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The Odyssey (part II)

     April 3. 6:00 AM. The DJ doesn't get three words out of his mouth before I shut off the clock radio and my feet hit the ground. I'm not gonna oversleep like I did yesterday. My pants are about halfway on when I notice the stiffness in my bones from wading around in the Flint River all day yesterday. I'm no spring chicken anymore. My legs are beat up and my back is sore. At least I'll be in the canoe for most of the day today.

    April 3, 7:45 AM. I get the waitress at Waffle House to put my third cup of coffee in a to-go cup. It's obvious Josh isn't going to show up. We were supposed to meet at the Waffle House in Covington at 7 before floating a stretch of the Alcovy river for largemouth bass. I ponder the day's options as I trudge out to the truck, somewhat disappointed yet thoroughly geeked up on coffee.

    April 3, 8:38 AM. Halfway through the ninth ring, Josh answers the phone. He sounds like a drunk grizzly bear in late January. Josh is finishing up his senior year of college, and I briefly consider trying to make him feel guilty about missing our trip, but I was in college once too. Plus, less than twenty four hours ago I was apologizing to someone else for oversleeping. I assure Josh it's no big deal and hang up the phone. Man, do I ever miss college.

    April 3, 11:33 AM. I am bathed in sweat, my lungs are burning, and my arms feel like sandbags. I've been paddling for a total of five minutes so far. Earlier, I picked out a creek way up in North Georgia and loaded up a borrowed kayak for my first-ever kayak fishing trip. Right now, I'm regretting that decision and cussing those loonies on the internet that swear by the kayak as a fishing vehicle. What makes this even worse is the fact that I'm paddling through flat water. A dam at the put-in creates a small lake, and my plan was to paddle upstream until I reached running water and then catch some bass. My morning coffee has worn off and so has my optimism.

    April 3, 11:57 AM. I reach the first shoal the creek has to offer. Moving water at last! I've learned quite a bit over the last half hour or so. Paddling upstream in a kayak should be approached as a marathon and not a sprint. Paddle steadily for a minute or two and let the kayak glide for a few seconds while you rest. I feel a lot better about things as I beach the kayak and wade over to a promising creek mouth just upstream of the shoal.

    April 3, 3:12 PM. The fishing's been slow but steady. I'd call it slow if not for the rock bass that I've been catching interspersed with a few redeye and spotted bass. This is a nice little stream though, and perfect for this type of fishing. I've mostly been wading upstream with the kayak tied to a rope around my waist. Every now and then I'll hop in the kayak to fish the deeper pools like the one I'm approaching. I hop in the kayak and suddenly can't find the paddle. Not good, especially since it's not my paddle. Well, if the paddle is gone, it's gone. Might as well keep wading upstream. Maybe I'll find it on the way back down.

    April 3, 5:28 PM. I just missed something fairly heavy on a Rebel Crawdad. between the Crawdad and my trusty green Rooster Tail, I've probably landed twenty-five fish or so, though none have weighed more than a pound. This is exactly how I had imagined kayak fishing. Get away from the bridges and wade-paddle/fish-wade-paddle/fish. I wish I could bottle this day and take a swig of it once in a while during the winter months. One little problem though: I'm two miles or so upstream from my truck and have no paddle. 

    April 3, 5:42 PM. I don't know why I was worried. This kayak steers itself. For the last mile, the kayak has simply guided itself down this rippling little river. All I've had to do is dip a hand in the water once in a while to keep the nose pointed downstream. Suddenly there it is, the paddle bobbing up and down in a blowdown. I deftly pluck it from the water as I zoom by, fifty bucks or so less poor.

    April 3, 5:51 PM. I round a bend and spy four wood ducks, waiting them to sing their way off the water. Instead, three of them fly up and perch on an overhanging sweetgum limb about fifteen feet over the water. Just sitting there like doves on a wire. I've never seen this. The remaining woodie scrams when I am fifteen feet away. I pass under the others without moving. They see me but don't bother flying off. Bastards know when it's not hunting season.

