Sandy River Sledding- The Black Duck Incident -
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Old 12-10-2002, 07:39 PM   #1
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Default Sandy River Sledding- The Black Duck Incident

The Black Duck Incident

In observance of my 1000th post, it seems appropriate to tell another chapter of “As The Impeller Turns”.

Usual apologies go out to those who can’t stand the long tales. Then again, I am probably on their ignore list by now anyway. For the other three of you, here goes…

This one has been in my mind’s eye for a while now. I specifically wanted to write this tale because I see many posts from new sledders in general, and want to let my lesson perhaps serve as a bit of education for them and others...

It happened one December morning several years ago. Much like the conditions of today, it had been dry for a spell and the Sandy had been pretty low. Then there had been some rain, and the river had come up. The freezing level lowered, and as experienced Sandyites know, that means the river drops and quickly becomes fishable. In short, conditions ripe for slaying some chrome “slime rockets” (I like that term too, fishbait!).

Well, not Donny, not Formerly, certainly not little red sled, nor reeldick could get away on short notice on a Wednesday morning. But Dick I could. YES!! Although Dick I still had his “Fast Bob” (aka Rapid Robert) driftboat at the time, I convinced him that we should take my sled because there were hot reports of fish in the lower Sandy. “Chasing Rainbows” yet again.

By the way, it has occurred to me the ironicy (Hogmaster likes to make up words) of calling a trip like this a chasing rainbows trip. “Chasing Rainbows” actually was a term that a friend and I came up with as young bucks falling for “hot tips” from other hunters when chasing the same and didn’t even have anything to do with fishing. It has no specific meaning to the metalheads we were targeting other than we were again following someones can’t miss information.

But there I go again digressing. Sorry. Back to the story.

We met early, right at first light, to put in at Lewis and Clark State Park. When we did, it was a pleasant surprise to see no other trailers in the lot. Few fishermen to have to compete with we thought. Hmmmm… Must be because it was a workday, thought us. Cool.

The morning was particularly gray and dreary. There was no wind, but it was just above freezing dampness penetrating our very souls as we organized our gear at the ramp after launching. We chatted about where we wanted to fish, and decided we would go right up to the Stark Street bridge motor deadline and work our way back since we had the river to ourselves.

I started the 100 horse jet on the Red Sled and soon we were flying at warp speed on step upriver. That is when I realized the first of my tactical errors. You see, I am slightly nearsighted with one of those astigmiethingies, so I usually wear glasses when I drive or want to see long distances. (At the risk of another digression it scares me to death that I purposely took and passed my driver’s test without wearing glasses. There must be some real blind folks steering vehicles out there!) Anyway, the tactical error was associated with the dim light near fog conditions that were accompanied by a slight but continual drizzle. As we flew up the river, that drizzle caused a spotted raindrop effect on the glasses and visual acuity was definitely hampered. I should have stopped and taken them off.

The second tactical mistake came about as we got about a mile upriver and I realized just how long it had been since I had been on this stretch of the Sandy. I usually fished other rivers and had not been there for a few years. As such I was starting to fly blind in a second form. The form of learning as one reads the water at 35 knots while driving with spotted glasses in near fog drizzle on a cold morning. I should have slowed at each turn and studied the river carefully before moving on. Fishing excitement and impatience was about to bite us square in the derriere.

The third, and as it turned out most critical tactical mistake, was what happened next. As we rounded a turn we came into a long straight stretch of water. As an experienced boatsman, I knew that meant there was likely to be shallow water across the flat. At speed on step already in the undeterminable depth meant to slow could mean a tail bury. Where was the channel? Hmmmmm…. There were but a few seconds to decide.

Then I saw what was surely the answer. Through the dim light, fog, drizzle and spotted glasses I saw a group of about a dozen black ducks right in the middle of the river. They didn’t really look like coots, more in shape like black pintails, but at that moment I wasn’t into audoboning and instead quickly rationalized they must be in deep water since they were sitting in the river. Right in the middle of the river as it were.

