Bear Paw Island





Prologue


I have been carp fishing since I was a little kid, and couldnít guess at the ratio of hooked carp we landed since the sound of snapping line was all too familiar. When I could finally drive one of my main goals was finding places to go carp fishing and we found many places filled with big carp. We resurrected an old family Jon boat with duct tape to seal the holes and went exploring the many islands in the rivers near home. Then one day I found the Internet and was curious to see what I could find on it about carp fishing. And that is how it all started, I found other carpers not only in the USA but absolutely everywhere in the world. Sadly, this is a tale of things starting out well but it seems there will be no repeat customers, and indeed it has been years since I have been able to even talk about this trip with anyone. I am hoping I wont be blamed in the end, I tried my best but you know when you take a bunch of city boys out in the wilds of West Virginia anything can and will happen.



Our Services Offered


I started to join in on some of the discussions on carp fishing all around the world using the internet. Soon it became evident that many of the Europeans not only like to go carp fishing but they indeed were more obsessed about it than I was, dedicating their entire vacation time to carp fishing, living beside the water for weeks at a time and traveling to other continents just for carp fishing. Some of them Euro guys even flew over here to the USA just for carp fishing. Soon we started posting carp pictures and talking about our own fishing holes and the Euro guys started coming over here to fish just for carp. At first it wasnít a problem, not that many came over so it was fun to take them fishing for free and help them out by putting them onto fish and chumming the whole river for them. But soon, word of mouth and the internet spread the news that carp fishing over here was like being in heaven, lots of virgin carp, huge schools of huge carp that no one had ever caught were waiting for anyone brave enough to fly over here. Many of the Euro guys asked us to be paid guides so it wasnít long after our reputation of knowing where to find carp for free turned into a guiding service specializing in carp fishing for the Euros.



Our First Clients


We soon had our first clients. An Englishman named Hatchetman (Hatch) contacted me asking if we could take out a 4 man team. He wanted to experience Wild Wonderful West Virginia complete with all the wildlife and huge carp that he had been hearing stories about on the web. Hatch told me that they usually fished trimmed up park like lakes where the wildest animals they ever ran into were the rats, he was tired of going home with fleas after a night of carp fishing. Hatch told us that where he fished the carp spend more time out of the water getting photographed than the carp fishermen spent taking a shower in a week, so they were looking for somewhere fresh and clean to fish. Along with Hatch came the Warrington Wallet Worshiper (WWW) who was a famous carp angler who invented a little clip so you could add a sinker to your line without tying a knot, a much celebrated invention over in England for some reason. Another angler Hatch said he was bringing was Laneyboy. Laneyboy was the computer internet geek type who set up a webpage for WWW and was being taken on this trip as payment for running the website instead of being paid real money, but that is how these obsessed Euro carpers are, they would gladly work for a year just for a carp fishing trip for virgin carp. The final member of the team was Roto (never figured out what that meant other then he seemed to like to twirl a lot) who had won a carp fishing trip on the Internet with WWW. Roto turned out to be an anti hunter and anti killing of any animals. I was informed by Hatch that we couldnít use any live bait with Roto along, as he was sensitive to the sufferings of all animals, even worms and snails. I was a little concerned to have such an eccentric group, a cheap guy who probably wouldnít be a generous tipper, a potential Axe hit man, a computer nerd who probably would talk about nothing but computer this and modem that and bandwidth etc and a guy who wouldnít let us use worms because they might suffer. So this was the team I was hired to take carp fishing for in the wilds of West Virginia. I was sure I was up for this important challenge of taking a named Euro carp angler and crew out just to catch a few carp. Once the story of this great fishing adventure hit the Euro Carp press we knew we would be swamped with clients forever and our fame would be made.



At the Airport


When I arrived at Ronald Regan International Airport to pick up the clients I had my pickup truck and was towing my boat. I had taken parties of four fishing before and I knew I had more than enough room for these guys since they would have to be traveling light for the flight. Well, I was wrong big time. It looked like these guys had brought everything they had with them. Each one of them had a big bag of rods, one for spodding, two for float fishing and feature finding, three for long range casting and some others that, to be honest, I didnít understand what they were for. I was happy to see that they had gathered all their sinkers into one box, but it still took all 5 of us to lift it into the back of the boat. The box with all their camera gear filled up one entire bay between the seats of the boat! They had so many rig boxes that by the time the boat was packed it looked like we were smuggling olive green army gear across the border to some guerilla fighters, for everything they had was olive green, also, each bit of it had some kind of logo on it. They had so much gear packed away in the boat that the trailer wheels were starting to splay outwards.


