The Low Water Dam
White bass fishing comes along in March down home. It can still be pretty cold that month, I have seen ice on the rivers and creeks, even seen it snow a few times, but fishing for them bass is enough fun to put up with a little cold weather especially for a couple of guys that go rabbit hunting in the snow till our feet turn blue and we can’t feel them anymore.
We left Stanley’ house right at daylight, it was one of those nice crispy cold mornings when everything looks brighter and the quite is even quieter. Instead of being just background noise you could hear every note in a bird’s song. We were headed down to Deep Fork River, about a four mile walk down the old rail line. There are some good spots for White bass above the bridge in Coalton Bottoms. We used to walk the rail line all the way to where the old bridge crossed the river. The bridge was gone by then, but there was a good set of rapids where it used to be and the bottom end of the rapids was a good spot to start. We figured we would start there and work our way down to the road bridge.
Everything went fine for the first couple of hours. The fish were hitting good and we were having a ball. Those bass might have been small but they were real fighters and a lot of fun to catch on light line. We were about half way down to the road when I decided I wanted to cross the river and work my way down the other bank (grass is always greener type of thing). I was a little ahead of Stanley so we were out of sight of each other. I didn’t think anything about it, the fish were hitting good and that’s about as far as my thoughts went. I knew that around the next bend was an old low water dam. I’m not sure why it was there, always thought it had something to do with the coal mines, but never really thought about it enough to try to find out. I just knew it was there and was a good spot to cross over since it was only about a foot under the water and had a nice wide top. As slow moving as Deep Fork was you couldn’t see the dam you just had to know where it was. There was a nice deep hole on the down river side that was really good for catfish, I had fished it quite a few times and caught a few nice ones there.
Have you ever spend so much time with a friend that sometimes you forget that you actually do things on your own sometimes? That’s kind of how it was with Stanley and me. Growing up I practically lived in the woods, hunting, and fishing, trapping or just laying under a tree watching the world go by. A major portion of that time Stanley was along with me, a big enough portion that sometimes I forgot that I had been places that he hadn’t, same as some of the places he’d been. One of those places was the low water dam.
There was some good size cut banks on Deep Fork. The river runs mostly through dirt and sand and these were high sand banks that dropped straight to the water. The only way to get around them was to detour through the woods till you get by then cut back to the river. One of those is just above the bend before you got to the dam. I had already gone around the bend and was back on the water working my way to the dam when I looked back for Stanley. I couldn’t see him anywhere but didn’t think anything about it; I knew he’d be along shortly. I figured I’d go ahead and cross so I could keep fishing and he’d cross when he got there.
You had to be careful crossing, even though there was less than a foot of water that day, and the top was nice and wide, it was still moving at a pretty good clip and it was COLD! I shuffled my way across, I had taken my shoes off but my pant legs were wet a little above the ankles. I immediately went back to fishing; the fish were really biting on that side of the river. I’d worked my way down fifty yards or so when Stanley yelled at me. I had a fish on so just glanced up to see what he wanted. It took a minute for me to understand what he was asking. My mind was 90% on catching the fish and 10% on paying attention to him. It dawned on me slowly that he was asking how I got across the river. I glanced up again and saw that he was right by the end of the dam so I yelled for him to wade across right where he was. I got my fish in, off the hook and looked back up to see him still on the other side. He was standing there checking out the river with a doubtful look on his face. “It looks deep here” he yelled, ‘No it’s not” I said. “I crossed right there and look my britches are only wet to my ankles!” I couldn’t figure out why he was taking so long, all he had to do was cross the dam. I had already cast back out and got a hit, my mind went back to the fish. As I got that fish to the bank I glanced back up just in time to see Stanley step off the bank. He was holding his pole over his head so it stuck straight up. It was a strange and surprising sight to see Stanley, pole and all disappear under the water.
I stood there with my mouth hanging open till he finally came sputtering back up. My first question was ‘What the hell are you doing?” I won’t repeat what his first words were, but he did say a lot of them and they lasted the entire swim across. He managed to get to the bank a ways down river from me. I got down to him and kind of helped drag him up on the mud bank, even though he didn’t seem to want my help much. I was still confused about why he had decide to swim across instead of walking across the dam, I mean, after all, March is not really a good swimming month in Okla. Once he quit sputtering and coughing and could talk again he acted like it was my fault. He wanted to know why I’d lied to him about how deep the water was and why had I had let him step off in such a deep hole. I told him I didn’t lie to him, look at my britches, the water wasn’t a foot deep on top of the dam, and why didn’t he just cross the dam instead of swimming! “What dam?” he said.
I guess there might be a moral in this one, just because you know something, don’t assume everyone else does. That really nice walk to the river on that bright crispy day wasn’t quite as enjoyable on the way back. Stanley was starting to look a lot like a popsicle by the time we got to his house. I spent the entire trip home telling him I just could not believe he didn’t know where the dam was. I also kept telling him what a good trip it had been because we both caught a lot of fish. For some reason, he didn’t seem near as impressed about that as I did.