Not every kayaker paddling upstream is headed the wrong way.
Some prefer to start a river float paddling against rather than with it. Then, whenever the mood strikes, the skippers of kayaks or canoes can simply turn their boats around and float downstream back to the start.
Paddlers call it Lewis and Clark style, for the epic Journey of Discovery that traveled upstream, then downstream on the Missouri River. It’s one way to explore an Ozark stream without the hassle of a vehicle shuttle that’s necessary with a point A to point B downstream trip.
Most float streams in the region are basically a series of pools separated by shoals of shallow water. Going Lewis and Clark style, a paddler headed upstream reaches the end of a pool. Then, usually with a rope, pulls the boat up and over the shoals to the next pool. Paddle, pull, repeat as much as desired.
The reward is a pleasant downstream drift in a gentle current back to the start. It’s the way ace stream angler Pat Bodishbaugh of Fayetteville sometimes fishes his favorite Ozark waterways. He uses his kayak to reach a fishy looking pool, then wade-fishes on foot hoping for a tussle with a smallmouth bass, the marquee fish of Ozark creeks and rivers. Satisfied that he’s fished the pool thoroughly, Bodishbaugh pulls his kayak upstream over the shoals to the next pool.
He showed how easy and productive a Lewis and Clark float can be one sunny May day on the War Eagle River in Madison County.
Bodishbaugh launched his kayak where Arkansas 23 crosses the river, also called War Eagle Creek, south of Huntsville. A long pool of water starts here, which was easy paddling and fishing for Bodishbaugh and his fishing pal that day. Bodishbaugh paddled his kayak while a canoe was his friend’s vessel of choice. A 6 a.m. start was in order to beat wicked heat expected by afternoon.
A pair of whistling wood ducks took wing when the boats came into their view. Kingfishers and a great blue heron escorted the pair upstream. Fish were no shows in this pool, which was maybe 5 feet deep.
For stream fishing, Bodishbaugh usually casts a small brown Mepps spinner with a black blade or a small Beetle Spin. He keeps several colors of Beetle Spins in his hand-sized tackle box. His buddy lobbed brown 2-inch tube baits.
Paddling upstream and fishing the next pool was a pleasant river adventure that produced one little smallmouth. Third pool was the charm. This oval lagoon was smaller, but had a bit of current. Smallmouth bass immediately started pouncing Bodishbaugh’s Mepps spinner.
“Maybe they want to be in this faster water and not where it’s real still. We’ve had more action right here than anywhere else,” he said.
Shade also helped the catching.
Now Bodishbaugh started seeking moving water and caught fish in the gentle current where shoal and pool meet.
“This is almost like trout fishing in this riffle right here,” he noted.
By 10 a.m. the climbing sun had stolen most shade from the lovely War Eagle. Their modest count of about 20 fish for the morning included largemouth bass, spotted bass and smallmouth bass, which are the three species of black bass. Ozark bass, green sunfish and tropical-looking longear sunfish rounded out the variety. All fish were released.
The anglers were content to stow their fishing gear and enjoy a pleasant float back to the bridge in the same style as Lewis and Clark. Yet this War Eagle adventure only covered two miles, not thousands like the famed Journey of Discovery.
War Eagle access
Withrow Springs State Park is a popular spot for exploring the War Eagle River. The stream flows along the south edge of the park. Access is at the parking area where Arkansas 23 crosses the War Eagle. Paddlers can launch boats for a Lewis and Clark float. Swimming and wade fishing are also popular here.
Source; Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette