The Voices Of Rivers

Matthew Dickerson was a June 2017 artist-in-residence at Glacier National Park. In May 2018 he was artist-in-residence at Acadia National Park. If you dream of fishing for native trout in some of our country’s most beautiful places – and protecting them – you will fall in love with his latest book The Voices Of Rivers.

 

 

Two Glorious Days On The White River

Let’s get started!

After spending three days in Little Rock Arkansas attending the annual Outdoor Writers Association Of America conference Dave Zumbaugh and I headed north for Mountain Home and the fabulous White river.

Headquartered at Riley’s Station where the Buffalo River meets the White, Miles’ son Gavin drove us up to Rim Shoal. Dave and I stayed out of the way while Miles and Gavin launched the battered 20’ johnboat.  With Dave and I safely aboard we motored upstream through heavy fog to Redbud Shoal, then started our drift back downstream throwing two-fly rigs…and catching trout.

When we had drifted through a particularly productive piece of water Miles would fire up the 9.9 hp Mercury and take us back upstream so we could drift it again…and again…and again until it stopped producing and we moved on downstream to the next hot spot.

We fished through the popular Rim Shoal area, on down through Lower Rim Shoal, catching and releasing 11’ to 16” rainbows with an occasional cutthroat or brown in the mix. Dave and I both playing a trout at the same time and keeping Miles busy with the net became almost commonplace.

The afternoon fishing was cut short about 2:30 when a violent electrical storm sent us grabbing for rain jackets. Our race downstream was briefly interrupted when the cowling blew off Miles’ outboard motor. After a few unsuccessful circles trying to find it we gave up and hauled ass for the safety of Riley’s Station.

Fishing in the fog

Hot flies of the day were red San Juan worms tied on jig heads by the Riley’s twelve-year-old daughter Jalen, orange egg patterns and #16 zebra midges. And they proved just as effective the next day.

Dave fighting the big one

This little White River cutthroat fell for an orange egg pattern

Dave displays his rainbow trout tattoo

One of many “Twofers”.

 

Even Geezers can catch fish on the White.

We had hoped to spend Day Two between Buffalo Shoal and Riley’s Station but the storm that had driven us off the water yesterday had turned Crooked Creek into a torrent of mud so once again we put in at Rim Shoal and immediately started boating and releasing trout. Looking for shade anyplace we could find it we pulled to shore at mid-day and once again enjoyed one of Miles’ (or maybe Michelle’s) gourmet lunches.

Somehow during our downstream float, happily bouncing off rocks and catching trout, Miles discovered the entire lower unit of the Merc was missing. This didn’t mean we were dead in the water but it did mean less power. So Dave and I continued to catch fish while Miles deftly maneuvered the big johnboat around rocks to avoid further damage. When we reached Crooked Creek and the inflow of muddy water we stowed the rods  and, tired but happy,  limped on down to Riley’s Station.

It’s always fun to spend a day on the river with outfitter/philosopher Miles Riley. This was Dave’s maiden voyage on the White. He’s already scheming to go back and I hope I can tag along. Meanwhile if you’d like to catch a mess of trout, see some beautiful Arkansas scenery or just relax in a nice, quiet cabin, check out Miles and Michelle’s website www.rileysstation.com. They’ll be looking for you!

 

 

This way to Riley’s Station

Mile’s and some old geezer.

Miles & Dave. Lunch break

The old man and the river

All but three photos by Dave Zumbaugh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outdoor Communicators of Kansas Conference

I love it here in Florida but one thing I miss about moving from Kansas is the Outdoor Communicators of Kansas twice a year. It’s always fun to get together with old friends. Especially when they’re people whose work you admire and respect.

El Dorado, KS hosted this year’s conference May 3 – 5th. A hardy welcoming dinner kicked off the festivities Friday night followed by a business meeting. Saturday and Sunday were devoted to the important things: fishing and turkey hunting.

A crappie tournament was being held simultaneously with the OCK conference. I’ve never attended a crappie tournament, but if they’re like the three Bassmasters Classics I attended where the contestants had to release their catch, it’s a travesty of justice. Crappie are DELICIOUS and should be filleted, rolled in cornmeal , fried and EATEN!

Fishing was difficult due to recent rains and high water, but the winning team in the Kansas Crappie Club Big Fish tournament had one 2 lb. fish. 

Doesn’t sound too good to me.

