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The Incredible Journey

    by Lance (aka Red Heron)

    What better way to spend a week of vacation than to cover 6 different flows in 4 different states over an 8 day period with some of your best friends. Speedfishin (Shannon) and I covered 5 of these flows in 3 states ourselves before meeting up with Sumtershoaliefan (John), Shoalieseeker (Charlie), Basserdrew (Drew), and ShoalBandit (Jason) for a three day finale in South Carolina.

Day 1
Sunday, October 21
Leaf River, Mississippi


The Leaf River is proof in the flesh that not all rivers in Mississippi are lazy, sandy, and muddy. The section we floated probably had about 10 small “shoals”. Most made little more than a surface chop, but 3 or 4 would probably actually register as Class I. A couple may even deserve light Class II status. Bluebird skies made for a tough overall bite, but the action was fairly consistent all day with the spots. Small spinnerbaits were the ticket…the more current, the better. We both caught about a dozen spots…all about 1lb.

Shannon shows his game face

Spinnerbait + Current= Spotted Bass

When the fish weren’t biting, there were plenty of things to look at. There was this cool, window-laden house…not sure what the pier is good for. The water was low, but not that low.

We saw a doe leading two young ones across a riffle

There were some cool sandstone formations around the shoals…this one is called Gordon’s Rock

And of course, the shoals themselves

I have no comment for this picture, but thought it deserved to be shared

 

Day 2
Monday, October 22
Chickasawhay River, Mississippi
Cahaba River, Alabama


     The Weather Channel was not telling a promising tale Sunday night. We awoke early Monday morning with large, impending red blobs on a fast approach from the south. And thus we were run out of south Mississippi. We evacuated to Alabama after taking most of the day to formulate a plan B. We eventually settled on wading the Cahaba River for the last couple hours of daylight. The section was shallow and easily wadeable and chock-full of 0.5-1lb spots.

 

None of the bigger guys showed up, but I did catch this nice redeye. All told, we probably caught 30 between the two of us in just a few hours…probably the most consistent action we saw all week.

 

    That night we drove over to Wetumpka in anticipation for the next day’s trip…with large impending red blobs still fast approaching. After playing some pool and having a few cold ones at the local pool hall, we decided to camp…well, more accurately, we decided to sleep in the trucks. At around 2am, my handheld radio comes to life and I hear the words, “You might want to wake up for this.” As I groggily open my eyes, I see a white wall of water, leaves, and tree limbs moving in from the south at a most alarming pace. I rub my eyes to make sure I’m actually seeing what I think I’m seeing, and before I can focus again, the whole truck starts rocking in a windy, torrential downpour. I radio back to Shannon, who apparently was too concerned about the weather to fall asleep in the first place, and say something along the lines of “this can’t be safe.” But a few moments later it was over and no apparant damage was sustained. A microburst perhaps…but it got kinda hairy there for a minute.

Day 3
Tuesday, October 23
Coosa River, Alabama


    We awoke Tuesday morning to on/off downpours, but no excessive wind or apparent lightning. Since the float was short and the weather was iffy, we took our time getting to the put-in. As we got to the put-in and were unloading our stuff, the skies opened up yet again. I know the southeast needed every drop of that rain and more, but at the time, neither of us were terribly impressed.

 

    The downpour was soon over, however, and our float resumed with no other major hitches.
The fishing was not spectacular by any means, but we both managed a few. But visual senses and physical abilities were well exercised. This area of the Coosa is one of the prettiest sections of river I’ve ever been on. The rapids were challenging for a SOT, but not too bad.

    Here’s a shot sequence of me going through one of the rapids. After going down the initial riffle, I decide to go left instead of straight.

 

So far, so good…now I just have to cut it in tight behind this rock

Uh-oh!…not tight enough!

Oops!

No big deal…time to get fancy...

A little pirouette…

And we’re through!

 

Here’s a B&W of me next to one of those signature Coosa cypress islands.

And some more random shots

As I said, the fishing wasn’t spectacular, but it was enough to keep us occupied. We both caught about 10 a piece. This was Shannon’s best spot of the day, and probably big fish of the day.

I hooked a monster gar (at least 50”) on a crankbait and fought it for a good while before it come unbuttoned. That thing was towing my yak upstream in some pretty serious current! Not long after, I caught a sucker…on a crankbait! I didn’t even know that was possible. He charged it like he wanted it dead, and just blew up on it right beside the yak in really shallow water.

We came to a section that was sort of deep and slow, so we just paddled through…but I tossed a crankbait out to troll just in case. A few minutes later, this pretty little guy decided to bite it. I’m guessing it’s a spot, but it sure looked interesting.

    As we were approaching the take-out, Shannon’s alarm system key fob started making some weird noises. He quickly took the battery out, but we feared the worst (his truck was at the take-out). At the take-out, our fears were realized…his fob wouldn’t disarm the alarm or unlock the truck. We called several cab services, and they either wouldn’t come get us or didn’t know how to find us. We finally called the cops…SERVE and protect, right? All three units on duty were “busy” at the moment. So we walked back out to the main highway and contemplated making the 6 mile walk to my truck. It just so happened that right where we came out on the main highway, there is a local jail there…and we contemplated walking for the better part of an hour. It turns out “loitering” near a jail is a good way to get three “busy” cops to come “help” you. So, after several minutes of explanation, all three “busy” cops took us back down the dirt road to Shannon’s truck where one “busy” cop unsuccessfully tried to jimmy the door for 45 minutes. Another “busy” cop took his time in giving us a number for a 24hr locksmith while the third “busy” cop just watched and looked important. After all that, we had apparently put them way behind on their “busy” schedule, so they could not afford the time to take us up to the put-in to get my truck. They left and we called the locksmith, who arrived shortly after. He had the door jimmied in 5 minutes and offered to take me to my truck while Shannon attempted to disarmed his alarm system so he could start the truck. I accepted his gracious offer, and by the time I came back, Shannon had his truck ready to go (minus the alarm system). It was very late by this point, but we decided to head on over to Georgia. We ended up “camping” again at a rest stop.