So tiller firmly in hand I put the ducks at 12 O’clock and kept the throttle near full Rs.

Who can guess what all this is leading to?

Well, sure enough just as we are coming up on the first of the ducks there was a very sudden and very disconcerting realization that those black ducks were not moving. In fact, those black ducks were black all right, but they were not ducks. “Oh, [word universally understood but not appropriate for repeating here]!!!!!!!!!!!” The realization took about .04 seconds.

How do I describe the sound that 2500 pounds of 18’ sled, motors and gear traveling at 35 knots makes as it travels right off the water and runs up a gravel island for 72 feet???? All I can tell you was that it was a mismash of loud, unmuffled 4500 RPM jet motor exhaust, aluminum on gravel extended scraping sounds and noise from various parts in the boat like the kicker tank, extra rods, tackle boxes, coolers and who knows what else sliding across the floor.

It wasn’t a pretty symphony. It must have taken about a second as well, OK maybe two to shut the key off after we stopped, but it seemed to last forever.

Sure enough, the black ducks were merely rounded black rocks that were mixed with gravel across an island. Now, I wrote 72 feet because I am serious. We parked the sled fully four boat lengths up the gravel bar from where the gravel started and the river ended! Now what!

An assessment showed that neither Dick I or I were physically damaged. And the further good news was that no gear had been broken, although most everything had been rearranged. So after the usual release of screaming expletives, and the dressing down one gets from one’s fishing buddy when one makes the ultimate in bonehead moves, (this is often referred to as the “Hair in the soup when you invited me over for dinner” look) we decided to look for a solution to our predicament.

We really were in one now, however. Upon removing those spotted glasses it became apparent that by taking the path of the black ducks I had parked the sled right smack in the middle of the river. In fact the water disappeared on both sides of the island to below clear Sandy water visibility depths! What a Dork! I had chosen the ONLY line that could possibly result in a bottom scrape and had turned it into a full beaching!

Remember, there was no one out that day. Either we were destined to pray for a rising river, and considering we only brought lunch that might have been a hungry wait, or we had to somehow get the Dory floating again. If there was any good news, it was that I had managed to drive right up the V that constituted the end of the island so the shortest distance off was not to try to get the Red Sled back the way it came but rather to move it sideways off the edge. So we tried.

Yeah, right. Try dropping your sled in a gravel parking lot some day for the full body workout experience of moving it sideways for about 15 feet. While Dick I might be referred to as a normal sized guy (OK even with “Popeye arms” if you read my “REALLY cold” thread) some of you know that I am not what you would call a “big” guy. In fact BOE and I pretty much see eye to eye on things though I do not possess his Adonisie form. OOPS more digression. Sorry.

But we could not get the sucker to move except the bow. It was with sad realization that the sled had to be lightened up if we expected to be home in time for springer season. The good news with the bad was that we were totally out of the water, so we proceeded to take off the kicker, remove the kicker gas tank, the two anchors the guide (yeah right) chair the tackle boxes full of lead – everything out of the boat. That helped (though the full tank of gas didn’t), and when Dick I came up with the inspired thought to use the paddle as a shovel to dig a parallel trench to the sled (trust me this isn’t as easy as it might sound on packed gravel) we started making progress.

Dig a 6” trench, “One, two, three, PUSH!” Repeat. After about 1 ½ hours, some severe blisters and much sweat (we were down to tees by then), we finally got the sled in contact with the water again. There were some tense moments as we loaded gear back in trying to keep the boat in a fortunately relatively deep (about a foot) but swift current edge without losing it down to the shallows at the tailout of the island. There was also the nagging and morbid feeling the sled might just be now less than watertight.

Alas, we got the gear back in, started the motor (Yeah! no gravel in the impeller!), successfully got underway without a disaster in the shallows but by then Dick I was so put out with me he wanted nothing more to do with pursuit of fish. Back to the ramp we went, then home, where both of us took naps the rest of the day.

