In short, a property developer and some landowners who purchased a lot and built a home on the river are suing three anglers for trespassing. (Clarification added 4:10 p.m. Friday — The anglers got out of kayaks and waded. They never set foot on shore.) The plaintiffs are claiming that, among other things, deeds dating back to the 1700s from the King of England (including the above-pictured King George II) prove they own the river bottom. (I’m not getting into background here, but previous crown grant issues have been controversial, hence the term “again the center of controversy.”)
The anglers claim that DGIF signage and information about the river does not list the property in question as one of those where so-called Crown Grants have been established and, hence, stopping and fishing has been deemed to be illegal.
I’m working on a story on this, so yesterday afternoon photographer Sam Dean and I headed up there to float through the section in question.
Indeed, the riverbank is heavily posted with signs stating that stopping and fishing is not allowed. We had fishing gear but didn’t fish through the section in question because the last thing we wanted was a confrontation. I really just hoped to get a feel for the scene.
It didn’t bother me much to not fish because, other than a couple of spots, the river didn’t really look too trouty through the section in question. I mean, I’m sure there are fish in there but there’s plenty of other really stellar water on that river that is not in dispute.
Once we were well below the gauntlet of posted signs we started making a few casts. I was using ultralight spinning gear, throwing little minnow lures, such as Berkley Gulp! minnows, and Sam was using fly gear casting streamers.
We caught a few fish and would have done better had we taken more time. But we had to power through the 6-mile float (from Smith Bridge to Petticoat Junction) because I was doing the shuttle on my bike and wanted to be able to ride before dark.
So, on to the shuttle…
To put it bluntly, it didn’t go as planned.
My idea was to ride the rail trail from Petticoat Junction back to Smith Bridge. Well, I made it 4.5 miles and the trail just seemed to end. It was getting dark fast and I hadn’t bothered to bring my Niterider Minewt bike light (since I wasn’t supposed to be riding in the dark) and my only light was a meager headlamp.
There were some houses around but most had many barking dogs in the yards so I wasn’t eager to go knocking on doors and asking for directions. Plus, we all know that men would rather die of starvation or hypothermia than ask directions, and fortunately we no longer have to as long as long we are carrying a GPS-enabled smart phone. Fortunately, though I had no cell coverage in the valley, at the last minute I had thrown my phone in a fanny pack — just in case. I pulled it out and brought up a map on GPS. On it I saw that the road I had ended up on was heading back up to U.S. 220. Not good. So I headed back down to Petticoat Junction.
I told Sam what was up and headed back to Smith Bridge on the road. It was pitch dark by then and I had no back flasher. Again, not good. Every time I saw a car approaching from behind I would pull well onto the shoulder.
Not fun. What should have been a 6-mile shuttle ended up being nearly 14 miles. We didn’t get home till close to midnight.
A few lessons learned.
One, always know the shuttle route before you have to take it.
Two, always take a bike head light when running bike shuttles even if you are SURE you’ll be done by dark. There are no sure things out there.
Three, take a rear flasher just in case you end up riding on the road.
Four, always carry the cell phone.
Five, when Sam and I embark on outdoors assignments there’s a 75 percent chance it’s going to turn into something of an epic.