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Maiden Voyage

Culpepper Bend on the Econ River

I am more than a week behind on getting this posted, so this is more for my own personal record than a fishing report. After a week of nearly daily work modifying the new (to me) square stern canoe to meet my needs, and completing the initial break in of the new motor in a trashcan, Saturday the 18th was the maiden voyage of the newly outfitted boat and Suzuki 2.5hp motor. This is my first gas motor, and I am very excited about the expanded range it has given me!

Todd and I met up at C.S. Lee at around 8am, got everything setup and hit the water. The initial run was a little shaky as I tried to figure out the steering with the tiller extender. The tiller extender I purchased has a universal joint on it, and I quickly learned that needs to be positioned properly and the turning tension on the motor itself needs to be just about nil in order to best steer the boat using it. We stopped at the creek mouths where I got everything adjusted to my liking. The water was still pretty high, just shy of 3.2 feet on the gauge, so we both used heavy t6 and t8 tips to do some dredging. In addition, I searched using the spinning rod, and after 30 minutes without a bite we decided to move up to mouth of the Econ.

installing sponsons and lacing a canoe

The new motor is a nice upgrade from the trolling motor, adding easily another 3-4 mph and we quickly made our way to the east bank. Along the way the new sponsons I added to the canoe got their first test as a couple of boats passed us at speed heading up river, putting off a pretty good wake. While I was kind of skeptical at what difference a bit a foam that is essentially a glorified pool noodle sawed in half would actually make, I am happy to report that the increased secondary stability they added was really impressive. Gone are the days of grabbing the gunwales and taking a roller coaster ride every time a boat passes. It has become more of a gentle rolling action, and that feeling that you might tip is just about non existent now.

Again we swung flies with the switch rods for about a half hour with no luck. I did not have high expectations, as all of the recent reports at C.S. Lee have been no better than maybe 1-2 fish for the day. However, the main purpose of the trip for me was to complete the final 1 hour of break in on the motor where you have to keep the throttle under 3/4 speed, and I am most comfortable with this section of the river. Add to that the steady boat traffic in this area and I knew we could get help if I had any mechanical issues or at minimum have an easy paddle back downstream if need be.

We decided to give the motor a good run and make our way up to Culpepper Bend. The current was very slow here, as the St. Johns River is still pretty high compared to the Econ, but we fished the area very thoroughly with both the switch and spinning rods. Again, no shad.

We ate lunch, drank a beer, smoked a cigar and then decided since I needed to run the motor anyway, why not make our way up to the section of river we would typically hike to by way of the trailhead at Brumley road. No one had posted any reports from this section as its still pretty early in the season and with so much water in the St. Johns, there probably were not many fish up there. However, hickories generally make their way up the Econ every year regardless, so why not give it a shot? This is a section of river we would generally not make a paddle to because of the time involved, but with the little outboard, we could now add it as a destination.

fly fishing for shad on the Econ River

It took around 30-40 min to get to what we fondly call the Wives’ Pool, but again, keeping the speed under 3/4 throttle because of the break in. We began fishing, and I think on my second cast, I felt a heavy tug but missed the hook set. As Todd and I bantered about whether it might have been a shad or not, a nice gar rolled near where I had been hit. Right as I was saying that the gar was likely what I hooked, due to the “dead weight” I felt, Todd hooked up with a shad, that was fresh and full of fight. Unfortunately it was quick released before I could get a picture, but Todd touched the leader, which is always a catch in my book. Todd managed to hook up and lose one more fish, but neither of us got a bite beyond that.

We made our way back downstream and did stop at the lilly pool of 2018/2019 season fame and did not find fish. I should note, last year was the only time I have ever found fish in the pool.

The only other story of note that I have to mention as we made our way back downstream to the launch is, as we made our way down past Culpepper Bend, the Central Florida Airboat Tours operator at the Jolly Gator passed us at full speed with a full load of tourists on a straight away, no more than 30-40 feet off my port side. That boat throws a serious wake that we had no other option but to take just about broadside as I tried to get out of his way. While the sponsons had clearly been tested earlier, I think the wake size combined with the narrow section of river had Todd and I reaching for the gunwales again. However, the sponsons did their job just fine. Thanks Bruce… while you made us crap our pants, I now know I can stay upright, even with the big tour boats barreling past me. I am pretty sure I now have the perfect little river boat for my shad adventures!

To be clear, while we did surf a serious wake in the canoe, no prop wash was involved. It was a close encounter, but no harm done.

1 Comment

  1. Philippe Richen

    Well the scotch did come to fruition lat night, however due how much I have worked, I pretty much past out for the night. Enjoyed the read this morning over my coffee however. I have to get out this week and the winds are making redfish hard to imagine. I am thinking of doing some exploring so I may head south for Shad.

    Thanks for the report.

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