Published 9:17 am Friday, October 22, 2010

by Jeff Turner

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 15th through the 17th on the Blackwater below the Steel Bridge.

The water was clear, 65 degrees and 7.3 feet on the USGS gauge. Air temps ranged from 45 to 85 degrees.

The river was gorgeous, with the leaves turning colors, and the recent flushing of the river from the high water. Trash was not too bad. Most of it got washed to North Carolina. I imagine. I picked up one bag out of the logjams.

The fishing was really good. With the dissolved oxygen backup, and plenty of water in the river, the fish were feelin’ really good.

My dad came the second day for an afternoon of fishing, and we caught several largemouth. Most were caught on an A.C. Shiner and a No. 3 Mepps Minnow.

I also caught some nice big bream on a NO. 1 white tail Mepps. I set cat jugs (limb lines), but only caught one decent fish. The rest were little bullhead cats.

We tried for blackfish also, but they have not really turned on yet it seems.

Another reason dad came was to try to breach a logjam that had formed under the Burdette Bridge from the last high water event. There was one pine tree I just could not pull out of the massive pile of logs.

This tree was blocking one whole side of the bridge, and boats could not get through. So dad brought the chainsaw and made a few strategic cuts on it. Somebody else had also made a couple of cuts on it already and that helped us a great deal.

However the biggest help was Moonpie. After dad had made the cuts, we tied the bow of the boat to the log with the plan being to pull it backwards out of the jam. However the little boat just did not have the oomph to pull the log out.

Moonpie, watching from the shore said, “Hey, hey, hey, hold everything. I know what to do.”

With that, she leaped upon the log . “Now hit the gas.” she hollered, and when I did, she began jumping up and down on the pine tree. “Snap,” the tree broke free, and Moonpie, with the skill of a “lumberjacktress,” jumped from the tree back onto shore. The river was now back open for boating traffic. It was a great team effort.

This trip was my first three-day patrol since April because of my shoulder and back. It was a good trip, but I was not ready.

My shoulder gave me a fit, and I guess will never be better so my surgery seems a failure. Also, before I even got camp set up on the first day, my back went out.

I was pretty much in terrible pain the rest of the trip and had to drag myself around the campsite using my dad’s mill-made boot puller as a crutch. It was very difficult to say the least breaking camp.

But I made it out there, and despite the pain, still had a great time, especially with my dad.

I was sitting by the campfire the second night wondering if it was worth the struggle and pain. The fire was cracklin’, the stars and moon were out, and then the owls began talking to me. They were sayin’, “welcome back, welcome back, Riverkeeper.”

Hearing that from the old river spirits answered my question right then. Yes, I’m getting old, and I guess all the years of camping and living in the woods in below freezing temps, all the falls and tumbles have taken their toll on my body.

But heck, I figure if Moonpie can still make it, I guess I’ll just have to grin and bear it so I can continue my travels on the two rivers I love so dearly that we call the Blackwater and Nottoway.

JEFF TURNER is riverkeeper for the Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeeper Program, an environmentally conscious organization that focuses on keeping local waterways healthy. BNRP’s parent organization is The Waterkeeper Alliance. Web site for Turner, www.blackwaternottoway.com.