No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.
The third annual Andy Hart Memorial Fishing Trip took place last week. This was the 12th annual trip overall. Once again, we selected the Jack’s Fork/Current River watershed as our conduit. Our original plan was four our group of 10 (five father/son combinations) to get on the Current at Round Spring on midday Wednesday and get off the river at the Logyard midday Friday. At about 6:00AM on Wednesday morning the group of 6 leaving Tulsa became 4 as one of the dad’s fell ill overnight. Fortunately, we were able to procure seven of the eight racks of ribs he had prepared for the trip as well of some of his fishing tackle.
So, as it turns out, a group of four from Tulsa and a group of four from Kansas City headed toward the Current River with dreams of lunkers dancing in our heads. By the time both groups approached Springfield, we were met by mother nature and her attempts to scare us off from our plans. We drove through thunderstorms that at times included severe downpours of rain that limited sight enough to slow our progress to a crawl.
Undeterred, we met up in Eminence where we decided to audible to a new route down the river – one that would assure us of a dry night one. We decided to rent a couple of cabins on the river bank in Eminence and return to the route we travelled last summer, beginning at Alley Spring. We headed up to Harvey’s Alley Spring Canoe Rental to get our trip underway. Although we received some strange looks for wanting to head out on a 3-day journey in the pouring rain, the folks at Harvey’s got us set up and on our way.
Our first day on the river, we started with a steady rain falling but the boys quickly got on some fish before even stepping into a canoe. We were hopeful that the bite would keep up but were soon disappointed as the fishing from Alley Spring back to Eminence was quite slow. However, the rain did not keep up with the same intensity as before and it stopped all together in the late afternoon, giving way to a beautiful, foggy-river sunset. We took our time knowing that we did not have to set up camp with cabins waiting for us that night. As we unloaded our canoes and began to make a fire, our last canoe made it back to camp shortly after nightfall.
Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday.
A A Milne
On our first night, we honored our dear, departed friend by sending sky lanterns into the night sky – one for each of the 9 years Andy Hart came on this float trip. Unfortunately, we did not get all 9 airborne but we toasted him and thought of him as we watched several sky lanterns drift away into a very still night sky.
Day two began later than most mornings on the river due to our relatively plush accommodations for a river trip. We slept in, made breakfast and began to load up for a new day on the river with unexpected sunshine greeting us. The fishing was once again slow, but we kept at it as we drifted through town and by all the horse camps near Eminence. Despite all the rain, the Jack’s Fork remained gin-clear, possibly making the fish a bit tougher to catch and a bit easier to spook. As the morning gave way to afternoon, the cloud cover increased, and the fishing improved. All of us began to catch fish more frequently as a light rain set in. Fortunately, the rain lasted less than an hour and as it subsided all four canoes were in close proximity to each other when we hit a honey hole that provided some of the largest fish on the trip and my own personal best smallmouth, an 18.5-inch beauty. The bite remained solid as we made our way into Two Rivers in the middle of the afternoon. It wasn’t until Two Rivers that we saw another human being on the river at all.
After a quick stop at the new store at Two Rivers, we pressed on enjoying the increased current of the Current River. The water clarity decreased, and long casts became easier on the larger river – two factors that I believe contributed in better fishing compared to the smaller, clearer Jack’s Fork. Just after our stop at Two Rivers, an officer (not sure if he was a game warden or a Park Service officer) called us to the river’s edge to check our fishing licenses. In my 42 years, this is the first and only time I have ever had a fishing license checked! I was pleased that my diligence in always getting my license finally paid off. Fishing was steady all afternoon and evening as we looked for our intended camping spot for night two across from Martin Bluff.
When we reached our camping destination, we couldn’t believe our luck with the weather. We had expected a very wet trip from start to finish with a break finally on day 3. As it turned out, we had a cool, overcast trip with minimal rain. After setting up our camp and building fire, we had dinner on the river and played some dice on one of the coolers. We also were given a nice light show with lightening flickering and lighting up the sky in the distance but never truly threatening our peace. We had another wonderful night on the river celebrating our friend, our friendships, our sons and all our good fortune.
Be like a river. Be open. Flow.
I am not sure if it was the cool, calm night, the sound of the river, or the extra little bit of Fireball I imbibed but I slept like a rock! A beautiful foggy morning greeted us as well as some delicious breakfast burritos that, along with a liter of Gatorade and some cold brew coffee, soothed my slightly aching head. After working through the breakdown of camp with the sun ascending, several refreshing plunges in the river helped to cool us down.
Friday was the warmest and sunniest day of our trip, but I don’t think the temperature even sniffed 90 degrees and there was plenty of intermittent cloud cover. Fishing was once again steady on Friday. While there were not many fish of significant size, the bite was steady enough to keep everyone satisfied.
As we reached our pick-up spot at Blue Spring, I could not help but reflect on our all-too-brief trip. I am not one who believes in this sort of thing, but once again it felt like our friend was looking after us and compelling our trip work out with the best possible results. We had storms early to keep others off the river but overall great weather and great fishing. What could have been a washout of a trip became the most comfortable summer float imaginable full of fun, friends and fish!
A river is more than an amenity, it is a treasure.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Throughout the trip, I tried many different lures and techniques. I caught only a couple on any top-water lures despite trying several and I caught a couple on crankbaits. The lure of choice was once again 3” soft plastics in a variety of colors.