I’ve attended many Outdoor Communicators of Kansas conferences in the past. In May of 2008 photographer Blumb and I boated an obscene number of crappie on Clinton Lake near Lawrence with the help of a local fisherman. One crisp November morning in ’09 I lay on my back in a frozen field near Larned and listened to thousands of snow geese squawking overhead and never fired a shot. You can’t shoot what you can’t see and the fog was so thick I could hardly see a nearby treeline. So as you can see, being guided by local “experts” doesn’t guarantee success.

But it’s always fun.

I’ve asked some of the current attendees to send photos about this year’s conference to my blog. Let’s see what happens.

Blumb writes ..”Fishing was difficult due to recent rains and high water, but the winning team in the Kansas Crappie Club Big Fish tournament had one 2 lb. fish. 

Sunday Josh Peck and I went turkey hunting, guided by Jason Barnes of Whitewater, KS. We were near a flock, but the gobbler and jakes ignored our calls, and drifted away with numerous hens, out of sight. We moved to another farm, located a distant solo gobbler, and proceeded to try to sneak closer and call him in. He drifted away, and we had a 1 mile hike back to our vehicle.

To finish the morning, we returned to the area where we started, and Josh attempted a sneak with a fan blind. Still no luck, so we called it a hunt and unloaded our shotguns. The temperature had risen to 72 degrees by noon, and we had walked a total of 4 miles, so I was ready for a break.”

Many thanks to Jon Blumb and Dave Zumbaugh for the photos.

Brad Loveless and Mark Murrell show off a pair of keeper walleyes. Some uninformed people call walleyes walleyed pike which is incorrect. I call them FOOD!

A real wall hanger

I have five beautiful, talented nieces.

Okay, I can already hear the bitching. “I thought this blog was supposed to be about outdoor stuff. You know…fishing, hunting stuff like that”.

It certainly is,  and this post about my niece Mayo fits right in. Mayo made this big, beautiful FISH out of CDs! That’s right. Each scale is a compact disc. The kind old guys like me still listen to. It’s about four or five feet long, the fins and tail are bristles from a broom. The nose is a straw hat and the eyes are mini compact discs. Is that creative and original or what?

Mayo creates other interesting objects as well: bracelets, earrings, necklaces, pendants. In other words, “wearable art”. 

Check out her attractive, easy to navigate website http://www.designsbymayo.com.

Heart Of America Fly Fishers One Fly Tournament

The Heart of America Fly Fishers held their annual One Fly Tournament Saturday, June 17th at the Timber Ridge Adventure Center. Timber Ridge is a beautiful 200-acre park managed by the Johnson County Parks & Recreation Dept. It is located south of Kill Creek Park near De Soto, KS. Two small lakes on the property are open one day each year for public fishing. Reservations can be made for special events by phone (913) 831-3359 or email registration@jocogov.org.

The One Fly Tournament is an actual tournament, with rules, winners and losers, and prizes for largest fish and most fish caught. Contestants are allowed to use only one fly. If the fly is lost another of the same pattern may be tied on.

The guys who got there early caught quite a few bass, bluegill, and even a couple of big channel cats.

I got there just in time for the mid-day picnic.

 

 

 

 

 

Trout fishing at Lake Taneycomo

It’s always a treat to fish Lake Taneycomo even if the fishing isn’t up to its usual standards. Last week I enjoyed some beautiful Ozarks scenery, ate a great chicken fried steak at Lambert’s (the throwed rolls place), and scarfed down some tasty barbeque at Dana’s.

My life-long buddy Ned Spence and his lady friend were supposed to come up from Oklahoma City and meet me but they took sick and couldn’t make it. I wanted to take a selfy of me holding up a huge trout and email it to him but it didn’t happen, mainly because I didn’t catch any huge trout. In fact I almost didn’t catch any trout at all.

I didn’t see anybody tearing them up Wednesday morning. I did manage to fool one little rainbow with a yellow crackleback. You know it’s slow when you catch one trout and a guy comes over and asks what you’re using.

Thursday morning the fishing Gods smiled upon me and I was rewarded with two small rainbows for my two hour’s work. Actually I shouldn’t call it work because at least I was fishing, the weather was beautiful and I didn’t fall down and drown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No River For Old Men

No river

This story was first published in the August 2009 issue of Wyoming Wildlife magazine. It was awarded the  Best Magazine Humor award  in the 2010 Magazine Humor contest of the Outdoor Writers Association of America Excellence In Craft Contests. 

