One of my best friends of more than half my life, Morgan, and I headed down two Fridays ago for the earliest float/camping trip I've ever done in Missouri. The weather can be very volitile this time of year and a strong storm can change things for the worse very quickly when you're around a river. Flash floods are a real concern- it rains heavily upstream, you're downstream where it may not be raining at all. The runoff water from the rain upstream builds and a wall of water heads downstream while you sit on the bank considering your next trip to the cooler for another "coldun" (cold one) with your fishing line in the water. Next thing you know the river seems to be getting strangly bigger and you move back a bit to keep your feet dry. Suddenly you realize what's going on as the river rapidly rises and you grab your cooler to head for safety. You make it to higher gound as the rest of your belonging are swept downstream along with trees, brush, cattle,and the occassional human.
Well, none of that stuff happened on this trip- although we were very aware of the possibility. In normal conditions the Current runs about 2' to 2.25' above Akers Ferry (One of the landmarks of the upper Current). 4' is considered "flood stage". On April 10th the Current was at 12' at Akers Ferry. That's a lot of water. Luckily, the water was pretty much back to normal when we got down there. We camped right near the river at a federal campground that is not widely known. I hope it stays that way because it's much better than most of the outfitter campgrounds which consist of a big field that's been overused. At those places you tend to be surrounded by people, loud music, yelling and cigarette smoke. This federal spot is pretty much hidden, quiet, senic, and non-comercialized. No one even works there. You just put $5.00 in a box and choose your spot.
We arrived about noon and set up camp. Morgan likes to really get things set up quickly when we camp. He says it bothers him until it's all done. I think that must be some primative instinct. We knew the possibility of heavy storms was in the forecast. Luckily, Morgan brought his weather radio. After setting up we headed to the river and started fishing- no luck- the water was still too high in this spot and fast with no cover for the fish to hide behind. Morgan tried to start a fire by rubbing sticks together for about 10 minutes. Then I got out the firestarter block and got the fire going. We were visited by our neighbors from about three camp spots over. They were a couple of guys from Kentucky visiting for turkey hunting. I only have two things to say about their visit. One: First impressions make a difference and the size of one of the guy's shirtless beerbelly was enough to worry me a great deal- it was awful. Two: When I say, "Well, we better get dinner started." that's your cue to bug out instead of poaching another coldun. Anyhoo, Thunder began to rumble in the distance and drew closer. We cooked dinner, (chicken with tomatoes and black beans) and just as we sat down to eat- it began to rain. Luckily Morgan has set up a lean-to with an extra wall blocking the direction the wind was blowing from so the rain couldn't blow in on us. It turned out to be a full on storm as we sat under our lean-to staying dry. As we listened to the computerized voice on the weather radio warning of the severe weather headed our way we came up with an emergency plan that consisted of Morgan running for higher ground and leaving me to grab what gear I could since it was pretty much all mine- bastard. Luckily, the storm came and went in about 20 minutes. After the storm, Morgan thought we better put a water mark stick down by the river so we could see if it started coming up. He notched it for reference and we felt slightly more secure. Turned out to be a nice evening and the sky even cleared. It got calm. But still I wondered if the river would come up and get me in my sleep.
The night was filled with me waking up thinking I could hear the river roaring as it rose to drown me. It turned out to be the wind blowing through the trees that surrouned us. It got fairly windy since a cold front was coming though. And as it does when a cold front comes through- it got cold. Down to about 40 degrees. I got up once to check the stick and see if the water on our marker was coming up. As I peered down the beam of light from the mag lite onto the stick I could see I was worrying for nothing and slept better the rest of the night- until our neighbors rolled in from a nearby bar at about 4:00am. They kind of hinted at us joining them on a trip to the bar, but I didn't bring my banjo and this wasn't Deliverance.
We got up the next morning and got the fire going again, ate a pound of bacon, and broke camp. We saw one of our neighbors staggering to the outhouse about 8:30 and I was thinking he didn't make it up for the morning hunt. Morgan also discovered he had a tick on him in a real bad spot. I'll let you use your imagination on that one. We drove to Akers Ferry, about 9 miles away, and got picked up for the float by the outfitter. We were the first customers of the year. We put in about 9:30 and started our float by going right by the place we had camped before. Luckily, the river never came up whatsoever. It actually dropped a little. So much for the lost sleep over worry of a flash flood.
Something to keep in mind when going on a float. There are two kinds: Kind one: Float, drink, swim, and be rediculous. Kind two: Float and fish, have a couple but keep your wits about you for when you snag your line in a tree while getting turned around in a riffle. The main thing to keep in mind is that it's either a fishing float or not. Don't try to mix a couple of people wanting to fish with others who don't. It just doesn't work- sort of like socks on a rooster.
Turned out to be a great day for a float- sunny and 70 degrees. The trout were very active too. I think between the two of us we caught close to 10 fish. It took us a while to find out what they were hitting on, (rooster tail) but once we did it got pretty fun.
So to make a long story a little longer, it was a good first tirp of the year. I'm planning on heading down at the end of this month to do it again. It's good for your mind. Kind of clears your head. Here's a shot of Morgan reeling in a trout. Next trip- more pics.