Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Duck River Float

This past Saturday, I joined up with a couple of paddlers to float from downtown Columbia to the Chickasaw mountain bike park, about an 8 mile run on the Duck River.

Duck River Float at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail: GPS Community

The put-in was an experience. Volunteers were conducting a clean-up on the Duck that day, and we met one of them taking out at the same ramp where we were unloading kayaks. This guy, whom I now refer to as The Borg (as in "you will be assimiliated, resistance is futile") was quite the character. Conversation went something like this:


Hey, how are ya'll doing? We're so happy you could come out today and help with the clean-up.


It sure looks like you've been busy, but we are just putting in here.


We have drop spots all along the river that you'll see, and any trash you put there will get picked up later.


That's great. You really are doing a great job.


We want you to come on back when you're done. We have t-shirts for all the volunteers.


Cool. We're just putting in here though.


When did you hear about the clean-up?


Uhmmm... just now. We're just floating the river today.


Well, we're so happy that you came out to help...

And so on. What we had was the now proverbial failure to communicate. Either that or a man rooted in deep-seated denial. Nevertheless, in his honor, I offer up this video tribute. Just picture us as the crew of the Enterprise and this guy as Locutus of Borg.

We were able to pry ourselves away only after he'd procured a phone number so he could recruit for the next clean-up. The man was obviously a salesman of some sort. Perhaps an Amway rep. I'm positive he was moderately insane.

The river was up and, for the first portion of the float, moving pretty well. We all tried our hand at fishing, and top honors went to Tiffany, who has a penchant for naming and who was paddling Sunset and fishing with Fancy. While Jimmy and I mostly just wet line, she put on a fishing clinic with her mauve rod and matching small grub lures.

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I gave up the small bite for the most part and was mainly fishing larger Rapala minnows in hopes of getting a smallmouth or two on the stringer. I'd Googled "smallmouth and Duck River" and found a relevant article at Tennessee Sportsman Magazine. Its author notes:
Middle Tennessee smallmouth angler William "Buddy" Dodson spends as much
time on the Duck and Buffalo rivers as I do on the eastern waters. He says
float trips are the best way to approach the Duck River. There is some
decent fishing above the Riverside Dam that can be accessed by putting in
at the ramp above the dam and hitting the shoals about six miles upstream.
But Dodson says the best smallmouth fishing, by far, is below the dam.
Good public access can be found by canoe or jet boat float from the ramp
in downtown Columbia at the dam to the ramp at Chickasaw Trace off Highway
7. That's about a three-quarter-day float. From the Chickasaw Trace to the
Monsanto Bridge is about a two-hour float. Some of the best fishing is in
the fall on spinnerbaits and creek minnows. Expect to catch 20 to 30 fish
per trip. Smallies here are often in the 2- to 3-pound range, and there's
always the possibility of a 4-pounder slashing your offering.
We were certainly on the right stretch of river, but probably at the wrong time of year. I got all of one good bite on the Rapalas, and it may have been just a catfish, a gar, or a large bream. I did see one huge catfish making its way up some rapids, but since I was zipping in the other direction, I couldn't get a lure in front of him.

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The float was scenic, with some nice bluffs and small water streams trickling into the river in spots. One thing that stood out for me were the large numbers of freshwater mussel beds that stretched along the river. Their shells were everywhere, some of them as big as saucers.

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By the end of the float, however, water flow diminished, and the river got flat and slow. We paddled pretty hard the last half of the trip in order to get to our take-out in a reasonable amount of time. This condition helped convince me that the July trip on the Paint Rock might best be shifted to another stream. Some email reports from paddlers who've done the Paint Rock in July suggest it to be just as slow, and I'm not up for an overnight 23-mile paddle on flat water in July heat.

Monday, June 22, 2009

CANEY, stick a FORK in me. I'm done.

Camping is hard work when it's 95 and humid. That's the ingrained lesson from this past weekend. Despite the heat, the whole family unit loaded up and headed over to the Long Branch campground on the Caney Fork River. We'd had our site reservations for several weeks and couldn't cancel without losing money. Otherwise, I don't know if we would have braved the temperatures with a small baby in tow.