My buddy Ned was ecstatic. “Can you believe it? There’s nobody here but us!”

Ned had parked my truck at a campground. I had let him drive because the grandkids had taken my car keys away. They said I was just an accident waiting to happen. We had walked about a half mile downstream to a popular “honey hole”. It was usually crowded but today we seemed to have it all to ourselves.

Ned tweezered a #18 elk hair caddis out of his fly box and handed it to me.

“Can you tie this on for me?”, he asked, “ I can hardly see it.”

“Sorry”, I said. “I forgot my bifocals”. I thought I was wearing them but obviously I was not. I started wondering what I had done with them but couldn’t remember.

“Then how are we going to fish if neither of us can see how to tie on a fly?”

“We’ll just have to use bigger flies”, I explained. “Like maybe #8 hoppers. But it’s a mootpoint because we can’t fish here anyway”.Ned stared at me, stunned. “What do you mean, we can’t fish here?”

“Look, Ned….” I sat down on a log. My back was already starting to ach from the hike in.

“Like you said, Ned, there’s nobody here but us. We’re both seventy years old. What if we fall down and can’t get back up out of the water? What if we slip on a slick, moss-covered rock and go tumbling downstream? There’s nobody here to help us.”

Ned is dumb enough to hang around with me but he’s not totally brain dead yet.

“I never thought of it that way”, he said, rubbing the gray stubble on his chin. “I gotta admit you may have a point”.

“The only reason I agreed to walk all the way in here was because I thought there would be other people fishing here”, I told him. I could see by the look on his face that I was going to have to explain my theory in detail to him. “At our age we can’t just wade into the water and start flinging flies around like we did when we were twenty-five or thirty. Or even forty or fifty. First we need to find what I call a geezer-friendly venue.”

Ned leaned against a tree and stared longingly at the river where a few trout were sipping emergers in the surface film while I continued to expound on my theory.

“What if there’s a mixture of young guys and old guys?” asked Ned.

“That probably means it’s okay. But we should study the water carefully before we wade in. The old guys we see fishing may just be too dumb to realize they’re in danger. Age is no guarantee of wisdom.”

“But if we do decide to give it a try, we should fish upstream from the young guys so they can fish us out if we lose our balance and go floating downstream”, said Ned, warming to my theory.

“You catch on quick”, I said.

“What?” said Ned.

“I SAID “YOU CATCH ON QUICK”, I yelled. “Sit down here on the log beside me so you can hear what I’m saying…. Now where was I?

“You were explaining your theory to me”, said Ned. “Something about fishing where there are young guys around.”

“Oh yeah”, it was starting to come back to me now. “But having young guys around is no guarantee, because if the fishing is really hot – say there’s a terrific hatch on – the young guys may just keep fishing as we go floating by, gurgling and screaming. In fact they may get mad at us for putting the fish down, like we used to do when old guys went floating past us.”

I pulled my collapsible wading staff – which I now called my “ geezer stick” – from its holster on my belt and leaned against it to help me stand up. We started walking back toward the truck, then remembered the truck was in the opposite direction, so we turned around and walked the other way while I filled Ned in on some of the finer points of my theory.

“Those little pockets in your vest… don’t fill them all up with flies, tippet material, leaders, and other fishing stuff. Save some for pills, salves, suppositories, and any other meds that might come in handy on the stream.”

Ned nodded  in agreement.

“And one other thing”, I added. “When you’re just smoking everybody else on the river and some young whipper-snapper asks you what you’re using, just say “Fifty years of experience, Sonny.”

When we got back to the truck I found my bifocals in the glove box, right where I had put them. I pulled out my river map and we started looking for a place on the river that would be suitably crowded for guys our age. In other words, a geezer-friendly venue. We’d head out right after our nap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How we found Lost Lake

Lost Lake

This story was published in Wyoming Wildlife magazine in March 2006.

It was 1970 and I was driving my new Bronco home from the dealership. My first four wheel drive! No longer would I be confined to the road, forced to fish where others fished. Now I could go ANYWHERE! Bear in mind this was before the SUV craze. Now, in the twenty-first century, it seems everyone has 4WD. But in 1970 if you wanted to fish any distance from a road you usually had to [gasp!] walk.