The amazing thing was that upon inspection there was virtually no damage to the sled.

So, for all you novice sledders, please be aware that this kind of thing CAN happen to anyone. I had many years of sledding experience but let a few mistakes in judgment get the better of me.


1) If you haven’t been there or don’t remember the path, don’t do it by looking for the black ducks while visually impaired!
2) If you ignore number 1 above, travel light!
3) If you ignore number 1 above, don’t go alone unless the forecast is for rain.
4) Check and know your river levels. I found out later there were no other sleds that morning because no one in their right mind would sled up there with the water that low. D'Oh!

Others have done it too, I am sure, but for the horsepower I bet I have a near record for dry land boating!

Who is in the fessing mood?

[ 12-10-2002, 10:50 PM: Message edited by: Hogmaster ]

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Old 12-10-2002, 08:06 PM   #2
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Default Re: Sandy River Sledding- The Black Duck Incident

No one could top that one. You win by a "LAND SLIDE". I've learned two things about running rivers. Don't go where you don't know the water and don't go with a visually impaired person [img]graemlins/stupid.gif[/img] that can barely look Bait of Eggs in the eyes. Must have had trouble seeing over the bow like Roy.
Hogmaster, Nice write up and very good advice for us new wanna be river runners.
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Old 12-10-2002, 08:27 PM   #3
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Default Re: Sandy River Sledding- The Black Duck Incident

Now I can't top that one, but......

a few years ago I bought my first sled a 16' smokercraft with a 50 hp pump. not having much experiance with a sled I started in the mult. channell, all is well the boat runs good handels good etc. well one of my friends says, lets go to the sandy I fish it all the time and know it well. so I ask him how far up we can go he says not to worrie we can go a long ways. we launch at the park buy the freeway and run up river and come to a fork and my pal says to stay left, we almost made it to the top but a dang rock hit the shoe and popped the motor up out of the water, well that 50 on that 16' sled wasn't going fast enough and there we sit in the middle of the sandy river in 2" of water and I am sure of that because I measured the tops of my sneekers when I got home. well we pushed the boat back to deeper water and proceeded on up the river, well to this day I know for a fact that little boat needs at least 3" to run but it won't run in 2"

Lesson again, if you don't know the river don't "ASS-U-ME" your buddy does either it isn't his boat
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Old 12-10-2002, 08:34 PM   #4
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Nice one!!!! I dont know if I could admitt to it myself. Which part of the sandy did you beach her on? I can only say " I am glad that I wasnt there."
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Old 12-10-2002, 08:44 PM   #5
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:grin: :grin: [img]graemlins/applause.gif[/img] [img]graemlins/applause.gif[/img] [img]graemlins/applause.gif[/img]

And to think I was complaining that I haven't caught a fish yet with you. I am just glad we are floating after reading that.

BTW, what does the "I" stand for?
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Old 12-10-2002, 08:52 PM   #6
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Kevin -

I can't tell you exactly, but I know where exactly it is. I can show you, but lets take YOUR sled! :grin:

FIB, you know it is explained in the "REALLY cold" Click here for the story post

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Old 12-10-2002, 08:58 PM   #7
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Congrat on the cool G. A true posting milestone. Now if you could only calculate the lost wages at work. I'll let you have my excel spread sheet, but you probably don't really want to know.

WOW - those poor black ducks.

1. To whom ever bought the Red Sled, it clearly states "No returns or refunds after 60 days."

2. Pretty much each of our excursions has had some 'potential for incidence.' Forever more known as PFI. But I have returned home without the fish but good entertainment. Now I'm just thank full to have gotten home.

3. Now that you have admitted in a public forum that you and BOE 'see eye to eye' just crawl down from the computer stool, put the phone books away and give Max a big hug for not puking all over your house after your forced her to eat smelt and endure countless PFIs. (How's that for a run-on sentence?)

Great story.

May we experience many more PFIs.