We had a bail-out plan for V and E to go home for the night if necessary, but it turned out the baby was the calmest and coolest of all four of us. She kicked happily under the breeze of a box fan, cooed and smiled when she got cold water wipe downs, and slept like a log both nights.

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We camped on the section of the Caney Fork just below Center Hill Dam, where cold water pours from several falls near the base and sustains a vibrant trout population. TWRA stocks both rainbow trout and brown trout in the river, and you can see them swimming everywhere in the chilly, crystal-clear water. During the day on Saturday, I caught a mix of small rainbows and browns, but at night, the larger browns apparently cruise the river, and I got into several larger fish that put up a good fight. I also caught my first walleye on the second night - a bit of an unexpected surprise.

Particularly important on this river is attention to the Center Hill generation schedule. Releases at the dam can change river depth quite drastically. This rise is a bigger deal if you're wading, but even in a kayak, it becomes much more difficult to paddle upstream against the discharge. Also quite useful is this U.S. Army Corps of Engineers collection of .pdf images that includes Center Hill Lake, the Caney Fork River, and Long Branch campground.

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C seemed to have a good time. He and I found a nice, shady place to fish on Saturday while V and E took refuge in the cool climes of the Smithville Walmart. He really liked the fact that we had to climb down a ladder to get to the spot on the bank. He and I also paddled up to the dam and down the river a ways on Sunday. It truly astounds me when I look at some of these pictures and realize just how big he is getting to be.

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Though the days were hot, the river itself was quite enjoyable, and I plan to go back for some day floats this summer and for more camping in the fall. The Caney is a truly stellar river with some great scenery and fantastic fishing. Maybe next trip, I'll try my hand with the fly rod.

Final note:
A fitting end to any camp day is cobbler, so I'll close this post with an easy recipe for Dutch oven cobbler that we've used with success more than once.


Source: http://camping.about.com/od/recipes/r/ucrec108.htm
Author: Mike Pierce

This quick and easy recipe will satisfy any sweet-tooth. My favorite is apples, white cake mix, and 7-UP. Want something really different? Try apples, spice cake mix, and one can of AW Root Beer.

  • 1 18-ounce box cake mix (any flavor)
  • 2 16-ounce cans of pie filling or other fruit
  • 1 12-ounce can of 7-UP
  • 2 tablespoons butter

In a 12-quart Dutch oven, spread evenly butter on bottom. Drain the fruit, pour it into the Dutch oven, and sprinkle the cake mix evenly over the top. With your finger, make a swirl in the mix. Pour in a can of 7-UP. Cover with lid. Put 8-10 charcoal briquettes on bottom, 16-18 on top. Cook for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or to a golden brown.

Servings: 10 - 12
Preparation time: 1 hour

Friday, June 12, 2009

Kingston Springs Float - Hwy 249 to Hwy 70

Well, my kayaking friend and I knew we weren't in Kansas anymore when, while dropping one vehicle at the take-out, a passing car blew its horn and strains of Dixie came out à la The General Lee on The Dukes of Hazzard. Our rustic whereabouts were further confirmed when I parked my truck next to an SUV with an aluminum arrow for an antenna.

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We listened hard for banjo playing at the put-in, but when all was silent, we decided to proceed with caution. The river access at Highway 249 is quite good with a clear shallow slope down to the river just by the bridge. As we started downstream, we crossed under a railroad bridge and then ran parallel to Highway 70 for a while before turning south.

Harpeth Hwy 249 to Hwy 70 at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail: GPS Trip Sharing with Google Maps

Our paddle was a roughly 8.5 mile winding path with two long bends through the Kingston Springs area. I actually liked this portion of the river better than the Narrows. The scenery is terrific with just as many high cliffs, and in my opinion, there are better slow stretches with cover for fishing. Around the halfway point, the Kingston Springs City Park offers easy access to the river such that two 4+ mile paddles are easily do-able in this portion of the Harpeth.