Our annual family vacation out west would be coming up soon. We always stayed for ten days at a “guest ranch” located on a state highway. Until now my father-in-law and I had done most of our fishing close to a black top road. In fact the highway paralleled the river for several miles. The roadside was public access but we had permission to fish the private water on the other side. But those little blue spots on the topo maps, high mountain lakes up where the elevation lines were close together, had always beckoned seductively to us. Small streams with names like Little Alder Creek, Lime Spring Branch, Dead Man Run … names that fairly screamed I AM FULL OF TROUT… all these places and more would now be accessible to us.

I began to subscribe to off-road magazines with cover photos of Jeeps, Broncos, and Land Cruisers high in the air, bouncing at high speeds off huge boulders. I could never get enough of those photos of off-road trucks with huge, aggressive tires, roll bars, and jerry cans of extra gasoline strapped to the rear.

I sent away to state game and fish departments for maps, brochures about National Forests, anything I could find that would enlarge our list of remote fishing spots. Doc and I studied them for hours, looking for exotic, hard-to-reach lakes and streams that would be ideal for day trips. We needed places where we could leave early in the morning, arrive at the chosen lake or stream, fish for several hours, then return in time for dinner. This was after all a family vacation. No sense unnecessarily antagonizing the women folk, who would be left all day to care for the children.

One of the many things I loved about my father-in-law was that he had somehow hung onto that boyish quality that most sixty-five year olds have long sense lost. I marveled at how a man thirty years my senior could get as excited as a small boy.

After much discussion we chose a small body of water with the enticing name of Lost Lake. The name reverberated through our fish brains like a number ten Royal Coachman being snapped off on a bad back cast. Lost Lake appeared to nestle snugly in a small meadow between two ten thousand foot peaks. The lake apparently covered about twenty acres and was just remote enough to make it interesting. Actually it wasn’t “off road” in the strictest sense. According to the legend on the Forest Service map we would leave the highway a few miles from our guest ranch and travel steeply up-hill about fifteen miles on a winding solid black line which indicated a gravel road. The solid black line would then become a dotted line indicating a Jeep trail. In other words there would be no one there who DIDN’T HAVE FOUR WHEEL DRIVE! Or maybe a horse.

Giddy with anticipation, we got up early the next morning, packed our tackle and lunch and headed for the high country. On the way we discussed our plan of attack. The trout in Lost Lake, probably native cutthroats or brookies, would be very shy, having never seen a human before. We would have to stop and rig up quite a ways from the water, then crawl on our bellies through the grass and, without getting too close, lob our flys onto the water, then wait for the unsuspecting trout to fight each other to see who could reach the tasty morsel first. We should also keep our eyes peeled for bears and the occasional mountain lion.

Our excitement grew as the road turned to gravel. We rolled the windows down so we could smell the cool mountain air. As we approached the fifteen-mile mark I checked to see if I knew how to engage 4WD as I had never actually done it before. Doc began to think aloud about which fly we should try first, a hopper pattern or a Rio Grand King.

Fifteen miles of gravel road came and went… and we were still on gravel. “So what?” I thought. The fifteen-mile distance was only an approximation. We’d be hitting that Jeep trail any minute. Probably just around the next hairpin curve.

I glanced at the odometer. “We’ve been on gravel for twenty-five miles now”, I said. Doc puzzled over the map in silence as we rounded one more curve and ascended higher and higher into the mountains, the smooth gravel road lined on both sides by tall pines and aspens. Something didn’t seem right.

The exact moment when you learn your plans have gone awry is not always apparent. Sometimes it creeps up on you. But not this time. A little girl, no more than ten years old, came roaring around the next curve toward us on a tiny motor scooter, her blond ponytail flying out behind her. She waved as she sped downhill past us and we rounded the curve and saw, for the first time, Lost Lake.

“Check the map again”, said Doc. “Maybe this isn’t it”.

I stopped the Bronco and grabbed the map off the console and stared at it.

“It’s gotta be”, I said. “But what happened to the Jeep trail? We could have driven up here in your Buick!”

A wooden Forest Service sign near the shore confirmed the bad news. This was, unfortunately, Lost Lake.