Long live The Hogmaster!
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Old 12-10-2002, 09:03 PM   #8
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Default Re: Sandy River Sledding- The Black Duck Incident

Another great story, Hog. Can't top it but:

Sturgeon fishing one morning out of Hammond in my 23' Fishrite inboard 351ho windshield sled. Kinda foggy but I had a good compass and all I had to do was go north until the water started to shallow, then go east until we see the bridge. No sweat.

I was on plane northbound at about 40+mph when I noticed that the ripples on the water in front of us weren't moving at all! SAND!! At the same instand the depthfinder went from nice and deep to flashing zero and beeping.....HARD A STARBOARD! I cranked her over as hard as I dared without slidding out and waited to feel her bottom out. Zero still flashing on the depth finder. No worries, my behind had a firm grip on the air-ride seat!

Then the depth finder started to find bottom again, six feet....then ten. On we went to the bridge and none of my passengers ever saw the sand or realized how close we came to kissing Desdemona!

[ 12-10-2002, 10:07 PM: Message edited by: crabbait ]
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Old 12-10-2002, 09:12 PM   #9
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Ouch! :grin:

And you reminded me, that was additional ballast removed that day - Maxine. She wondered why we decided to park there!

crabbait, that too was a PFI on your seat. Pucker Factor Indent :grin: :grin:
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Old 12-10-2002, 09:44 PM   #10
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Hogmaster~ Good Lordy!
Glad to see you've improved with age! :tongue: hehehe
With some of these stories, it's amazing that your'all still here with us. Keep safe this holiday season!
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Old 12-10-2002, 09:56 PM   #11
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Another good story from the Hogmaster [img]graemlins/applause.gif[/img]
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Old 12-10-2002, 10:19 PM   #12
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Hogmaster. Great story. I laughed so hard I almost fell off my chair.

You must be the greatest fisherman of all if you still get people to fish with you. :grin:

Brave friends?

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Old 12-10-2002, 11:06 PM   #13
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That reminds me , id better put that short handled shovel back under the bow. yes ive done the "paddle dig" myself, not fun. [img]graemlins/icon_argue.gif[/img]
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Old 12-11-2002, 08:34 AM   #14
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Manimal -

If you had known you might not have been so eager to get aboard? :shocked: :shocked:

Pops -

Glad you enjoyed it. Brave is not necessarily the adjective I might use with some of my "friends". Many look like TFG's cuzzzes!

cannonball -

Great idea. When I sold the Red Sled I let that paddle go with it. It only had a blade left on one side! :grin: :grin:
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Old 12-11-2002, 09:38 AM   #15
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I heard that!
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Old 12-11-2002, 10:20 AM   #16
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Hogmaster that was a real good story. As I read it I was thinkin about why my buddy named his sled "high and Dry". He had just purchased his first sled and asked me to show him the way to the west channel in T bay. No problem been there and "I know the way" Well in a driving rain we left Garibaldi and headed west. We were at mid tide on the outgoing when we left the harbor at well sorta sunrise. We are both squinting into the rain and on plane in the flat bottom sea Dory going 35+. When I spot some birds in the water as we get close I can see that the birds are standing. (Not good) it is at that time my buddy see sand coming out the pump. He pulls up on the power trim and we slid in the sand for about 150'. The first thing I said was Steve ya got any cards. Because we slid so far we were almost back in the channel but not quite.
So we sat there for 4 hours until the tide came back enough to float the boat. I went over to the edge of the channel and cast into it and got 3 shorts while we waited. Moral bring cards and lunch if you are going to play in the T bay. There are those that have and those that will.
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Old 12-11-2002, 12:07 PM   #17
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I guess you have to watch out for black rocks as well as those black helicopters!

You need to publish a book of your stories for the rest of us Ifisers to learn from your mistakes... Thanks for another great story!

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Old 12-11-2002, 04:01 PM   #18
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Well Hogmaster, I'm not as poetic as you but I can relate. We didn't make the 72 feet but it was dang far enough.

