Saturday, May 7, 2016

Bass Goggles: Avenged

Last week, with bass season closed in most Wisconsin waters, I took to a nearby river.  If you haven't read about my Bass Goggles clouding my judgement and nearly invoking a "code brown", check it out.

I was determined, when conditions normalized, so avenge my pride and tackle the same river.  This opportunity was presented this last week when a new kayak fishing buddy of mine was looking for partners to float the river via our local Facebook Group.

We called a local kayak rental/launch site to confirm parking and they indicated the river had dropped over 8 inches since my treacherous adventure.  We were planning the float for Friday, the day before Wisconsin fishing opens on other waters, and the local news was calling for an unseasonably warm 90 degrees.  We planned a float.

The night before I carefully prepped and loaded my kayak and gear.  I rigged my DIY drag chain to help control my speed in the current (I learned last time anchoring in the current isn't a great idea).  After successfully threading and testing the drop chain control through the rudder hole on my FeelFree Lure, I was confident I was adequately prepared.


Morning-of, I eagerly fire up the vehicle and head west.  I meet my buddies at the launch site.  We unload and do the vehicle shuffle to our takeout spot.  Our launch site was a steep bank with an old staircase.  With some help (I was fully loaded with tackle and a cooler), I'm floating and we are off.


It takes me a few moments to adjust to the current, I am typically a lake fisherman.  However, I drop the drag chain and my Garmin Striker GPS speed reading confirms it is working.  The weather is beautiful, and my Garmin shows the water temperature gradually rising with the heat, a balmy 56 degrees.

The fish aren't biting as we float, but I don't care.  This is my first kayak river float in good conditions.  It is a beautiful day and I have great company.  Life is good.  A bit downstream we stop on a small island.  One of my party members gets a smallmouth to hit in the calmer, warmer water on the other side of the island.  He suggests tossing a senko, so I quickly rig one wacky style and oblige.  Naturally, in my excitement, I snag immediately.  After using colorful language and fierce tugs, I free the snag.  Eventually, after no bites, I get a snag I cannot recover.  We move on.

After more distance without a bite, I am comfortable with my equipment in the river environment.  I easily stand and try sight fishing.  My kayak allows me to do this effortlessly.  I'm able to adjust the angle on my Garmin Striker so it is visible from a standing position.



This also proves unsuccessful.  However, I do see a LARGE Walleye casually swim under, next to, then away from my kayak.  It shows no interest in the lures I have to offer.  The fish are slow.  We had an early warm in the spring, but it turned cold again with several snows.  The water temperature was nearly to spawning condition when it dropped again.  The bite is tough.  However, my Garmin Striker tells me the sweltering heat is increasing the water temperature, now 58 degrees.  Wisconsinites are used to -30 degrees, not 90.  The cool water feels good on the legs as we float.



We are loving the float, but a bit deflated from a fishing standpoint.  After going over some swift, rough, water, we encounter a beautiful scene in the river.  It snakes through large sand banks edged with smooth river rock.  An amazing sight.  Naturally, we stop to water the weeds, cool off in the water, and take some photos.






We carry on with the float and one of my group members doesn't see a large tree down in this path.  He quickly finds himself entangled in the limbs.  We are yelling, notifying him of his pole, leash-free, getting stuck in the branches.  It falls in the water.

 After safely freeing himself from the limbs, we gather on the bank and assess the situation.  My kayak is stable, but not built for speed.  I take his other pole and he ventures back into the current.  While searching for the pole, the situation turns worse.  As I see a large "stick" floating downstream, he yells, "I lost my paddle!!!!".  I quickly shove off into the current and find the paddle around the bend stuck in another down tree.  I paddle furiously to align myself in a position to recover the paddle.

I'm able to recover the paddle, but find myself wedged in the tree.  My kayak tips slightly in the current and begins to take swift water over the side.  I lean the opposite direction as my scupper holes do their job.  I'm able to escape the current without rolling.  I love the stability of my FeelFree Lure.

I holler "I've got it!", while my buddy cheers.  Our other group member floats near him as we meet to return his paddle.  The new rod and reel is gone.  But we are safe and carry on.

Given the poor fishing conditions and a time restriction, we casually cast while fishing the float.  This river is beautiful, my equipment is amazing, and I'm in good company.  I'm addicted.  I take in the scenery as we near the end.  



We round the bend and approach our take out location.  A large group of kayakers are launching.  My kayak's appearance (and my ability to navigate while standing) draws the usual questions that I love to answer.  We wish each other well while we part ways.  Our group pulls our boats ashore, retrieves a vehicle, and load up.

We are tired, hot, but happy.  It was an amazing float on a beautiful river.  We plan to float a bigger stretch soon, with more people.

Kayaking has opened new worlds to me.  I loved fishing via a traditional boat with batteries, motors, fluids, plugs, hot metal, etc.  There is something about fishing from a kayak that has increased my love for the water and fishing.  It is an amazing experience that increases your awareness of the water.  I can go places I could never go, even in a flat-bottom Jon boat.  I look forward to my adventures to come and sharing them with you.

Be safe, tight lines my friends.

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