Saturday, August 29, 2009

Canoe Trip Through the Eyes of a Non-Fishaholic

I hope you enjoy a little summary of our canoe trips. It's a bit lengthy...it's worth making it to the end!!

Canoe Trip 2009

I know Jason posted some awesome posts about the canoe trip…but I think we need a little different perspective than he can provide. Jason is like a little kid on Christmas day when it comes to fishing. He absolutely LOVES to be out fishing whether he is getting bites or not. Therefore, you are going to see the canoe trip through rosy colored glasses.

My only disclaimer to what I am writing (just so you understand that my glasses aren’t so rosy colored when it comes to fishing) is that I haven’t been too fond of the canoe trip in the past.

The first year we went the river was so high and muddy that we didn’t hit one rock the whole time and we couldn’t see an inch into the water. If you have been on the James River in Virginia (Zach) you will know that it is impossible to canoe downstream and not hit a rock…impossible! Needless to say…we didn’t catch any real fish that year either. We caught ONE fish…and you can’t really call it a fish because it was a blue gill (sunfish). We did try to fillet the 6” fish and we had ONE fish nugget for the fish fry. I was so bored sitting on the canoe in the hot sun for 3 days that year. I took pictures of flowers, fishing lures, Jason, Pops, John but no fish. I died of boredom and read every piece of reading material we had. John hasn’t come on a canoe trip since (I’m assuming) because he doesn’t think there are actually fish in the James River!

The next two canoe trips we went on (yes, J talked me into going on another one) we did catch fish and did have a fish fry! Geoff went one year and Zach was the fourth the other year. I fished for a few hours each day and left most of the good spots and large fish to the boys. I got a lot of reading done and worked on my bad suntan lines. I was pretty bored and was annoyed that Jason was so focused on fishing for 8 hours a day that he wouldn’t hold a conversation with me. I know…poor me. I guess you’re supposed to be quiet when you fish…but I don’t think it makes much difference. I just think it’s a guy thing…they don’t multitask like women do!

Memories that stick out from those two canoe trips include: 1. Jason catching a citation worthy fish! It was over 22” and around 5 lbs (I don’t remember the exact measurements). It was at the end of the trip and we could see the bridge where we take out when he caught it. 2. My tent flooded one night. I woke up in 6-8 inches of water in the morning…I didn’t even wake up as my tent was flooding! The worst part is that the guys set my tent up…in a low spot. 3. I always remember being exhausted at the end of the trip…

Last year I went again…I’m a glutton for punishment! The first day was pretty nice and it was looking to be a pretty good canoe trip by J’s standards. I read, painted my nails and hung out. I did catch a few fish but I couldn’t tell you how many. The second day the rain started coming down in sheets and it was cold. Luckily we were prepared with rain ponchos thanks to Pam. We still got soaked and were chilled to the bone. Of course, J wanted to keep fishing the whole time because the fishing would be great. We stopped on some private property to camp that night because it was getting dark and we weren’t close to our planned camping spot. The next morning Pops’ tent was flooded. I figured I could laugh because I had the same experience the prior year. It’s not a fabulous way to wake up.

By the end of the trip I’m not so sure J and I were on talking terms. I wanted to paddle as fast as possible to the take out spot…but, you guessed it, the boys wanted to fish the rest of the way in. Of course it was raining the last day as well. I guess you could say it was a memorable trip!!

This year J told me he bought tickets to go to Virginia to visit Mom and Pops. I told him I was excited to go hang out for a bit. Then, he told me he wanted to do a canoe trip while we were there and Pops was in the process of looking for a fourth person. My heart sank as I wondered if I could survive another year on the James River. The question wasn’t really could I but instead did I want to survive another year on the James??

I posed this question the most amicable way I knew how…I said, “J, maybe it would be better for you and Pops to do the canoe trip without me so Pops doesn’t have to go alone this year? I mean, I’ll go if you really want me to…but I have no problem hanging out with mom for a few days while you guys are gone. Besides, she could probably use the company so she’s not home alone again.”

J replied, “Babe, I don’t want to go without you! I really think you should come this year!” With that, my mouth said yes but my brain was trying to say HECK NO!!!

I was dreading the start of the longest three days of my life on the river. Pops and J did a great job getting most everything packed…all I had to do was pack my own stuff and bring a happy Kristen. We launched the canoes and started our trip. I brought extra reading material this year figuring I would need it. I decided to get my few casts out of the way so I could say I actually fished and then I could hunker down with a good magazine or book.