Dad and I are running up the Yellowstone River on a nice brisk (read 15 degrees above 0)December morning at o'dark thirty to do some Goose Hunting. We come scooting around the trash corner (ugly little riprap corner lined with old cars) and hit the flats right before the island.
Now there is a nice little backwater right at the blind that we pull up into to drop off the decoys and the rest of the armament and paraphenaia associated with a day of goose hunting.
We are approaching the backwater and Dad cuts the throttel and we coast in for the usual landing.
I notice that we are not slowing down very much, well 5 seconds later we coast into the backwater. You know how hockey pucks slide nicely across the rink. Well, 18 foot Hewescrafts slide about as well when there is 2 inches of water over the 4 inches of ice frozen in the backwater.
We skated right across that and into the sand/mud at the other end. All told about 40 feet or so.
I started laughing so hard I almost fell out of the boat. Dad was not so amused. He knew how heavy the boat really was, I would find out soon enough.
So we start thinking that all we have to do is get it back on the ice and we will be golden and maybe still get some hunting in.
Not happening today. Boats slide really well in one direction only and we couldn't go that direction.
So, 4 hours later after digging 10 feet of semi-frozen mud and busting another 30 feet of ice the boat was back in the river.
Nothing like a little workout (feel your pain there HM) in t-shirts and the falling snow.
We decided not to waste the rest of the day and headed downriver for some Sauger fishing.

Rest of the day went well. Caught enough fish for dinner, Dad and I had some good father/son time togethor, got some exercise and the bottom of the boat was nice and shiny after the sandjob it got.

Just one of my boating adventures that I can absolutely say wasn't my fault. :grin:

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Old 12-11-2002, 05:14 PM   #19
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I haven't done that BUT, one night when we were night crabbing at Netarts (Best fun ever), up on plane in the 16' sled, I suddenly realized that the 'water' in front of me was sand (oops). Did manage to slow down real fast and with only me having any measurable pucker factor. After I was stopped, I admitted why we were idling for 'just a moment while I get my bearings'.
Did I mention that I haven't done that BUT? One day, while traveling downstream at at full throttle, I decided to cut the shore a little to the inside of mid-channel above Camas in a 25' foot I/O. I didn't really stop but, the lower unit was a little shinier.
I too am older and wiser now and (knock-on-wood) and haven't come close since (except a couple of rock-ticks on the Rogue that 'grew' out of deep water)

[ 12-11-2002, 06:15 PM: Message edited by: STGRule ]
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Old 12-11-2002, 06:12 PM   #20
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Good to see that some of you are admitting your real or close calls with speed and shallows.

Slow roll, sounds like you can definitely relate!

That feeling we had when we first assessed the situation and realized that with all the major part of the sled having its weight in the rear and there is simply no way in the world it is coming out the way it went in is, well, best described as "hopeless" [img]graemlins/1zhelp.gif[/img] [img]graemlins/1zhelp.gif[/img] [img]graemlins/1zhelp.gif[/img]

One thing I didn't fully explain: Part of the reason we got so far out of the water was in the split second lasting to two second period that the realization set in that we were now land boating, I made a conscious decision to maintain full throttle, hoping I could slide across the island and hit the drink again. I had these visions going by of that Bond flick during the chase scene with the speedboats. Instead we looked more like the slowing momentum of the Clyde brothers in their 72 Ram Charger trying their luck at the local Mud bog pull!
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Old 12-11-2002, 07:18 PM   #21
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I put my 17' Midjet up on a frozen gravel bar in the upper Willamette once - but not 72'. Maybe 20' but that was enough. Slid up on submerged sheet ice (like previous post). What a grunt getting it turned around and back afloat. Hoarfrost on the rocks helped some.

