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The Hell Trip

It can be difficult to get away from work and to-do lists for even a day sometimes, even on a Saturday. But yesterday was exceptional. I managed to escape from the compound and all the projects yesterday for a 12 hour float down the most beautiful river that runs through my range. I love this place. I expect I’ve made this trip 30 times or more since I first discovered the place back in about 1988. The first time was with my friend, O3. We didn’t know what we were getting into. I’d read the canoe guide books that warned of the need to make a short portage around the falls (pictured), but we were not prepared for all the wading and canoe dragging that can be required on this stretch at low water levels, and it was cold that first day.

Were it nor for the single fish I caught on that first trip, that happened to be a respectable 18 inch smallmouth, I probably would never have gone back again. O3 didn’t catch a fish that day and I think maybe that fact, plus the cold water we were soaked in for most of the day may have put an ache in his bones that went pretty deep. O3 dubbed the excursion “the hell trip,” and he never came back. And I have to admit that every time I make the trip, I wake up the next day feeling like I’ve been in a fight or something (as if I knew what that would feel like). Yesterday, I had perfect water levels and warm weather. But I still could barely crawl out of bed this morning. I’m feeling better now. I’m really pleased that I can make a run like this at 56 years old, all by myself.

I caught and released 25 bass yesterday, including a couple of nice ones. The really HUGE fish got away, but I had her on the line long enough to get a good look and to burn that image and the lingering feeling of missing a trophy into my brain. I took a serious large bunch of photos that I’m processing now. They include several scenic panoramas, but I also made a foray into the woods at the site of Quarles Mill, where I took a bunch of pictures of the civil war era mill, now in ruins. I’ll be posting more from this trip later in the week.

A previous post from the same place: https://boatdog.wordpress.com/2009/12/04/north-anna-falls/

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4 responses

  1. My first trip down this stretch was in 1972. I was a senior in high school in Norfolk and came up to do the trip with my brother who had discovered it while a student at nearby Randolf Macon. We were not fishing but the trip still took us over 9 hours. Really tough going. In those days swimmers used to congregate at the falls and the roar of the falls would drown out their laughter as they watched us struggle with the canoe.

    May 23, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    • boatdog

      Wow! 1972 is impressive. I wish I had known about this place back then. The “fall hole” used to be party central, but now the place is effectively locked down from trespassers. The only way to get there now is to float in or take a ridiculously long hike from the park on the south side. Even then you’d have to wade 1/4 mile upstream to get to the falls. When I was there Saturday, the beach was deserted and almost all the trash that used to be all over the place is gone. ….A very tranquil place nowadays.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:26 pm

  2. O3

    Decades ago I had a land pass to get to the Fall Hole (anybody still have one of those) and every time I went some kids were always being carried out bitten by snakes. Juan also didn’t mention that I believe he checks with the North Anna Dam to see how much and when any extra water is being released.

    The Gardner photos taken of the Mills during the War are also wonderful.

    Looking forward to more of this series.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    • boatdog

      I may still have my fall hole pass. I got mine from the owner of the restaurant on Rt. 1, nearby. I think the place was called “Beverly’s Restaurant.” The pass also gave you access to the lakes at the little motel on Rt.1, where I fished a few times. I’ve stopped checking with the dam operators and now I just ride up ther the night before a trip to see what’s happening. There’s also a helpful gauge online at the USGS website.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:56 pm

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