July 2010

Tuesday -- July 13, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 83

The rain is a welcome sight, even if it means that the river is clouding up now. All of this mud and trash in the water puts a big damper on the fishing and the swimming. The mud is especially bad after a long drought, when dirt, pollen, and contaminants build up on the landscape. We're getting a good dousing but the level of the river should not be affected much and I expect the meeting to happen here on Wednesday.

I hope everyone had a fun and exciting Fourth of July! I finally did the Canoer's way to see the fireworks. I put my canoe in the river at Fletcher's Boat house and paddled down river past The Three Sisters, past Key Bridge, past Roosevelt Island and I watched the fireworks from my canoe at the bottom of Roosevelt Island. I wasn't alone of course and I was pleased to find so many other paddlers on the river. At the end of the light show we all spontaneously started singing the Star Spangled Banner. It was awesome. I was also happy to find that my fears of being run over by a large yacht were unjustified. (In order to make this adventure happen I did have to abandon my post on the Island before sunset and I want to send out my deep thanks to all of the Club members that were here and were so helpful and understanding in my absence.)

Yesterday I had to unload all of my canoeing gear out of my van and carry it back down to the Island. (I have been away on vacation since July 5th so I'm just getting around to it now.) I decided, instead of carrying the boat down, I would put my canoe in the river up at lock eight in Cabin John and float down to the Island. It would be an easier carry and I could get in a good paddle and maybe even some fishing.

I was all set to go when the skies opened up, so I retreated back into my quarters and checked the satellite picture on the internet. It looked like there was a good break in the rain and I should have perfect weather for my float trip. It must have been close to six when I got myself and my fishing gear on the river.

I never fish this far up and I was in a nice pool just above Minnies Island. It looked like perfect fish habitat but I didn't get any hits. I paddled and coasted between an incredible maze of rocks, and currents and weeds. I tried to keep from being pulled downstream too quickly, (the river drops after Minnies and it's a tough climb to get back up.) I had been casting a surface lure, a torpedo, it was my favorite lure last year but today, nothing. I switch to a broke-back- minnow lure that dives and suddenly I have a fish on. I've got a catfish, probably 16 inches long. By this trine I am passing Minnies and the current is picking up. This is also the time that I realize I don't have my trusty pliers to help my get the hook out of this catfishes mouth. I tear through my packs looking for a solution while I hold the rod against the canoe with my foot. Then I realize that I'm about to pass through some mini rapids and I need to steer the boat. I've never shot any rapids with a fish on the line but with a few quick moves I was able to get myself and the catfish into an eddy and with the help of a towel to grip the hooks I freed the cat.

Then I had a Leinenkugel and checked my watch. I caught another catfish and I caught a nice bass but then it was close to 8:00 and I was still pretty far upriver. There were osprey flying over head and there were geese and ducks on the water. The dark storm clouds were building in front of me but everything was now tinged in a gold light as the sun set behind me. I saw a fish jump to my left and I saw two herons nearby. Then I saw another fish jump in the exact same place. One of the heron went and landed where the fish had jumped and I noticed some other unidentifiable splashing commotion? I went to investigate and the heron flew away upon my approach. When I got closer to the splashing, I was even more puzzle than before. I found a female mallard inexplicably dipping and diving as if it had some kind of floatation handicap. When it tried to swim away it seemed forced into the depths. It looked as if it were trying to drowned itself. The tip of my canoe was almost touching the duck when something else to grabbed my attention. There was a 14-inch bass tied up around the rock i was resting on. Seems that this fish had swallowed a lure but managed to break the fisherman's line and now that line had her wrapped around a rock. Since I didn't have my pliers there was no chance of me doing any kind of surgical rescue of this fish so I decided to take it home and eat it. I threaded the painter through its gills and cast it into the river. In the excitement I didn't see what happened to the duck, it was nowhere in sight. Weird.

I saw two deer on Rupperts as I drifted past. There was a doe and a very impressive buck. I was surprised to see that the buck was already sporting huge felt-covereed antlers. I counted eight points on its rack but I think the rack was still growing. The points were as long and as thick as the handle of my fishing rod.

