Wednesday, the 4th day of the road trip, dawned bright and crisp. Truth be told I am only guessing since I was not up at dawn, but close enough to it to be able to give it a good guess. Another day, another decision as how to spend it confronted us. It was a no brainer, we were going to go canoeing again. This time though, since it was further up the road toward home by ten miles than the other place, we chose Front Royal Canoe Company. Once again we were greeted by nice folks, this time those who worked at this particular outfitter. There was a bit of a difference from the experience at Down River Canoe Company though in that this time the outfitter's workers told us more about river conditions, asked us more about our own experience in a canoe, and gave us a brief overview of how to avoid problems; basically it was a more in depth outline of what to expect on the river. Another thing that was different was the price. Since it was Wednesday they gave us the midweek rate, or in other words they gave us a discount of 25% off of the regular cost.
For the trip, we chose one of 7 miles in length. We had plenty of time to complete it, we started earlier than the first canoe outing, and only had to be back by 6:00 though we chose 5:30. We had to pick a time this time around because we would not end up at the outfitter's base, and they would meet us at the haul out site. A young lad drove us, and another canoeist to the drop off area, and we again shoved off pretty quickly once all of our gear was secured in the canoe. We decided a nice leisurely day of fishing, with enough paddling to get us down river on time would be the way to spend the day; and of course since the sun was shining, we would be on the lookout for turtles too. One thing I did differently on that day was to hold off on putting on my sunscreen, I figured why not get a bit of sun for some color, then put it on. Decisions, decisions - sometimes the right one, sometimes the wrong one.
Well, as on the first canoe outing, and as at Skidmore Lake - Mr. Serious about fishing caught the first fish, and he caught the most fish, and he caught the most variety of species. For some reason though all I took were pictures of him with sunfish. I don't know why I did not take one of him with a bass, he sure caught enough of them (though not many) for me to have thought of framing one. As you can see, the penultimate fisherman (between the two of us anyhow) had that serious look on his face again, it could not be disguised by those Wally World special that passed for polarized sunglasses. I got myself a pair too, with amber lenses, but no you will not see me in them!
As we paddled along, we hit some rapids now and again, or maybe they were just ripples, and for the most part the river was deeper in this section. We did manage to get stuck at least once, again requiring climbing half way out of the canoe to push off, and I have to admit I realized I would have hated to have fallen in because those rocks were not only hard, they had lots of jagged edges where they had been eroded away unevenly by the currents over the eons. It turned out alright though, and we were off safely.
As we paddled on, we saw log after log, and rock after rock, basically covered with turtles. I am guessing that we tried to catch turtles at at least 75% of the places where we saw them, but those aquatic tanks can be fast. Even though we had a net to try to catch them, we had no luck which I suppose was lucky for the turtles. Our net, bought at Dick's Sporting Goods (the original store in Binghamton, NY) was a trout net - one with a long pole shoved into its hollow handle to extend Brendan's reach. It was great for scooping up fish, or for trying to catch turtles and frogs. One of its good points was that the net's edge did not overlap the aluminum rim, but was enclosed inside the rim offering it protection from rocks and such. It was not expensive or anything, but very practical for our purposes. I liked that net a lot, so much so that I had bought another just like it, and we also had that one aboard with us. I was happy to have bought the spare because Dick's apparently no longer carries them. As for the one with the pole stuck in the handle - it was our turtle and frog catching net. By the way, if you click on the pic, it should enlarge, but before you do - can you see how many turtles are on the log (answer below, if I don't forget).
Sometime not too long after the above shot we were faster than one of the turtles we saw, and Brendan was able to catch one. It was a small turtle covered in algae so it was a bit hard to identify without seeing its carapace (upper shell). I think it was a Painted Turtle, but am not all that sure. Still though the thrill of the hunt culminated in a catch after all, and that net made good. I guess it only made good though because this guy seemed to be sound asleep until we were really close, close enough for Brendan to position the net underneath the branch on which the turtle had hauled out to sun it self. That way, when the turtle was finally startled enough to take a plunge for safety, it landed right inside the net. Sadly though, it was the final catch with our net. I guess maybe I should apologize for torturing your eyes with that pic of me holding the turtle, I suppose I should have cropped it to include only the turtle in my hand, but oh well you're tough and can take it - can't you!
Remember I said I was happy I had bought a spare net at Dick's because they no longer carry them. Well, I was even happier I had the spare a short while later on this trip when I asked Brendan - "Hey, where is the net?" You guessed right, it was not to be found. Last I recall it was draped across Brendan's legs as we paddled, but I am not saying that he lost it. That is just where I can picture it in my mind's eye. We both had no idea of how or when it went overboard, but surely that is what happened to it because we searched the canoe at least two times, maybe three times in utter disbelief at our loss. Hopefully someone else, maybe a youngster in search of turtles or frogs will find it down river. The last I suppose I will ever see of that net is in the picture above as we honed in on numerous turtles on a deadfall. You can just make it out in the lower left corner of the pic.
