At this point in life my wife had already left me, I was splitting a one bedroom apartment with Beth, and I missed my daughter with a desperation that led me to some very stupid thoughts. With all this I continued to fish but learned something about myself, I HATED bank fishing like there was no tomorrow. Hate is a strong word but it is aptly used here. The Scioto River is snag central. Deadfall underwater, debris and odd rock formations had caused me to lose so many lures to this point I was plain pissed off. So I thought and thought some more. I thought so much that my roommate complained of the smell of smoke quite often. We couldn’t afford a boat so what was the next best thing? A canoe. Good God those things are like $500 for a decent one!
One day coming back from early morning of fishing and getting blanked again, it happened. Beth and I saw one for sale in a yard. The man wanted $200 for it and I managed to get it for $150. We finagled it into Beth’s truck, pulled muscles and got it tied down. Now this is when a good thing happened to me. I met Nick, Shaun and Casey at Gander Mountain. Now I don’t like name dropping stores but Gander Mountain is my local crack supplier. If I need something they usually have it and can help me out big time. We take the canoe there and Shaun helps us register the bad boy and off Beth and I go to Prairie Oaks to get it wet for the first time.
Did I mention I have anger problems sometimes? Every little thing that happened pissed me off that day. I really hurt Beth’s feelings because I was short with her. She didn’t really know what she was doing out there and I did thus the frustration. In my head I had myself catching a fifty pound bass (the world record is only like twenty five) because now I could access cover and structure that you can’t get to from the bank. I was a complete and total ass to the point that I broke one of the oars trying to paddle WAY to hard back into shore. The shank of the paddle went into my ribs and bruised the hell out of me for a couple weeks.
We never really went out together again on the canoe after that day. As a matter of fact I’m still cooking some pretty delicious meals to make up for being a supersized ass that day. Probably not a bad idea that we never went out again because the thing was awkward and heavy, however I did go out on it twice with Tim. The first time we caught a fair amount of bass and a gorgeous crappie. The second time made me famous.
Being a Celebrity
So Tim and I get this burr up our butts that we are going to go fish the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers around the confluence in downtown Columbus with the canoe. The launch went fine down a hidden boat ramp. We rowed up the Olentangy until we could go no further because it got to shallow for largies. Then we work our way around the confluence and up the Scioto catching nothing. We hadn’t even run across another fisherman with a catch except some guys with a few catfish. Tim and I find a cove and he manages a small rock bass. Rock Bass are kind of like Blue Gills on steroids. We decided to leave the cove and head up the water a little bit. Now I was in the stern of the canoe which is a crappy spot to fish from because you have limited angles unless you want to take your fishing buddies head off or better yet, put a hook in it. I sent a Texas rigged craw behind me on a back cast and got it snagged up real nice in some shrubs. All I was trying to do was fish a piece of deadfall and not hurt Tim.
Now when you get a snag from the bank you typically are not going to get the lure back. However from a boat you can move right up or over the lure and usually work it loose. So what did we do? Paddled the canoe over to the bush but there was one major problem; we had way too much momentum. Tim dropped his paddle which promptly skidded off the lip of the canoe into the murky and sometimes sewage filled water of the Scioto.
Now at this point Fate stepped in, flipped us both the bird and laughed maniacally at us. Tim lunged for the paddle sending the port or left side of the canoe under the water. When I realized what was happening I lunged to the right to counter balance the canoe and stop the flooding.
I have to interject some information here for those who have never been on a canoe. It is all about balance. If someone up front leans one way the person in the back goes the other to keep an even keel in the canoe. We failed. Not just poorly but I would deem it one of the most miserable FAILS that I have ever been involved in. Now back to the story.
So Tim lunges for the paddle while trying to keep the bush from attacking him and I lean the other way to stop the flooding. Only one problem with this, Tim realized the same thing and lunged to his right also causing the canoe to take on water from the right. He starts trying to paddle and we aren’t going anywhere. I spent about four years in the Navy so I know what is going on and why but Tim starts freaking a little bit as our gear starts to float out of the canoe because we are flooded. There is no getting the water out of it because the gunwales or edges are completely underwater. No bailing for us.
As we stand in the canoe that is now underwater we realize that we are only about ten to fifteen feet from the shore! Simple then right? Wade to shore and pull up the canoe, tip it, re-launch and we are back in business. Remember the sentence above about Fate? Well let’s just say she was pissing her pants at this point. I decide to be the brave one and step out into the river. Then a major problem arose because we are sitting on silt and my leg goes into the mud up to my hip while my other foot is still in the canoe. I can’t do the splits. I am not Mary Lou Retton. My foot was stuck in some seriously nasty silt and my boys were screaming in pain. Something I never told anyone about that day was that I severely pulled a grown muscle getting my foot loose and back in the canoe.
Now I’m beginning to freak a little bit but Tim is lighter than me at that point and decides he’s going to try because there are some branches by him and a lot of small twigs on the silt that he can walk on. It was all rotted. He sank. He kept trying to move forward which turned the silt into quick sand.
Time for a quick recap. I’m muddy, my balls are killing me, the canoe is flooded, our gear is trying to float away, Tim is now buried up to his chest in mud, and I lost a flip flop trying to get myself free of the mud. Just making sure we are all on the same page at this point.
We decided at some point to get our gear to shore at some point during all this, but now decided we needed it all back in the canoe, so we load it all back in as Tim is trying to work his way free. At this point of the story you probably have some tears streaming down your cheek from the stupidity of it all but this is actually where it got kind of scary. See, Tim suffers from anxiety attacks and as he continues to sink the attack gets worse. Now I’m going to switch how I’m telling the story because the dialogue at this point is somewhat odd.
