Fishing trips aren’t good for catching fish when the river is out of its banks and sweeping past your campsite.

But as long as the current doesn’t start lapping at your RV, the outings are still good for catching up with family, relaxing with a beer and frying up some fish that your wife’s uncles had frozen from an earlier excursion.

So went last fall’s annual get-together on the shores of the Iowa River. Each year, the wife’s father and uncles and cousins carve out a weekend for casting sinkers monofilament and hooks and worms into the murky water and reeling out whatever bites. That summer was the first time women folk were included, and it just happened to be the first time I had the time and the ambition — not being a fish eater and not much of a fish catcher — to attend.

It was also the first time I realized the site was only about 90 minutes away from home. And it just happened to coincide with what Midwesterners call flood-nado season.

My teenage son and his friend soon got bored of casting into the rushing river from the shore and began to make noise about taking out the uncle’s flat bottom jon boat that sat dry docked on a trailer in camp. It was obvious the boat’s motor wouldn’t be able to keep up with the current. Or it should have been obvious.

After my son attempted to argue for a boat ride a few more times, it was time to teach him to art of reading the scene.

“These guy have been fishing since before you were born, heck, since before I was born,” I told him. “They didn’t haul the boat all the way up here to park it in the campground. They want to take it out. Really bad. But they know the water. And if they aren’t launching the boat, you know there is a good reason. How about we walk grandpa’s dog.”

I had seen an old corn crim a bit downstream, and the in-laws assured me the farmer wouldn’t mind. But you never really know. We set out with cocker spaniel, working our way around the mud puddles in the dirt road before we came to the building. 

It was empty, save a rusty filing cabinet and a few spent shotgun shells scattered about. My son and his buddy scaled the ladder to explore the upper level while I looked after the dog. A few minutes later they emerged having discovered a mannequin that someone had blasted with a shotgun.

Maybe not the most wholesome thing to stumble upon, but it beats getting washed down the river.