Since we've had the big flood around here last spring the river has filled in
quite a bit with sand along the section we live on. The problem was
compounded during the two additional floods we had in July, making it nearly
impossible to run my 16 foot "V" bottom fishing boat anywhere close to home.
I do a lot of fishing from the boat, it's extra wide, very stable, has a nice
flat floor, and a 50hp motor to get me to where I want to go in a hurry.
Granted, it's no 'Bassmaster' fiberglass monster or anything, just a good
solid aluminum boat that'll hold up to four people and still provide casting
room. Anyway, I was really bemoaning the loss of the use of the boat towards
the end of July since I'd seen the 'monster northern' take a duck or two along
the other shore and knew it was reestablishing his feeding pattern. The other
side of the river is now too far to cast to, and the holes, downed trees and
snags make it way to dangerous for any sane person to wade into. So my only
choice was to sit on the dock and watch, fitfully, frustrated, knowing he was
just taunting me. I know, "The Captain Ahab Syndrome," that's what it's
become over the last couple of years, chasing this 23lb plus Northern Pike that
has mocked me by snapping any line rig I've presented.
My birthday landed on a Saturday this year. It's not something I normally
celebrate, just a new number to remember to recite when asked. That weekend,
the Iowa State Fair was running down in Des Moines and my wife had informed me
that her boss was in town from San Diego and had asked if was ok with me to
take her down to see it, especially since I traditionally spent my birthday
fishing anyway. "Sure, no problem, have fun, see you tonight," etc., etc.
Trying not to spin too many cartwheels. Saturday morning came, my wife got
ready to head for the fair and as she pulled out I noticed she was driving our
pickup truck instead of the van. I also noticed she was wearing jeans, a
flannel shirt and boots. A little odd I thought, but then I figured that
maybe she wanted to give her boss the 'full flavor' of Iowa, so I let those
facts drift out of my mind. I gathered my gear and headed towards the river
with visions of small mouth, crappies, gillies and a whole day of fishing
dancing in my head.
I had just finished stringing up my fly rod and tying on a small popper when I
saw my wife pulling back into the drive. Ok, maybe she forgot something, her
purse, coffee for the 3 hour trip, whatever. She yelled down to me that
"something seemed to be wrong with the truck" and "could I please come up and
take a look. I muttered "Drat" (or something like that was uttered). Ok, take a quick
look and get her on her way. I trudged up the hill and rounded the corner by
the garage. The whole time she was trying to explain this grinding sound that
the truck was making and how she was now going to be late picking up her boss
and then getting back on the road to the fair. Then I noticed the tail gate
was down and something was sticking out the back of the truck. "What the
heck???" I'm thinking. It was a small, flat bottomed, 'john boat.' And she
was yelling "Happy Birthday!" and nearly dancing with joy. The she explained
that she'd gotten it at a garage sale a few days earlier and had them hold it
"Wow, just what we need for this river, and it even has oars!" She
helped me drag it out of the truck and onto the driveway and I started
evaluating my present. She kept assuring me that the guy said it "floated"
but it sure was in rough condition. It was licensed as a "1963 flat bottom
"Nice general description," I thought as I surveyed the situation.
It was multi-colored 'camouflage' with about 5 coats of paint, someone had
put about a 1/2 an inch of black tar all over the bottom, which really made me
wonder about the 'floatability' claim, and I noticed a sheet metal screw with
a rubber gasket in one spot. It's 10 feet long and about 45 inches across,
with 3 seats, and about 14 inches deep, made out of very light weight aluminum
and the transom had been recently rebuilt. I notice that someone had drilled
holes all around the gunwale and inquired about them. My wife said that the
previous owner had used it as a duck blind and the holes were left over from
the uprights that they hung the blind sections on. She's beaming with pride
at her purchase, I have mixed emotions, excited because I know I can now cross
the river, but also hoping she didn't pay too much for this mess. She must
have picked up on my anxiety because she quickly chipped in the comment that
she knows that I'll be able to "fix it up into a first rate fishing boat."
Also adding that she thought our little 4hp gas trolling motor will fit on it
and we'd be able to fish anywhere we wanted to! I asked her to help carry it
down to the river so she could get going to pick up her boss and get to the
fair. Then she informed me that that was all just a ruse to give her time to
go and get the boat and that she was going to spend the whole day fishing with
me, in our new boat! "Okay, I can handle all of this, just stay positive," I
thought to myself.
We hauled the boat down to the river, then I headed back up for the motor and
the 6 gallon tank, Rachelle got the life preservers out of the big boat and we
walked back down to the boat. We slid the boat into the water, I tied the bow
onto a cleat while Rachelle tied on the stern. I picked up the motor and
carefully stepped off the dock and into the boat.
I stepped over the first seat heading for the stern when I noticed the stern was
drifting away from the dock. OK, now I'm standing in the middle of a small,
lightweight, flat bottom boat, cradling a 4hp-gas motor in my arms and the boat is
only tethered at the bow. To top it all off, I'm not exactly a lightweight guy myself
and my Multiple Sclerosis has left me with a little balance problem anyway.
I carefully lift my foot to step towards the back seat so I can set down to
mount the motor at about the same time a small wave hits the side of the boat.
I notice water running over the back corner and quickly turn to head back for
the dock. Too late, water is now gushing over the side. I'm trying to
stabilize myself and hold onto the motor and stay dry as the boat is
turning over on its side. I now know how it feels to be the looser of a log
rolling contest! The boat went under, I went down tossing the motor towards
the dock. The motor hit the dock edge, teetered, started to roll towards the
water when my wife grabbed it. Somehow, just before I went under I grabbed my
wallet and threw it onto the dock (how fast the mind works during a critical
situation!) I reached over and grabbed the dock, my wife backed off, knowing
the barrage of expletives that was about to be launched. I pulled my self up
and put my elbows on the floor of dock, still hanging in the water, and
started laughing. That's all I could do, hang on and laugh.
Thinking about everything I'd done wrong, not making sure both ends
were secure, standing up in a small boat, not keeping my weight centered
and low, all the very things I'd gone over with my wife a few minutes before.
The old adage "Do as I say, not as I do" came back to bite me in my wet hind end!
We pulled the boat out of the water and drained the water out. I put on some
dry clothes. We got the motor mounted, the gas tank attached and the motor
started without incident this time. Both of us donned life preservers,
carefully got into the boat, leaving the fishing equipment on the dock 'just
in case,' and went for a great ride.
We came back to the dock, loaded the fishing gear into the boat and fished for
several hours. Catching, netting, releasing fish, one person balancing the boat
with the oars while the other one fought a fish, taking turns fishing, scouting, rowing,
balancing, learning to work together to stay dry. Most of all laughing about my
latest baptismal into my favorite fishing water, the panicked look on my face as I realized
what was happening and the fact there wasn't anything I could do to stop it!
I now enjoy the boat a great deal, usually preferring to row rather than
putting on the motor. I've completely stripped and refinished it, just as my
wife predicted I would and filled all of the holes. Using the small boat has
also really helped expand my casting techniques since I don't dare stand up to
cast for fear of tipping over. So I've had to learn to cast while sitting
down, practicing low casts, roll casts, easy single hauls, work on my mending
techniques and I've started to learn left hand casting.
All in all the new boat has really become a great fishing tool, and, most of all,
now I can continue the hunt for 'the big fish!' ~ Randy Fratzke