Monthly Archives: April 2014

First Bass, and First Bat

It’s about 35 degrees today; gray with overcast. Looks and feels a lot like November. I just looked out again and it is snowing. But Friday was a glorious day, and a reminder that it really is springtime.

Friday afternoon it was 70 degrees. A quick walk beside the neighborhood pond wearing polarized glasses revealed what I hoped it would. Bass were pushing into shallow water. I ran back to grab a rod and some bait. Often the bass ignored the bait, and would turn and slowly head back to deeper water, but there was a flurry of action.

I landed 10 bass in about 90 minutes. The sun then went behind a cloud, and the wind picked up. The bite stopped.

That evening my wife wondered if the bat would be back. Last summer, a bat would fly back and forth at dusk, just above our deck. “Too early,” I said. But there he was just before dark, flying figure eights over our deck. April 11th 2014: first bass and first bat of the year!

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Traveling With My Son

ImageMy son is 25 years old. To say we have had challenges getting along is probably an understatement. While Bonnie and I were planning our trip to the Ozarks he was talking about 2 or 3 different options for vacations with friends. The friends bowed out one-by-one, or the trips were unaffordable, so suddenly Matt was without a vacation plan. We asked if he wanted to go with us. The price would be right for him; zero. he readily agreed.

When I asked if he wanted to join me on a full day fishing during the trip, I expected he would decline. He hasn’t shown much interest in it. To my surprise he said yes.

Bonnie wondered if he would find an excuse to stay home, but he didn’t. When he didn’t appear at the designated hour for departure, I wondered too, but he raced in right away and was packed and ready to leave.

Overall, I would give the father-son experience a big thumbs up. There were a few testy moments, like running wild through Elephant Rocks State PImageark. I expected to find him broken at the bottom of a cliff, and no amount of coaxing could slow him down, but we all survived. When he insisted on climbing up into the window frame in the ghost town of East Calico, we only needed one Band-Aid to cover the wound.

He was attentive throughout our fishing day, caught trout, and had fun. He may have even caught one or two fish more than me, but who’s counting? throughout the week he helped carry luggage, grill meat, and read maps.

I don’t know if this will be the last family road trip or not, but it was memorable. I mean that in the good way.

 

 

 

Ozark Spring Break

Ozark spring break, 2014 edition, was a great adventure. I plan to post twice about it. This post will focus on the outdoors, the second on interactions with my 25 year old son that went with us.

The Ozarks are filled with geologic wonder. Porous rock creates countless caves, springs, cliffs, and other curiosities. While down there, I read about a river that disappears underground and appears again 20 miles away. They know it is the same river because they tested with dye (think Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day) and found the dye appearing above ground that distance away. We visited several springs, including Mammoth Spring, which produces 9-10 million gallons per hour, creating a floatable river with constant water level and a constant temperature of 58 degrees. One could easily fill several week-long vacations visiting such sites in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.

Blanchard Springs

Many Ozark rivers have been dammed to harness their power for electricity. On little streams these dams powered personal businesses; such as grinding flour and sawing lumber. On larger rivers the dams have created renown fishing lakes such as bull Shoals and Table Rock. These larger dams release water from the bottom, creating “tailwater” fisheries. The water released from the bottom is constantly cool, so it creates trout water. The amount of water released varies with demand for electricity, so water levels on the tailwaters can fluctuate, sometimes multiple times in a single day.

Perhaps the most famous tailwater river in Arkansas is the White River. We fished it for one day. I came prepared to throw crankbaits for big trout, but was advised to follow the locals.The typical White River technique is to use a bell sinker on a three way rig to drift bait along the bottom. When water is low, the drift is slow and easier to control. In high water the bait drifts faster in powerful current. I didn’t study enough to realize that on a Monday demand for power would be higher than the weekend, and would affect the water level, so we dealt with high and rising water all day. next time I would plan to fish on Sunday, when water is predictably low. With thunderstorms approaching, Matt and I caught 20 trout before lunch, keeping three to eat and releasing the rest. After lunch we landed two more before thunder chased us off the water ahead of schedule. We were satisfied.Matt trout

The next day we toured Blanchard Springs Caverns, an amazing cave on National Forest land. We were not allowed to photograph the gigantic and varied formations because of concern for bats. 250,000 bats were still hibernating in Blanchard Springs Caverns, but not one was spotted in the rooms we were allowed to visit.

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After my fourth trip to the Ozarks in recent years I haven’t tired of it. I haven’t seen everything I’d like to see there, and I want to catch more trout now that I understand better how to fish that unique water.

Check back in a day or two for reflections on traveling with my son.