Monday, December 9, 2013

Of Pots and Pans

2Timonthy 1:9 Who has saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.

In her book Same River Twice: Honoring the Difficult, Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple) summarizes the idea that a person never steps in the same river twice. The river constantly changes and becomes a new place. After a summer of home improvement projects, I needed to fish. With the White generating around the clock, I decided to make the 45 minute drive to Norfork. My last expedition there was over 2 years ago and I was curious about changes made to the river environment after the last flood. Instead of the normal blasting temps for August, a sudden cool front decreased our usual 90s to a paltry 75 degrees. Leaving my house at 6:30 am, I faced a foggy highway and carefully made my way to Ackerman Access. The parking lot virtually empty, I backed in and beheld my first surprise—a new Porta Jon. Instead of a leaning tin shack with a broken seat, I found a modern, level facility with a domed roof and a door that latched … almost. Nevertheless, we women fishers are grateful for small favors and I made a quick visit before donning waders and boots. By 7:30 I was geared up and ready to fish with a Pheasant Tail. Since the day was cool, I decided to hike to the first island and began fishing just below the cut in the bank. A lone fisher standing upriver loosed his line below the mini-fall where water hurries over a rock-pile. I saw him catch a few but wasn’t so lucky. With no takes, I switched to a Partridge and Orange, then later a Zebra Midge with zero success. After about 2 hours and no results, I sat to rest and eat a snack. A light breeze embraced the water; while a blue Heron perched in a tree surveying his fiefdom and watched fish spank the water. I heard the sound of a truck backing up near a home and saw a long pipe spout water (and I assumed hatchery fish) down the hill behind me. Within a few minutes several people began fishing near the pipe …. Shame! I watched as a gentleman fished his way toward me, leaning heavily on his wading staff. He tossed a beautiful roll cast and captured at least 3 fish before he stepped on the island. “Watching the fish or the fisherman?” He said. “Both,” I said. “Can you believe this weather?” He volunteered he’d had both shoulder surgery and knee replacement and was not only grateful for the weather but for the fact that he could fish to enjoy it. After 3 attempts to find out his choice of fly, he finally answered that it was a stimulator and I saw something red float in the shallow water. “I like to fish the shadows,” he whispered. By this time the guy at the top of the pool made his way back and also remarked on the unseasonably cool temps. “How’d you do? I asked. “Not very well … kinda slow. But it’s so beautiful, who cares!” He headed downriver as I turned to my new friend. “Well I’m gonna move farther up and try some different flies before they turn the water on,” I said. He remarked, “Well I’ll stay here and fish the toilet bowl.” I looked up at him through my sunglasses. “That’s what we call this place and where we bring the grandkids, ‘cause anybody can catch fish here.” He laughed. Feeling somewhat chagrined after his comment, nevertheless I tied on a yellow Anna Kay and fished below the mini-fall. Finally I was rewarded with a small stocker who had a strong heart. My streak was short lived, however so I decided to trek farther upriver than I’d ever been. New rocks the size of baby hippos lined the edge of the bank forming a barrier through which there was only 1 entrance. I entered the water there, tied on Bob Krause’s White River Special and received a few light takes but no hook-ups. I switched once again to a soft hackle called a Cody tied by Ron McQuay in honor of his grandson. Its vivid orange and green colors shimmered in the morning sunlight. As I made the first cast, I noticed a huge Rainbow near my feet. For the next 20 minutes, the large Bow continued to linger and follow me despite my boots bumping him at least twice. The Cody fly did the trick and I caught 3 small stockers and felt renewed in my perseverance and willingness to keep switching flies and changing locations. My “pet” fish continued to keep watch over me until I gently nudged him away with my wading staff. By 11:15 my grumpy stomach convinced me it was time to leave. I remembered that a new sandwich spot had opened in one end of Two Rivers Fly Shop in Norfork. Heidi’s Ugly Cakes and Sandwich Shop is owned by the former baker at Shady Grove Store which closed, much to my dismay, several months ago. Greeted by the fragrance of her grilled Reubens as I entered the small space, my taste buds shifted into overdrive. Her special version of fried pies lined the top of the counter including apple, cherry, and my favorite blueberry. Their buttery crust and icing droplets attacked my senses while I waited to order my Reuben. I gazed at her pastry cooler filled with specialty desserts including her mouth-watering Holy Cow cake: a special chocolate confection containing Butterfinger bits, sweet cream and cream cheese whipped together and homemade caramel. After I’d inhaled her delightful sandwich grilled one at a time in a cast iron skillet (the pan of choice in the Ozarks), we talked about how she came to this location. “After Shady Grove closed, I looked for a new job. This opportunity presented itself twice and I said no. The third time, the way was so paved I couldn’t turn it down.” I smiled. “God does that sometimes.” And we both laughed. She said, “And I have been blessed ever since I came here.” The drive back home seemed shorter because of my renewal on the Norfork. Alice Walker’s words drifted through my mind. I found a changed river, a new facility, a pet Rainbow and a chef whose testimony enhanced a sandwich. New blessings overflowed from another adventure on the river.

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