Wednesday, May 19, 2010

FLINT CREEK...through the willows

I like those streams that meander through the countryside with a road firmly affixed to their hips. Not so much because I’m lazy and always looking for the easy way...well yes I am lazy, but more importantly, I’m scared to death of snakes. In spite of my general laziness however, I will hike hundreds of yards down the road to get to an easy and brush free access point. One that doesn’t require climbing over dead-falls and wondering how big the local snakes are.

Yes, I’m scared of snakes. So scarred, that if they ever make a pair of snake proof waders I’ll have a pair and I’ll catch a lot more fish. I’ll wear ‘em in the heat of summer no matter how heavy and un-breathable they might be, and I’ll fish in places I’ve avoided for years. I’ll do just about anything to avoid snakes.

Reminds me of a day on Flint Creek. Near the Arkansas line in eastern Oklahoma, this stretch of water was full of Kentucky’s (aka Spotted Bass, micropterus punctulatus), and long before the gated community plague set in we spent many weekends camped there, wet wading and fishing for the streams plentiful inhabitants.

Flint Creek was a lazy foothills stream with deep long pools separated by shallow rapids. At what we called the “Ledge Pool” there were no roads paralleling the creek and no trails either, so if you wanted to get to the next hole there were only two choices: Stomp through the chest high bushes or wade.

Casting a tiny Lazy Ike through the length of the pool I had caught a few bass and decided that it was time to move on downstream. The pool’s outlet funneled to an unusually narrow width and was curtained completely with wispy willow branches that hung down to the water’s surface. Compared to the alternative of leaving the water for what had to be the home of a thousand copperheads was a no brainer. I’d wade through it.

As the stream narrowed and picked up velocity it got deeper with each step. So deep, that by the time I got to the willows I was neck deep and barely ably to keep my footing as I made my way downstream.

With my rod pointed behind me to avoid getting tangled in the tree I reached out with the other hand to spread the willows from my face. My neck deep venture into “willow land” went just fine for a few steps. Then it got ugly fast.

You’ve heard of it raining cats and dogs...even heard of it raining fish, but have you ever heard of raining snakes? Yes, in the midst of that giant willow tree I had disturbed a nest of vipers. As they dropped like a storm of long, slinky raindrops, at least two dozen of them were suddenly in the water with me...eyeball to slitted eyeball. I ducked under water, raised my feet and let the current carry me into the next pool.

Just a few of my tormentors followed me downstream, and sure enough they were snakes; they were green, about six inches long, and of course they were totally harmless.

Regaining my composure, I thought of what could have been. I could have opted for wading through the underbrush instead of going through the willows and I could have been bitten by one or more copperheads and been air lifted to the nearest hospital for painful rounds of anti-venom treatment. The nurses would have been pretty and the food OK and I would have survived, but I would have been emotionally scarred for the rest of my life.

Instead, by choosing the route through the willows, the scarring only lasted a decade or two.

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