“I hadn’t had a bite to eat since yesterday, so Jim he got out some corn-dodgers and buttermilk, and pork and cabbage and greens—there ain’t nothing in the world so good when it’s cooked right—and whilst I eat my supper we talked and had a good time. . . .We said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.” Mark Twain, from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
A boat represents different things to different people. To me, it represents freedom. Stepping aboard allows my soul to be free from the hum drum of my daily life. It allows to me forget what’s behind, and imagine what might be ahead. It’s the promise of adventure, governed only by the speed of the current underneath me.
We slid that old jon down the steep bank and into the water, loaded the cooler and the rods, and shoved her out into the current. We had been here many times before, but it had been quite a long time. In fact, it was basically in another life. One without the responsibilities of husbands and fathers. Nate looked around for a moment as I leaned on the paddle and eased us out into the current. “It’s exactly how I remembered it.”, he said. It had been close to 20 years since the last time the two of us had pushed a boat into this river in search of adventure.
Nate took the bow and began throwing a weighted ice dub bugger as close to the cover as he dared. We had had a cold snap and were anxious to see how the fish would respond. A few casts later nate’s 5wt bent deeply and we were on! A large hand sized redbreast came to the boat. You would have thought we had boated a tarpon in some far off locale the way we laughed and carried on.
We made our way further down, catching a half dozen or so more, before the deeper cypress lined banks gave way to rock ledges and shallow pools. It was here we searched for the bartrams bass to add to our collection. I remarked to nate that swinging the streamer through the pool and then stripping it back on a tight line usually produced results. Before I could finish my instruction nate was lifting his first redeye to the boat.
I picked up my rod and got in the action as well. Anchored in the current, we stood quietly working the soft water between shoal ledges and catching bass one after the other. These fish are extremely opportunistic, and take little convincing. The water was slightly high and a little stained from rains earlier in the week. However, the dark profile of our flies was easily seen by the fish as we worked pool after pool into midday.
We pulled over on a sandbar for a proper riverside shore lunch. Fried chicken and home made potato salad was the order of the day, washed down with a cold sandbar soda. We peeled off our wading boots and relaxed in the sun. Nowhere to be. No demands. Freedom.
We spent the rest of the afternoon fishing foam bugs to rising fish. Redbreasts and bass darted from cover smashing our bugs with reckless abandon. The day had been all we could have hoped for. We had floated our childhood creek with rods in hand. We had remembered the days gone by when things were so much simpler.
We had been free again.