View Full Version : felts | sandstone | sky [smallstreams.com revisited]

11-05-2009, 06:48 AM
August 23, 2000 (http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.smallstreams.com)

Looking back, I truly almost died.

But we can navigate the river with a AA battery flashlight. One drunken evening, two men, being men, took the boat out on a pleasure drive in a fool moon that cast shadows that were like black holes in space...



Double AA Rated?

by Adam Trahan

What I remember is my felts (boots) and the tops of those sandstone cliffs beyond them. That is what I see when reflecting on being knocked out of the boat.

The Colorado River above Lees Ferry is one of my favorite areas to fish. Eons of relentless flow have carved a canyon so GRAND... I am fond of Marble Canyon and the fifteen or so miles below Glen Canyon Dam. The enormous dam releases water from the bottom of Lake Powell. This crystal clear cold flow of water produces a river that is nearly perfect for trout.

February of 1990 was my first trip up Marble Canyon. Against the river we threaded boulders, weaved through the channels and even had to "back up" to get through a particularly thin spot. I remember that block of ice at eight and a half mile camp where we stayed for a week. Someone had left it there and after breaking camp, we said good bye to it too.

But I always came back. I don't even own a boat. I beg, borrow, and make my way upriver any way I can. The adventure always brings me back.

There is a small group of us who like to camp together. We are ill equipped with fiber glass ski boats that draw way too much water. Over loaded with five guys and all of our gear for a long weekend trip doesn't help.

Reading the stories of others, seeing the pictures always gets me going. And when we share those magnificent moments at the edges of the day, it all makes sense. That is until I remember the complete terror of running aground!

Again, it is always the boat. Deep V, inboard motor, outboard drive that sticks way down there. We have no business using this boat for so many trips in flows below 10,000cfs or below. We don't spend every day on the river. I don't know if the cliffs above have sloughed a house sized chunk breaking up reaching into the river. But we still go...


I have run aground once and that is enough for the rest of my life! The flow was like 9,000cfs (this is a couple of years ago) and my friend says "You drive!" "Ok, I will show them my prowess" I am thinking to myself. From the moment we pushed off from our fish camp, I was a little scared. Five in the boat, three haven't been upriver this far.

Marble Canyon is a very quiet place. You can hear boats motoring upriver from a mile away. There is Duck Island on the left, yeah, I'm doing good, hard charging upriver with my friends, my web site, the guides. Hey check those guys out, they are all waving to us... WHAM RRr, rr, rrr as I am thrown forward and my hand gripping the throttle is thrown forward revving the engine even more! GRrrr, throw back the revs and the boat stops, the motor dies and then the boat tips over on its side. Everyone in the boat is looking at me, the three guide boats anchored, and all the clients are looking at me and I remember hearing the people at Ferry Swale camp a hundred yards away saying "What was that?" as they scrambled to the plateu's edge. You can imagine the humiliation. I got out of the boat and in ankle deep water changed the prop. I swore to myself to learn the river and I did. From the passenger seat of that ski boat.

I won't take risks in that boat again. 10,000cfs is just too low for us to charge. So I keep quiet on our trips NEVER volunteering to drive. I learned from watching. Hell, I took another friend upriver with a bigger deeper V ski boat without a hitch in similar flows.

The phone rings "Yeah, you want me to go with you on a mid-week run? OK! Emergency fishing trip!" It didn't take long to develop flu like symptoms and call in to work. The drive went fast, the cottage was cozy and the first light released us from the dock. Smiles and back slaps, yeah, it's going to be a good day.

All the way up we did well, the mean level was down, but the horse knows the way so I think. About nine miles up, that's what my GPS says as I was mapping out the river. "How fast are we going" my driver asks. The GPS says 25mph against the 8mph flow of the river. Whoa, getting shallow, I move to the front of the boat to watch with my foot against the front rail.

Twenty yards away, not enough time, there is a line in the water, sticking up about six inches (Pig Rock.) I point left into the middle of the river. Slowing the boat was not enough as we slammed into the rocks in a foot of water. The out drive prevents any forward motion as the boat bangs again to a DEAD stop. The dead stop is what got me. Over the rail as I was holding on, looking up past my felts at the top of my favorite cliffs, time did slow down. But the cold water sped it right back up quickly. The current took me back under the boat and I scrambled for the rail to pull myself back in. My two wrecked companions sans soaking helped me get stable...

I've have weathered a few extreme moments in my life. Being blown around, out of control at fifteen thousand feet in my hang glider (http://hangwind.blogspot.com/), breaking a board in crushing Hawaiian storm surf, tumbling in a slab avalanche with my snowboard in Utah. Being knocked out of the boat on the Colorado did contain the same sort of "juice." Juice that I want to avoid.

Why? Why do I continue to go, to write, to fish? Because it is a place so GRAND, so "post to pillar" as my mother-in-law would say. I can't get enough of fishing at the bottom of a canyon so grand.

I've had some very special moments in Marble Canyon. All of them exciting. I'll continue to go for the rest of my life while teaching my sons what to do, and what not to do, I know...

Be cool, have fun with the site.



11-28-2009, 07:39 PM
Yes I remember the story like is was yesterday.