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  • Matt Breton

Floating the River

My grandfather, when talking about someone, would sometimes compliment them by saying,

"He's a guy you could float the river with."

Oddly enough, ol' Harley never spent much time floating rivers, at least not that I'm aware of. He fished out of boats on lakes and ponds, traveled brooks by foot, and fished from shore often enough, but if he floated down a river I never heard the story.

I've come to love paddling down rivers. As the year has passed, I've spent more time in a boat than normal, floating rivers. Through the summer and early fall, it was for fish. More recently chasing ducks. Oddly, I've even read a few more books about river trips. Edward Abbey's Down the River and Aldo Leopold's Round River both graced my nightstand the last couple of months. Both books have a number of essays around river trips, but also spend some time on who was on these adventures.

A small boat, be it a canoe, raft or rowboat, intensifies a relationship. The close quarters and shared fate of the occupants brings people closer and allows for an evaluation of the partnership. Whether you can paddle together, whether you can agree on both the journey and the destination, whether the strengths and weaknesses of one compliment the other- all things get tested.

So when a fella is someone you can float the river with, it is indeed a compliment.

I'm lucky enough to have a number of guys that I hunt with that I have spent some hours in boat with. Quiet floats with a shotgun in the bow. Anxious moments tipped up on a rock where everyone's mettle is tested. Fly lines tangled in the air. Fish landed, ducks brought to hand, headwinds navigated, and portages crossed. These are the very same guys I look forward to spending time in the November deer woods with. Plus a couple of other buddies who have no love for the water, but I know we'd float well together.

As the fall deer season settles upon us, I'm anxious to switch the paddle out for a rifle, and the canoe out for a pickup truck cap. Pick the people you spend time with carefully- make sure you can float the river with them.

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