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Old 01-08-2005, 10:49 AM   #1
Hogmaster
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Default Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

With deep apologies to those of you who have already seen this at least once, I have been requested to repost this "As The Impeller Turns" tale one more time.

Some of the newer members might enjoy it, and given our lower river levels it might be timely.

For whatever reason, readers seem to relate to this one. I can tell you that, in spite of some of my more "embellished" tales, this one is entirely accurate, right down to the naps.

Certainly some have been close to this situation, if not quite as far into it as we got.

Anyway, here goes...
__________________________________________________ _____________________

The Black Duck Incident

The incident took place one cold, dark, damp, December, mid-week morning, several years ago. There had been a fairly significant rainfall, and the Sandy River had risen sharply, resulting in the churning chocolate color that makes fishing almost impossible. But the freezing level suddenly lowered, the rain stopped, and as experienced Sandy River fishermen know, that means the river drops, the green hue returns, and the stream quickly becomes fishable. Conditions were ripe for slaying some “chrome slime rockets,” which is a term my buddies use to identify the mint bright steelhead trout that return to the river from the sea to complete their life cycles.

Dick, a close fishing friend who's real name is Steve, and I 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 compete with meant more fish for us, we thought. Must be because it was a work day, we figured, though in retrospect it should have set off big alarms.

The morning was particularly gray and dreary. There was no wind, but there was just-above-freezing dampness penetrating our very souls as we organized our gear at the ramp after launching the boat. My boat is referred to as a “sled.” It is jet, rather than propeller, powered and has a non-covered aluminum hull with a flat bottom, all contributing to the ability to run it in white water rivers in as little as 4 inches of water.

We chatted about where we wanted to fish, and decided since we had the river to ourselves, we would run all the way up to the Stark Street deadline for using motors and work our way back, fishing all the prime spots.

I started the 100 horsepower jet motor and soon we were flying at full step upriver. That is when I realized the first of my tactical errors. You see, I am slightly nearsighted with one of those “astigmathingies,” so I usually wear glasses when I drive or want to see long distances. 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 River. 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.

That was the form of learning and adjusting to the river, as one reads the water at 35 knots, while driving with spotted glasses, in near-fog drizzle, on a dark, cold morning. I should have slowed at each turn and studied the river carefully before moving on. Fishing excitement and impatience were 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 and wide straight stretch of water. As an experienced boatsman, I knew that meant there was likely to be shallow water across the flat. At nearly full speed already in the undeterminable depth, to slow could mean a situation known to river runners as a “tail bury.” When that happens the jet motor can suck gravel and rocks up into it and severe damage can result. But I found myself wondering where the channel was that contained the deepest water across the shallows.

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, shaped more like black pintails, but at that precise moment I wasn’t into “audubotany.” Instead I 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, with the motor tiller firmly in hand, I put the ducks at twelve o’clock and the twist in my wrist kept the throttle near full RPMs.

Who can guess what all this is leading to?

Sure enough, just as we were coming up on the first of the ducks, there was a very sudden and extremely 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 does one describe the sound 2500 pounds of 18’ sled 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 mishmash of loud, unmuffled, 4500 RPM jet motor exhaust, extended, horrendous, aluminum on gravel scraping sounds and thumping and banging from various items in the boat like the trolling motor gas tank, extra rods, tackle boxes, coolers, Dick, the yelping dog, and who knows what else skidding across the floor of the sled. Inertia carried those things to the front of and even out of the boat, as it and I came to an ungracious stop.

It wasn’t a pretty symphony. It must have taken about two seconds. Well, maybe four by the time I realized we weren’t going to slide back to the river like the boats in a Bond flick, and finally 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. 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 Dick I, the dog, and I were not physically damaged. And the further good news was that no gear had been broken, although most everything had been rearranged to the front. 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 pursue a solution to our predicament.

We really were in a pickle then. 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 even clear Sandy River 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 boat beaching!

Remember, there was no one out that day. Either we were destined to pray for a rising river, (and considering the building high pressure system moving in, and since we only brought lunch, that might have been a hungry wait), or we needed a “Plan B.” 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 tail end of the island, so the shortest distance off was not to try to get the flat-bottomed metal river chariot back the way it came, but to move it a shorter distance sideways off the edge. So we tried.

Yeah, right. Try taking the wheels off your sister’s VW, then drop it in a gravel parking lot, and move it sideways about 20 feet someday for a full body workout experience. While Dick I might be referred to as a normal sized guy, I am a small dude, going about a buck and a half on a good day on the scales.

We could not get the sucker to move, except to twist on its pivot point as we pushed on the bow. It was then, with sad realization, we decided the sled had to be lightened up, at least if we expected to be home in time for spring. The good news with the bad was that we were totally out of the water, so we proceeded to yank off the trolling motor, remove the kicker gas tank, the two anchors, the guide (yeah right) chair, the tackle boxes full of lead and everything else out of the boat and pile it onto the gravel bar. The dog was already long out of the boat and taking a nap, though she kept one eye open and staring at us, fully expecting us to take a lunch break at any moment.

The gear removal helped, though the 32 gallons of gas in the tank 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, we started making arduously slow progress. On hard-packed gravel, this isn’t as easy as it might sound.

So we started a procedure. Dig a four inch trench, “One, two, three, push!” Repeat. It didn’t take long for both wings on the paddle to break off, leaving us to dig along with something resembling a large, wooden butter knife.

After about an hour and a half, some severe blisters and much sweat even though 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 relatively deep spot, about a foot, but the swift current edge made us fear losing the watercraft down in the shallows at the tail-out 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, surprised ourselves to find no gravel in the impeller nor water coming through the floor, then 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.