Tim: Dude, I’m still sinking (he’s beginning to shake)
Me: Quit moving and stay still. You’ll stop sinking
Tim: We need to call someone.
Me: I dial 911
911: 911 what’s the nature of your emergency?
Me: We are stuck in the middle of the Scioto River and my fishing buddy is sinking in quicksand.
911: Can he get loose?
Me: Nope we need river rescue.
911: Let me transfer you to the fire department
Fire: Fire department, what’s the nature of your emergency?
Me: We are stuck in the middle of the fucking Scioto River and my buddy is sinking in quicksand.
Fire: What’s your location?
Me: THE MIDDLE OF THE SCIOTO RIVER!!!!!!!!!!
Fire: Sir, are there any bridges nearby?
Me: I think I see 670.
Fire: Yes sir, we’ll dispatch the team immediately.
Let me pause to interject some more information here. When Tim and I had first researched this area the fire department had been training with their boat. Another tidbit of info is that when you are fishing you put your phone on vibrate so you don’t alarm the fish; they are kind of skittish.
Tim: Are they coming?
Me: Yep, they sure are. Should I call the girls?
Tim: Yep but tell them not to come down.
Me: Hey, Beth, how are you?
Beth: What did you do now?
Me: Well, I’m calling from the middle of the Scioto in the canoe.
Me: We sank it. Tim is stuck in quicksand and we are waiting on river rescue.
Beth: WHAT? Do you need us down there?
Me: No but let Becky know that Tim is okay please.
Beth: Are you sure?
Me: Yes. Do NOT come down here. There is nothing you can do.
Beth: Be careful?
Me: I promise. I hang up the phone and look at Tim
Tim: I have to piss.
Me: You are stuck in mud and in the river. Just piss!
Me: How you doing over there?
Tim: That warmed me up a little bit.
Both of us start cackling with stress induced laughter. We hear sirens.
Tim: Can you see them?
Me: Yep, they are pulling up on the overpass and looking for us. Cover your ears.
I use my booming voice and waving arms to get their attention. The police officer waves back at me and gets on his radio.
Me: They see us. It shouldn’t be long now!
Tim: Thank God, because I’m starting to freak out over here.
Me: Just don’t move and it’ll be fine. I look down and see a river otter (which I love) staring at me. I would swear on the Bible that he flicked me off. I look at the bridges and there are now six vehicles of various types including fire trucks, ambulances and police cars.
Me: Holy Shit.
Me: Six trucks up there.
Tim: They must have sent everyone out.
Me: Nah, its Sunday morning at 10 AM. They’re bored as hell.
I look back up again and there are now seventeen vehicles.
Me: Ah, shit.
Tim: Now what?
Me: Seventeen trucks.
Tim: Sweet Jesus!
I hear another siren and look up. A yellow fire engine shows up.
Me: Get the fuck out of here.
Me: The yellow fire truck is here. Great, they sent the little yellow school bus of fire trucks to help.
People are waving at us from the bridge. ‘They’re on their way!’ It took the fire department over forty five minutes to get a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) to us.
Me: Here they come, I see them.
Now let me tell you the rest of the story. Here they come up the river in a RIB boat that has NO draft meaning it sits on top of the water and these guys are poking around with oars trying to find shallows so they don’t foul the outboard. Why they didn’t have shallow water engine on this thing I have no clue but it took them another fifteen minutes to reach us.
Guy in boat: Can you move?
Guy in boat: Let me toss you a life ring. You hold on and we’ll pull you up to the boat.
They toss him the life ring and haul Tim up to the bow of the boat as I stand in the canoe up to almost my knees in water. See Picture.
Guy in boat: What do you want us to do with the canoe?
Tim: Sink the bastard.
Me: Can you tow it in?
Guy in boat: We’ll try but if she starts going down we’ll have to let her go.
Nearly three hundred pounds of handsomeness stepped out of the canoe and it floated.
Me: They are going to be able to tow it in!!
They grab our gear and load it in the RIB boat and off we go down the water. Now I’ve ridden in a few RIB boats in my day including towing other stuff and look down to see that the man holding the tow line has it wrapped around his ankle.
Me: Dude, lift your foot!
Guy with rope: What for?
Me: Tow line is wrapped around your leg and will kill you.
Guy with rope: No it won’t.
Me: If that canoe goes down you are going down with it. If the line gets caught in the propeller, you are going over the side.
Guy in charge of boat: He’s right. Let him move it.
Me: I unwrap the line.
Rescued by Cheech & Chong, Abbot & Costello or better yet the Three Stooges. We survived needless to say. They got us to shore about two miles from the truck and put in. Tim tells the paramedics he needs a ride so they wrap him in a blanket and take him over to the truck but the best part happened as he was walking to the ambulance. The press show up.
Press: Sir, do you want to make a comment?
Tim: Not really.
Press: Are you sure?
So we got a couple hospital blankets and a free ride in RIB boat for our experience plus exposure to the nasty ass Scioto River for our efforts. We made it home, Beth and Becky had hot coffee waiting for us as we smoked and calmed down from the event. The rest of the day was spent cleaning tackle, tackle bags, and the canoe which was then destined to never see the water with my rear end in it again.
Oh, remember I said that we had seen the river rescue crew practicing when we were researching the put in location? Same guys that rescued us.