This is a trip report that is going to take off on a related, but for some readers, irrelevant tangent. But before eddying out let’s look at some mid-river subjects, like Scotty’s Donuts on 120 in Modesto. These days, when all paddlers provide their own transportation to the put-in, there are surely some who don’t stop at Scotty’s. Back when Bill Hitchings was driving the POST van on our annual trip to the Toulumne, we all pulled into Scotty’s. I heartily embrace such traditions, however unhealthy, and stopped Saturday morning. Mine was the only canoe in the lot, and it didn’t stay long. I dunked my buttermlk bar carefullly, as I drove on.
Google predicted I’d arrive at 9, and I did. So I was ontime. My time. I assumed it was the common time. But when, as I reached the turn-off to the campground, two vehicles with familiar canoes pulled out and headed toward La Grange, I followed. Good thing.
“Oh, you made it.” folks hollered out from under their boats and burdens on the dusty country lane. Quite quickly I threw my gear onto the ground and drove back to park across from the grocery/liquor store up on the highway. Unless you arrived in a tank, you wouldn’t leave it down by the river. People used to. We no longer choose to support the local economy so directly.
The day was sunny and warm and soon our little fleet was weaving down the river in clusters and singles. It is such a delicious treat to step into the canoe, settle down, then, with so little effort, cause this elegant craft to turn and scoot out into the current. Cars are perfectly wonderful, but the waterworld we access on these little pods is so much more sensual, with us in the middle of the sunlight, the breezes and when we need it most, the shade.
And then there’s conversation. Much easier to talk openly with a fellow paddler, than another driver. And talk we do. My favorite topic on this gorgeous day was Ebola. In college biology I learned that populations are naturally controlled by famine, stress and disease. I’ve had some curiosity lately about the possibility our human, as well as the planets, extreme stresses might be on the road to relief via this lively excaped virus. So I paddled alongside Pat and Eilleen and inquired.
Pat, a professional pathologist, said he’s been following Ebola for years. It seems likely that the virus is endemic in bats, which in Africa tend to be much larger than ours. Big enough for a meal. Cases of Ebola have often occured in charcoal-gatherers, men who go out into remote places to gather and burn wood. And may shelter in bat-filled caves. The outbreaks have been small in part because they happened in the small villages these men return to, and burn out by killing all their victims. Among bats the symptoms are surely not as fatal. Maybe just indigestion. Similarly, this new strain, while killing most victims, leaves many people alive. And those that die live long enough to contaminate others.
The great thing is that its transmitted only by fluids. Pat affirmed this trait makes Ebola controllable. “I’m not worried.” he concluded. Nor am I, now.
With Ebola no longer threatening, the day grew lovlier. By the way, if you do find yourself in the company of someone with Ebola, don’t rub your eyes. That moist tissue is where the virus often starts a new infestatiion, said Pat.
The best place for a canoe to get through a rapid is, of course, the “Y.” Isn’t it a delight to slip through those? Not so smooth on the Toulumne were the too shallow spots we sometimes hit. Fortunately for the rest of us, newcomers Laura and Allison were paddling a Grumman that gave a wonderfully audible grinding alarm whenever it touched bottom.
The warm sun was a treat, except when it once in awhile doubled up, hitting us both from above, and reflected up from the glassy water. Just after one of those oven experiences, we paddled into the fern grotto. Ecstasy!
Pleasures continued off the river as Bob and Joan refused to let us do anything but enjoy their delicious meal.
After breakfast Sunday morning Eric Forsman was talking fishing with campground host Eddie, the ex-firechief of Ceres, and a big, red-faced guy who’d come in on a motorcycle. By this time our campsite had cleared as most drove over to Knights Ferry to run Russian Rapids. But we Erics planned to head directly to our homes for less exciting activity. For a little while, though, we could talk fishing.
The big guy, Dan, teaches fly-fishing and gave us some tips. Eric promptly took his son Arvin down to the river with the two super compact poles he bought from Walmart on-lline for a mere $40 each. I left for home.
I got as far as the giant Outdoor World in Manteca. You see, on the river yesterday there were these two guys on kayaks casting lures in a huge eddy. They said they’d caught a lot of bass. Dan had told me about a sure-fire bass lure. It was here in the Bass Pro Shop.
The first clerk didn’t recognize the name, so he sent David to talk with me. What David showed me is only remotely related to the trip this report is about. As we all know POST doesn’t fish. David told me how to catch bass, something he did professionally for over thirty years. You could use his technique while on a canoe. But not on a POST trip.
What David showed and sold me was not shiny or fancy. Or expensive. What bass most like are worms: big, fat, long fake worms. This guy, who regularly hauled in more pounds of bass than any of the other experts he was competing with, knows how to serve up a worm. Just like in fine restaurants, presentation is everything. Briefly, without describing the special knots and their precise placement, what David does is to dangle the worm just above the bottom, jiggle it, and then jump it along back toward him. To keep the worm down there, he attaches a very clever weight that is unlikely to hang up in grasses or rocks, and if it does, can be quickly replaced. The rest of the rigging won’t also break off.
“I’ll bet you really feel it when those lunkers hit.” I offered.
“No, often the line just feels heavier.”
When this happens, to be sure the hook gets set before the fish spits out the imposter, David pulls the rod back sharply at resistance. Then there’s some action!
If that sounds like fun to you, let’s talk. I’ve got a bagful of worms and weights, just waiting for someone to say “Eric, let’s go fishing.” Is it you?