    April 3, 7:41 PM. I eat dinner at a home-cooking restaurant in some little burg way up in the hills. I strike up a conversation with the waitress. When I tell her I am from Atlanta, she asks if I know Johnny Bender, who is apparently one of the four million or so folks from Atlanta who I also don't know. "Name sounds familiar but I just can't place him." As she describes exactly what Johnny looks like, I try and imagine the point in time where she could have asked me the same question and there would have been a chance of my knowing the guy. Probably about 1830 or so. I love small towns.

    April 3, 10:05 PM. If somebody wants to steal all this stuff from my truck they can have at it. I'm going to bed.

    April 4, 6:00 AM. The alarm sounds, but I can hear the rain coming down outside. The sore and sleepy part of me is very happy. Back to sleep.

    April 4, 8:09 AM. Still raining. I get up and get the paper. The Braves lost again and everybody says their run is over. We'll see. Middle East in turmoil. Blah, blah, blah. Here's something! Galyan's has the kayak I've been eyeing on sale.

    April 4, 11:22 AM. The only Pungo (this is the name of the kayak I want) in the metro area that is not bright yellow is all the way in over in Kennesaw, which is where I'm heading right now.

    April 4, 3;35 PM. The Alcovy is fairly high and stained as I pull my new kayak up the uppermost ledge of Factory Shoals. I'm breathing hard as I hop in and head upstream. I've only got a few hours of daylight. I'd hate to get skunked on my maiden voyage in my new boat.

    April 4, 5:49 PM. It's been a good evening. The bass have cooperated and a few two-pounders have found my spinnerbait too irresistible to pass up. Then I hear it: "To be a siiimmmmppppplllle kinda man, well that's something, you'll love and understand". As I fish my way closer to the music, I realize that this is not someone's radio, but live music accompanied quite capably with an acoustic guitar. I round a bend and see a strapping young fellow, overalls and no shirt, playing and singing his lungs out to the river next to his tent. He's pretty damn good too. As the last chord fades, I applaud the performance and request some Allman Brothers or Marshall Tucker Band. I catch my best bass of the day right in front of the guy during "Can't You See" which elicits a chorus of "What that fishin', it's been doin' to me". I wave goodbye with a thumbs up from the fellow as he launches into a Travis Tritt tune. Can't say that I've ever had quite an experience like this on a river.

    April 4, 6:03 PM. Decision time. I've caught seven nice bass and been serenaded quite nicely and now I'm resting on a rock just upstream of the first big drop on Factory Shoals. I can drag around the rough spot and chicken out or I can test myself and my new kayak. Funny how rapids always look bigger from the upstream side. This rapid and the one below it are pretty big though, probably a low Class III with this much flow. I scout the rapid and decide to go for it. There is nothing quite like that scary anticipatory moment when the water turns from placid to raging in the distance of about five feet. Other than a couple big waves in the face, the two big ledges are really rather easy. The kayak paddle allows twice as many chances to adjust course as a canoe and this feels like slow motion, though the entire run takes less than ten seconds. 

    April 4, 6:18 PM. If it's possible to strut a bit with a kayak on your head, then I am doing exactly that on the way up to my truck.

    April 4, 7:12 PM. As I pull onto my street, I retrace the journey of the last three days. Lawrenceville, Thomaston, Lawrenceville, Covington, Lawrenceville, somewhere within a stone's throw of Tennessee, Lawrenceville, Kennesaw, Lawrenceville, Covington, Lawrenceville. Over five hundred miles, three rivers, four different kinds of bass, and one new kayak. It doesn't get any better than this.

April 4, 7:13 PM. My wife is unloading the kids from their trip as I pull into the driveway and my crazy two-year old daughter runs screaming happily into my arms. There are some things better than fishing. 


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