One of my favorite canoeing spots is the Chattahoochee, perhaps because it seems to offer a little bit of everything. There’s scenery, solitude and even lakes (such as Bull Sluice Lake, formed by Morgan Falls Dam just off Roswell Road) to explore.
There’s good fishing in Bull Sluice. It’s home to species as divergent as trout, bass, bluegill, carp and the incredibly beautiful yellow perch, among others. Yes, fishing can be good.
Oh, yeah – there’s one other interesting thing about the waters of Bull Sluice. Sometimes they attract the most, well, interesting people. And that brings me at last to a story that I’ve been wanting to tell. This being the 100th edition of this column, this seems like a good time to share it.
It was a sunny morning a year or so ago, and I was getting ready to fish Bull Sluice Lake with my friend Bill. We’d been talking about doing some perch fishing there, and on that day, the scheduling stars had aligned. It promised to be a great day.
We were rigging up our rods when a dusty red pick-up drove into the parking lot. There was an old aluminum canoe propped up in its bed, and peering out the passenger-side window was the smiling face of an exceptionally happy looking dog.
The truck creaked loudly as the driver parked it. A couple got out and began unloading the canoe. Meanwhile, the dog hopped from the truck and began to dance around excitedly as if it knew what was coming.
“Ahh, kindred spirits!” said Bill as we watched the couple drag their canoe toward the water. But his smile changed to puzzlement as they began loading stuff, a lot of stuff, into the boat. There were at least a dozen fishing rods, most of which looked heavy enough for the ocean. There was an enormous cooler. There was a folding chair, an electric trolling motor, a massive auto battery, and –
“A portable TV?” Bill said.
Yes indeed, and no kidding. There was all of that…and of course the dog.
“Careful with that battery,” we heard the man call, as the lady struggled to manhandle the heavy 12-volter into the canoe. “It’s brand new.”
Then he turned back toward the truck.
“Okay, we’re ready,” he called, and a matronly woman in a turquoise pants suit climbed down from the truck too. She had on a wide-brimmed sun hat. He called her Momma.
Momma looked over our way.
“You-all going fishing?”
“Yes ma’am,” answered Bill.
“Well,” she replied, cocking her head toward the fly rods, “you sure got wimpy poles.”
Ready at last, we pushed our own canoe into the water. Bill eased it toward a spot on the near bank. “I’ve done pretty well here,” he said. “Cast over there and see what happens.”
I picked up the fly rod and did as instructed. A cast or two later I got a solid strike and soon boated a nice yellow perch. We admired the fish and then slipped it back into the water.
“Not bad,” I said. “Got any more secret spots you’d like to share?”
“Yeah. They’re all over the place” He picked up his own rod and sent a cast toward the bank. The strike was immediate, and his fish was the twin of the one I’d caught moments before.
We continued fishing along the shoreline. I’d catch a few, and then Bill would take a turn. It was fun.
“Those perch are some of the prettiest fish in the river,” my friend said. “Sometimes I think they’re even as pretty as the rainbow trout.”
After a while, Bill suggested that we move to another part of the lake. As we paddled, I glanced downstream and noticed another boat – a large speedboat – sitting motionless. The smooth water reflected a mirror image of its sleek white hull.
And then – “Yeeee-hawwwww!”
“That sounded like a rebel yell,” Bill observed, “And it’s coming from that speedboat.”
There it was again – “Yeeee-hawwwww!” – this time accompanied by vigorous waving of an enormous cowboy hat.
And then that boat roared to life. It took off, and I mean took off – fast!
Needless to say, this created the small problem of a giant wake. We saw it coming and turned to meet it head-on. No problem. The wake raced by.
But as we turned our gaze to follow it, we saw Momma and company bobbing gently in their own little canoe just a few yards from where they had put in. There was Captain, manning the trolling motor. There was First Mate, riding up front with the little TV. The dog was lying atop the cooler just behind the front seat, and Momma was sitting proudly amidship in the folding chair.
I squinted, rubbed my eyes, and looked again.
Uh-oh. Here comes that wake!
We watched as the wake hit ‘em broadside. Over they went. It was done in an instant. They never had a chance.
We started to paddle toward them.
For perhaps half a second there was nothing, though the water there was only about two feet deep. Then up popped the crew: Captain first, then First Mate, then Momma.
“What the heck was that?” said Captain, looking around at the bobbing remains of his day. The canoe floated upside down like a resting whale. Around it floated the cooler and Momma’s sun hat. And paddling merrily around amidst it all was the ever-cheerful dog.
That’s when Captain realized what that upside-down canoe really meant.
“My battery!” he wailed. “Where’s my battery? I just paid 90 bucks for it, and now it’s gone!”
“Forget your battery!” shouted First Mate, louder still, now realizing the true situation too. “Where’s my TV?”
“TV shmee-mee!” screamed Momma, loudest of all, as she began slogging toward shore. “I’m gonna go back to the truck and get my baseball bat in case that *-&+*!!+! boat comes back!”
Captain and First Mate turned for shore too. But the dog, apparently done with the water too, got there first. Captain followed just in time to take a full load of spray as the dog vigorously shook itself dry.
That was too much for Captain, who grabbed the poor dog and heaved him back out into the water.
“Get back in the lake, you mangy dog, and help me find that battery!”
The dog landed with a gigantic splash and, no doubt thinking that this was all just another part of a very strange game, immediately began paddling around in happy circles again.
By this time our momentum had carried us within about 10 yards of the action. I looked at Bill, and Bill looked at me. There didn’t seem to be much we could do.
“Y’all need any help?” I called out doubtfully as the dog made another turn around the still-bobbing cooler.
The one called Momma heard us, looked our way, and glared.
“I think,” said Bill after a moment’s reflection, “that we should take that as a no.”