Catching fish is the obvious goal, but what happens along the way is where the memory is made. I have seen some interesting and unique things on rivers. And this past summer the Shenandoah River added something new to the list.
Gearing up for a smallmouth bass float trip with a few friends out of Front Royal, I carried my kayak down to the launch ramp where a large number of people stood gathered. It is not entirely uncommon to see hoards of people spending a nice Sunday in the park (which runs along the river) so this spectacle didn't strike me as odd. That is, until I saw the white robes and heard the singing.
Scanning through the mass of people, I found the reason behind the gathering. Baptism. Now, I have seen baptisms before, but this was the first time I've stumbled across a river baptism. I was much enjoying my role as observational bystander until an anxious park ranger informed me that, “...technically, they are not supposed to do it in this spot,” followed by what I imagine was an internal battle of whether or not the ranger wanted to shut down a baptism. As far as I know, it carried on without interruption.
Now that the white robed mystery was solved, I began rigging up my rod and kayak while singing and clapping filled the air. The music was lovely and unlike anything I've ever heard. Mostly because the songs were performed in Spanish as the congregation was largely Hispanic.
Things took a turn for the awkward when it came time to launch the kayaks, seeing as the only route to the water was through the middle of the crowd. Not knowing how long the ceremony would last, my friends and I were left with little choice, but to politely and subtly shuffle our way through the crowd. That is when everything stopped. I am not sure if they paused mid song (not being a Spanish speaker) but it sure sounded like mid song to me.
All eyes now on us, the only sound to be heard was the scrape of gravel beneath our kayaks as we dragged them towards the water. It was kind of like eating noisy chips in a silent room full of people.
One exceedingly long and uncomfortable minute later I was in the water. I paddled swiftly around the priest and the man being baptized, giving them a silent head nod as if to say, "sorry about that, carry on." A glance back over my shoulder revealed fifty heads with faces blank of expression swiveling in unison as I paddled down river. I put my head down and paddled faster.
A coupled hundred feet downstream, the clapping and singing resumed and I breathed sigh of relief, pulled off some line, and began fishing.
It truly must have been a blessed day because the fishing was that good.