We began by throwing these little gummy-plastic frogs. I named my first one Kermit. I was getting a lot of bites! It was actually kind of exciting because you throw the frog as close to shore as you can get it and the fish usually pounces it as soon as it hits the water. The important part is to get the hook set well so it doesn’t come out of the fish’s mouth while pulling it into the canoe. I ended up catching 6 fish that first day and before I knew it…it was time to stop for dinner and camping. I fished the whole day and didn’t get bored or read one thing!

The next morning, to my dismay, we started EARLY… The fish were biting though and I caught the first three fish! Not only were they fish…but they were nice fish! One was 18” and about 2.7 lbs. They were all keepers and we kept them on our stringer for dinner that night. Pops caught two fish for his stringer and we had enough for dinner. Jokingly, I pointed out that this was probably the first time in the history of the Bellows’ canoe trip that J didn’t contribute to dinner. In his defense…he was my “tour guide” and was paddling the canoe to keep it straight and keep me out of the trees full of spiders and webs. He was also giving me time to cast into the good spots to help me catch fish. He probably would’ve caught double what he did if he wasn’t being patient with me. I do really appreciate him enduring my not-so-accurate casts and listening to me berate all the fish that got off my line. I also appreciate his help getting all the fish but one off my hook once I got them on. It helped me have a lot more fun than years past…

I caught 13 fish the second day! Our frogs were fabulous lures and we went through them too quickly! We were using lures that would barely stay on the hooks so we didn’t have to retire them and use new ones. We went through Kermit, Miss Piggy, Tigger and many other lures that weren’t lucky enough to get names.

One of our points of reference is a rope swing that is located in a very slow, deep section of river. We saw the rope hanging down and when we got close enough, we realized it was a new rope swing! I was kind of excited for this part of the trip… Of course I asked J to go first because it looked quite precarious. This was the BIGGEST rope swing I had ever seen…and I have been on some large ones before! J climbed the platform which was 25-30 feet about the water. He looked terrified once on the platform and it took him a few seconds to figure out how he would get off it without hitting his tush on the way down. He jumped and MY adrenaline started pumping!! He flew through the air and let go at the apex of his swing over the river. He dropped a lot of feet and when he surfaced he had a look of shocked excitement. I couldn’t believe he actually did it. I actually chickened out…I asked J if he thought I would do it…and he told me he didn’t think so. He’s a pretty good judge of those kinds of things. The angle you have to jump off the platform at puts a TON of force on your hands/rope going down and I don’t know if could’ve held on. It was exciting enough living vicariously through my hubby for that one.

I was super bummed I didn’t have my digital camera to get a video of this rope swing. Earlier that day we hit the boat ramp a little hard in Wingina and the camera fell off the canoe and into the river. Luckily I was planning on returning it to Costco before the warranty is up in October. I feel a little bad because I was hoping to return a camera in working order. Unfortunately we don’t have digital pics from the second half of the trip…

We made it to our planned camping spot and had time to relax before dinner. J and I tried to float the small rapid by our site with life jackets. We ended up bumping along the bottom of the river like our canoes on a bad year until we decided we had enough rocks to the knees. We had a great fish fry that evening with fish to spare. We built a bonfire and relaxed by the fire while we ate s’mores until we were too sleepy to talk. Pops reminisced about how Jason used to get up early in the morning(before anyone else woke up) to fish. J woke Pops up one morning with a 5 lb fish!! Before we went to sleep I told J that he could get up early as long as he didn’t wake me up for any reason before the sun came up! We retired to our tent and fell asleep on our 6-8” air mattress!! Yup, 6-8”!!! It was absolute heaven. I don’t know that I will ever car camp without one again.

I slept like a baby and woke up because I had to pee. Of course, while camping, I always wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom! I didn’t want to go out, in the dark…without contacts…in the cold….with all the snakes and bugs….to go to the bathroom. I knew if I didn’t that I wouldn’t sleep for the next hour so I decided to go. When I returned to the tent J was awake. He asked me if he should get up to go fishing. I said, “I’m going back to sleep…but if you’re going to go fishing…go now so you don’t wake us up later…”

I was just dozing off and it sounded like J went running down the beach and into the river. He was splashing around and having a good old time. I was thinking does he know what time it is??? Is he aware that we are sleeping???? Before I could start to doze off again J was at our tent saying, “Pops…Kris!!! Look at this haawg!!!! Guys!! Look at this fish!!!!” He was standing outside the door with a HUGE fish. Pops said, “And that is why J gets up to fish so early in the morning.” With that, we both rolled over and went back to sleep.

