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The Second Annual Carolina Cafe (Camping And Fishing Expedition)

Hope gets things started right with a nice redbreast from the bank

     Bad economy. House on the market. Day job. Tee ball. Karate. Honey-do list. New puppy. Receding hairline. Expanding waistline. Leaky roof. Softball.

     It was time to escape. And what better escape is there than a weekend camping and fishing by the beautiful Broad River? Thankfully, there was a group of like-minded individuals with the same goals in mind: fellowship and fishing with new and old SCRF buddies.

     My wife grudgingly gave in to my pleadings for a short weekend kitchen pass with the stipulation that I take at least one child (of three) and one dog (two) off her hands. After a morning tee ball game (in which I saw a ball actually caught in the air!!, Hope and I, accompanied by our new puppy, made our way to the campsite, arriving just in time to meet up with Steve, Rocky, Tar Devil and a few other guys just coming off the river. After a quick thunderstorm, BasserDrew and some other guys arrived following their float and we got down to the business of fire-starting and cooking dinner. Lil Pee Dee River Rat assumed head chef duties and pretty soon we were all munching on brats, steaks, and various other forms of protein. We then settled around the campfire (big thanks to Will for nursing it back to health!) and began carbo-loading in earnest.

This guy was named Copper. Watch out for his buddies.

     I was very curious to get the scouting report on the smallie fishing, and those reports were mixed. By most accounts, the fishing was somewhere between great and poor and the fish were biting somewhere between the surface and the bottom. Blackwater Bill had reported earlier that the smallies only wanted topwater poppers while someone else reported that worms hopped along the bottom were working well. Macbass had taken a four-pounder the day prior and a good many over three pounds had been caught. The flyfishermen in the group reported pretty fair success as well, enough to get me excited about the next day's fishing.

     I should add that my eight-year old daughter thought that the SCRFers were the "coolest bunch of old dudes" she had ever hung out with. I also caught her trying to scare her little brothers with Tar Devil's story about the killer frogs that unite and carry people off whenever a fellow frog goes missing. I'm convinced her recollections of the "cool old dudes" will outlast her memories of the fish we caught the following day.

A crowded tent!

     The next morning Lil Pee Dee again manned the stove and everybody enjoyed some delicious deer sausage, eggs, and toast. Itching to wet a line, Hope, Bear (the dog), and I piled into my Ultimate 14.5 and began paddling, wading, dragging, and occasionally fishing our way upstream. We got into a few redbreast that loved Hope's beetlespin but I really wanted Hope to experience her first river smallmouth. I was throwing a Baby Chug Bug and caught a small one that she thought was really big. While we were working our way upstream, Hope sat in the boat with Bear while I dragged us upstream via a rope tied around my waist.

Bear Gone Fishin'

      Finally, we reached a spot that looked promising that was shallow enough to allow Hope to get out of the boat (the dog was asleep) and wade around a bit. Not quite trusting an eight-year old slinging treble hooks around, I'd hook a fish and hand her the rod to reel in the fish. The smallies were killing it, too! Over half of the twenty or so smallies we caught struck at the popper and missed before hitting again a few casts later. We never missed a strike where we didn't land the fish a cast or three later. The fish were exactly where you'd expect them too: right behind or in front of current breaks and hanging on the edges of swift water. Hope would land a fish, name it (Tiger, Leaper, Brownie, etc.), and then release it. When we would reach a deeper spot, Hope would perch on the nose of the kayak and reel in fish from there.

Yummy!

     After one promising swirl-and-miss I called her up by me because I new what was about to happen. When it did, I set the hook and about twenty feet of line screamed off my little spinning reel. I handed off the rod to Hope and we both got really excited when the big smallie leaped high out of the water. As she slowly worked the fish in, I resisted the impulse to grab the rod. If this wasn't my biggest river smallmouth ever, it was certainly in the ballpark. Once the fish got close, it started trying to run in toward our legs. Worried that one of the hooks might catch me or her, I grabbed the rod and landed the fish. After a few pictures, she gently revived the fish just like she's seen on the fishing shows and we watched it swim off.

Hope's big smallmouth

Same fish. Dunno what it weighed, but it was big!

     After catching a few more smallies and a couple largemouths, it was time to head home. Making a few casts as we headed in, Hope asked if I'd dare her to kiss a fish. "Better than boys", was my answer.

Bear cools off

 

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