Wolf River Smallmouth Part 2

Spencer Jones dropping into the first set of rapids on our Wolf River trip.
  What was I talking about again?  Oh right,

Certain Death!

    We were dropping into the first set of rapids.  Spencer's NuCanoe slid right through the whitewater.  He was hooting and hollering with only the slightest correction needed for that big heavy boat.  Once through he backed into an eddy and yelled, "You're clear!"  At this point every possible scenario had gone through my head.  In fact I was starting to seriously regret my decision.  I was about to go into whitewater for the first time.  Worse, I was about to go into whitewater for the first time in a kayak I wasn't familiar with.  So I took a deep breath, checked my life jacket, and nervously paddled towards the rapids.
    What happened next is still kind of a blur.  It seemed fine when I started into the first chute.  The water was fast, but it wasn't unmanageable for my paddling skills.  Sure I was swearing a lot, but I always swear when I'm asked to do physical activity.  My biggest problem was the kayak was turning to fast.  I'm used to my big heavy Slayer and this Ultimate wouldn't stay braced.  It kept trying to spin on me and I couldn't slow it down!  Then WHAM!, I hit the side of a rock.  "F@#K! I'm pinned", "Da*#mitt!", "It's filling with water!"  I lost it, I was in the water.  This happened so quick that I couldn't react.  I tried to get my feet in front of me like I've read in the magazines, but I couldn't get my weight shifted.  I just bounced from boulder to boulder in the foam.  Each time I surfaced Spencer looked more and more worried.  I would later discover that it was because he lost his GoPro, not because I was in distress.  Finally, I reached the eddy where my kayak had stopped.
It's cool I borrowed the boat.
     Success!  I had officially made it through my first set of rapids.  Sure it could have gone better, like if maybe I was still inside my kayak.  Still everything was in the boat and the day was young.  Only 3-4 more sets to go!  By the end of the day I hated whitewater.  I was only able to stay upright and in my boat through one set.  The issue wasn't my skills, it was my skills in this kayak.  Turns out that the big clunky Slayer I left in the garage would have been perfect on the river.  All that weight would slow it down and let it flow through the current like Spencer's NuCanoe.  By trying to go in a lighter more maneuverable kayak I'd inadvertently set myself up for a very long day on the river.  Each set of rapids got harder and harder as I grew more and more tired and extremely frustrated.  Here's a quick run down of how each set went.
       Lost all my gear in the next set.  Luckily Spencer's really fast, like P90x fast and was able to swim around and retrieve most of it.  Thank god I had my smokes in a waterproof box.  I mean thank god I had floats and leashes on all my rods.
     The next two sections got me well acquainted with my new hand pump.  I've never needed to use a hand pump in the past, but I do highly recommend this particular model.  The Aqua-Bound Bilgemaster will definitely empty a kayak of excess water and it floats!
Another on bites the dust!
     The final set was nice enough to not only empty the kayak, free all the gear, and roll my ankle.  It also broke my favorite fly rod.  This was becoming an expensive trip really fast.
     Believe it or not I was trying to stay positive, but I was shutting down.  You know how sometimes you just get to that point were nothing goes right and you just want things to end.  Try going through that with a buddy catching a nice fish every time you have to start pumping out your boat.
A nice smallie pulled from some heavy current.
     I'm not gonna lie I even walked one set of rapids because I couldn't take it anymore.  I was done, unfortunately we still had quite a ways to go.  Then just when I thought I was gonna have to call Global Rescue to send in a chopper for an evacuation the river opened up.
     It was absolutely beautiful all of a sudden.  Big bluffs surrounded us on all sides.  Sections of tall reeds punctuated by solitary boulders.  We would stop at every likely spot and be rewarded by some strong little swimmers.  It didn't matter if you casted a fly or a lure the fish just ate it.  I was having so much fun that I almost forgot that I wanted to hate this place for the rest of my life.  This was like being in one of those history specials I watch on PBS.  I was living one of the adventures I always talk about wanting and suddenly I was enjoying it.
     I can't thank Spencer enough for putting together this trip.  I also want to give a big shout out to my sponsor Rutabaga Paddlesports allowing me to borrow the kayak (sorry again about the condition I returned it in).  If you ever get the chance to go paddle the Wolf River you should definitely do it.  The smallmouth bass fishing is amazing and I'm told the trout fishing is pretty epic too.  Just bring a heavy kayak, an extra rod or two, and maybe a helmet!
Spencer with the biggest fish of the trip.  I was still pumping out my kayak.
     Tight Lines.


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