Having five grandsons and loving to river fish are two my life’s greatest pleasures. When I can take one or more of my grandson’s river fishing then that exponentially increases the pleasure of the trip. I think that’s called synergy. Therefore, over the years, I have tried to take my grandsons to the river at every chance that availed itself and created quite a few chances that otherwise might not have surfaced.
Most frequently fishing from kayaks or canoes, we have traveled through rocky, swift, river rapids and pristine still water that barely moved. We have caught lots of fish, large and small, and sometimes we have smelled the skunk. Whatever the results, even a bad day on the river beats most any other option.
My oldest grandson Cameron is probably the most adventurous one, the most easily bored and has required a watchful eye more than the others because he will venture where others fear to go, and can be slightly disobedient on occasion. One of my favorite memories of Cameron stems from a trip to the Apalachee River in Georgia. Cameron and his brother Logan, who were a couple of middle schoolers at the time, and I went up to find the channel of the river as it enters Lake Oconee near Greensboro. Because of shallow water that trip was not productive so we headed back to the truck after a short time of trying to find the mouth of the river and getting stuck in the silt each time. We were all three riding in a sixteen foot square stern canoe with an eleven foot kayak in tow as we headed back to the truck which parked near the bridge on US Highway 278.
We had parked on the river bank next to the bridge and just shoved the boats off a smooth spot where the bank was not too steep. While we were gone up among the islands that dot the water where the river comes in and becomes Lake Oconee, a group of people that appeared to be a family, had parked down under the bridge and though the water was a thick mixture of red Georgia clay and river water, that’s where they chose to swim. Swimming in what looked like their street clothes and sliding around in that slick mud, they were a sight to behold. As we neared them they seemed excited and began to yell at us, waving their arms and pointing. It took a while but we finally noted that they were excited by a gallon jug that being towed downstream apparently by a large fish, at least that was my first wishful thought. It was common for jug fisherman to bait a line tied to a jug and toss them out attempting to catch the large flathead catfish from Lake Oconee.
I watched that jug get pulled out of sight underwater for a short distance and figured there was a whopper of a fish hooked underneath it. Knowing we would never catch up to it with the big canoe with three people in it and towing a kayak, my greed for that big fish got the best of me and I let my better judgment go unheeded. Quickly I grabbed the line to the kayak and while pulling it up alongside, I told Cameron to get in and go get that fish. Always one ready to try something new and adventurous, Cameron was in the kayak and gone before my common sense began to convict me that what I had done was foolish and possibly dangerous.
Cameron paddled furiously to catch the jug and with the commotion the fish accelerated, pulling the jug under for longer distances now than before and I began to become anxious thinking about what could be on that line and how dangerous it might be for Cameron if he caught up with it, alligator maybe, hundred pound catfish, or a huge gar with teeth like a piranha. Now the boy on the kayak was looking smaller as he had passed under the bridge and it seemed he might go as far the trestle which was about a mile downriver. I began to drive the canoe which was powered by a small battery powered electric motor in the direction Cameron was chasing that jug, but Cam could paddle that kayak twice as fast as that canoe could go. Still I headed in that direction hoping to reduce some of the distance between Cameron and me in case there was trouble downstream.
As I cleared the bridge Cameron finally caught up with the jug. While he was several hundred yards away I could see the adventurer come out in him as he reached and grabbed the cord tied to the jug and stood up on the kayak at the same time. My word! I exclaimed to Logan, “He’s using that kayak like a surf board and being towed by a river monster”.
At that very moment I remembered being at the top of what may be the overall most intimidating shoals in a Georgia River with four others including my son William and Drew Gregory now of Riverbassin.com fame. The river had become flooded unexpectedly that day by a water release from an upstream dam, and going down the shoals in our kayaks didn’t seem advisable. Drew wrote about it later, saying that while he the other three were discussing a plan of action, they looked up and Blackwater (my nickname) was halfway down the shoals waving for us to come on. “Blackwater is fearless on the river,” is exactly what Drew wrote in his account of that episode. Thinking of Drew’s comment while watching Cameron skiing on that kayak down the Apalachee made me think, Cameron get’s it honest. He’s my grandson and in many ways he is like this old man, willing to try most anything.
About that time Cameron reached in his pocket for a knife and neatly cut the cord connecting him to the submarine object that was pulling him downriver. He squatted down and began to paddle back, yelling gar, gar, when he got close enough for us to hear him. I had already heaved a sigh of relief when I saw him cut the line and as I turned the canoe to head back towards the muddy swimmers, I gave thanks that I had a grandson who was willing take a risk. Like me, never the best student in school, I think Cameron still will accomplish much in life because he is willing to try to things than most others won’t attempt.
Bill Prince, May 3, 2011 © All Rights Reserved