Ode to a Fishin’ Trip
WHILE PADDLING DOWN THE RIVER NEW
THE GUIDES FROM BLUE CAT KNEW WHAT TO DO,
THERE WERE TALES THAT WERE TOLD, AND IT WAS PLAIN TO SEE,
THIS WAS NOT A TRIP ON THE SLOOP JOHN B.
WE CAST OUR LINES INTO THE RIVER FLOWIN’
GOOD THING OUR GUIDES KNEW WERE THEY GOIN’
WE THREW OUR BAITS WHERE THE GUIDES POINTED,
THE FISH BIT OUR LINES, LIKE THEY WERE ANNOINTED.
THOUGH OCCASIONALLYOUR CASTS DID GO AWRY,
WE MANAGED TO CATCH SOME BASS AND WALLEYE.
A CATFISH CONFUSED AS THE LURES KEPT A COMIN’
HE SPIT OUT THE HOOK AND HE KEPT A RUNNIN’
STORIES WERE TOLD ‘BOUT THE BIGGEST FISH,
THAT WERE LANDED, FILLETED, AND SERVED ON A DISH.
WE ALL KNOW THE TRUTH ABOUT FISHERMEN’S TALES
THE FISH THAT WERE CAUGHT WERE AS BIG AS WHALES.
YES ! ERIC AND WEBSTER THEY HAD THE RIGHT GEAR,
THANKS AGAIN GUYS, HOPE TO SEE YA NEXT YEAR.
FROM THE HEARTS MINDS AND SOULS OF THE JERSEY MOB
BRUCE, VICKIE, JUDY, AND CHAZ
WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND BLUE CAT ON THE NEW, WAS THE BEST TRIP WE EVER HAD!!!
The Curse of the Muskie – Camping Adventure 2006
It was with great excitement that Michel and I departed mid-afternoon on the dreaded Friday the 13th (October, no less) to join our friends Jay and Allison for our annual camping excursion. Jay and Allison are good friends we met in college and for several years we have met halfway between our residences to go camping. This tradition started when they lived in Tallahassee while attending graduate school at Florida State and we had already moved to Chattanooga.
Since they moved to the greater Washington DC area, we have met at a variety of colorful locations in Virginia and West Virginia. Destinations have included Claytor Lake State Park, Hungry Mother State Park and the wildlife preserve in War, WV. All have held their share of unique qualities and adventures, not to mention names that invoke visions of primitive accommodations.
But none of our destinations to date had prepared us for our 2006 trip to Blue Cat on the New in Draper, VA. Loyal tent campers, this year we decided to try a new experience: tipis (or tee pees, whichever you prefer). That’s right, TIPIS – authentic, handcrafted by Sioux Indians, TIPIS. In fact, the group that made these tipis made the ones that appeared in Dances with Wolves.
So, back to the journey. Despite the normal standstill of traffic in Knoxville, we made good time to Draper, VA. Allison called early into our trip with some helpful landmarks they discovered on their way so we were able to find it with no problem. Our magical campsite was located on the banks of the beautiful New River, complete with two magnificent tipis.
Accompanying Jay and Allison this trip was a couple from their neighborhood in Baltimore, Blaine and Jill. This was only the second time other people have joined our tent-happy foursome in the woods. The first time had resulted in what I will call an altercation between myself and another one of the campers (that is another story in itself) and we had been hesitant to expand our circle to include outsiders since then.
The Baltimore group had gotten to the site several hours ahead of Michel and me and were settled in with a bonfire roaring the fire pit. The “boys” were out fishing when we arrived but washed ashore shortly after we got there with the tale that begins our weekend.
Jay and Blaine told of the muskie of unusual size that Jay hooked shortly after hitting the water. Not prone to exaggerate, especially about the size of fish he has caught, we believed Jay’s tale of a muskie that had to be hauled into the canoe and cut free all the while sneering at them with a mouthful menacing teeth. Once release, the muskie did not swim away quickly. Oh no, he lurked at the top of the water, glaring at Jay and Blaine for a few minutes, in their estimation just to let them know how displeased he was with his brief capture. Shaken by the unflappable fish, Jay and Blaine decided to bring the boat in rather than incur further wrath. And so, the curse of the muskie begins.
Friday evening was relatively uneventful, despite guarded jokes about the curse and references to scenes from the Blair Witch Project – always comforting when sleeping in the woods. We retired to our respective beds, four of us to the two tipis and the other two to the comfort of their Honda Element (a little rusty on camping prowess, they wanted a quieter, more controlled environment). Despite temperatures hovering near, if not below 30 degrees, we slept until daylight without incident.
Plans for Saturday included a fishing trip in canoes down the New River. After several cups of fireside perked coffee and breakfast burritos, we headed out. We unintentionally embarked in couple’s canoes, each of us paired off with our spouse. We were less than 15 minutes into our trip when from the canoe next to us we heard, “Oh crap”, quickly followed by, “Are you alright?” and a muffled “No”.
