Contributed by Corey Stansifer
As I sit here trying to break through “blogger’s block” and contemplating what I should write about, I think back to the first time I fished moving water out of a kayak. Hopefully, this will provide entertainment and insight for those interested in fishing moving water but haven’t tried it yet.
I had been talking to Jason Hopper about fishing the Etowah River outside Rome, GA for quite some time. I had seen pictures of the fish he had been catching and I had to give it a try. I’m a fan of catching spotted bass and knew this river was full of them. I also love throwing a spinnerbait and this seemed like the go-to lure for this river.
We met up on August 30th for a 5-hour float along with Shane and JR Young. I had never fished official “moving water”. I mainly fish the TN River reservoirs and creeks, but none that I have fished require separate launch and take-out areas. Needless to say, I had no reason to believe that this experience would be any different or require equipment other than what I was used to using. What is it everyone says about assuming?
As I get out of my truck at the launch, I immediately start spying everyone’s gear and watching their pre-launch preparations. I was wearing flip-flops and everyone else was too…but then they started putting on river shoes. I usually put my cell phone in my life jacket pocket for pictures and my keys and wallet in my tackle box. Everyone else was packing theirs in dry boxes and storing it in a dry hatch. I then notice rod floats being attached to all rods. Uh-oh…I started realizing that I was not prepared for what was about to happen!
Once we got the vehicles dropped off at the take-out location, it was time to launch. It didn’t take long to realize that this water was swifter than any water I had fished before. I could see large boulders just under the surface of the water passing by my kayak. I had to pay attention and look ahead upriver as large branches and other obstacles were coming at me (or me at them!) at a much quicker pace than I was used to.
It took some time to get acquainted with my new surroundings, but the fish were biting and all was good…or so I thought. As we floated towards a bend in the river, I started to hear a noise. The noise grew louder as we floated and turned into a roaring rushing sound. I asked Jason what the noise was and the only response I got was “water”. As we curved around the bend, I could finally see the source of the noise. Now, I had heard there were weirs or fish traps along the river, but I didn’t exactly know what that meant. I was quickly introduced!
I could see there was no way to avoid paddling through what looked like Niagara Falls. I’m not sure what Class of rapids this was, but on that day, it was Class III for me. I played follow the leader and allowed the others to go through so I could get a handle on how to approach and get through the rapids. I steadied my kayak and zipped through them, rocks and boulders zipping by each side. The nose of my kayak dove into the water as I dropped through to the lower section and water rushed in. I pulled the drain plugs and used my paddle to maneuver through the rocky obstacles. Floating faster, I was out of the fish trap but still dodging boulders. I finally made it through to calmer water and released my white-knuckled grip from the paddle. My hands were shaking. My nerves were shot. My man-card was in jeopardy.
After the laughter from the others had died down a bit, we got some more fishing in. We caught hybrids, stripers, and countless spotted bass. It was great to be able to fish unpressured waters. We went through 4 more fish traps that day, each once easier than the last…on my blood pressure at least.
Through all the unknowns and then the stress of my first float trip, I cannot wait to do another one. Preparation is key to keeping safe and enjoying any fishing trip, but even more importantly for a trip on moving water. If you haven’t fished moving water yet, you should give it a try. And take it from me…ask more questions before you try anything new!
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