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Photo: Shadows

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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.

 

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Thanksgiving walk

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 Greenbelt Lake was down a bit during my Thanksgiving Day walk. The edge had receded about 20 feet from the usual shoreline, so I took the opportunity to beach-comb and look for objects that would otherwise be underwater.

Here’s a chronological list of what I found :

— Evergreen with Christmas ornaments. Just inside the treeline.

— Beaver lodge built along the treeline and starting to expand into the lake.

— Plastic fishing bobber in the sand. Green and white sphere.

— Submerged golf ball. Titliest No. 1 with a single crack in the shell. It was halfway buried in the muck, and I used a stick to dig it out and roll it shore.

— Submerged domestic beer can. Too far into the water to tell if it was opened, unable to reach it with the stick.

— Submerged golf ball. Jack Nicklaus No. 4. Used the stick to roll it in. In bad shape, appears to have undergone some terraforming.

— Fishing thing. Short plastic spike surrounded by styrofoam with a spring on one end.

— Second beaver lodge. This one blocked the beach, so I had to go up into the forest and back around. Lots of gnawed sapling stumps jutting out of the ground like punji stakes.

— Thin sheet of ice floating on the lake’s southeast edge.

— Hockey stick shaft, minus the striking surface.

 

Impromptu kayaking trip

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 6:30 a.m.: Come up with idea for an early morning kayaking trip because I can’t sleep even though it’s the weekend.

7 a.m.: Grab 4-liter Sea to Summit dry bag containing compass (in case I get lost), whistle (in case I need help) and Gerber knife (in case of something), and slip out while everyone else is asleep.

7:15 a.m.: Drive off with kayak, paddle, backup paddle (in case I lose the paddle) and life vest lashed to or otherwise stowed in the Jeep.

7:24 a.m.: Reach the shore, ease into the kayak with the plan of circling the Island of No Worries, begin paddling upstream.

7:35 a.m.: Spot a yellow and orange bobber tangled in a mass of tree limbs reaching up from the river. Liberate it with the knife (so that’s why I brought it), spot a fishing lure in the same mass and collect it as well. Continue on.

8:05 a.m.: Reach the upstream tip of the island, begin traveling downstream on the other side.

8:15 a.m.: Round the downstream side of the island and begin back upstream to the port.

8:25 a.m.: Land at a weed-covered boat ramp that I didn’t notice when I started. Load up the kayak.

8:35 a.m.,: Drop by my favorite downtown, non-franchise coffee shop, discover it doesn’t open until 9:30 a.m. on the weekend. Bah.

 

Photo: River fishing

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Photo: River fishing

I took a bike ride with my son along the Cedar River this week. During a break, we spotted some people fishing.

Photo: Drought fishing

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One of the defining features of our town is the Cedar River, which meanders through its heart, providing a place to relax and find nature among buildings several stories tall. It’s also a place to fish, if you are into catfish.

This summer,the fishing hasn’t been good because the river is low from months of heat and drought. The good news is, you don’t have to wear hip waders.

I snapped this photo of a fisherman walking across the shallow river in the morning. His buddy is a few yards to the right of the shot on a field of rocks that normally marks the river bottom but is now a small island, similar to the one in the background of the shot.

Photo of the week: Fog

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