This of course drew our attention to the canoe. Before I progress, let me note, it was a crisp, clear day with blue skies and a brisk wind. And therein lies the culprit of the mishap. Jay was casting his line out of the back of the canoe, with Allison paddling away in front. During one such cast, a fairly aggressive breeze blew up, caught the line and carried it to the front of the boat – right into Allison’s lips. Yes indeed, into BOTH of her lips. The lure Jay was using had two hooks. And as fate would have it, he hooked one in her top lip right under her nose and the other in her lower lip, effectively sealing her lips.
After our initial shock and the realization that we would need to return to land with much haste, we turned the canoes around and landed at the first available spot. Jay attempted to use wire cutters to remove the hooks but with no success. A call was made to our camp hosts with a plea for help. Allison, always one to keep a cool head and her sense of humor, turned to Jay on the way back and said, “There are easier ways to get me to shut up, you know”. Humor truly is the best medicine. By the time we got back to our site, Janie was there to transport Allison to the emergency room.
Before leaving the property to seek medical attention, they stopped to visit a sage fisherman onsite who seemed to believe that he could cut Allison free fairly easily. However, upon seeing the thorough job the lure had done, he said, “I can’t help you. You need to see a doctor.” And so, Janie took Jay and Allison to the Pulaski County emergency room.
Upon arrival at the hospital, about 12 miles from Blue Cat, Allison walked in to find an empty waiting room and the staff eager and anxious… waiting for pizza. In fact, the tech that first glanced up when she walked in waved in her direction. Allison was comforted that they were so friendly but then he pointed behind her and she saw that the pizza delivery guy was following her and the wave was not for her but for the pizza. Not to be overshadowed by food, Allison lowered the hand that had been covering her dually hooked lips and was rewarded with immediate attention.
Since the staff had no other patients to concentrate on and incentive to get to hot food, Allison received movie star status in the emergency room. Medical personnel in lab coats were buzzing around her like bees. Perhaps part of that was because Allison is indeed a soon-to-be-queen… that’s right, in addition to being hooked by her husband, she was also 7 months pregnant. She was first checked by an OB/GYN nurse to make sure Grimy, as the baby is affectionately called, was not affected by the morning’s excitement. Grimy was apparently unaware of the drama outside the womb and was resting peacefully. All attention was then focused on Allison’s lips. The doctor explained that he would have to numb her lips before removing the hooks and that the shots would probably be more painful than anything else. Allison found that this was true but once numb, and still unable to manage anything but mumbles, she was ready to be freed.
It was at this point that the hospital staff realized that they had no wire cutters with which to cut the hooks. They then asked Jay if he had thought to bring his tackle box with him. Silly Jay, his concern was with getting his wife taken care of and he did not grab his tools with him. To kill the time during the search, everyone shared their story about being hooked, hooking someone else or knowing someone who had been hooked. Apparently, errant hooks are common in Virginia. Finally, after a twenty plus minute search for wire cutters and pleas for help from maintenance and engineering, a pair was found and Allison was cut free in a matter of minutes.
Back at the campsite, we were trying to think of ways to keep this incident light and fun so as not to cast a shadow on the rest of the weekend for anyone, especially Jay and Allison. Suggestions were made for Halloween costumes, nicknames and other jokes. In the course of the conversation Blaine mentioned that the hook that Allison had so craftily caught was the same hook that had snared the muskie the night before. The curse of the muskie continues!
When Jay and Allison returned to the campsite and we were all comforted that despite a couple of puncture wounds, and a sheepish and apologetic husband, all was well, we had a good laugh and continued on with our merriment. We had been concerned about Allison receiving a tetanus shot while pregnant but the doctor assured her it wouldn’t cause a problem. Allison remarked that she was happy to have one and that being hooked wasn’t the worst part, it was knowing that she shared the hook with the menacing muskie!
At that point, we decided we had had enough excitement for the day and would keep close to the fire. The afternoon turned out to be warm and clear and we spent our time playing games and relaxing, listening to often painful 80’s music on the weather radio. It was wonderful. As afternoon began to fade, Michel, Jay, Blaine and Jill decided to venture out into the water again. Allison and I, being vegetarians and now even more skeptical of the merits of fishing, stayed back to keep the fire burning and start dinner.
Our friends arrived back on shore with empty hands, only Michel and Jay catching small bass, which they promptly threw back. The rest of the evening passed uneventfully and we retired to our respective beds with a full day under our belts.
The rest of the story is unremarkable. We rose early, ate breakfast, packed up, settled our tab with the landowners and headed in our respective directions. Overall, it was a fabulous trip and we decided that rather than move from site to site in the future, we will return to Blue Cat on the New. We will again enjoy tipi camping and canoe trips down the New River and have new stories to tell. But, we will never forget the 2006 trip and the Curse of the Muskie.
Cheers to our hero of the trip, Allison, for her good humor, laid-back attitude, capacity for forgiveness, and dare I say it, a stiff upper lip. We love you, Al!