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.
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.
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.
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.
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.