Back from Dallas and raring to give the River another shot my first stop was to check in with my shuttle friends at the Cotter Trout Dock…..
When I had a chance, I asked the owner if they had the tackle for setting up a “White River Rig”. I had not forgotten the previous nights’ lesson. Those guys shore fishing had done well. It seemed everyone caught fish on their special “white river rigs”. I hadn’t even gotten a bite. But given my history with any thing that required patience, it wasn’t surprising. The Trout Dock had it all. There was power bait, corn, sinkers and small trout hooks. She sold me the gear and then showed me how to rig up the famous “White River Rig”.
I finally pushed off around noon. The water was warmer but still cold. The air temp was getting fairly hot. The sun was bright with sunburn was a definite threat. The water had continued to drop since early morning. Now we were starting to get into the low water version of the flooded river I dealt with last trip. This ought to be interesting. I checked the dad-burned GPS. Yes, it was working this time. I’d made sure there were freshly charged batteries and the settings had been installed with the help of the factory tech.
The little canoe made its way from the dock to the current. I pulled the starter cord and she kicked right off. Away we went at a whopping three and one half miles per hour. That included help from the current. The last time we left that bay, I think we went to almost 10 miles per hour like it or not. It was quite a difference. But the most significant change was the ability to see more than twenty-five yards. I could actually see the banks and scenery ! Great, I would finally be able to do a little photography. So far shooting had been shut out due to rain and fog.
As we traveled down the river I became aware of a new challenge. Instead of flying three to eight feet above the shoals and big rocks, I was now dodging them. Uh oh, this is not going to be a walk in the park. I was concerned about hitting the composite propeller against the rocks and breaking it in pieces or worse twisting the drive shaft. I wasn’t too worried about dragging the bottom of the canoe on the rocks as I felt it had been built to take that type abuse. (I had no idea the canoe’s age made it’s hull very brittle.) My major concern was twisting the motor off the brackets if I hit it on the rocks.
(Edit note: Months later, as I patched the bottom of the boat I realized the old royalex skin was not able to take that type abuse.)
Oh well, at least I was able to take my time and guide the boat a little better. I would try to be vigilant and read the water. If I read it far enough ahead I should have time to miss whatever was coming up. The trip wasn’t a cruise through a park lake, but it sure was an improvement over the last time down the river. I was actually enjoying learning to read the water. It was much easier at this speed.
I’d been told to watch for the eagles flying around Ranchettes’ Access. Somehow or another I couldn’t quite figure out where I was when I was supposed to be passing the Ranchettes area. The map I was using and my GPS were offering two opinions while my brain offered a third. Amazing ! Here I am with a lap full maps and this high dollar GPS and I can’t figure out where the hell I am. I think I passed the Ranchettes’ Access without ever seeing it. I must have been studying my map too closely or something. But I did see the birds. As I was cruising past a boat load of local fishermen I spotted two Eagles swooping and diving around of a big wooded bluff. They would swoop down close to the river then swing upward with the same pent-up energy of a roller coaster.
The pair were apparently swooping near a nest in the trees along the ridge then frolicking as gliders all along the hills and the river below. I watched them with great anticipation. I was getting closer, my little motor humming along as quiet as possible. Soon one of the big guys swept low across the river, then turned almost straight up as it climbed up and over the ridge on river right. Then it was gone. I turned to watch the other and it had disappeared into the trees on the ridge where I had suspected a nest. No birds. I wasn’t close enough to get a good look. I’d called them to the attention of the fishermen.
I had been quiet excited and shouted over to the other boat “Hey, look at the eagles.” I was proud I had spotted them and they had been sitting there all along and had not seen the big birds. I thought my old eagle eyes were back. The guy who could always spot animals before everybody else was back on his game. I was kind of puffed up about it.
I reached a curve in the river and was surprised to see fifteen or twenty Eagles flying around the ridge and river. Then I saw another ten or so on the river bank just standing around something. Uh, oh. What a fool. Now I was close and my suspicions were becoming reality. Turkey vultures. Dammit! I revved up the little motor and moved down the river as fast as the little boat would carry me. I didn’t dare look back to see if the locals were falling out of the boat laughing. I could just hear them laughing at that old flat lander who didn’t know a buzzard from an eagle. Oh woe is me, I’ve done it again.
There was mercy in the noise of the little engine. Thankfully, I couldn’t hear the laughter at this speed. The redness in my face was not sunburn this time. Oh well, another day, another little adventure.
Next up Buffalo City and a little commentary that’s been a long time in coming.