The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Outdoors

June 28, 2014

It’s more than a boat, it’s an adventure

BECKLEY — Growing up on Elk River, I couldn’t help being connected to the river and its waters. It is where I caught my first fish, learned to swim, paddle a canoe, to read water and throw a buzz bait, killed my first duck, gigged frogs and spent many a Saturday night fishing for catfish. We lived in a river bank community, and the Elk provided us with everything from water for our homes to all the recreation a young boy would need to fill his youthful requirements for adventure.

I remember the get-together in the garage like it was yesterday. I walked in and saw the canoe, and it was love at first sight. As Dad and the neighbor haggled on its price, I was day dreaming of running the river’s shoals catching smallmouth bass. And after much debate about the canoe’s current condition and its value, they shook hands and it was ours.

That summer, I learned to paddle that canoe. Through trial and error, I learned to run the shoals, paddle the canoe in a straight line and how to read the river’s current. The self-taught lessons I learned that summer fueled my passion for paddling and started my love affair with canoes.

The canoe opened up a new world of opportunity for fishing, as well. I was no longer confined to wade fishing or stuck in the calm pools of the river in a jon boat. I learned to use the canoe as a tool for catching fish. I had a boat that could run the shoals in low water as well as quietly be paddled in the flat water while casting to the structure along the bank. I also wasn’t confined to boat launching ramps. I could use the canoe just about anywhere I wanted to fish by simply sliding it down the bank to the water. With the aid of the canoe and my teenage stamina, I was a fishing machine.

When age delivered a driver’s license, and with it permission to use an old worn-out Toyota truck, even more freedom was opened to me as I began to fish such far off rivers as the Greenbrier and the South Branch of the Potomac.

Later in life I learned to row fishing rafts down the New River and even spent several years using them to guide fishermen to fish professionally, but I have always had a canoe leaning against the house.

This past week, my son and I took the canoe from against the house and loaded it on the canoe rack and pointed the truck to the coastal creeks of North Carolina. Together, we paddled the tidal creeks to find remote holes to set crab pots, cast a throw net for shrimp and set out a few rods in search of redfish and flounder. With the aid of the canoe, we slipped along the shorelines quietly and gained a glimpse into the natural world only afforded to those who choose to self-propel their boats.

Although the ratty old canoe of my youth is long gone, it was access to that simple boat that started my love affair for canoes and fishing from them. That love is still very much alive today.

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