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Sunday, 11 August 2013 19:59

Sanity Day

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I’ve been busy. Really busy, just like everyone else. It came to my attention recently that my son and I haven’t been out in our kayaks nearly enough this summer and I needed to schedule a Sanity Day on the Stones River. Mission: Get onto some fish together. Secondary Mission: To see my teenage son get at least one big goofy grin across his face.


Cagney (or the ‘man-child’, as I like to call him) is 14 years old. I had been a little worried that maybe he wasn’t quite as excited to go paddle and fish as I was. I asked him if he actually wanted to go out on our Sanity Day to try to capture some fish and he said, “Yeah, I’m going to go fishing and kayaking all day with my mom. I’m super excited.” I glanced at him sideways and realized that he actually was excited. You never can be too sure with a man-child.


The good part of a scheduled day off is that you know when you’ll be off, can go collect lunchmeat, plan a picnic and establish a game plan. The bad part is… well, you can’t be sure if ‘next Tuesday morning’ will bring a monsoon.

Night before planning session – pulling probable soft plastics, getting some rigs put together (worms + hooks + slip sinkers, trailers + jigs), checking river conditions via the USGS. We’d had some heavy rain recently and while the water level was well over the 75th percentile of flow for the date, well, it was late July. Relative to a day in April, water levels were actually on the low side. The Jackson Kayak “Coosa” and Old Town “Vapor” kayaks were loaded up the night before, rods rigged, sandwiches packed and optimism high.

Morning. Time to get at it. We parked relatively far off our spot so we wouldn’t be trespassing, piled all our gear and provisions into the kayaks, and hauled them the 300ydsto the drop-in spot. A few spits of rain came fell - no worries! We piled into our ponchos, shoved off, and almost immediately paddled into a monsoon.

I’m usually quite good about monitoring the radar. These storms popped out of nowhere, which I found strange because it was nine in the morning. Cagney and I pointed our kayaks into a notch under some trees and we waited. I looked over at him expecting the typical teenage dark cloud to be setting on his face, but to my surprise… there was a grin under that poncho.


The rain departed, skies cleared out, and we were off.


Cagney’s casting has been improving dramatically and he can launch a spinnerbait nearly the width of the river. I do at times question how he will be able to set a hook properly with his… um, well, paddling posture. He also reinforced one of my personal on-water mantras - items that don’t float or aren’t tethered are a bad idea.


We made a quick stop for lunch at the confluence of the West and Middle Forks of the Stones for some shoreline fishing and only slightly soggy sandwiches…


… and a few observations. There were a couple schools of shad of varying sizes in the West Fork section (which is some very skinny water before it joins up with the Middle Fork) of the river and some small largemouth cruising around them. These bass had a buffet at their disposal all the time. We’d have to throw something more substantial to pique the interest of this tight-lipped crew.


We packed up and decided it was time for a new strategy. Cagney and I needed to make our way up to the deep area below the dam to have a shot at pulling in a couple largemouth. Two and a half hours into our day, the man-child was less than pleased at this notion…


… but I truly wanted him to catch at least a couple. We’d been paddling more than we’d been fishing at that point – I have a tendency to forget that it is a challenge to maneuver a paddle, find the fish, dodge the wind, and wield a fishing rod with any measure of skill. We worked upriver through some of my favorite fishy Middle Fork waters on our way to the dam, pulled up stealthily… and got into it.

Relatively deep and cooler water (thanks to the proximity of the dam just), plenty of food, and good cover meant this was prime largemouth territory. After some unsuccessful throws with worms, jigs and spinnerbaits my brain went back to the giant shad schools. I tied a 3/8oz Strike King swim jig in smokey shad with a 4 ½” Zoom “Swimmin’ Super Fluke” in white ice onto my 14lb mono rig, cast past a submerged piece of wood and started to swim it out slowly.


I saw a flash on my lure from the downstream side of the log, set the hook, landed the fish (‘use the rod Bridgett, turn its head Bridgett, keep tension at all times Bridgett’) and called Cagney over. He did quite a smashing job of picture-taking (and didn’t drop my phone in the river, which I was sure was about to happen).



Cagney & I fished around a little more in the pool before we decided it was time to head back. We paddled hard, loaded up, and carried everything back to the truck. Thoroughly sweaty and exhausted, I looked at Cagney and wondered what he was thinking.

“We should do this every week.”

Success! And a little sanity to our insanity to boot.

day end

Read 9133 times Last modified on Monday, 12 August 2013 08:07
Bridgett Howard

Smallmouth of south-central Pennsylvania and salmon of upstate New York stimulated a lifelong love of fishing in me. River-bound year-round, I'm a huge fan of middle Tennessee’s Stones River and an unabashed River Rat. I love to prove that big fish live in skinny water, and crappie & largemouth are among my favorite quarry.

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# Westwindmike 2013-08-12 13:28
I live in the 'Boro and fish the West Fork a lot. Have been meaning to fish the Middle Fork at 99 behind the dam.

Just wondering where you put in. Down by 231 or further down Warrior Dr? I really don't want to be carrying my yak for 300 yards. Have you used the parking lot at the dam?

Thanks for a good article and will watch for you on the river.
# TennCreekBridges 2013-08-12 14:17
Hey Mike...

You *can* pull further down to access the launch spot, but the depth of the ruts is a little intimidating. And it isn't public access, so there's that to factor in (but okay, I've definitely pulled down a time or two. You could probably drive down, unload, move your truck to the road and be just fine. I've driven my little Kia Sephia down in there several times).

"Parking lot at the dam"... are you talking about the church on Warrior...?

Where do you like to drop in at...?

Surely I'll see you sometime soon, and thanks for your kind words!
# Westwindmike 2013-08-12 15:40
I looked at your aerial map a bit closer and now see where you put in. I've never put in there, but had planned to go all the way to the water at the same location. I assumed it was public access. Thanks for the warning about the ruts. I'm driving a Honda Accord with a trailer. Might be a challenge to single hand my boat in there. I wonder if we could put in at the tobacco store at 231. I always see bank fishermen there.

I usually launch from the Medical Center Pky ramp at the Greenway. I haven't made it all the way to the confluence yet. Plenty of fishing along the way.
# TennCreekBridges 2013-08-13 22:03
That is an absolutely terrific spot to put in... but they're doing some ridiculous construction there right now and it's blocked.

Elam's Mill is another good drop-in, you can paddle up and there are (reportedly) some giant catfish there. It's a little squirrely to get into, but once you trek down a dirt path and heave your boat over a 5' dam you're good :).

I like the stretch above Medical Center quite a lot too. It's calm, deep(ish), and my girl Julia caught her personal best largemouth in that area.

Hopefully they won't muck up the water overly-much with whatever they're up to @ Church Street. Because it's one of the best stretches of the Middle Fork, really.
# elhoward622 2013-08-16 07:02
Don't talk about those swim jigs with a swimbait trailer now! ;-) That is one of my go-to lures. Nice trip and write up.
# smj190 2013-08-16 11:09
Excellent write up! Great to see families fishing together!
# digger1956 2014-03-31 10:05
Great read.... even though my man-child is now 34 and married, we still enjoy our sanity days together...lol
# brad0532 2014-05-24 13:41
just got a used basic Field and Stream 12' and can't wait to start my new hobby! also can't wait to get some color, my feet are straight out of resident evil!

NC is so boring so i can't wait to get back into fishing again. i grew up outside of Buffalo and had great fishing up there. 4-8lb bass at the neighborhood lake all the time!

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