The last day went pretty fast like the first two. I fished the entire two days prior and decided to do a little more this last day. I had one more froggy left and decided to fish until I lost him. I had a ton of bites and one fish actually ate one of his legs. I fished with an amputee froggy the rest of the day (he could only kick with one leg). Good thing he was hooked to some fishing line or he would have swam in circles! I ended up catching 4 fish that morning; including one about 100 yards from the take out. I even made some strides and took one off the hook myself…

As we were pulling into the boat ramp I looked at J and said, “Ya know, I hate to admit this…but I think I actually had a lot of fun this year on the canoe trip…” J looked a little surprised but very proud and said, “I’m glad you had fun. I had a great time too!”

All in all….it was a successful trip. J is already planning on one for next year. Coming from someone’s not-so-rosy perspective…it was a fabulous trip and I can’t wait to go next year.

Fish count was 97 total: 95 small mouth, 1 large mouth, 1 catfish (J thought this was a record bass!!! He was quite disappointed when he saw the whiskers…)

J-46 fish, Pops-28 fish, Kristen-23 fish

Day 3

Day 3:

Note: If you haven't read Day 1 and Day 2, please do so now. It is much better when read in order.

Once upon a time in my much younger years we camped at this same spot and I got up at the crack of dawn to wade and fish the area. This was probably 10 years ago or more. That morning I used a Zara puppy to land Iron Jaws and came back to the tent and woke up everybody holding an 18.5” bass. This is probably the most commonly told story of past year's canoe trips.

Back to this year: About 6:30am Kristen woke me up when she got out of the tent to go to the bathroom. When she got back in I told her to leave the door open since I was about to get up and go out fishing. I laid in bed for another 5 minutes trying to get myself out of bed. Normally it was easy but for some reason it was hard this year. Maybe it was the cushy 6” air mattress we had this year. Maybe it was the fact that I’m now 30 and my desire for a little extra rest is starting to outweigh my desire to fish. Either way, it took me a few minutes but I finally willed my body off the heavenly mattress and out the door. I changed into my cold wet swimming suit (another reason not to get out of bed) and walked over to the canoe to grab my pole. This year I have baitcasters. Kristen has been using one of them and other two were set up with a Zara spook on one pole and a buzzbait on the other pole (I had lost my last plastic frog the evening before). I decided to try the buzzbait. The morning was very foggy with steam rolling off the water. It was light enough to see a few feet away from you but between the fog, steam and low light you couldn’t see as far as you can fast. I took my first cast with the buzzbait right in front of our tent. I was literally standing a foot from the canoe and had not even entered the water yet. It hit the water and I began reeling it in. About 5 seconds into the retrieve I heard a huge splash. It sounded like somebody threw a boulder into the water. I felt a pull on the line and set the hook. I still couldn’t see far enough to see the fish hit. A few second into the fight the fish took the air. It sounded like a person jumping around out there the splashes were so loud. Kristen was still trying to go back to sleep and she said in a grumpy tone, “Your being loud.” I was too busy to reply. I made some progress on the fish and then he would pull out more drag. The water was pretty swift in this area so when he turned downstream he pulled out a good 20-30 feet of line and I couldn’t do anything to stop him. I made up some ground and it felt like he was coming closer and then he jumped again. This time he was close enough that I could see him. I muttered a “Holy Cow” to myself that I’m pretty sure both Kristen and Pops heard since the tent was less than 10 feet away from where I was standing. The fish made another good run and then a few short runs before I got him close enough to shore that I could wade in and grab him. I pulled him out of the water and he was a giant. I grabbed Pops weigher and tape measure out of his canoe. He was a tad over 21” and fluctuated between 4.1 and 4.2 lbs. Remember this was literally my first cast of the morning. After the weighing and measuring I took him over to the tent and showed Kristen and Pops. I knew Kristen was already up and Pops wouldn’t mind being woken up by this size of a fish. I showed him to Kristen and Pops through the window and told them quick version of the story and then let the fish go. What a way to start Day 3.

I waded up stream and caught a few more on the buzzbait but nothing big. I did have two other really big hits that sounded like big fish but somehow both of them missed the lure and wouldn’t come back and hit it again.

The rest of day 3 was pretty uneventful. We broke camp at 9:30 and hit Howardsville by 11:30 or so. The fishing in that section was good as always but nothing else huge this morning. The river in this section is pretty quick with lots of rapids, beautiful and goes all too fast.

As we neared the boat ramp Kristen did catch 1 more nice fat 14” bass on her last cast to the shore right before the Rockfish river comes in. A good ending to a wonderful trip. Totals for the trip was something like 98 fish of which I caught 46 including 3 4-lbers. Only regrets I have for the trip is that I wish we could come back again sooner. See ya next year James river.