Then they proceeded to fill up the back of the pickup with what they call bivvies but what normal people call tents, with what they called bedchairs which normal people call cots, and with just about every convenience for camping that you could imagine and many that you couldnít including what they called bivvie slippers but what normal people wouldnít even consider wearing. Only one box had a lock on it and I was silly enough to ask what it contained. They told me it was their tea stash, that if it had gotten lost on the flight over they would have had to turn around and go back to the UK to get some decent tea since we didnít have any over here. I guess they never heard of Nestea in the UK but I had heard those guys were famous for taking lots of tea breaks. We finally got finished loading up and we set off in low gear moving slowly onto the highway. I had the guys watching to see if any gear blew off while we were on the way but they couldnít concentrate and were acting like a bunch of kindergartners who had been told they were going to get a surprise. In fact to pass the time on the trip they kept pressing their arses on the rear window mooning people who were passing us, I was just glad the back of the pickup was piled so high so that no one could see what they were doing.



Going Upriver to Bear Paw Island


Once we got to the river I backed the boat down the ramp and was glad she didnít sink with only two inches of the gunnels showing. I told them I could only take one of them on this trip and that I would have to come back a couple more times to pick up the rest of them and all the rest of their bits and pieces, or what normal people call fishing and camping gear. WWW volunteered for the first trip up the river to Bear Paw Island. I told him to put on a life preserver but he put it on backwards. I asked him if he might like me to help him out with putting it on but he told me he was an expert fisherman and didnít need any help, so I let him ride up the river with on backwards hoping he wouldnít fall out of the boat too often.


Bear Paw Island is a 50 acre island right in the middle of the river. It is named appropriately in that one day 100 years ago a bear was shot on the island but none have been seen on there since. It does have a healthy population of both poisonous snakes and Javelinas. We unloaded the boat and I went back for the rest of the crew. When I made my way back to the landing I found the remaining three English carping gentlemen making fun of the bass fishermen, mocking the bassers and asking them if they were afraid to catch real fish. I asked them to stop doing that but they said it was funny that anyone would spend that much money just to catch little bitty fish. It was too bad that a bass tournament had just started and we were surrounded by lots of bass fishermen just arriving for the tournament, big burly ones too. But, they saw these guys who talked funny were with Oatmeal Jack and I talked to the bass fishers and told them how much these guys were paying me to guide them on a carp fishing trip and then the bass anglers started to laugh and tell me I should be ashamed of myself even for taking money from these guys just for carp fishing. Well I thought it best though to get the rest of the guys and all their gear in one last trip out of the way of the bass anglers so they Euro guys wouldnít get into any trouble. It was rough going up the river with the three of them screaming mean things at the bass boats and the bassers blowing by us at 50 miles an hour threatening to swamp us with their jet fired wakes.



The Beach Landing


We finally came to the island and found WWW sitting there brewing up a pot of tea, he hadnít arranged any of the supplies yet except for the tea. The rest of the guys jumped out and they all had a cuppa. Hell, I even joined in with them and had a cup of what they called Earl Grey, it didnít have the aroma or heart of a good glass of Lipton Iced tea but I pretended it was the best cup of tea I ever had. Sometimes you have to make these sacrifices for your clients in order to be a good guide. I told them to set their tents up on the high part of the island in case of a flash flood but they said once again that they were experts and wanted to set up on the beach, well, the customer is always right as they say in the ďhow to be a good guide bookĒ. I made on last trip to get the rest of the bait out of the truck and brought with me their 400 pounds of boilies in eight different flavors including fish flavor, fish flavor with tuti fruiti, scopex and strawberry and even tangerine octopus flavored ones, all in different colours and sizes. Some of them boilies even floated, some sank and some didnít do either one if you can believe it buts its true.


A few things they asked before I left for the night made me think though that I shouldnít really leave this bunch out in the wild all by themselves. First, WWW wanted to know if there were any sneaky little snakes on the island, I told him truthfully that no there were no little snakes, after all, we only have big snakes around here but I didnít tell them that, better to let them get at least one good nights sleep. Laneyboy wanted to know where he could plug in his notebook to recharge it so he could send off some emails about their trip. I donít think they figured out what wilderness really meant, I guess where they come from a few trees clumped together with a bird singing in it is considered wilderness, but here in West Virginia we have the real thing and bearpaw island would give them the complete package. They were all taken back a bit when I explained that no there was no electricity, there was no running water so there were no water closets and yes they would have to do the nasty in the woods, as far from camp as possible would be best. I tried to explain what poison ivy was in case they needed to heed the call of nature during the night. And no, sorry, I forgot to mention that toilet paper wasnít in the contract and they should have squeezed a few rolls of Charmin in between the boilies.



