in the books as a first time for me - hooking a snake.

    We were blessed to be able to see much more cool wildlife on this trip as well, including muskrats, lizards, snakes, beavers, hawks and bald eagles. I spotted a bald eagle at least six times. Of course they never fly close enough to get a good shot, but I was able to get a decent one while this national bird was perched on a tree limb.

    The whole trip was filled with dynamite scenery as well! The boys were able to learn about how intricate and beautiful God's creation is.

    My biggest smallmouth was this dark beauty that weighed 2lbs and 15oz. Why donít we just call her 3lbs? She came after a Rapala Skitterwalk like a cheetah attacking a gazelle. It swiped and missed, swiped and missed and swiped and missed again. I had that thing moving like it did not want to get eaten, probably had it moving too good I guess. Anyway, I quickly reeled in my bait and threw a fluke back into the spot and the fish had attacked it and the forearm burning fight was on!

Blackwater also got pulled around by some nice smallies. This one weighed 2lbs and 10oz.

    The takeout was brutal, especially with a canoe as weighted down as Blackwater's. Here he is paddling up the creek that is barely as wide as his canoe. Our take out was up this creek a little ways and was up a very steep bank. So, this was one more chance for the boys to learn something. We decided to drive my truck down as close as we could and tie a rope from it to the canoe. On "go" I slowly pulled that canoe up the steep bank and we were outta there and in Waffle House within the hour! The boys learned how to be resourceful.

    When all was said and done, we all caught a bunch of nice fish and enjoyed each other's company all the way down the river. We laughed, we cried (or at least I did when my 5lber threw the hook on the jump) and the boys learned a bunch of great life and fishing lessons. They can't wait to go back to the river again. Sounds a lot like someone else I know...

Basser Drew

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