Day 2

Day 2:

Day 2 was overall the best day of fishing we have ever had on the James. We didn’t’ catch the most fish but the quality was the best we have ever caught. The day started out with an early alarm clock. We needed to make about 11.5 miles today to reach our usual camp spot so we set the alarm clock for 6:00am. We were hoping to be on the water by 7am but didn’t actually get launched until a few minutes after 7:30am. We started floating and the fishing was good right away. Within the first ½ mile Kristen had 2 good keepers into the boat—a nice 16” and another 16.5”. As we approached Cunninghams Island we saw pops cross to the left side of the island and so we crossed over to float that same side. Fishing on the backside of the island was very good but the water was pretty quick in there so mostly Kristen fished and I steered and paddled to ensure the canoe was in good position. Kristen caught a really nice 17” within the first couple hundred yards of the island that made for 3 keepers. A couple minutes later she landed a 14” that was just barely too small to keep. I believe at this point Pops also had 1 keeper on his stringer so we had 4 out of the 5 keepers we were looking to catch for tonight’s dinner. The fish tally at 8:30am as we exited the backside of Cunninghams Island was 6 to 1 in favor of Kristen. She was killing them. A couple hundred yards after the Island pops radioed over to us that he had another 15” to add to his other keeper so that was all we needed to keep. It was probably about 9am at this point.

The next couple of miles things slowed drown for Kristen a little bit as I started fishing more and she had a lot of bites but missed most of them for a while. Pretty soon I had rattled off 4 in a row to bring the count in our boat to Kristen-6, Jason-5. As we neared the town of Wingina we pretty consistent good fishing on the left side of the river but Pops was doing even better on the right side of the river. We reached the Wingina boat ramp about 11am which was on time or even just a bit of what we were hoping. The river was flowing pretty good in this section and we didn’t need to do much paddling except to keep the canoe straight and a good distance from shore. We were a bit ahead of Pops at this point so we pulled into the boat ramp to give him time to catch up. We debated eating lunch at this point but decided to push on and maybe eat lunch at swift island which was just a couple miles down river. The left side provided good fishing as we floated toward Swift Island. As we approached Swift we found that the water was lower than it often is and many rocks were exposed. We got stuck a few times before finding a good channel near the island to float through. We pulled in to the backside of Swift island and decided this was a good spot for lunch. At this point Kristen and I were tied with about 9 fish each. Kristen had probably had over 30 or 40 good solid hits on her frog before lunch.

The fishing after swift Island was still excellent. The right bank was a bit shallow but had some occasional deep holes that provided good current, shade, structure and often held fish. About a mile after Swift Island I threw my frog out into another good-looking hole and had a nice bass grab it as soon as it hit the water. I set the hook and the fish immediately took out drag and went to the air. It was huge. On his next jump my frog went flying out of his mouth, however, the hook stayed in. He took a few more good hard runs before I finally got him to the boat and was able to grab his bottom lip. We tried to radio ahead to dad that we needed his weigher and tape measure but our battery was dead. We put the fish on the stringer and both Kristen and I paddled hard to try to catch up to Pops. About 15 minutes of paddling and we were even with Pops. We put the fish on the scales it flashed 4.1 then 3.7 and finally settled at 3.9lbs. We tape measured his and measured him at 20.5” long. Not a bad fish. Not bad at all. We returned to the right bank and continued casting our plastic frogs up along the shore. We caught another couple smaller fish and then Kristen hooked into a good one. It didn’t jump but it made some hard runs and pulled out drag. She fought it for a while and finally got it up next to the boat. Then it made 1 more run and somehow the hook pulled out of the fishes mouth. By the looks of it in the water it was probably also close to 4lbs maybe a little less. I’d say 3.5-4lbs judging from how big it looked in the water. Kristen was a little upset but she didn’t do anything wrong and there really was nothing she could have done. Sometimes things like that just happen.

