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  After an awesome day one camp had come into view a small spit of cleared land. I could see my brother with his hammock strung between the 2 trees closest the river. As we pulled up and stepped out the smell of campfire and exhaustion set in. We greeted my brother Damon who came to camp with us and be camp coordinator. We shared a couple stories and began setting up tents and digging out food. After a few short hours around the campfire I was ready for bed. I turned in around 10 and was sawing logs by 10:02.  I woke up early and opened my tent flap to see the sun rising on the river, a view I won’t soon forget.  After a good night’s rest I was ready to get back on the water. After a quick breakfast of trail mix we were packed and ready to rock.  As we shoved off from the bank I was still flying high from day one, anything from here on out was just a bonus. Little did I know day two would be one for the books!

Day 2

   We tucked into the first set of rapids and for the first time we were hitting a stretch of river I had spent a great deal of time on. We came to a huge bridge and quickly caught the first fish of the day off the pylons. A 13 inch Smallie shot into the air giving us a great show first thing in the morning. The water was noticeably lower than the day before and made getting into the eddy’s tremendously easier. The day started much the same as day one. The clearer water meant fish had begun moving around the eddy’s and finding them took a little more work. As the sun got high I started hitting shady laydowns and looking for eddy’s in the shade. For an hour I hit every patch of shade there was to no avail. Finally I came to a large eddy in direct sunlight. I pitched my wacky rigged 412 stick bait into the front edge and WHAM! Fish on! I solid 16 incher came to the boat. After that I began fishing direct sunlight and the fish were there in every pocket. I couldn’t believe these fish were just sitting in the midday sun but the pattern was one that held all day. The next thing I noticed is that it seemed the fish were getting bigger. First a couple 13-14’s then the 16 now 17’s. The day was shaping up to be better than day one! Then it happened, I pulled into a large shallow eddy and fished the leading and trailing end of the eddy with no takers. I made my way to the very back corner, flipped my stick bait onto the bank and dragged it into the water. One twitch and the line started to jump; I reeled up the slack and set the hook. Immediately this fish started peeling drag and heading right for the current. Unable to stop her I held on as I began nosing toward the fast water. By some miracle at the last minute the fish changed course and shot back into the shallow water. After what seemed like forever and several net dodges I had her. Now this wasn’t my biggest Smallmouth but I can’t think of a time I was more excited, the fight, the lost fish the day before, the threat of careening down fast water unable to control my boat and a fish. Here she was a river torpedo just a hair shy of 19 inches. I was floored, we could have just packed it up but we had several more miles to go! The fishing stayed consistent catching solid fish included another over 18.


 Ben had to show me up catching the same 19 inch Smallie on 3 casts. It was a fury of excitement with Ben finding a ledge with water dropping from 3 to 6 feet. He first hooked what looked to be a solid 15 incher that came off in a somersault. He set the hook hard again yelling I think I’ve got him again! Only this fish was much bigger! A few casts later “I’ve got another one!” this time it WAS the same 19incher as photos would later show. We continued down the river more relaxing now if our fishing approach. Feeling the end was near I noticed the eagles were back and continued guiding us down the river with 2 juveniles keeping us entertained as they locked talons in aerial combat. Wildlife was all around birds flew by and soft shelled turtles shuffled into the safety of the water. For about the last mile we just paddled watching the wild world go by. As we finally came to the slower moving water of the take out I sat back and reflected. We had accomplished everything I had wanted to and then some. The scenery, the wildlife and the fish was a perfect way to unwind and let it all go. I can attest to the fact that river therapy is a real thing. The next time the daily grind has you down grab your paddle and return to rivers, they won’t disappoint.

  I want to thank Ben Collins for joining me on what first seemed like a crazy trip down a chocolate river, I doubt I would have done it without you. And also my brother Damon who through his knowledge of all things camping helped me pick out the right gear for this trip, as well as joining us in camp and keeping the fire going!