The lake was indeed nestled between two high peaks. And the scenery was beautiful. But the near side was lined with motor homes and camper trailers, some apparently pulled by low-slung family sedans. Fords, Chevvies, and Caddies. Someone had set up a net and two families were playing a heated game of badminton. The metallic clang of horseshoes hitting a post could be heard above the sound of several boom boxes in noisy competition with one another. Small children floated and splashed on inner tubes and colorful plastic rafts near the shore. Senior citizens rested in aluminum lawn chairs along the bank. Some of them dozed or read newspapers, their casting rods propped in forked sticks in front of them. Another child raced past us on a motor scooter and several boys zoomed about on bicycles. A toddler stood in a playpen as his mom sipped a can of beer and rigged up a heavy casting rod with prepared trout bait on a treble hook. I looked down at the nearby shore and saw one small dead rainbow trout, floating belly-up in the water, impaled on a large metal stringer secured to a tackle box.

The far shore of Lost Lake was steeper than this side but only slightly less congested. The newly graveled road completely encircled the lake and campgrounds full of happy campers were marked with neat wooden signs. One man appeared to be changing the oil in his Plymouth. A launching ramp at the far end was crowded with boats and trailers, some just now launching, others coming out. Several fishermen in boats appeared to be dozing on the water’s surface.

A green Fish and Game department pick-up rolled slowly toward us on the gravel road, stirring up a white cloud of caliche dust. The game warden was coming from the launching ramp where he had apparently been checking licenses and bag limits. He pulled his truck along side my Bronco.

“Why so glum, Fellas?” he asked, giving us a friendly smile. “It’s a great day to be out and about.”

I showed him our map and asked him about the Jeep trail.

“Oh, that”, he said, handing the map back to me. That’s the old 1963 map. He reached into the glove compartment and handed us a crisp, neatly folded new one.

“Take this one”, he offered. “This road was graveled clear to the lake two years ago. The county grades it and re-gravels it often because as you can see it gets a lot of traffic.” He opened the pick-up door, got out and leaned against the Bronco fender.

“If you plan to fish I’ll check your licenses if you don’t mind”.

Doc and I looked at one another. We had fished together long enough to read each other’s minds.

“Nope”, I said. “I think we’ll just try to get in on the badminton game.”

“Or maybe pitch some horse shoes”, added Doc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trout fishing on the Yellowstone River

The first thing you’ll notice about these fishing trip photos is that there are no photos of fish. There’s a reason for that. Few fish were caught. Just a few dinks and a couple of whitefish, which are, to the trout fisherman, what coots are to duck hunters.

While attending the recent OWAA conference in Billings, Montana Brent Frazee and I took July 18th off to float the Yellowstone River. While waiting for our guide to get the boat into the water we noticed a sign informing us that William Clark and party had camped on this very spot July 17th, 1806. Just missed it by 210 years and one day! Sort of gave me goose bumps.

The Yellowstone has not been channeled into a ditch for barge traffic and probably looks pretty much as it did when William Clark, Sacagawea, her husband Toussaint Charbonneau, their little boy Jean Baptiste and the rest of the crowd traversed it in 1806.

You don’t need a lot of fish to enjoy a day like this.

 

The White-hot White River

Two days on the White River with outfitter/philosopher Miles Riley is what Arkansas trout fishing is all about.

We put in Wednesday morning at Rim Shoal and floated down past Shoestring Shoal to Riley’s Station where the Buffalo River meets the White, catching rainbows and a few cutthroats all the way. I don’t count fish but we must have boated and released at least two dozen.

Tandem rigs with pink San Juan worms, #20 bead head Prince nymphs, (pardon me…the nymph formerly known as Prince), or black #18 zebra midges worked all morning.

We found some shade and ate our shore lunch (‘cause we shore were hungry), then continued down river. The fish didn’t mind the 90-degree midday heat and the bite stayed good all afternoon. We called it quits at 4PM while I still had enough energy to drive back to Mountain Home.

Next day we motored upstream past  towering bluffs on the left and stopped at Buffalo Shoal where we stayed all day. With action like this, why leave? We added something new to the arsenal: a midge developed by Steve Hegstrom called a Scarlett O’Hare. With this and the San Juan worm  I proceeded to boat and release about 40 or 50 rainbows and cutts. The Hegstrom nymph was getting pretty ragged by mid afternoon so we traded it for a little gray bead head scud – Miles just called it his Guide fly – and continued to catch trout including several measuring between fifteen and seventeen inches.

On one cast I hooked and landed a cutt and a rainbow, one on each fly. Then several casts later it happened again but this time one fish threw the hook before being netted.

It’s hard to beat trout fishing like this. If you want to go, contact Miles or Michelle at http://www.rileysstation.com .