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.