Streams just turn my crank!
By now, you've figured out that I'm passionate about creeks and rivers. In fact, I'm just a little possessed! Hot or cold, wind or rain, ice or snow, if I can get to the creek bank, I'm apt to be out there with a paddle in hand to enjoy the moving water. The thing is though, it's not all about fishing and hunting. The plain truth is, I'd be out there if guns were outlawed and fishing licenses cost a hundred dollars a day. As a float fishing and hunting guide, there's a lot of days in my canoe where I never fire a shot or catch a fish. Just seeing other folks learning about and experiencing the joy of our streams is becoming increasingly valuable as I mature. I'm finding too, that I've been given an increasingly rare gift...............appreciation of the resource! I took a float trip last year on a very popular stretch of river that was quite forgettable. For the entire day, I was never out of sight of at least a dozen floaters. I suspect that you could spend an evening at the most rowdy bar in town and find more peace and quiet. Binge drinking and horseplay were both on tap. We managed to get soaked ourselves from a little group of ambushers huddled around a beer cooler on a gravel bar with water guns the size of small cannons. We also got to enjoy about an hour of rock music blasting from a boom-box in the middle of one canoe that kept pace with us for a stretch. Clueless comes to mind as an adequate description of the floaters on that day! I once spent four days and nights floating alone on a stream in the Ouachitas of south Arkansas in October. I never heard the sound of another human voice, not even my own during the entire trip. I did hear redbirds sing, owls hoot, Coyotes howl, hawks scream, Squirrels bark, Crows fight, fish splash, waterfalls roar, and not least, I heard silence. Interestingly, I never felt truly alone! In some ways, I never felt more alive. It's an amazing insight to observe how one's own awareness can become attuned to the surroundings. A twig could snap and I would hear it. A waft of scent could cross the stern of the canoe and I'd stop to search for the Muscadine vine, just to enjoy a handful of fruit. I would turn a bend in the river and see a bank of red in the sunlight, Lobelia Cardinals so brilliant that reaching for the camera was an automatic response. And, bacon frying over an open fire next to a gurgling shoal as the morning fog lifts is an experience like none other. Breakfast is never so fine as on an overnight float trip! Did I catch fish and shoot a mess of Squirrels for supper during that four day trip? Certainly; but, ask me what I remember most about the experience. That's the way it is on float streams..........it's insights and outlooks, it's canopied understorey under cliffs painted only by the hand of God. It's sheets of hanging ice in mid-winter or an hour or two scratching for Indian artifacts from an ancient bluff shelter. It's the unforgettable sight of an Osprey dropping from the sky like a bullet to catch a fish. It's seeing a mother Eagle trying to raise an eaglet from a nest at the top of a Sycamore that would have been considered a decent sized tree when the Osage Indians floated the river. The list continues; but, it would become a book to read! The thing is, you have to get out there on a stream to really understand. You can read about it, you can see it on TV; but, it's far short of the mark. It's sort of like describing what it's like to eat your mom's homemade biscuits. You just have to spread butter on one and put it in you mouth to really get it! That's why I shake my head a lot with some of the younger generation. How did they miss the boat? You can drink beer and listen to the boom-box back at the house! I see an occasional advertisement for an "Eagle watch" tour on some lake somewhere. Lord, if they only knew that I could show them a dozen Eagle nests, and half of them have never been seen before by another human eye. It's the same thing with arrowheads and otters or waterfalls and caves. You've got to get out there to find them. That's what a stream can do for you, too. Have you ever seen the view of fall colors in the reflection of a wild stream in the middle of nowhere without a human in sight? What are you waiting for, it's that time of the year now...........you might want to bring along some bacon and your mom's biscuit recipe.