For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Isaiah 55: 12
Low water for my special day would make the perfect gift. The night before my birthday I checked the generation prediction number. My brain screamed yahoo, when I learned Norfork River would be wadable until 11:00 a.m.
For safety’s sake, I called the dam generation number the next morning, learned that the prediction was true and hurriedly loaded my gear into my car. Skipping breakfast, I remembered to pack a small chest with drinks and throw in a packet of cheese crackers. Breakfast could wait!
When I arrived at Ackerman Access on the Norfork River, I saw a packed parking lot with a small spot remaining just the right size for my tiny car. I quickly parked, tugged on waders and boots; and then began to string my rod. My friend Bob, who was preparing to leave, told me he’d caught and released only two. His suggestion was a Zebra Midge. This is a favorite fly at Norfork, but unfortunately I rarely have good luck with it. It takes a finesse I haven’t acquired yet. Instead I attached an Orange Partridge, a success from my last trip here. Before I entered the water, I scanned both up and downstream. As usual, people stood near each other in a long string like bulbs on a Christmas tree. I marveled once again why fishers choose such close proximity and still hope to catch fish.
Instead, I decided to hike up to the first island where it appeared there were few of the same energized individuals. After the flood of 2008 and high water last year, the island now has a break where water gushes from a small pool to the main channel. Always on the look-out for a fast riffle where trout might be waiting for a ready supply of food, I cast into the run
and let the Partridge drift into the quieter waters below. Within a few casts I was into fish and landed a small stocker whose silver body shimmered in the warm April sunshine. I continued to catch a few more of the same stature until I felt a harder tug and knew this one was better. Like those nature shows, where the big ol’ gator thrashes and rolls over, this Bad Boy tried the same maneuver. Wondering if I’d lost him early-on, I kept the line tense and brought him almost to the net before he strained once more and spit out the hook.
Refusing to be disappointed, I relaxed and continued to fish enjoying the delights of my special day: the call of a Kingfisher as he flew over the water, the antics of a large heron as he patiently stalked the minnows in the shallows, and an abundance of sunshine after a long dreary winter. My attention returned to my fly and another sharp yank brought a larger Rainbow to my net. This was the best of the morning and simply the frosting on an already glorious day.
Eventually, two men from downriver wandered into the lower part of my area and immediately began catching fish. Unfortunately this interrupted my lucky streak. Since time for dam generation was close, I decided to call it a day aided by my now-mewling stomach.
Since it was my birthday, I decided I was worthy of extra calories and stopped by Shady Grove Grocery, the best kept secret of the Ozarks. What appears to be an ordinary convenience store at the crossroads of Highway 201 South and Shipps Ferry Road, contains some of the best made-from-scratch food you’ll ever eat. Guaranteed to make even your grandma swoon!
Since the morning chill had settled into my cold feet, I asked what they had hot. The reply made my taste buds do the Happy Birthday Dance: grilled cheese sandwich on jalapeno bread and loaded baked potato soup. I waited patiently and read my book, beginning to relax and feel my feet again. Soon the food was delivered by the young server and I dug in, enjoyed my book and resisted licking the bowl of the last droplet of soup. Of course, since calories were not measurable today, I inquired about dessert options. The wonderful chef at this establishment had just finished fried pies in my choice of blackberry, blueberry, or cherry. I chose blueberry, still warm, with a crust more like a light scone than a fried pie and ribbed with feathery white icing. I found myself making small comfort-food noises and quickly looked around lest someone think I was crazy.
Somehow I waddled to the counter, paid my bill, shouted congrats to the chef and drove unhurriedly back down Buford Cut-Off toward home. On the way, I spied a small boy jumping on a trampoline in his back yard. He leaped with joyful abandon apparently unencumbered by worldly worries. On this perfect day, I understood!