An idea and then a phone call. That was all it took to put things in motion for a three day , two night float down 23 miles of another Ozarks river in search of smallmouth. Kevin and I hadn't been on a real fishing trip since returning from Wyoming and it seemed like a fine time to fix that. Both of us agreed smallmouth over trout and camping on a gravel bar over a concrete pad complete with neighbors who hang those illuminated strings of plastic trout around their campsite. The weather was supposed to be perfect , too much so in fact , a beautiful September weekend is a surefire recipe for a river full of floaters and fellow fishermen around this part of the country.That being said , we'd just have to take our chances....
Kevin had to work until 4:00 Friday afternoon which would put him at the access around 6:30. Not much time to float with these ever shortening fall days, but still enough daylight to get away from the access and pitch camp on a quiet gravel bar. Myself on the other hand didn't have to work and planned to meet up with the shuttle service around noon on Friday and then be dropped off about 4 miles above the point where I was supposed to meet Kevin that evening.
It was around 1:00 when we pulled down next to the water and I started unloading three days worth of gear and arranging it on a boat that quickly began to look too small.
One last check to make sure I hadn't forgotten something I couldn't live without for three days and I watched my truck pull away as I shoved off.
It's always a good feeling to start one of these float trips. There's just something about the idea of having approximately 23 miles of river to traverse in three days and no other goals or problems to concern yourself with. It's just you and the river...and hopefully the fish.
I had an enjoyable afternoon float , I'd be lying if I told you that I fished very hard , but that wasn't really the point. I caught a few smallmouth and spent some time getting the gear arrangement worked out on my overloaded boat ,but mostly I just enjoyed the sun and the sound of cool water flowing over the rocks as I floated downstream.
I called Kevin as I floated past the boat ramp he'd be putting in at in an hour or so. I told him my plan was to head on downstream and find us a good gravel bar for the night and get the party started ,a cold beer and a cigar were sounding awfully nice.
Kevin showed up as planned about an hour later and we spent the remainder of the night eating, drinking and sitting around the fire while discussing the next days fishing.
Saturday mornings alarm clock was the sound of a blue heron leaving it's riverside roost followed shortly by a group of crows making enough racket to wake the soundest sleeper. After boiling water for some morning coffee we quickly broke camp and pushed off as the fog was still being burnt off by the early morning sun.
The weapon of choice was still a sinking line and an assortment of 6 inch streamers that I hoped would prove to the liking of the resident bass.
It didn't take long to get an answer to that question as a chunky smallmouth chased and proceeded to smash my double deceiver. The morning was good and quickly getting better...
The fishing was consistent and we had the river to ourselves until mid-morning when we started seeing a few floaters. We were both into the fishing and just floated and fished at our own pace , occasionally catching up with one another and trading results.
By the time mid-afternoon came around we were passing the last access for the next 10 miles and leaving all of our company behind. This was truly the section of river we'd been waiting for all along...good looking water , smallies and best of all complete solitude.
The fishing actually improved during the afternoon and we both caught good numbers of chunky stream smallmouths. We weren't able to break that revered 18" mark but the fish we did catch were well fed and aggressive , not much else a guy could ask for.
The hand held GPS read 12.4 miles when we pulled the boats over on our gravel bar for the second evening , a good chunk of water covered for a days float considering our modes of transportation.
Just like routine , we set camp and got a driftwood fire going to cook the evenings dinner.
Nothing gourmet here ,but when eaten on the banks of a river under the stars it has no culinary equals.
The remainder of the evening was spent sitting around a big fire emptying the remaining beer out of the coolers and telling stories about the ones that got away.
Sunday we were awoken by the same chorus of alarms as the morning before ,it seems you never have to worry about oversleeping when Mother Nature is your alarm clock. We made coffee and whipped up some breakfast burritos before breaking camp for the final 6 miles or so of river.
My first fish was hooked up before we got out of sight of the smoldering ashes from the previous nights campfire , picking right back up where we left off.
Another beautiful Fall morning floating down the river , the only distraction being the tug of another smallmouth from behind every boulder.
The six miles went by too quick and we were slightly disappointed in the quality of water down here compared to the previous afternoon. We still caught fish from all of the spots they should have been , those spots were just fewer and farther between it seemed.
I'm really not complaining , it only sounds that way. I'm pretty sure I had a smile on my face from the time I woke up until the time I closed my eyes at night for the entire three days of the trip.
I think it was around 2:30 when we came around the corner and spotted the takeout. A bittersweet feeling no doubt , while it's good to have made it to your final destination, it also means the end of another great trip.
A little tired and sunburnt but otherwise no worse for the wear , we loaded up the boats and headed back to the pavement and a dose of reality....at least until the next escape plan presents itself.