Early Kings River Memories

One of my earliest memories of the Kings River came as a young child about the age of 4 near Keels Creek on the Kings River. On a hot summers day, my father (The original Riverman) took my sisters and I to the river for an afternoon of swimming and fishing. He was dressed in cut off jean shorts, army boots, no shirt, binoculars around his neck and had a Mitchell Garcia fishing reel and pole in hand. I thought he was the coolest thing ever. My Dad!!! He was an avid smallmouth bass fisherman and came from a family of biologist/naturalist. He and mom had just caught a bucket of crawdads for that days fishing adventure. He decided to take a walk down river to do a little fishing. He started down river and little did he know that I was following after him. His long strides soon left me behind, but that was no matter as I was going to catch up with him and his metal bucket full of crawdads no matter what. I slowly trudged up the river without my Mom being aware of where I was going. Suddenly I stepped into a deep pool and found myself sinking to the gravel at the bottom. I remember, like it was yesterday, the ripples of the clear cool water going by and the small minnows that were swimming back and forth in front of my face. It happened so quickly that I wasn't quite sure what was happening but after the initial shock, I was calm. What felt like forever was only a few minutes and then everything was starting to get dark. Then it went black. I felt at peace. The next memory I had was sitting on the hood of my dad's green 1970 Chevy step side pickup as he was patting me on the back telling me to cough. "You're going to be ok son." I could see my mom in a panic next to him and then hear her choice words for my father as the water was clearing from all of the orifices in my head. Since that day, I've had a fascination and special connection to the Kings River. To this very day I feel at home on the river. I feel its pulse so to speak. I long for it when I'm away. Drawn to it.  My dad always reminded me that I caused him to ruin his expensive pair of binoculars. My mom always reminded my dad that he almost caused her only son to drown. I was lucky that day in more ways than one. Over the years my family and my kids have had many great days on the Kings River catching crawdads, hellgrammites, and smallmouth bass. Not one of my kids have drowned following me up the river either. I told my wife that when I die, my wishes are for her to cremate my body and sprinkle my ashes across the river down from Keels Creek at my favorite fishing hole near where I almost drowned. The hole where a huge tree protrudes through a huge boulder below a large bluff. She said she would gladly do that so the smallmouth bass would eat me and get a little pay back. Turnabout is fair play.

Winter Smallmouth Fishing

It's hard to imagine fishing for smallmouth bass on the Kings River when temperatures read 33 degrees with a light snow falling. It's only for the super patient, knowledgeable and well equipped angler to maybe get one to two strikes during a fishing expedition. In winter, most anglers prefer the warmth of a warm fire next to their fly tying gear while dreaming of a summertime of wading in shorts and wearing t-shirts. However, if you have the fever and you are a hardcore fisherman and must brave the elements, here are a few Riverman tips for winter fishing. 

Tip #1- Fish don't eat in the winter is a myth! They still get hungry just like you and I. Their heart rate slows and they conserve energy by being as still as possible but they still eat. 

Tip#2- Throw them something worth while. A meal not a snack. A hairy jig and pig or soft plastic lizard placed in front of their nose will make them pay attention. They are living off of fat reserves from the fall, but I promise they will not resist their favorite river taunts from the summer. (It's similar to walking past the taffy machine at the candy store in Eureka Springs. Put it in front of my face and I'm gonna eventually have to have a piece.)

Tip#3- Be patient. You may only get one or two strikes the whole trip. (Ugh. That's when you remind yourself it's not about catching fish right?) Sometimes you might not get any bites whatsoever. Don't be discouraged even if the river looks like a "ghost river" with no movement of fish as far as the eyes can see. They are there. I promise. 

Tip#4- Find slow moving deeper pools of water with structure. They will be hiding deep and usually under a rock or log for their long winter nap. You will not see them patrolling the shallows like they do in the summer. 

Tip#5- Winter fish for the beauty and experience. There is a good chance you won't catch anything but the calmness and beauty of the winter surroundings and the sound of water is peaceful and tranquil. 

Tip#6- Dress appropriately. Hypothermia is no joke. Take precautions by packing dry gear in case you get wet. Know your exit strategy and always let someone know where you will be and what time to expect you back. 

The Kings River is beautiful all year around whether you are catching fish or not. Winter time makes it a little tougher to be on the river, but imagine a float down the beautiful Kings with snow on the ground and covering the trees with icicles hanging from the bluffs. We are so lucky to have this beautiful extraordinary water resource in our own back yard no matter what the season. Tight lines! 

We all live downstream...

Fishing season ended, or did it?

I had a great Spring, Summer and Fall of fishing on the Kings River. Caught and released many fine fish. Made a ton of memories and never fished the "same" water twice. I love the thrill of 6lb test line quickly stripping straight out of the reel and the occasional Zip and POW as a big smallie breaks away and leaves nothing behind except a weightless line, a deep breath, a few cuss words and admiration from getting bested by something with a brain no bigger than a lead split shot. The ones that got away are the ones I seem to remember the most. You know, the ones that you were sure were going to be a world record. It's not a bad thing to lose a fish. If I didn't occasionally lose a fish and leave enough for the imagination, much of the excitement and surprise of fishing would be gone.

