Some of you know that I was involved in a wild camping trip two weekends ago. My buddy Dave writes a monthly article for Angler magazine – this month he told our tale.
The Soggy Bottom Boys
by David Cannon
The calendar of a recent weekend was miraculously blank for six of my friends and me, so we decided to head to my favorite Southern freestone trout river for some camping, “magic hour” dry-fly fishing, and Chattooga Burgers (onion roll, mayo, Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce, and rotisserie chicken meat pulled off the bone).
I normally wouldn’t name friends in print, primarily because it makes me feel superior to see my name in this article’s byline while leaving them anonymous, but after going through what we went through, I’d like to publicly acknowledge these brave men. So, to Andy, Austin, Brandon, Caleb, Kirby, and Justin: I salute you.
Some of you Southerners may recall the recent weekend when a line of vicious storms rolled through. We seven knew of the forecasts, but decided that if we could brave one stormy night, the rest of the trip would be smooth sailing. To sum it up, however, let me just say that the Chattooga Burgers were a success.
The downpour started just after the last of the Chattooga Burgers were consumed and quickly doused the fire we had built by holding a tarp over the wood for about half an hour until it got hot enough to survive on its own. I could go into whiney detail, but the summation of the next few hours basically consisted of tents flooding, tarps blowing away, sleeping bags soaking through, thick wading socks reaching full saturation, and general cold wet misery.
Finally, I had enough. I sat up in the lone dry tent – a one-man crammed with three men that had suddenly become a kiddie pool – and declared that I was out of there and would be using my credit card to secure a meth-lab-of-a-motel-room for cheap. Andy decided to come with me.
As we made our way out of the woods, we came to a large clearing of food plots. It was pouring and pitch dark, but my first thought was that something might still be midnight snacking out there. The instant I waved my flashlight to survey the area, a big bear, who was 20 feet up a tree some 50 feet away, decided to jump out of the tree, breaking every branch between he and the ground on his descent. It was the loudest, scariest thing I’ve ever heard.
Andy and I took off in a dead sprint. Because of my rebuilt knee, I’m a little slow off the line. But Andy, who has always been a phenomenal athlete, gave it too much throttle at the start and ended up sliding all over chunky gravel that cheese-grated his knees, elbows and hands. He popped right back up, though, and was on my tail in a split second.
We made it back to the vehicle – Austin’s six-speed SUV – and realized that we couldn’t find reverse.We finally got out and pushed it back, then left the parking lot and were half-way to Clayton and some disgusting-but-dry motel room when we came down a hill and around a sharp curve to find a fallen tree blocking the road; a victim of the weather in which we had all been trying to sleep. Stopping just short of the tree, Andy said, “You realize we can’t get this thing in reverse, right?” A ten-minute search through the car manual revealed a weird little shift ring that engaged reverse, so it was back to the parking lot to sleep sitting up.
The next morning, we returned to the camp site to find a bunch of tired guys and learned that Caleb, sick of being soaked but seeing no other option before him, had decided to sit in a camp chair for six hours in the pouring rain. The name Caleb should either mean “patient” or “amphibious”.
Since the Chattooga looked like the river that flows through Willy Wonka’s factory, we decided to head to our last hope, the tiny tailwater known as Smith Creek. It turned out to be the second successful idea of the weekend as everyone hooked up (we had a few newbies) and almost everyone landed fish, including some that were hooked on dry flies right at dark by listening for slurps! The only magic hour of the trip was getting home, putting on some dry socks, and getting into a warm bed.
David Cannon is a pastor, photographer, and author of the book Fly Fishing Georgia. For more of his work, visit www.CannonTTL.com.