Another time in summer I was running downstream in the Willamette with Dexter, my old springer spaniel, perched on the tiny front deck like a canine hood ornament. Went under a RR bridge thru what was always deep water but hit a new sandbar hiding there under 1" of water in the shadows. The boat came to a near stop, the dog went flying, the sternwake then lifted the boat over the sandbar and, with motor still revved up, I then proceeded to run over poor Dexter! :depressed: Made a quick 360 and picked up the dog none the worse for wear.
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Old 12-11-2002, 07:31 PM   #22
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Default Re: Sandy River Sledding- The Black Duck Incident

Hey plucut, I remember that story, something about a banana in the boat.

If you run Tillamook bay much you will end up on a sanbar!!!!!! Been there done that.

My worst would have to have been Tillamook bay during springers with 4 clients in the boat. We were heading from Bay City back to the Oyster house. We were having a decent day, Laughing, talking and me not paying attention. Im sitting in my chair holding on to the tiller going wide open when all of a sudden I realize Im about 10 ft from where I should be. TO LATE!! We stop so fast, that it propells me in my chair right up to the front of the boat. So I turn to one of the guys in front (who now is right beside me) and Yell LUNCH BREAK! What else could I say. Thankfully the tide was allready starting to roll in, so we only sat there about an hour. Glad they saw humor in it, I sure felt stupid.
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Old 12-11-2002, 07:38 PM   #23
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Ya Hog that story was pretty funny except for one person, the one that bought old red.
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Old 12-11-2002, 07:40 PM   #24
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Once again Banner Story,
It would have been Fun in hind sight to get in the boat for a few snap shots of the lazy fisherman who's to cheap to buy gas for the boat just beach it and fish to the sides. Or something to that effect.
Drifted a few times where I swear every time I went right it should of gone left finding every darn rock and shallows on the river. My Coat it tells the tales..
It's always best to do it with friends to share the whole experience.
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Old 12-11-2002, 07:49 PM   #25
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Ok, after reading about all of the mishaps I now have the courage to tell of mine.

Brand new 21ft Jet's maiden voyage with my daughter & friend. Took them to the Skykomish & lanched @ the lewis street bridge in Monroe & proceded up to Sultan to fish that nice classic water just downstream from Sultan. Being a novice with no one to guide me thru the do's & dont's - like drifting the river & not paying attention to where you are going & what comming towards you, I beached my craft under no power on the gravel bar - it eventually slid off, but I was forever transformed into the everwatching, cautious sledder. Nothing like having your heart completely stop!!
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Old 12-11-2002, 08:06 PM   #26
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fishlessinoregon -

There you are! Out of lurker land!

As the buyer of the Red Sled I appreciate if you might be, well, concerned about that story! :shocked: :shocked:

But honest, there was no damage and as you should well know by now the boat was watertight when you got it from me.

I worried about posting this in case you read it, but she is a tough old bird that literally flies over water and sorta over land! :grin: :grin:

Hope you have been able to fish, but I haven't seen the Red Sled out yet... She sure is easier to manuver than the SS Hog Heaven. In fact I miss her!

PS - Now you know why the paddle has a scuffed tip and is missing half the blade!

[ 12-11-2002, 09:31 PM: Message edited by: Hogmaster ]
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Old 12-11-2002, 08:20 PM   #27
King Salmon
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Default Re: Sandy River Sledding- The Black Duck Incident

Ya know they got the same species of Black Ducks on the Cowlitz. Sneaky One and I were buzzing up around the corner from the Mission Bar launch for the first time and decided to give the side drifter on the left some room. So we stayed right. Next thing I know Sneaky One is indicating that he would like some bread to feed the Black Ducks not more than a few feet from the side of the boat. :shocked: . As the water dropped over the next few weeks the gravel/rock bar showed more and more of itself. We still glance at one another as we go by the near disaster.
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Old 12-11-2002, 10:57 PM   #28
Tuna! AKA Papermaker
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Default Re: Sandy River Sledding- The Black Duck Incident

If your dog likes to ride up front and he suddenly comes towards the back--something is about to happen.
[img]graemlins/idea.gif[/img] :shocked: :depressed: [img]graemlins/1zhelp.gif[/img]

The good old days are gone
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