It’s been an odd two years in my creek fishing addiction. See, I’ve been fishing them since about 2006, and the word “addiction” is really a mild description. Creek fishing is even more unpredictable than lake fishing.
But 2010 was a banner year in my creek fishing career. I mean absolutely awesome. I caught more fish, and better quality, than ever before.
But a creek is a fickle mistress. Spring of 2011 came around and was off to a roaring good start. But then that massive drought settled over so much of the south and Midwest, and my beloved little flows largely dried up. Consequently, I didn’t wet a line from the first week of June last year until March of this year.
Now, there are some deep holes in these creeks, usually, and the fish generally survive such extremes by hunkering down in them. Water is cooler down there, and probably flows a bit through the rock and sand too, fed by springs.
So this year, I’ve made three trips so far, and the fishing has been absolutely fantastic!
That catching however has been pretty dismal.
Near as we can tell, this particular creek we visit the most has been subjected to repeated flash floods. We are unsure what, if any, mortality rate last year’s drought might have caused. But there has been ample evidence of the violent and fickle nature of the creek.
When we arrived at the creek, there was ample water. There had been high, fast and gin-clear water all spring. Not so high and fast that it was dangerous or unfishable, just pleasant and gorgeous. However, we soon learned that in our absence the old girl had shown that other side of her personality.
Spots where we waded ankle-deep across sandbars were now long expanses of deep, dark water we couldn’t wade. Other places that were long and deep now were easily crossed.
We hit one long run of deep water that hadn’t been there three weeks before and decided to climb up the bluff and walk around it.
Now, realize that the bluff is 20, 25 feet above the creek bed. When we got up there, we were truly confronted with evidence of the old girl’s temper.
There was a foot of white sand up there. It stretched three dozen yards into the woods. All the little saplings, weeds and brush were flattened. All pointed downstream.
In the six years I’ve been going there, I’ve never seen anything like it. I know about flash floods, of course, and we are always careful to watch the weather. But the testament of the creek’s power was humbling. Twenty, thirty feet of water, sand and debris blew through there, and changed her face completely.
But we spent two days this week casting along her margins, walking her bones, and celebrating the “knee-deep silence” Harry Middleton talked of that is exclusive to a good creek. My best friend and I shed a passel of troubles and worries out there on the creek, at least for a little while, casting flies and cooking camp food, sharing a flask and a trek along cold, fast, laughing water.
Not too many years ago, I would have given up on such a place as this. Written it off as “unproductive” or some clinical description like that. But now, “productive” isn’t measured in pounds and ounces. It’s tabulated in intangibles, and those intangibles were knee-deep last week, abundant and welcome.
My priorities…no, not that. My requirements for fishing have changed so much. It’s not even about the fish anymore. It’s about the knee-deep things. It’s about the solace and the peace. The rushing water scrubbed me of burdens. Always I knew they would return, just days away, just around the corner, but for a time, at least, none of them bothered me. None of them mattered.
I caught one pathetic little pumpkinseed perch in two days of fishing.
But I took home a sliver of wildness, an ounce of tranquil silence.