Around the next bend, the slow water began and we reached the rope swing. This meant that it was about 3.5 miles to go until the camp spot for the night. It was about 3pm at this point but we a had a small head wind that had just started to lightly blow. We stopped at the rope swing and it looked nearly brand new. The top of the rope was up about 50 feet and had a chain that was around a huge tree. The chain was then connected to a very large rope that had a rubber/plastic black piece on the end, maybe where you are suppose to put your feet?!? Up on the bank somebody had built steps by nailing 1x2” planks to the side of the tree. Up about 25 feet above the water was a small platform with a small yellow rope attached to it that dangled down into the edge of the water. I grabbed the small yellow rope that was at the bottom and swam out to the big rope that was just about 2” above the water. The little yellow rope had a nice clip on the end so I wrapped it around the big rope and then clipped it to itself and swam back to shore. Nice—now I could climb the platform without having to worry about the rope and then just pull up the yellow rope when I got to the top of the platform. Once back on shore I started to climb up the tree. The planks kind of curved their way up the tree and were not very big. Climbing up the tree felt like a mix of rock climbing and climbing a ladder. Probably a bit more like the former. Once on the platform I looked down to see I was about 25 above edge of the shore line. I hauled in the big rope by pulling on the small yellow rope until I reached the clip. It worked perfectly. The end of the big rope was just long enough to reach. Somebody had done a great deal of work to build this rope swing. It was definitely not an amateur’s job. Once on top I wavered a couple of seconds. This was definitely the biggest rope swing I had ever done and I’ve done some pretty big ones. A few years back somebody had built a huge platform at this location but this new design was bigger. Kristen and I also did a huge swing into a river in Hawaii a few years back. Well, there was no way I was going to climb back down those skinny planks nailed to the side of this tree. I grabbed the rope as far up as I could and pulled my legs up to my chest. On the swing down toward the bottom the force was so strong that I could barely hold onto the rope. By the time I reached the bottom I was moving really really fast. As I started to swing up into the air I started to wonder when I should let go. If I let go too soon my momentum would carry me way out into the river and since I was going so fast I probably would have no control and end up on my face of back or something crazy. If I held on too long I would end up dropping all the way from the top of my swing and that was going to be really really high up. Everything happened so fast I’m not exactly sure where I let go. Then when I was in the air it seemed like time froze. I dropped and dropped and dropped and wondered, where the water was. While in the air I thought to myself:

  1. "Better point your toes or this might hurt the bottom of your feet."
  2. "I hope the water is really really deep here."
  3. "If I do hit the bottom then I hope there isn’t sticky mud down there. What if I hit the bottom and stuck into the mud?"
  4. "Breathe! Don’t forget to breathe…."

And then I finally hit the water. It was really dark and really deep and I didn’t touch the bottom. I swam up for a while and finally broke the surface. Whoa that was crazy. I swam back to shore and the adrenaline was flowing. The rush was kinda like catching that 4lb smallmouth, except, catching another 4lb smallmouth I like to do again. When I got back to shore Kristen asked me if it was scary. I said yes. She asked me if I was going again. You know how there are some things in life where are just happy to have survived them and get them behind you. This was one of them. I just decided to just answer her with a polite “no.” She then asked, “Should I go or do you think I would be too scared?” I told her that it was pretty scary and I think we should move on. She didn’t argue.

After the rope swing we switched it up and Pops came in the front of my canoe and Kristen went solo for the last 3.5 miles of the day. Usually the next few miles until you get within sight of the Beauford and Sycamore Islands aren’t very good fishing. It is usually very slow and flat water and very deep. Often times we just paddle through it to get to the Chute and set up camp. This year it was not as deep and probably averaged 3-6 feet by shore. It was moving a little bit but was slower than the rest of the river. We decided to fish it. Pops was up front and I did most of the paddling for us. He hit most of the spots but I would hit anything he missed or if he got a backlash or a tangle or something. I think he caught one or two small ones as we worked the left shore. About ½ way through there was an area with some rocks sticking out by shore. We paddled around them and then went back to shore. There was a nice little tree that was over hanging the water and pops didn’t cast for it. I grabbed my pole and backhanded my little frog to within six inches of shore. I gave it a few turns, just enough to get the little legs kicking and it got inhaled. I set the hook and a nice hog took me for a ride. He pulled my drag out a few times but before long I had him up along the boat. I grabbed his bottom lip and lifted my 2nd 4-lber in less than three hours into the boat. It was every bit as chunky as my previous fish and about the same length. We didn’t measure or weigh him but he was pretty much a mirror image of the monster I had caught just a few hours ago. That pretty much topped it off. This was the best day of James river fishing we had ever had. Our stringer of 5 solid keepers by 9:30am. Two 4-lbers landed by Jason and another lost at the boat by Kristen. Total for the day was something like 18 for Jason, 13 for Pops, 13 for Kristen but just about everything was a good quality fish. If it was a bass tournament, our 5 fish limit would have weighed about 15 lbs. And we probably had 100 or more good solid hits on the day. It is a day that won’t soon be topped.