Thursday -- July 15, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 83

Not much happening.

The heavy rains brought a lot of stuff past the Island and much of it was snagged by the captains float. The dock acts as a strainer and tons of trash were piled against it yesterday. I spent several minutes pushing all the branches, logs and sticks out into the current. The plastic bottles , tennis balls, softballs, soccer balls and styrofoam, I scooped out of the duckweed as they drifted past me. Looking down river the clumps of sticks covered with duckweed looked like floating islands.

Wednesday -- July 20, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.85     Water Temperature: 85

We've had some pretty good thunderstorms here the last few nights. The worst one was on Sunday night when the wind was at its strongest. The next morning I went out to find that my screen tent had blown away. I had staked it down near the river but on Monday morning it was in a heap on the opposite side of the Island. I was glad that it didn't get throw right into the river.

I'm doing a lot of yard work this week and last. I sort of put the big painting project on hold until the weather cools off a little. The jewel weed is growing well and some stalks are taller than me. The stinging nettles are big now too and I have been trying to keep the trails clear of that nuisance. The "grass" in the field is growing incredibly fast as well, I cut the grass on Friday and by Monday you can't even tell it was cut.

During my trail-clearing shifts I notice that there are some new invasive plants taking hold on the Island. This is not good. There is a large patch of Kudzu near the head of the Island and we also have Chinese Yam to add to our list of unwanted colonizers.

Just a reminder. In order to use the Club you must be a member in good standing or be the guest of a member. You may also purchase a pass if you are on the wait list. The pass will allow you to use the Club during weekdays. Lately I have been getting many requests from non-members to use the Club, those people wear me out.

Monday -- July 26, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.77     Water Temperature: 88

Good news, there was no damage done to the Club during that sudden storm yesterday. The only problem is that there is now a large tree across the path on the way down the hill. I did not lose power and since I have a well I don't need to ration my water use, Yeehaw!

I have a lot of sweeping to do to clean all of the leaves and branches off the decks and walkways. Later, I'll carry a chain saw up the hill and remove the tree from the trail. I could wait to see if the park service comes to clear the tree but, you never know, it might be a long wait.

I had some young volunteers here last week and we made some real fun improvements to the Island. First, we installed the new zip line! We haven't built the launch platform yet but with the help of a tall ladder we are able to grab the trolley and have a good ride. Make sure you put your feet up. Secondly, we installed a makeshift water slide on the swimmimg dock! I had found an old plastic slide that was wedged into a tree on Minnies Island. I think it was brought there by the extreme flood we had back in March. Anyway, I managed to fit the slide into my canoe and I carried it back to Sycamore. The kids and I did some minor repairs to the thing, and after attaching it to a four foot-ladder we had ourselves a pretty respectable slide. It's a little small for me, but it was perfect for the kids and they loved it. Thanks to member Scott Bertaut and my nephew, William Huisentruit.

Monday -- July 30, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.62     Water Temperature: 88

I spoke a little too soon about the damage caused by the storm last week. No buildings were damaged but some of the large trees on the Island were severly damaged. The snapped-off top of a silver maple is blocking the trail by the tool shed. Of course when I discovered the limb I looked up to see which tree it came from. To my surprise, the closest silver maple was a good twenty feet away! That must have been a very strong wind. A sycamore also took a hit, over by the swimming dock.

The elbino great blue herons(otherwise known as great egrets)are back in the neighborhood. Its nice to see the two of them for a change. We also have two very busy green-backed herons flying up and down the channel.

I don't see the deer but I know they are here, they have been eating the leaves of the mulberry tree, as well as other plants.

I thought I was doing a pretty good job of keeping all the invasive plants and vines in check but I guess I was wrong. Everywhere I turn now, I see invasive vines. I even found a oriental bittersweet vine that was over an inch thick and smothering an entire tree. I'm also getting worried about the recent invasion of Japanese yam. These buggers are popping up everywhere and some have now gone to seed. It seems worse than in years past and I wonder if it has anything to do with the major flood we had back in March.