Day 4
Wednesday, October 24
Unnamed creek, Georgia


    Wednesday was to be our mid-week lazy day. We got a late-morning start on one of my favorite Georgia shoal bass streams. We wade-fished until mid-afternoon, but the fish just weren’t on. We both caught some fish, including a couple that approached 3lbs…but overall, size and numbers definitely left room for improvement. The water was really low as I had figured it would be. I knew it would be a big gamble to fish it, but it was nice to let our shoulder’s relax for a day. We packed it in well before dark and headed towards Macon to a much welcomed warm shower and comfortable bed at one of the local hotels.

Day 5
Thursday, October 25
Ocmulgee River, Georgia

Refreshed, we arrived at the Ocmulgee in an eerie twilight fog. The sun, which had been hidden for the last 3 days, quickly burned it off.

Fishing was still tough. I threw every reaction bait I had, catching a few small spots and shoalies on a crankbait. I then tied on a crawfish jig and started casting to wood cover. This proved to be a fairly repeatable means of catching some largemouth, but it was slow going for the amount of water we needed to cover. Most of the largies were in the 1lb range, but I did catch this big-headed freak. I swear it had the head of 5lb’er and the body of 3lb’er…the scale said 3-12.

     I ended up losing a 4lb+ shoalie on the spinnerbait. I also had two big shoalies (one about 3lb and the other approaching 5lb) simultaneously follow my buzzbait all the way back to the yak, swimming side-by-side…but neither would hit, and subsequent casts with different lures went unmolested. I caught a few more small shoalies later in the day by slow rolling a spinnerbait through some of the deeper runs.

Shannon, on the other hand, went mostly fishless…but by the end of the day, I don’t think he cared.

    We then packed up and headed to Drew’s place in South Carolina to meet up with Drew, Charlie, and John to try our hand at some smallies on the Broad River.

Day 6
Friday, October 26
Broad River, South Carolina


To keep from paddling and casting over each other, John, Charlie, and Drew hit one part of the river while Shannon and I hit another.

Well, I guess us Mississippi boys have a thing or two to learn about catching smallies. My biggest smallie of the weekend wasn't even worth putting on the scale...about 1.5lb. I didn't even take any pictures of the smallies I caught.

The sun was gone again, and Friday was a dreary day. It rained and rained and rained. In the words of Forrest Gump, sometimes it felt like it was raining up. We both lost our big fish. I lost an estimated 5-6lb LM and Shannon had what looked to be about a 4lb smallie throw his J-9 right back at him at the apex of it’s 4 foot skyward ascent. He caught several smallies, but I was having trougle with them...I think I caught 4 or 5, with the rest being LM.

We were both getting pretty good at catching catfish, though. Shannon was about 100yds downriver when I barely heard him yell through the pounding rain, “I need a picture!” I could see him holding up what looked like a really nice fish. I paddle over, camera in hand, ready to congratulate him on catching a big’un. Then he lifts Mr. Whiskers out of the water. I congratulate him anyway and take his picture.

After all, it’s not everyday you catch a 3lb cat on a spinnerbait, right?

Ok, maybe not. This one actually caught about 2’ of air and made the most horrendous ruckus as it then sort of somersaulted across the surface for another 10’. I thought I had a lunatic smallie on acid…nope…just another channel cat. But a frisky one at that. I had at least 3 more either swat at or follow my J-11 near the yak…and another that I actually hooked somehow came unbuttoned at yakside.

Shannon took big fish of the day between the two of us with this solid 2-13 largmouth that hit a buzzbait.

The other guys seemed to have better luck. Here’s one of the better smallies that Drew caught.

That evening, while the rest of the crew headed back to Drew's place, we decided to camp out. The sky had cleared, and the sunset was spectacular!

And the moon was big and bright!

Day 7
Saturday, October 27
Broad River, South Carolina

We hit another nearby section of the river while Drew, Charlie, and John tried their luck further upstream. Jason did his own thing on another nearby river. We later found out that the threesome didn’t have much luck except for a nice 3-15 smallie that Charlie caught.

However, Jason caught this gargantuan largie right at nightfall.

But for Shannon and I, there was some consolation on Saturday for losing our big fish on Friday. Shannon caught this nice 2-1 smallie.

...and I tangled with this 4-14 LM, which is my second biggest bass for the year. I caught several other LM in the 2.0-3.5lb class. Shannon caught several 1lb smallies as well. I was still having trouble with the smallies. I think I caught 5.

The day ended with another awesome sunset.

That night we decided we'd head back to Drew's as well for a shower. But we were probably better off camping again. Tonight, the moon was behind the clouds, but the blue lights were bright!

At least he was pretty cool about it.

Day 8
Sunday, October 27
Broad River, South Carolina


Sunday…the last day of our grand fishing adventure. We should have learned from the sub-par day the other three guys had on the upstream section, but Shannon and I decided to fish it anyway while Charlie, John, Drew, and now Jaosn hit one of the lower river sections again. The bite was way off for us as well on the upper part of the river. The bite was so bad, I took about a 30 minute nap in my yak just drifting with the current.

I awoke to Shannon climbing up to a railroad bridge where we proceeded to take some random pictures and throw rocks in the river out of frustration. We later found out that a banner day was had on the lower river…and we missed it.

John caught this massive 5-1 smallie.

And Charlie caught this big 6-1 largemouth

    But oh well, I guess those days happen. I definitely would like to try something like this again…but I think I’ll shoot for doing it in the spring next time.

 

 

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