The water was being whipped to a frenzy of small whitewater caps, the first time I’d seen this languid pool in such a condition since that twister came down White Oak Hollow summer of sixty-three,” an old uncle explained.
“That fellow believed he was having fun; all I could see was nine feet of custom fly rod parsing the air and fifty feet of floating braid striking the river’s surface like the bullwhip of a crazed teamster addressing the worst of a stubborn team of Missouri mules.”
Another seasoned guide from the Eleven Point has similar memories of shepherding fly fishermen on Ozark streams in the latter part of the wooden johnboat era.
“I never understood my Grandfather’s references to the Battle of Shiloh. He’d say, ‘There was nary a molecule of air sitting still in the Hornet’s Nest that fateful afternoon.’ I didn’t appreciate the atmospheric assessment; that is until I squired two fly fishermen below Turner’s Mill. True, it was split-bamboo and not lead bullets that ill-fated April morn, but the air was certainly in chaos.”
I’d heard from these gentlemen before. River guides from that period of time preferred the more leisurely pace of bait fishing. Floating a live minnow down a riffle or just pulling off against some log or on some gravel bar and waiting with taut lines while a submerged crawdad or nightcrawler was quietly left to entice a big bronzeback or “jack.”
Tight-line fishermen reposed in a cane bottom chair while the guide tried out new stories or rehashed trips from days gone by. These were their favorites.
Lure fishermen were a bit more rare, and a bit more troublesome. They seemed to work harder than those content to offer some live enticement, be it leech or hellgrammite. Also, when snagged on root or rock — they demanded, or at least expected, more from the guide.