The rest of the way to the chute was pretty uneventful. We got passed by a group of 5 canoes and a kayak. We paddled the rest of the flat water to beat the other group and ensure we got the good camping spot at the Chute. It turns out they took the left side of the island anyway. We set up camp about 4:30 or 5pm at a nice sandy spot about 100 yards downstream from our usual Chute camping spot. The river was nice there this year and we did some wading and swimming, fishing, floating in lifejackets and pops even fell asleep in his chair. We set up camp, cooked the fish, built a fire and roasted s’mores until the wee hours of the night, about 10pm.

Things to remember for next year:

  • Can opener. It’s not on the list but you really need one.
  • Camp chairs for everybody. Worth their weight and space and then some for dinners and sitting around the fire.
  • 6” blow up mattresses with pumps are awesome. Bring some for everybody.
  • Two way radios with batteries that last all 3 days are a must. Waterproof would be nice too.
  • Get a waterproof camera. We dropped ours in the water again this year. Good thing it was shallow and its only been 2 months and it is still covered by costco’s warranty.
  • 1 fish per person is plenty if they are big, 15-17”.
  • The slot limit is 14-22 and only 1 can be kept over 22. Oppps.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

James River Fishing/Float Trip…

This river just keeps getting better and better. This year was the 22nd annual James river fish/float trip and it was honestly the best fishing year we have ever had. Sure, there have been years where I have caught more fish, but never has the quality of fish been as good as it was this year. Just how good was the quality you might ask? The 2nd day we had our annual fish fry and we keep a couple of fish to eat that night. Most years we set the minimum size for keepers at about 15” to start and see how we do in the morning to decide if we need to drop the minimum size to 13” or less at lunch. Occasionally we are keeping 12” by late afternoon. On a good year we don’t have to drop our minimum size and are able to get a good full stringer. Some years we are even able to fillet fish at lunch and throw everything we catch in the afternoon back into the river. This year we had our limit (and actually too many keepers as we ended up throwing away freshly cooked fish after dinner) by 9:15am. And for the first time in history of James River canoe trips, Jason didn’t catch any of the keepers for dinner. But that is day 2 and we’ll get to that later. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This first day started with a 5am wake up to drive to Howardsville that went a little quicker than expected. It took just under 2 hours and after putting both canoes onto one car we met with our new shuttle driver this year, Carl. Carl was a local who lived just a mile or two away. He was very nice and polite and said yes sir or yes ma’am to just about everything. He was probably in his late 50s or so and was a disabled Navy man. He claimed to have moved to Howardsville when he was 6 and has lived here for most of his life. Judging from his strong accent I don’t think anybody would dispute it. He looked almost exactly like this guy in the movie John Q with Denzel Washington. In the movie, John Q’s best friend is a guy named Jimmy. Anyway, Carl our driver looked just like Jimmy in that movie. After a fairly uneventful drive up river we arrived at Bent Creek and loaded up the canoes. We got on the water a little after 9am.

The first day we were hoping to go as many miles as possible. The state park is just over 7 miles and has a really nice campground but makes for a really long 2nd day if you try to get all the way to Beauford and Sycamore to camp at the Chute. The Chute is about mile 22 so that makes for 15 miles the 2nd day. We ended passing the state park about 3pm and keep pushing a couple more miles until we found a really nice sandy camp spot on the left side of the river just a bit past where the Tye river comes in. It was about 10 miles in and just before Cunninghams Island.

Fishing the first day was really quite good. We caught lots of quality fish with daily totals at 19 for Jason, 9 for pops, and 6 for Kristen. Pops took big fish honors of the day was a nice bass just under 18” that went a bit over 2.5lbs. We caught a bunch of others that were from 15” to 17”, all strong and really good fighters.

I don’t really remember much else about the first day. It seems like so long ago even though it was just 2 days ago. The river was a good level. Although we hit a lot of rocks we also had consistently good fishing and it was moving fast enough to push us along at a slow rate. Three lessons learned from day one: First, it is almost as fun to paddle for Kristen and watch her hook into a big fish as it is to hook that fish myself. Second, 6” blow up mattress pads are awesome. Don’t bring those lightweight backpacking pads again. Bring some spare D batteries and the pump and enjoy a good nights sleep. Third, there is a lure better than double buzzbaits for the James. It’s a little 3.5” plastic called the Yum Buzz Frog. We need to bring more of those next year.

Tomorrow I’ll write about day two. Highlights include Kristen going off and catching 3 keepers in the first 30 minutes and Jason boating two 4-lbers on the buzz frog.

-Jason

Saturday, August 22, 2009

More Traveling Tales...

I apologize if you get sick of hearing about my traveling tales... I just happen to travel a lot which means I have lots of interesting experiences.

