Bob Mitchell: More winter?
Along with the arrival of February, next week will be a weather indicator for the region when Groundhog Day rolls around.
The rodent that is sometimes the ruination of crop fields will tell us whether there will be six more weeks of winter after Feb. 1. If the Barry County species sees its shadow, that will find us headed for six more weeks of winter before we can expect spring-like temperatures.
February is the shortest month of the year. If doing away with February were possible, it would be perfectly agreeable to some people around here.
In a bi-partisan effort with my Republican co-conspirator Joe R. Ellis, we worked on a formula that would divide the days of February between the other 11 months. One purpose for this was to get rid of the month and hasten the opening day of Roaring River State Park on March 1.
A problem that stood in our way was how to convince the Missouri Conservation Commission to go along with such a complicated proposal. And then, late season weather for the park opening would present problems.
The groundhog theory of weather being in and out this time of the season is evident if you just stop and think what conditions have been around in your lifetime.
There have been blizzards and there have been shirt-sleeve openings, but seldom has early morning opening of trout season had temperatures that didn't freeze the line in fly rod guides. There is always the need for warming fires up and down the stream, providing a gathering place for hundreds of spectators.
Jack Nickols can recall one of his openings as concessionaire when National Guard bulldozers were in the area, opening roads to dairy farms to get Barry Electric crews into farms to repair downed power lines. The Guard also roamed the area with electric generators to provide power for milking chores while lines were being rebuilt.
As quickly as sunrise came over the hilltops, there was often time to begin shedding heavier coats and begin casting with much more freedom.
At this juncture of the opening, the only real problem for the anglers was snagging other anglers' lines. This was always a problem in the confined spaces along the river banks. Elbow-to-elbow positioning of those seeking Rainbow Trout will always present this problem.
There have even been a few scuffles on the banks when an angler constantly hooks into the lines of his stream neighbors. This especially became a problem between the purist fly fishermen and those reverting to spin cast equipment. The longer reach of the latter permitted standing at one end of a baffle and casting to the other end -- either upstream or down -- without any problem, tangling enough lines to cause quite a fuss.
Usually, there were enough cool heads in that baffle area to resolve the problem, frequently by suggesting the irritated parties separate themselves by a couple of baffles.
When Bass Lake filled with silt and was later eliminated by removing the falls at the bluff end of the earthen dam, there came an opportunity to eliminate part of this problem by establishing a "Fly Fishing Only" series of baffles, which were also stocked in the Commission's daily program and permitted the "purists" a place to pursue the Rainbows undisturbed by others with equipment that might cause problems.
Part of this area was also converted to a more rugged method of camping that featured visitors pitching their tents and living more out in the open.
Actually, loss of the lake didn't present much of a problem since construction of a swimming pool made a much better swimming area. Roaring River's waters never did warm much in traveling from the spring to the lower end of the park.
Today, the stream below the falls area is frequently stocked, and fishing with bait is permitted, after purchase of a Trout Stamp is completed on an annual basis. This area, which extends downstream, is a favorite for many local and visiting anglers.
Trout have been known to take up residence toward the Muncey area of the stream. From these pools, they have been known to put on some considerable size. You might try there sometime.
Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.