Alabama River Fishing's 2007
This is my first glimpse of the
Locust Fork and this picture really doesn't do it any justice at
all. At higher levels the river flows through the rocks and trees
where Josh is walking. You can see the beautiful rock bluff and the
river in the background.
hundreds of southeastern rivers in the last decade, but I have to
admit my first glimpse of the Locust Fork nearly took my breath
away. I was looking through about an acre of cypress trees growing
on the edge of the river bed and saw clear flowing water buttressed
by a rock bluff that was at least fifty feet high. When
north-central Alabama isn't in drought conditions it is possible to
canoe through the cypress stand I was walking through and possibly
even catch fish from it. The Locust knows how to make a first
It was about 7 PM and
myself and a handful of other ARFers had arrived for our first River
Rendezvous, a weekend of camping, fishing, and swapping stories
around the campfire. We were faced with drought conditions and the
Locust Fork was currently running about as low as any of the locals
had ever seen (around 18 cfs and 1.5 feet at the Cleveland gauge).
Despite it's beauty, the river was hardly moving at all, and it
resembled a series of small, thin ponds separated by rock piles with
a tiny bit of water trickling between them.
Current is the river
fisherman's best friend because it provides a conveyor belt of food
to the fish and governs where they are going to be positioned.
Without much current, the fish could be located pretty much anywhere
and would be less likely to respond to traditional river
presentations. The clear water was going to make the fish a little
spookier than normal also. I was bracing myself for a tough weekend
There'd be a ton of fish in this
area with a couple more feet of water!
Josh quickly proved
that there were still hungry fish in the river, however, as he made
a cast up against a similar bluff overlooking a large pool. A nice
spotted bass inhaled his black spinnerbait and the fight was on! By
the time I reached him a couple minutes later, Josh had landed the
first spotted bass of the weekend. Actually, other ARFers had
already encountered a bunch of the Locust's feisty spots, because a
lot of the guys had arrived earlier in the day for some wading
around our campsite at King's Bend. It was my first encounter with a
Locust Fork bass, and I was pretty impressed.
Here's Josh with a pretty Locust
Fork spotted bass that nailed a black spinnerbait.
Josh and I arrived
back at camp around 9 PM and we sat around enjoying a few
adult beverages and swapping stories until around midnight. A lot of
the ARFers already knew one another, but this was my first time
hanging out with them in person and they are a great bunch of guys.
A lot of fish stories and good places to fish were traded around the
propane lantern that night (we were too lazy to start a proper
campfire) and we spent time gathered around the map trying to figure
out where we could find some floatable water the next day.
Ozzybass, Kreekn, FishTaco, and
Fishhawk map out the next day's fishing strategy.
I slept like a baby
and didn't even know it had rained that night until I put my shoes
on early the next morning to find them filled with water. Not
everybody slept well, however. Joel was having air mattress
difficulties and couldn't sleep, so he decided to go fishing. Joel
ended up catching some really nice spotted bass that night and
managed not to get carried off by any snakes or the boogeyman.
We broke up into
three groups for the next days float. One group stuck around to
wade-fish the area around the campground and another group drove
over the ridge to the Mulberry Fork, which is also a great river and
it had a little more water. Tham and I were the third group, and we
decided to float a section of the Locust farther downstream from our
Though the area at
the put-in bridge was pretty much trashed, the Locust was a very
scenic river, though not quite as gorgeous as the area upstream. We
launched our kayaks around 8 AM and immediately began catching fish
on small plastic worms. We were mainly catching small spotted bass
off woody cover well off the banks. Though the current was
negligible in most places, we only had to hop out and drag our
kayaks a few times. About an hour into the trip, Tham started
catching bass on a motor oil colored finesse worm rigged wacky-style
(weightless with an exposed hook through the middle of the worm).
Tham caught our first nice fish of the day just upstream of a shoal
in a shallow area where the current had picked up a little.
We caught a bunch of fish this size
early. This one's a largemouth.
Tham with a nice spotted bass taken
on the wacky worm.
I had decided to try
and target larger fish and put down the small worm for a bit in
favor of a large white spinnerbait. I managed a few fish here and
there, but my "big bait equals big fish" tactic really didn't pay
off well at all today. In retrospect, I probably should have hung in
there with the small worm and hopefully put it in front of a large
spot hungry for a little snack.
