Friday, July 13, 2012

Through the fog

Lighthouse - written by Davy and Sharon Rasmussen

Song Lyrics

Uncle Carl trout fishing on the Caney Fork River
I could barely see my uncle's back sitting in the front of the canoe as we pushed off from the bank to float the Caney Fork River.  Just when we laughed saying "at least it's not raining",  it begins to drizzle again.  An hour before, when we met at the place where our canoe and fishing trip would end, we sat in the truck as the rain pelted the hood and questioned whether we should take the 5 hour float.  Then a crack of thunder shook the ground and we grinned at each other and said "Let's Go".  We left my truck there and took his, along with the canoe, our fishing gear, a couple peanut butter sandwiches, and paddles 16 miles upstream to begin our annual fishing adventure.   I say adventure -  and they usually are for one reason or the other.  

 The year after my Pop passed away, who was also my uncle's brother, we talked with each other on the phone quite often and would always end the conversation with "We need to go fishing sometime soon".  We'd make a plan to float the river and something would always come up causing us to cancel the trip.  Sometimes it would be something personal or a scheduling conflict.  More often it would be the weather or river conditions.  The Caney Fork is controlled by the TVA and a dam holding back Center Hill lake.  When they are not generating at the dam, the river is a nice, class I, lazy float.  When they are pumping water through the dam, the river transforms into a class II or III and rises over ten feet.   We finally just picked a day on the calendar and said "Rain, shine, generating or not.... we're going" and we did.   Well, the sun worked with us on this day, but the river,  well it wasn't the lazy one that we've floated before.   We stood at the bottom of the dam looking at the rapids whipping past us, feeling the spray of the cold Caney Fork river on our face and had that "what the hell are we about to do" look on our face and pushed off.   We paddled without any words spoken between us for the first fifteen minutes as we realized we may have bit off a little more than we could chew on this one.   Our paddles weren't helping us move forward, the river took care of that,  we just tried to navigate around the rocks and fallen trees that seemed to blur as we passed them.   I tapped into my boy scout memories of white water river canoeing and remembered that when ever the water in the river made a V, that we should point our canoe to it.  We could see a section coming up that would require a bit of navigation and prayers.  My uncle did the power stroke to keep us on course.  I used the J stroke to keep the back end straight.  Suddenly it looked like the current was going to pull us into a fallen birch tree where we would certainly capsize.   I yelled "right side - Draw Stroke" .  We feverishly reached out and paddled on the right and within inches missed the tree.  As the river widened and slowed down a little, we both held up our paddles and let out the rebel "woo hoo - yee haw".   I floated this section of the river several times before, but never when it was the wild and white water Caney Fork.   With the river higher and wider, I couldn't ever really get my bearings.  Even my favorite fishing spots were under water.   It usually was a two to three hour lazy float to where we would pull the canoe out.  After about thirty minutes of our white water adventure we decided that we would start looking for an eddy or some place we could pull the canoe over and cast out a line or two.    Fifteen minutes later as we were floating by at a quick clip, I looked up and yelled to my Uncle "That's my truck!!! - BACK STROKE".    When we finally got to the shore we fell over laughing.  He said " That was the best 45 minute ride ever, let's go do it again!". 

So here we are again, though this time we are on the lower section of the river and a part that neither of us have floated.  They had finished generating a few hours before, though since we were so far down stream, the river was slowly dropping and was still moving along at a quick class I speed.    Since the water in the Caney comes from the bottom of the lake upstream, and the lake is very deep, the water in the river is numbing cold.  Even on a summer day most trout fishermen wear gators to keep the cold water off their skin.  Today the cold water and summer rain are the perfect ingredients for river fog.   It was an eery feeling letting the current pull us along without us knowing or able to see what was ahead.  It was deafly quiet and at times all I could hear was the sound of our paddles going into the water.   Slowly we began hearing something that I couldn't make out at first.  It got loader and we were obviously getting closer and closer to it.  Then it clicked - WHITE WATER!  That's the sound of rapids or water splashing into a boulder, tree or something in our path.   What I would give for a Light House right now.     

Sharon and I at the Nubble Lighthouse in Maine

Five hours later the rain finally stopped, the fog slowly lifted off the river and just in time.  We were just about to pass by my truck.   "BACKSTROKE!"  

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