An Amazing Day on the James

December 20, 2011. Today started like most days on the James, an early arrival to the Richmond Yacht Basin to get the boat ready for the day’s adventure. Today, I readied for a fishing trip … checking lines on rods, checking hook points and leaders, and generally making sure everything was in order and in place. By 6:45am, I was ready to embrace the day, and welcome guests on my pontoon boat, into a clean, workboat-like atmosphere. 
Some days, if I am lucky, I get to sit back on the boat and enjoy the Eastern sky for a short while, after everything is done and ready. Today, I had those precious 15 minutes, and while looking at the glow of the predawn sunrise, I thought to myself, “This is going to be a good day.”
I was right. Not only did I manage to take this series of wonderful sunrise images from a moving pontoon boat (all in 30 minutes on the James River), but I spent the day with one of my favorite folks, Bill Schieman, an angler from Virginia Beach … AND … fishing was good! On the trip Bill brought his son Bill Jr., and his son’s daughter, Tracy.
Bill Schieman is also a hero of mine and here’s why ….
About six years ago, I received a phone call and was asked if I was the guy who did flathead fishing trips on the James in Richmond. I said, “Yes” and proceeded to tell the gentleman the details of the trip. When I explained how the flathead fishing trip is a perfect ‘half-day’ adventure, he interrupted and asked, “Don’t you do full-day flathead trips?” “Sure” I responded, “It’s just that this trip makes for a perfect half day, due to the length of the river float, etc. etc.” 
So Bill books a full day fishing trip and he travels from Virginia Beach by himself. We are to meet at the Huguenot Flatwater ramp at 7AM. The morning of our trip, I come floating downriver towards Huguenot Flatwater, about 6:40 am in my raft, ready to fish. Like always, I was arriving about 20 minutes early to relax, enjoy the morning sunrise, and watch over the river’s surface for fish activity. As I paddle up to the shore, there is a man sitting about halfway down the steps to the river. He says, “Are you Mike?” and I say, “Are you Bill?” and we both chuckled a bit.
That day of fishing was awesome. But more importantly, I got to know this guy from Virginia Beach, who has such an amazing, long history of fishing in Virginia. He’s a master bass fisherman, who has more largemouth bass citations than anyone in the history of freshwater fishing in Virginia. Bill has caught over 500 largemouth bass worthy of being called a “Trophy” by the Commonwealth of VA. Plus, he’s famous for catching huge walleye, yellow perch, crappie and sunfish. In short, the guy is an amazing fisherman and has been for over 70 years. 

That first trip Bill booked with me ended with him catching 20 or more flathead catfish, many over 20 pounds along with numerous smallmouth bass, redbreasted sunfish and bluegill. He fished in that hot sun for eight hours, non-stop with a smile on his face from ear to ear. We talked all day about fishing and life, and as I gave Bill a ride back upriver to his car for his journey back to Virginia Beach, I thought to myself, “Wow, this is who I want to be when I am 82 years old.” Bill got in his car at 4:45am, drove two hours to the James River in Richmond, fished all day, had a great time and drove back home all in one day. All for the sake of enjoying a day of fishing and all at the age of 82. Yeah, Bill is one of my hero’s and always will be. 

The Photo's Stories:  Top Left:  Sunrise on the James #1.  December 20, 2011.  Early morning, taken from just downriver of the Richmond Yacht Basin, at the upriver end of Jefferson's Reach.  --Photo by Capt. Mike 

Middle Right:  Sunrise on the James #2.  December 20, 2011.  Minutes after taking the first pic at the top left, while riding dowriver, towards Jones Neck, I paused to take this image from my Canon G-9 digital camera.  I love that little camera.  --Photo by Capt. Mike

Lower Left:  This is from a fishing trip, with Bill, from last fall.  He comes to fish the James River at least twice ayear, and here I am holding the biggest blue catfish of his life, a 64 pounder!  To this day, it is still a club record for the Tidewater Angler's Club, a fishing club Bill has belonged to since the 1960's.  --Photo by Sheldon Aery

Bottom Left:  Sunrise on the James #3.  December 20, 2011.  This is one of my favorite sunrise images in a while. Something about it grabs me, perhaps it's that first moment of direct sunlight, or the pallette of colors in the sky with the rays shooting through the clouds, or maybe it's the total lack of wind, creating a near perfect reflection of a magnificent sky.  Maybe it's all that, and more, of which I just can't explain.  Maybe it was just being there.  --Photo by Capt. Mike