At some point, just a little later on, we saw a nice little island, and we decided to beach the canoe and have lunch. I guess it had been just minutes after we had realized we had lost the net. I wasn't mad, which is surprising for me, but I did mention to Brendan I was sure disappointed that the net had been lost. There were a lot of fond memories with that net (and its predecessors- at least one, but I think two, of the same nets that had gotten holes torn in them and were then replaced with the now lost one). As we ate lunch on the island, I also mentioned how happy I was that we had the spare net, and that it still had the manufacturer's sticker on the handle giving the name of the company that made it. I did not bother looking at the label all that closely, no point since I could not contact them from the island; but I had wanted to make a call to them or shoot them an email once i got home. That way I could check to see if they still made them, and then order a couple of them for future use. Brendan agreed that was a good thing we had the spare. Despite the lost net, all was well. We fished some from the shore, and Brendan also tried to catch some bait. He wound up successful too. You may remember my earlier blog about wanting to see some Hellbenders while on this trip. While we had no luck with them, Brendan did catch a completely other typre of critter, with a somewhat similar name, a Hellgramite. A Hellgramite is the aquatic and larval stage of the Dobson Fly. While I have seen plenty of Hellgramites before, I do not recall ever seeing a Dobson fly - and man they are ugly and have large mandibles. The larval stage is none too pretty either, and while their mandibles look big, they are no match for those of the adult Dobson Fly. If I recall right, Brendan scooped this guy out of the river with the remaining net. He does not like insects and bugs, and is none to fond of touching any of them except maybe a worm to bait his hook; so I took it out and held it in place while he snapped a picture of it. Pretty isn't it! Well while you may not think so, the Spotted Bass who chomped down on it on my second cast with it surely must have thought it an appealing and appetizing morsel. We had only one other keeper sized bass from the river, that one from day one had already been filleted by me, and we now had another for the frying pan. All the others, except the one we ate at Skidmore Lake, were just too small to bother keeping - though now that I think of it - one or two of them 3 to 4 inch ones would have gone nicely in the tank with my Musk Turtle at home.
After fishing a bit more and only catching some smallfry bass (Brendan caught most of them, but he did take a pic of one I caught) we shoved off and headed down river. We soon paddled past another set of small rapids, and soon again saw more turtles. We decided to try to see if we couldn't get close enough to scoop up another one; and I am guessing it was about then that I asked Brendan: "Hey, where is the net?". Now if you are thinking that I am repeating myself, well you would be right; but I am only repeating myself because as you may have just guessed, the spare net was nowhere to be found in the canoe. The last place we both remembered seeing that one was on the little island where I had made the comment about being so happy to have the spare with the manufacturer's label still on it so we could cal them to see if they still made them. I guess my hopes of ever seeing another of these nets was pretty much bashed right then and there. Again, I did not get angry, but I sure was saddened by its loss. Brendan seemed devastated. I think he felt responsible for leaving the net on the island. (After returning home, he told his girlfriend that he felt bad because he had forgotten it there, and because I had mentioned how great it was to have the spare, and to have the maker's label still on it. I will try my best to replace it, and if I do, I'll give the new one to him as a present.) Oh well, life goes on and I suppose we will find a suitable replacement, but I have to admit, I'll miss that particular type of net - we have that particular type of net going on something like 15 years or more now; lots of fish, frogs, and a few turtles were scooped up with them over those years - lots of good memories were enmeshed in them.
It turned out that after that Brendan did not fish much. I did not realize why at first that he insisted on paddling as i fished; but it became apparent he was down because we lost the net. I assured him it was a shame, but it was okay in the long run, after all it was just a net. I even mentioned I hoped that maybe someone else would find it, and see us to return it before we got off the river. No luck there though. So we continued paddling, and fishing, until finally we arrived at the haul out site at about 5:00. We were about a half hour early, so we got all our gear out of the canoe, and then I tried to catch some minnows in one of our minnow traps. I figured we could do a bit more fishing from shore. No luck in that either, and soon the outfitter showed up to haul us, our gear, and the canoe back to the base.
We had planned on staying another day, but Brendan said he has wanted to make this the last day. So, once we were back at the car, that was it. We packed everything inside the Corolla, and we were off headed north. I guess I can say it is nice to have someone with which to share the driving, especially someone I like as much as Brendan, and whom I trust to drive as much as him. He is only 18 but so far has proven himself to be a safe driver. As a matter of fact, he drove all the way home that night. We departed the canoe company at about 6:00 or 6:15, then made a quick stop in a large roadside pawn shop I had noticed on our way in, and now again on our way out. We didn't buy anything, but they sure had an interesting collection of firearms, swords and knives. On the way home we stopped only one or two other times. I think maybe only once to gas up in New Jersey, where the prices are at least .30 a gallon less expensive than in NY. We wound up getting home at just about midnight. Not bad time at all, better than our time going down, mostly because of stopping less. One unique thing about the ride home was that we had a passenger. Remember that Spotted bass I had caught. Well it was in our live bait bucket for the entire ride home. I had a battery operated aerator pump hoked up to it, so it made the trip not too much the worse for the wear. We planned on eating it along with the fillets fro Brendan's keeper, and there is no fish better than truly fresh fish. I forgot to put Brendan's fillets into the fridge when we got home, so they wound up getting tossed the next day what with all the ice in the cooler having melted. I did not want to take a chance on it having gone bad. So what happened to the Spotted bass, well he is now residing in our fish tank with our Musk Turtle. I am hoping someone I know with a pond will want him, otherwise it is the frying pan for which he is destined. Not much of a meal in one small Spotted bass, but it will make a delicious appetizer, that is of course, only if the guy with the pond does not want him.
All in all we had a great time; and I think Brendan would agree with me on that one. I am hopeful that we will keep up this tradition of an annual road trip for many, many years to come; and I mentioned that to Brendan while on the drive home. His answer amused me, assured me, and comforted me when he said that when I am in my 90s, he will have to lift me up to put me into the canoe!
All the best,
PS: Lest I forget, there were 8 turtles that we counted in that pic. Do you see them all?
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