The First Day and the Beach Party


I returned around noon the next day with some fresh chum. As I came around the bend in the river I saw the four of them running around on the beach. They were all naked and playing tag. They were celebrating a new PB American carp for Hatch. It was quite a disturbing site to see these guys naughty bits swaying in the breeze but if playing naked tag to celebrate a new PB made them happy it was ok with me, I wasnít going to spend any nights on this island for a long time I can tell you that and I havenít to this day. Well the guys had all run out of grub. They were also out of beer. They made up a shopping list of things I had to pick up at the local market for them. They only wanted a few things, bacon, bread and beer, and some TP. Also, they wanted me to have their 6 rolls of film developed, they had caught 4 carp that night but were hoping to catch better this morning after they got done playing tag.


I set up a rod downstream from Roto and got ready for a long days carp fishing. Roto was going on telling me how he felt that mankind should never ever kill an wild animal or even a worm for all that matters since they all have feelings too. I told Roto I appreciated his respect for nature and that no animals or even insects had been harmed in preparation for this trip, well, that is except for the bacon thing. Laneyboy was busy tap tap taping on his notepad trying to upload digital pictures of last nights 4 carp on his laptop satellite setup, WWW was trying to figure out how much everyone owed for the bacon and beer and Hatch kept playing with the axe I had supplied them to cut up wood for their fire.


I dozed off but was soon awakened by an awful scream. A pack of Javelinas had come out of the woods from behind Roto and he had jumped up and began to run away from them, running back into the woods instead of into the water since Javelinas cant swim. The Javelinas took off squealing towards the woods too and eventually they all ran out of earshot. It wasnít but only 15 or 20 minutes later that Roto came screaming out of the woods as if he was being pursued by a pack of hungry Javelinas shouting shoot them, shoot them, shoot them all now, but the Javelinas had shown they had good enough sense to swim to the mainland and get away from these noisy carpers. Roto was furious and insisted that I had endangered them by putting them on an island inhabited by wild pigs, even though a big Javelina only goes about 40 pounds. Roto took the Axe away from Hatch and set it beside his chair and wouldnít let it get out of his sight for the rest of the trip in case he had to chop up any wild animals that might bother him in the night. I had to leave to run to the store to get them bacon and beer, I hoped they liked Budweiser since WWW hadnít left much of a tip.



The Second Day and Getting Loved Up Real Good


The next morning I came chugging back upriver loaded down with beer, bacon and bread (I forgot the TP). To my surprise, well, not really, they were all laying out naked on the beach again, but they looked roughed up a bit and tired. I tied the boat off and not one of them offered to help unload the cargo, thankfully they didnít offer me a cuppa either. I walked over to the guys and asked what was going on. They had a terrible tale to tell. After I had left the day before a boat with a bunch of redneck women bowfishers had come down the river. The guys had started jeering at them for bowfishing, but they had forgotten that they were celebrating a new PB again and were dancing naked on the beach when the redneck women came drifting by. Those redneck women fired up their Mercury motor and whipped right on into the beach and loved up each and every one of my clients until they couldnít walk or even talk. They done been loved up real good West Virginia Redneck women style, they still had the whelps on their backs to prove it. It seemed to have taken the fire right out of the fellas and I felt sorry for them, its not every man who can stand up to being loved up real good by a redneck woman. I even made them all a cuppa of tea, to show I cared I even added some milk and sugar to each one. I didnít think they would notice the milk was already lumpy and the sugar had some sand in from being spilled before.


I cheered the guys up when I gave them their pics from the night before of the 4 carp that they had caught. That reminded them that they had 3 rolls of film from the 2 carp they had caught including a new PB for Roto before they got all loved up real good. They were afraid those redneck women would come back that night so I reluctantly agreed to stay with my clients so nothing would happen to them that night.


Right after it got dark we decided to set up the lights for night fishing and so that they could take good night pictures. I was just hoping they wouldnít get any new PBs while I was on the island. Hatch asked about snakes again and said he had been having the feeling at night that something had been slithering over his neck while he tried to sleep. I again told them that we didnít have any little snakes in West Virginia. But, while Hatch was trying to hang up a lantern in a tree he had grabbed what he thought to be a branch to hang the lantern on only to have the branch wrap itself around his arm and begin to hiss. Hatch peeled the water moccasin off of his arm and went running around looking for the axe, but Roto wouldnít give it up in case the snake came after him. WWW told Hatch that there werenít any moccasins here and that he had nothing to be afraid of from this snake as he was an expert and this was only a black racer, by this time Hatch had jumped into the boat and was trying to get it started up when the snake swam over to the boat and bit the motor. The snake left but it took us all night to get Hatch out of his tent, we finally got him out by pulling on his rods and setting his bite alarms off, which got him running out of the tent.