This time I am traveling with my hubby to visit his parents in VA. It's a welcome change from traveling to touraments and I'm starting to get cabin fever from being in Utah for more than a month at a time!

I was a little disappointed that we weren't traveling on Delta because I can check 2 free bags with that airline. I get so miffed that we have to pay in order to check bags. It's the lamest thing ever...and it stresses me out! It's not like we don't pay enough for airline tickets already. Don't get me started on the airlines charging for drinks and other amenities...

We have a somewhat lengthy stay in VA so we couldn't exactly pack light. We each have a suitcase and we combined our golf clubs into one bag so we only had to check 3 items. I know that sounds like a lot but we had to pack for all sorts of activities including (but not limited to): basketball, running, racquetball, golf, canoe/fishing trip, lake house, water skiing, church and whatever else we might decide to do... Unfortunately that means we each need several different items that don't overlap very well! My basketball shoes won't exactly fit in at church...

J checked us in and paid for bags... I greatly appreciated this gesture because I would've been frustrated about paying for the bags...and this way I didn't have to think about it.

We arrived at the airport, checked in and made it through security without a hitch! Score one for us... Our first flight was long but went well. We even got complimentary drinks and a "meal" which was more like a Barbie-sized sack lunch...nonetheless.....free.

We got to Houston (for our lengthy, two hour layover) and our second flight was delayed two more hours!!! I immediately got in line at the customer service desk to see if we could get on one of the two earlier flights.

We had to go to the gate and were able to fly standby for free... We go on the plane but were informed our bags wouldn't make it no matter what. We pretty much decided we didn't care if our bags made it...we didn't want to spend 4 hours in the airport.

Turns out the flight we got on (scheduled to leave at 4:45) was delayed until 5:35. No big deal for us since our original 6:30 flight was delayed until 8:30. J and I had a whole row to ourselves and were ecstatic we got on the earlier flight. Unfortunately as soon as we pulled onto the runway a huge Texas-sized lightening storm moved in over us and we had to sit on the runway for an hour!!! There was no AC and the plane felt like it was 100 degrees inside! There were constantly arms going up to turn the ac dials... We were sweating just sitting in our seats. It was quite miserable.

We finally were able to take off... We started our descent into DCA and were told our plane was in a holding pattern and couldn't land yet. 20 minutes later we started to land and then a few minutes after that we were in a holding pattern again. We were assured our plane had plenty of fuel and we would hold until the airport made a decision.

Apparently there was a lot of errant air traffic because of all the storms in the area. Finally we were able to land...

Ironically enough, we landed at the same time our original flight was supposed to land.

Of course our bags weren't with us and we were deciding if we should wait for the next flight or just come back the next day. We really wanted our stuff because we wanted to play basketball in the morning. J could borrow Pops' stuff but I still needed some shoes and a sports bra. Pops couldn't furnish those two items for me unfortunately.... or maybe fortunately? I might wonder if he was able to let me borrow those items :)

We went to the baggage office and explained our situation. The employee told us that normally the airline doesn't deliver bags if you willingly fly standby on a flight...but since we were being so cool he would have them delivered...probably at 2-3 in the morning if that worked.

Long story short...our bags were delivered at 10 am this morning..J was able to play and I got a few extra hours of sleep today. I guess it was a win/win situation...but I would've preferred to play ball!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Another Calling,,,

I have enjoyed my time spent as the assistant camp director in our ward. Girls camp went well and it has been awesome getting to know the girls and leaders. They are all so fun. Today I was also called as the young womens sports director for the ward. Volleyball starts in 4 weeks so I have my hands full to get things organized!! I'm really excited and hope I can get the girls excited too...

Fruits of Our Labors

We spent so much time getting our garden put together and we are finally able to enjoy the fruits of our labors...literally :)

We have been eating tons of cherry tomatoes....larger tomatoes, squash, cukes and all sorts of peppers. We are still waiting for the canteloupes to grow and we actually have a small watermelon on the vine!!!

Here is a pic of the first crop of stuff I picked this summer! Since then we have picked a lot more...
We are actually swimming in cherry tomatoes at the moment. I eat a bowl full everyday and I still have sooooo many. I'm going to start walking around my neighborhood with cherry tomatoes to see if I can unload some of them... Maybe I will make some new friends :)

An Affair to Remember???

Lately I have been getting a lot of odd looks with my new hair. A lot of people are surprised and there are even a few that don't recognize me.

Today in Sunday school J and I were sitting next to each other. The teacher was welcoming any guests. She kept looking at me like she thought I was new in the ward...or a visitor. She never did ask me to introduce myself however.