We later learned the reason we didn’t see any other boaters that day. The river had dropped well below what even the most serious Sandy River sledders would consider a safe level to boat in. Most of my buddies were totally shocked we made it that far. But then again, most of my friends are surprised when I actually make it home after any trip.

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Old 01-08-2005, 01:31 PM   #2
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time


Great story. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 01-08-2005, 02:16 PM   #3
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

Wow. Thanks for the advice. I had a similar stupid incident in my ski boat in the Dalles pond of the Columbia. Thought it would be cool to go to the other side in the shallows and fish for walleye. Hit an unseen boulder with the skeg of my prop and scared the living daylights outta me. The channel was too deep and tumultous to attempt so we practically walked it through the boulder minefield to get into safe water to get home. The Lord was truly with me on that day. I could've put a nice dent in the bow and filled it with some water never to been seen again. I don't touch unchartered water any more. If it isn't obvious, I won't do it without a professinal's guiding any more.

Good lesson,

--D

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Old 01-08-2005, 02:38 PM   #4
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

Great one Hogmaster!
Are they paying you by words now?
thanks for the laughs,
BB
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Old 01-08-2005, 04:21 PM   #5
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

Great Story. I have almost fell victim to Black Ducks myself.
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Old 01-08-2005, 08:45 PM   #6
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

Hog, I will never get tired of that story!!!
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Old 01-08-2005, 09:18 PM   #7
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

nice story hogmaster. i can relate but wasn't as serious and it involved my driftboat & my father in law. i was floating the sandy from oxbow to dabney a few weeks ago, my F.I.L is from virginia and it was his 1st time floating a NW river, he was psyched. we were about a mile into our float and i had a choice to make to go around an island...right or left. every other time i had gone left there was plenty of water and no problems. not this time. we got stuck right in the middle of the tailout. my F.I.L. is not a small guy so he had to take off his boots & socks and wade to the island while i dragged the boat over the rocks into the deeper water and he met me at the bottom of the island. he was a trooper about it and warmed up pretty quickly. i apoligized a million times and he said not to worry about it. every time we talk on the phone he always says how much he enjoyed the trip and he wants to float with me again when the water warms up a little :smile:. he'd also like to catch a fish which we didn't do that day.
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Old 01-08-2005, 11:00 PM   #8
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last)


My alltime favorite "Impeller" story there Hog!!! Thanks for sharing it one more time!!
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Old 01-09-2005, 06:21 AM   #9
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last)

Skrimeister,

Two questions:

1) Why are you up at midnight?

and

2) Why are we not working on some new material? :grin:

Bobber, I am still getting paid exactly what I have always been paid for these.

The Sandy is a river of adventure, that's for sure. justcastn, let's take your ride!

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Old 01-09-2005, 07:04 AM   #10
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

Any open seats for the futre? Just kidding but think about it. You post an open seat a person like myself takes you up on it. I meet you at the park and tell you that I've never done a white water run and then we park for lunch.
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Old 02-01-2016, 06:48 PM   #11
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

I'm sure you heard this a time or two but great story! Thanks for sharing. I'll always beware of the black ducks.
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Old 02-01-2016, 07:12 PM   #12
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

Tonight's the first time I've read this thread. What a classic it is. It takes a real man to confess his mistakes to thousands of people, and enjoy telling it. I was smiling the whole time.


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Old 02-01-2016, 09:25 PM   #13
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Great story. My first time also.
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Old 02-01-2016, 09:40 PM   #14
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

Great thread!
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Old 02-02-2016, 07:48 AM   #15
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

I'll probably get into trouble here, but I mean no disrespect.
I would propose that the Ifish administration remove the "Guest" tag from Gary (Hogmaster), and reinstate his "Keep Left " Avatar, and then retire his number.
He was arguably the best writer/ poster in Ifish history, and it is a shame that, given all that he did for and gave to Ifish, he is listed as a "Guest". His lifetime ban has sadly expired. RIP, Hogmaster
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We have your room reserved for Clamstock V, Gary.

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Old 02-02-2016, 08:53 AM   #16
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

I dearly miss Hogmaster and his colorful delivery of true and not so true events. A literary genius.

Was a victim of the Black Ducks one time in another person's boat. Said to the driver, "those ducks aren't swimming, they're standing on the mud." Yes, I know the sound of a 350 Chevy when the pump runs out of water and the engine hits the rev limiter.
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Old 02-02-2016, 09:58 AM   #17
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

I think of Gary almost daily as I drive past his exit off I-205.

I miss you and our evening drive time chats. A great listener with boundless enthusiasm and always sage advice after the first response which was typically funny and rich with sarcasm.

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Old 02-02-2016, 10:06 AM   #18
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

Hogmaster and Amp had a way with words. Great read.
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Old 02-02-2016, 10:50 AM   #19
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Awesome story!
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Old 02-02-2016, 12:09 PM   #20
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

I'm sure I'm not the only one that misses Gary.
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Old 02-02-2016, 03:19 PM   #21
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

Ditto that, Silver Hilton...
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Old 02-02-2016, 06:29 PM   #22
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

He was quite the story teller and an all around decent guy. He is missed.
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Old 02-03-2016, 02:27 AM   #23
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

One of my ifish top 3 favorite posters. You are missed Gary.
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Old 02-03-2016, 07:17 AM   #24
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Default Re: Sandy - The Black Duck Incident - One (Last) Time

Good story. Must have been one intense moment.
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