Bankside Curry


I decided that what these guys needed was some good old-fashioned American camp cooking. I had in my cooler the makings for a big batch of chili. I browned the meat, chopped the onions and poured in the hot peppers, it was one of the best batches of chili I had ever made while camping out and I was sure they would love it. I left the chili to cook overnight on the coals of the fire and went to sleep. Thankfully we didnít catch any carp that night, I really wasnít up for any dancing on the beach. When the clients finally woke up midmorning (I forgot the mention the ran out of beer again) I took the lid off of the chili. When the aroma hit their noses I was expecting rounds of applause, but instead, they asked what had died out here last night. I was saddened. They asked if I could make them a batch of curry. So I dumped the chili out behind the camp and made up a batch of nasty curry, which they devoured, with rounds of congratulations going to the cook. Actually, I hadnít dumped the chili out, I just added a little turmeric to it to give it a nice yellow colour and called it curry and they loved it and ate it all up. Later that day they would accuse me of putting too many hot peppers when they became familiar with the term afterburn, and since I had forgotten the TP the day before the men spent a lot of time swimming to cool off. Luckily again I was spared anyone catching a new PB and having to watch them dance on the beach. I left at daybreak promising to bring back even more bacon, beer and this time TP along with some soothing buttcream for the chili afterburn. Didnít these guys know the history of hot peppers and that long ago British physicians used to prescribe hot peppers for hemorrhoids?



The Third Day and Alligators


Oh man this really sucks, they got a double hookup and both of them turned out to be PBs and the sun isnít even out yet. Not only are they all naked and dancing on the beach but they keep going around pulling on each others lines to make the bite alarms go off reliving each screaming run in full detail. Their arms got tired from holding the fish up and taking pictures and reloading their cameras so they took out their keep sacs and stuffed the two carp in them until they could get rested up a bit and the sun could come out a bit brighter for a prettier picture, and I hoped, to give them a chance to put their clothes back on! As they were sitting around the rods telling again how the fight went with the two big carps I noticed something drifting down the river, it was half submerged and bobbing in the water such that half the time it was under water and the other half just a bit of its snout protruded, or at least it looked like a snout to my clients. Roto noticed it bobbing towards him as he tied the keep sacs to a tree and yelled Crocodile and took off through the woods forgetting to take his axe with him. The log bobbed up again and the rest of the gang took off into the woods. Man I could tell this was going to be a long day. It took me until nearly lunchtime to find WWW, Laneyboy and Hatch. We tried to track down Roto but he tracks led right to the other side of the island and right into the water. As I was thinking to myself who escapes a croc by swimming when they were on high ground WWW, Laneyboy and Hatch broke down and started saying a few kind words for Roto who they apparently thought was now gater chum. I prompted and begged the guys to keep looking for Roto, its bad luck to loose customers so early in a trip, but they said the carp would start biting soon and they didnít want to miss the evening feed.


They boys did find something in the woods, chiggers and ticks. I explained to them that not all the ticks are poisonous and only some of the chiggers are. I told them that if they wore clothes more often then they might be spared. They said they would think about it but this was after all their vacation and they expected a few hardships. We had by this time of course ran low on beer, bacon and TP so off I was sent on another trip to the store, and, certainly they didnít let me forget the 12 rolls of film for the last couple of PBs. It wouldnít be so bad if WWW would divvy up enough to cover all the costs but they said they were not responsible now for Rotos part of the trip since he was now in the belly of some scaly beasty.


On the way back to the boat landing I ran into the West Virginia Redneck women who asked me if my friends were still on the island, I told them yes they were but there were only three of them left to love up real good and that they were waiting for the ladies to join them. This thrilled the ladies and they floored it and went tearing off up the river in the pursuit of springtime romance.



Tracks in the Sand


I came back the next morning and was surprised to not see the guys dancing on the beach again. When I got closer I could see that the tents were torn up and their rods were laying every which way but the right one. I thought they must have gotten loved up real good last night and that the women must have left them lying all used up in the woods and I would have to go out and fetch them back to camp. But, upon closer inspection I noticed what looked like bear tracks in the sand. Looking even closer I could see where my three first time customers had fled once again to the trees but this time they were followed by three sets of bearpaw tracks. I guess I should have mentioned to the fellas that a female and her two yearling cubs had been chased away from town for raiding a pig farm nearby and had developed a taste for pork. As near as I can figure out the guys had all smelled like the bacon they had been eating for several days now and the bears must have gotten a whiff of them and came onto the island looking for a bacon sandwhich and found the guys and chased them through the woods. I spent a good ten minutes calling to the men from the safety of my boat but I never got a reply. I motored around the island calling out but never saw any signs of life. I felt that they must have remembered to climb a tree when a bear comes after you, but that only works for grizzlies and we donít have any of them around here.


I returned the next day to pick up my customers and take them back to the airport. They still had not returned and as I looked around the woods the only sign I found was a pile of bear poop. It had one lonely button in the middle, an olive green one, the kind WWW wore to keep his knickers up at night when he actually wore something.


By Oatmeal Jack, Jan 2003, Shanandoah River, WV, USA

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