I laughed and commented to J that the teacher didn't recognize me.

The next hour I was sitting right behind that same teacher and she looked at me and said, "WOW! I didn't recognize you!" She told me that when she was teaching the reason that she kept looking at me was because she thought J was sitting at church with another woman. Then she thought maybe he had a twin that was here... Then she just decided to ignore it because it wasn't her business....

lol...how funny and awkward! What a great place to bring another woman :)

Did Kristen Really Cut Her Hair???

WARNING: This post is completely girly and you might find yourself rolling your eyes at how attached one can actually be to HAIR.


I started out with my normal, long hair...

Ok...some of you were onto the first picture I posted on FB. Yes...you were right. I didn't have short hair at that point in time :) Photoshop is a very, very powerful tool...but it looked kinda real! I guess the ultimate clue is that I'm in my wedding dress??Well, I finally got the courage up to "just go for it!!" It was time for a change...and I didn't want to be old and have the same haircut I did in high school. If you can call my long mane a haircut?? Long hair was nice cause I didn't have to cut it often...and it was easy to put up.

I called my darling friend Ann and we set up a time for me to chop it off. Some people get nervous when I tell them my friend chopped and colored my hair. She has been doing hair since 1991...so I wasn't at all worried about her ability. I was mostly worried about my judgement and decision making! I was full of anxiety and worry as I arrived at Ann's house to change things up a bit. Here I am...approaching the moment of no return! Here is my hair right before we started...all squeaky clean! I decided to donate my hair to Locks of Love so we had to have at least 10 inches. We cut off 12" with some to spare :)I'm not sure if my expression is saying..."what in the world did I just do?" or "I'm so excited to see how this turns out!" Either way, hair in a ponytail looks so much smaller when it is cut than when it is actually on your head.

I've never cut my hair much shorter than my shoulders and I have never colored it...ever. This time I decided to do things right... Not only did I chop my hair off but I decided to go a bit darker than is normal. I was kind of sad to see the natural highlights go...but I couldn't wait to see what I would look like with a different color. It took forever to color my hair and get it cut. I don't know how women do this!! I'm a little worried about the upkeep...but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it!

I was quite pleased with the outcome...but it has taken some time to get used to! I just didn't feel quite as glamorous as I did when I had long hair... I struggled for a few days. Then I decided that it doesn't matter what my hair looks like... I'm still the same person. It has grown on me and I love it! I'm already planning my next cut :)

Brigham.....Young??

Across the street live the cutest little neighbors ever. We love the whole family...it helps they have two really, really cute little boys. The youngest always comes to our front door to see if Jason can play. He always yells "hello" at the top of his lungs across the street and he always comes over to see what's going on if we are in the front yard.

Today I was sitting in the gutter pulling weeds from the cracks and Ashton rode his bike across the street. I asked him what he was up to and he told me he was going to play with his friend Brigham.

I replied, "that sounds like fun. What is Brigham's last name?"

Ashton scratched his head for 2 seconds and then (with a completely straight face) said, "Brigham Young."

I replied, "that sounds familiar, eh?" I was trying not to laugh at this point...and then felt a little bad because the boy's name could very well be Brigham Young.

Then Ashton said, "Well, it could be Brigham Graham."

With that, Ashton rode off to play with his friend Brigham Young.

Twenty minutes later Ashton and Brigham came down the street and stopped by my house. Ashton politely introduced his friend and went to find Jason. I was chatting it up with Brigham and asked what his last name was. He told me it was Ray.

Brigham...Graham...Ray... It's all the same, right?

Besides...when you are six years old...do you really pay attention to last names? I'm sure I didn't know more than one "Brigham" or "Brooke"...so there was no need to know last names!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hornets...

We seem to have an exceptional number of hornets in our yard. It's a great thing Raid isn't too expensive because we go through it like toilet paper around here!

Lately there have been hornets around our front door all the time. I always try to see where they fly to but never seem to find a nest. I assumed the were making a nest inside our siding but I couldn't figure out where they would fly into.

Today J and I were doing some yard work and we found the biggest hornet nest ever!!! It was hanging in the tree that I was going to trim that same day. I'm glad I didn't start cutting branches before finding this nest. It could have been ugly!!

This nest was the size of a basketball... Unfortunately we were out of Raid...so we stocked up on the extermination fluid and went to work.

Here is how it all went down...

We actually had to spray the nest a few times... Then we knocked half of it down with a garden hoe. There were still hornets alive inside!!! The next day we sprayed it one more time and finally took care of business.

Now it's back to yard work as normal :)