After the first hour I threw a
large spinnerbait pretty religiously...
...with nothing much larger than
this to show for my efforts.
Which is exactly what
Tham did. I was ahead of Tham paddling up a good sized tributary
when I heard him start yelling. Tham was fighting a nice spotted
bass he had seen swimming in open water. It refused his first
offering and swam into some cover, but hit the second time the wacky
worm was offered. The fish weighed in at three pounds but was very
thin. After Tham released the fish, we ate some lunch and Tham told
me that was his personal-best spotted bass. Tham later lost another
nice fish very nearby when it wrapped him around a log.
Tham's big spot
It was around
lunchtime when our guest arrived. A little Jack Russell terrier
found us on the river and decided he would be our guide whether we
wanted him to or not. This persistent little dog followed us down
the river for at least three miles, trying to hop into our kayaks,
swimming where we were trying to fish, and generally bedeviling us
as we fished our way downstream. It was an extremely nice dog,
though, and undoubtedly someone's pet. After a while I wanted to
whack it with my paddle, but I knew I wouldn't like it if someone
did that to my dog simply for trying to be friendly.
Our fishing guide
"Dude, you need to put that
spinnerbait away. Throw the little worm over here where I'm about to
swim and I swear you'll tear 'em up. See, Tham listens to me, which
is why he's catching big fish and you're not..."
We finally lost the
dog about the time we encountered the goats. Tham and I had been
catching fish rather steadily until about 2 PM despite the Jack
Russell's best efforts. Then the bite kinda died on us. I was
fishing the river-right bank when I looked up to see what was
barking at us. It was a large, tan dog with a fluffy coat. It
appeared to be accompanied by two other brown and white dogs with
short hair, but then I noticed that the two other dogs had horns.
I've seen a lot of weird things on river floats, but these goats
were just hanging out with the dog like they were best friends. The
goats would even softly head-butt the dog now and then in order to
get the dog to play with them. Anyway, I was able to snap a few
shots of the trio as we floated by.
You really never know what you're
going to see on the river!
By this time, the
fishing had really turned off and Tham had begun throwing a buzzbait
in an effort to entice some sort of reaction strike from something.
I was paddling towards his kayak when the fish hit about ten feet
from the bank. After a short fight Tham lipped our final fish of the
day, a nice largemouth bass. It was our third largemouth of the day
to go along with 20 or so spotted bass. Though the last three hours
of the float were pretty uneventful fishing-wise, it was still a
successful day on the river spent with a great guy and outstanding
fisherman. And an overly friendly dog and some goats. We encountered
a few other fishermen toward the end of the float, but we pretty
much had the river to ourselves for most of the day.
Tham's buzzbait largemouth
We arrived back at
camp to find our ranks had swelled. While many of us were on the
water, Gray from Alabama Small Boats had dropped by the campsite and
allowed the contingent that had stayed behind to wade a chance to
demo a few kayaks. That was really nice of Gray to do that and some
of the guys were filling out their Christmas lists when we arrived.
In addition, half a dozen other ARFers had stopped in to fish and a
few hung around the campfire with us that night.
As it turns out, the
Mulberry Fork gang had a fantastic day of fishing with some nice
bass and one of the biggest river bluegills I've ever laid eyes on.
The wading crew did pretty well also, despite the fact that the fish
around the campsite had seen a few lures and flies during the course
of the weekend. Tired and happy, it was time to eat!
Mark hung around the campsite and
waded on Saturday and was rewarded with this nice fly-caught spot!
Mark broke out his
ultra-cool camping grill and a bunch of us feasted on hamburgers and
hot dogs as the sun went down. While I always enjoy the fishing at
these weekend gatherings, the thing I enjoy most is simply hanging
out by the campfire. The campfire conversation was excellent, as we
had a few more folks and a beautiful night to enjoy each other's
company. By the end of the evening I think we had all admitted to
privately enjoying some pretty bad music on occasion and were
already discussing where we should have next year's Rendezvous.
On Sunday morning a
few folks hung around and fished some more and others said their
goodbyes and headed for home. I did notice Mark catch a few bass on
the fly and saw Tham unhooking a nice spotted bass as I turned the
truck around and began the long drive home.
The view from the campsite
Despite what I told
my wife, I didn't exactly come straight home, however....