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After last Sunday's Harpeth float, I had hopes of catching more smallmouth and even went so far as to research good lures and make a few purchases. However, because two strong rainstorms came through yesterday, the river was up and dingy, and I wasn't very confident about catching a lot of bass. I started out throwing a Heddon Tiny Torpedo on topwater. Nothing. Then I switched over to a chartreuse Slider grub on a jighead. Not a bite. The 1/4 ounce white Rooster Tail? Zilch.

Finally, I went back to an old standby, the Rapala Countdown in silver. I've used the CD-01 for years to catch stocked trout in nearby streams, and I tied on a slightly bigger CD-05 to try and tempt a bass. It wasn't long before I had a strike. Not a bass, but a small catfish. A little while later, I hooked a bigger cat that put up a nice fight, and before the end of the paddle, I caught a smallish bream on the same lure.

In the final leg of the paddle, I took the time to grab a movie file with my camera. Photobucket, it turns out, makes it a piece of cake to post such captures here at Blogger. The .mov files are converted to .flv files during upload, and Photobucket offers a ready-made string of HTML for embedding the video.

Today's clip is not exactly high drama. Actually, after the first ten seconds or so, it's a little like watching paint dry, but I guess even Spielberg had to start somewhere. I can note though that this filmed section was one of the more prolonged choppy runs, and I was impressed by the way the little Perception Swifty tracked in the faster flowing water. I only had to dip my paddle once to keep the bow pointed in the direction I wanted.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Harpeth Narrows

Floated and fished the Harpeth Narrows yesterday with a buddy. A great thing about the Narrows float is its simplicity. Since the river bends around to form a roughly 5-mile circle, you can do the float solo. A short hike from the take-out puts you right back to parking at the put-in. With a truck, it's easy to just toss a kayak in the bed, and within an hour, I can be on the water.

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Harpeth Narrows at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail: GPS Community

For the second time, we paddled our kayaks up a small channel that leads to a waterfall, its spillway tunnel connecting the closest portion of the Narrows. About this landmark, the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture notes:
The Patterson Forge, the site of which is now preserved at the Narrows of the Harpeth State Historical Area, was constructed at the neck of an unusual bend of the Harpeth River where, after approximately four miles, the stream channel returns to within two hundred yards of itself. Around 1818 Montgomery Bell purchased the site, which at the time was in Davidson County. Soon after, African American slaves under Bell's direction began excavating a tunnel through a one-hundred-yard-wide rock ridge that separated the river beds. Designed to convey water for power, the tunnel was completed by 1820. Following a failed effort to sell the site to the United States government for construction of an armory, Bell erected a forge for the production of wrought iron, using pig iron from regional blast furnaces.

Montgomery Bell owned and operated Patterson Forge from 1832 to 1854. After this, James L. Bell ran the operation until about 1862, when it was closed during the Civil War. The forge was not reopened after the Civil War because the iron industry in Tennessee, in general, remained depressed. In the 1880s a gristmill was established on the site to take advantage of the water power provided by the tunnel.

Today the Cheatham County site of Patterson Forge is part of the Narrows of the Harpeth State Historic Area maintained by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The site and the nearby grave of Montgomery Bell are silent reminders of one of Tennessee's important early industries.

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Casting a 1/16 oz. Rooster Tail all day, I caught and released over 30 fish, including catfish, bluegill, sunfish, rock bass, largemouth bass, and smallmouth bass. Big fish honors, however, went to my friend who caught a nice 15" smallmouth. On ultra-light tackle, all these fish were fun to catch, but the bigger smallmouth put up an especially good fight.

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I'm always amazed by the iridescent coloring of the little longear sunfish that populate streams and rivers in Tennessee. They look nearly tropical. Besides the fish that we caught, wildlife we saw included beaver, fox squirrel, great blue heron, gar, lots of large carp sunning in the shallows, and a softshell turtle.

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