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!
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