Breaking Routine is Never Routine

It’s against my instincts to order folks around where river meets launch ramp, or in any setting for that matter

There’s been at least one carryover from my previous life as a fishing guide. When I hit the launch ramp or take out, I load and unload my boat mostly unassisted. Only limited helping is allowed.

I’m blessed with many friends with strong “help out” instincts, however. Still, as boat “captain,” it’s my responsibility to keep their generosity in check, as a recent float demonstrated.

A friend I used to work with, one who has since dispersed to a different time zone, was in town with her husband. Happenstance found us with a free day and a willing-and-able river nearby.

There were warning signs at launch. My friends, being nice people and maybe feeling unnecessarily guilty I would do all the rowing, helped load up. That part went fine. We transferred our gear directly from truck bed to boat. The gear never touched dirt.

If you’re new to this, gear touching dirt is bad, as this gear has a tendency to remain in situ. For example, back in the days when I did this sort of thing as a “professional,” I once leaned the fly rods against a bush while I loaded at Moccasin Creek.

When we shoved off the fly rods remained in situ. Fortunately, I had planned casting lessons on the spit of sand that guards the Moccasin confluence from the Middle Fork proper, so I discovered my mistake before the river carried us away.

As we left to run our shuttle the husband offered to pump up the boat. I’d already filled the tubes, but the self-bailer floor, which had a slow leak, needed all the pumping it could get. Floors have relief valves to prevent overfilling as these smaller bladders sometimes burst from too much air, so it seemed safe.

I’m not sure he took my “You can’t overfill it” instructions to heart. When we returned the floor was hard, but not abs-of-steel hard. I topped it off before we launched, but the cold water and that slow leak were my undoing. The floor was soon spongy and that tugboat was a beast to move about in the river. My self-medicating the next day likely bumped up ibuprofen stock prices.

The real fun awaited at take out, in this case a tricky spot due to limited room and stiff currents. As I walked up the ramp I left instructions that we’d unload the boat into the truck, but I omitted an emphatic, “So don’t do anything until I get back.”

That mistake was on me.

As I backed down the truck I could see the contents of the boat neatly deposited in the dirt next to the ramp. Even the oars were out of the oar locks and appeared securely strapped to the outside of the frame. That’s not the way I do it as I prefer strapping them to the center of the frame, next to the rowers seat, but it would do for now.

Well, the key phrase in that description of my friend’s help is “appeared securely strapped.” The oars were really just sitting on the edge of the frame. The mistake of not checking before we pulled the boat on the trailer was also mine. So it was only fitting that as $250 worth of Cataract oar slid off the frame and drifted away that I would be the one to sprint along the bank and leap into the river to grab the oar before it was out of reach in the fast current.

It’s against my instincts to order folks around where river meets launch ramp, or in any setting for that matter. But my instinct to not go swimming at take out is even stronger.

I’ll be more bossy next time.

Rob Breeding is the editor of www.mthookandbullet.com, which covers outdoor news in Montana.