River Under a River

Really cool karst conversation with hydrogeologist John Caire.

"The karst terrain of the Ozarks means there is ALWAYS a river under the river. Every time we float the river and cross a pool to a riffle, you're seeing the karst in action. The pool usually sits on top of a solid block, termed a Horst. The riffle is at a junction that is either a fault or joint line that denotes the next Horst block. Isn't geology neat? :)"

"When you get to those shallow pools, then a deeper... pool on the other side of the riffle, that's the water going under the block laterally and then resurfacing at the riffle. Much easier to spot on the Buffalo since it's been protected for so long. The riffles usually coincide with a drainage cut through a bluff as well, if the bluff can be seen from the river while floating. Lots of neat geology happening on the Kings."

The 5 Stages of Fishing

Stage 1- I just want to catch fish.

Stage 2- I want to catch a lot of fish.

Stage 3- I want to catch big fish.

Stage 4- I'm just happy to be out fishing.

Stage 5- I want to pass on my knowledge and passion about fishing. 

At this age in my life, I'm happily in stage 5. I entered this stage a few years ago teaching my kids to fish the Kings River. I bet you can see different stages in the things you love. Running? Gardening? Biking? Playing Music? Painting?  I love to teach others and get immense pleasure when the enlightenment comes and they understand that it's not about the fish anymore. I have a favorite fish (smallmouth) but it's never really been about the fish. I'm gonna write it down and pass it on. I fondly remember and appreciate those that passed it on to me. 

"The core of mans spirit comes from new experiences."

My Uncle Dr. Ken Allen

I'm posting a article I ran across written by my late Aunt Pat about my Uncle Ken the biologist and fisherman. One of my favorite parts is when she describes his interaction with some other local fisherman. "Little did they know they were getting advice from an expert." I hope you enjoy this. She was a fantastic writer.

A Hot Springs County Memory

Dear Editor,

I'm usually not an early riser but in this particular morning while visiting my brother Ken in Malvern, I found him having breakfast at 6am. He was always a early riser, since the time we were children at Bismarck, and he had to get up at 4:30 every morning to milk cows before leaving for school.
Ken asked me to go riding with him, and we drove to the nearby historic Rockport Bridge which spanned the Quachita River.
The wooden bridge had recently been closed to traffic because it was in danger of collapsing. Ken pointed out the bridge was actually leaning upstream- against the rushing waters which were undermining its foundation.
We spent the rest of that beautiful morning exploring the rocky river bank and sharing our mutual interest in and appreciation of the beauty of the state we grew up in, left, then returned to over and over gain because it was home and because we loved it.
That day, we came across some fisherman who weren't having much luck, and my brother explained the best angling techniques.
They looked at the emaciated man with wide surgical scars across the top of his head- bald from chemotherapy for brain cancer- and little did they know they were getting advice from an expert, a man who had a doctorate in marine biology and who had taught residents of Saudi Arabia how to raise catfish- this in spite of the fact that the country has no fresh water streams.
In eight months, at age 54, the cancer claimed Ken, and the Rockport Bridge was swept away by a flood in less than a year. But both still exist in my collection of precious memories.
- Pat Allen Wilson

Fall Smallmouth Fishing

Fall is a great time of year to catch smallmouth bass. The beauty and color of the changing foliage of the Ozarks make it that much more appealing. The bass have recovered from their spring spawn and have put on some weight throughout the summer. The cooler temperatures have triggered the smallmouth to start thinking about the upcoming winter and fatten up to get through the winter starvation period and have enough fat for once again the Spring spawn. Live Crawdads will still be available into much of October and will be a good choice of bait. Soft plastics mimicking a Crawdad or lizard will work as well. As it gets cooler the fish will slowly migrate to the deeper holes with structure where they will eventually end up for the winter. You can catch winter smallmouth in the deeper holes but you have to throw them something big and worth while and pretty much get the bait right in front of their noses to have any success. The water will be clear and cold in the winter and you will rarely see any species of fish swimming freely in the river like what you have seen in the summer. It's a beautiful winter river but a "ghost" river as the fish have hunkered down for a few months. Their heart rate slows and they are conserving energy. You should consider carefully floating the river when their is snow on the ground and in the trees. A beautiful sight to see!

Happy Fall fishing and tight lines! We all live downstream....

~ Riverman

Riverman Memories

My favorite memories growing up were fishing with my mother and my father. My mother was the greatest crawdad catcher I have ever seen and my father was a great teacher and a fine fisherman. From them and other influential family fisherman, I learned a great appreciation for our wonderful waterways. It's something I feel obligated to pass on. Something I feel is important to the next generation to preserve. To each person I take down the river, I try to leave them with a piece of information or appreciation of the surroundings and nothing makes me happier. And if they listen closely and observe the patterns and become one with the river, they might catch a few fish in the process.