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Thread: Upper James Float - We made it...

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    Default Upper James Float - We made it...

    Tried something new this weekend with a float down the upper James. My wife and I planned this weekend getaway back in September when temps were a bit different. Either way, we went for it. We spent the day Saturday in transit with a stop for brunch in C'ville served to us by A-Balls wife. (Biscuits and Gravy at "Rapture" was the best I've ever had, seriously). Then we landed in Lexington mid afternoon, followed up with a trip to Natural Bridge, and then a nice dinner in-town Lexington. Cool little town, with lots of Cadets walking about as I heard it was Senior Day on Saturday.

    It should be noted that neither myself nor my wife have spent a lot of time in a canoe on moving water. This was all new for us, and the rapids I knew we'd encounter had me spooked a bit before even getting started. The idea of flipping her into 58-degree water was heavy on my mind, and we both knew this was going to be an experience that could go any way possible. Good, bad, fun, cold, wet, scary...whatever...it was all up for grabs. The rains from all day Saturday were a concern too, but the gauges showed no changes, so we were good to go in that regard.

    Sunday morning started off with a breakfast meet-up with 31Airborne. He was kind enough to drive up from Roanoke and be our drop-off vehicle, so we could just drive out once we landed back in Buchanan. Breakfast was great at a small local joint, and we were stuffed on about $13.00 tab. Not many places like that anymore, and not too many good dudes out there like 31 either. Thanks, bud.

    Our float was planned at about 7-miles from the Horseshoe Bend landing down to Buchanan. Before even getting the canoe in the water I said I wanted to make a cast. First cast with the Plopper90 and I made about 3 turns on the handle, and fish-on. Nothing big, but it was a feisty little smallmouth. 31 says "I saw it, I was there" LOL. We dropped in from there and not 25-feet down from the slide did we encounter or first little rapid, which gave us no time to get our bearings, figure each other out and/or discuss how we'd work together for the day. Then about another 100 yards a little more and we quickly found ourselves turned sideways on a rock. I was like "Tiffany, please don't freak out, cuz this is when bad things happen..." She was cool as a cucumber though, and we slowly worked ourselves off without flipping, and settled in for a bit before our next challenge, which I knew was a pretty steep shelf/drop. I got in a few casts here and there, but no takers in the first mile.

    In the end, we handled the rapids better and better with each encounter. We managed the first big drop, which was bigger than I expected, and it had me pretty scared so we went around the next good one, and then we scouted another one or two we weren't feeling good about. I'm not gonna lie, my fear of flipping my wife in that water really had my heart racing, and my mouth all kinds of dried up, but we survived. It was seriously a challenge for me, as I'm typically pretty confident in just about anything, but the thought of her going in and how'd she'd react, had me all kinds of worked up.

    It was on one of these scouting stops that I goofed which ultimately impacted the fishing for the rest of the day. I had been wade fishing and caught 3 fish right around the rapids in about knee deep water (I was already wet from the previous portage, so why not?). My wife didn't understand...LOL. I got a picture of a fish, and then she set my phone down on a rock, as I went back to walking around and fishing. As we got back on the river, I thought she got it, and she thought I got it. About a mile or so down she asked me to check my GPS to see where we were in the trip, as she was ready to get it moving and get home to see our kids. "Sure, can you hand me my phone" I said. "What? You got the phone?" was the reply. "Well *%$#!!!"

    So at this point we turned around and started paddling back up-river. Fortunately the flow wasn't too bad, and we hadn't gone too far, but there was about a 1/4 mile of rapids we weren't going to get back up, so we had to hike that on foot. In this process we laughed, cursed, shook our heads, and pointed some fingers, but it was all part of the fun and memories we get to take home with us. Guess what...the phone was sitting right where I left it.

    At this point, we knew time was short, so paddling was the focus, with minimal fishing for the remainder of the trip as we tried to make up time. She was a trooper, and barely stopped paddling the whole way, while I was back there frantically trying to get 'one more bite' here and there. We also got our teamwork and communication down, and easily managed all the other rapids and riffles with more and more confidence on each one.

    In the end I only caught 5 fish. 4 smallmouth, with one being decent sized, and what I guess was a big creek chub. I didn't see any musky, and never even bothered targeting them. I did see an absolute giant of a catfish as we floated under the I-81 bridge. Easily a 50+ blue, as it looked way too short and fat to be a giant flathead. Three of those four smallmouth came right around the rapids (just above and just below), and if I was to do the trip again, it'd have been nice to have more time to stop the boat around each one and work what I could from the bank or wading. It was just too hard to fish thru the rapids and maneuver the boat at the same time. Caught one on a Plopper-90, 1 on a jig, and two on a broken back Rapala (#7). Creek chub ate the jig. Oh, and the scenery was absolutely beautiful...and it was nice to have some peace and quiet knowing we had them 3 boys to go home to.

    Looking forward to spring/summer we can do some trips like this as a family though. I know my kids would have loved it, save the 58-degree water.

    Best bite of the day. Look at how beautiful those trees are...


    We skipped this one:


    Got my daggum phone - notice that I was a good ways above and off the water. It wasn't the easiest of 'hikes'.


    But we had fun and kept on paddling and smiling.
    Last edited by gnfsnva; 05-29-2018 at 10:57 AM.

  2. #2
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    great pics. you definitely married up, dood. just sayin' . . .

    thanks again for breakfast. best omelet I've had in a while.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by 31Airborne View Post
    great pics. you definitely married up, dood. just sayin' . . .

    thanks again for breakfast. best omelet I've had in a while.
    No doubt, she's the real deal too. We're pushing close to 20-years together now.

    Thanks, brotha.

  4. #4
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    Jun 2011
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    I always wanted to float that area of the James. Good report.
    Thank God For Rednecks

  5. #5
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    glad you guys enjoyed the lunch...and at least you didn't "dump" her
    I'm about to play my Ace

  6. #6
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    Really great report and pics

  7. #7
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    Let me know when you want to do the New next spring and I'll set you up a trip. If you hear banjo music RUN.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gsniper View Post
    Let me know when you want to do the New next spring and I'll set you up a trip. If you hear banjo music RUN.
    You got it. Would be awesome...minus the music.

  9. #9
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    When I first purchased my first yak, I was looking for places to launch in the New River Valley. I followed the signs on 460 on my way back to the office to the public ramp in Pembroke Va. After circling through the parking lot my eyes made contact with the weirdest looking person I had ever seen driving into the lot in his old truck. I am sure he was harmless, but there was something about the way he looked at me that made me feel uneasy. He was greasy with thinning curly hair, Coke bottle glasses, and that open mouthed look that could be a sign of either idiocy or perversion. My mind began to run wild with thoughts that this perverted murderer had ventured over from Peterstown WV in search of new prey to rape and then put into a stew pot, or put into the stew pot and then rape the stew- that order I wasn't sure.

    I always fancy myself as the Lewis type, but truth be told in stressful times, I am probably more like Bobby so I hauled butt out of there. I noticed the truck pull out and start heading my way. To make matters worse, I was in a Jeep Liberty which I didn't realize was a girl car with inadequate power until I had already purchased it. I can only imagine what he was thinking. Perhaps, "He sure has a pretty girl car." Fortunately for me, I eventually lost him.

    Now I'm sure he was just some nice fellow looking for directions, but sometimes trusting your gut feeling is the safe bet. Especially, in a world where there really is no banjo music playing to forewarn a man of hillbilly raping ahead.
    Thank God For Rednecks

  10. #10
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    Aug 2011
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    It was probably one of my relatives.

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