Bob Mitchell: Where are the boys on Flat Creek?
Maybe I'm just not in the right place at the right time to see them, but boys fishing on Flat Creek seem to be absent from what they were in days gone past. Perhaps there is another factor to consider -- there might not be the good fishing holes to fish that once existed on Flat Creek.
The possibility of trips to the creek with a group of friends probably started my love for fishing in the first place.
We only had our cane poles and a few small hooks in those days. But there was plenty of bait to offer the creatures, as long as the Seven Valley Cheese Co. was in existence. It's doubtful the discharges into Flat Creek at their location on East 10th Street, also formerly a mill operation, were legal, but it was a haven for night crawlers -- some seemingly as long as a small snake.
These creatures were always close to the surface and easy to collect, which was another reason the location was so popular for those looking for fish bait.
Fishing the creek in an area known as the Old Reunion Grounds was a special location for us. There were two or three holes of water that seemed to always hold a good supply of fish.
A special method to our efforts came from the bluffs above the creek in that particular area. It was sweet anise roots that we dug and then returned to the creek. Roots of the plant were chewed and then spit upon the wiggly worms. We thought this method was necessary to really lure the fish to our hooks. In addition, the root tasted like licorice, which made the method more palatable especially when the fish were biting.
It was probably Leon (Curley) Howard who started our group to use those roots as an enticement for fish. Usually in the our group was Bill Barber, Howard, a friend in early years, John Bond and sometimes Trolinger Wilson, he was Maud Wilson's son.
It wasn't all that easy to get to the top of that bluff (probably filled with houses these days in Wildwood Estates) but that didn't matter to some ardent anglers bound to use every method possible to get their line stretched.
No modern equipment
There wasn't a rod and reel to be found in this bunch, only the cane pole and braided line that was wrapped around the end of the pole to be set at the appropriate length to satisfy the depth of the water that was being fished.
Hooks were sometimes a premium, unless someone in the group might have saved some of their allowance. Actually, since the holes of water had some depth, sinkers were seldom used. Just adding another worm to the hook was sufficient in getting the bait toward the bottom.
Someone usually had a digging tool that was necessary to extract the roots from the rocky soil atop the cliff, the location was supposedly only known to this group, each and everyone was sworn to secrecy for fear others might decide to dig the roots in large numbers.
Today, that same method is much easier, as the root scent was once available in drug stores and is easily available in tackle shops in an aerosol spray or in a fluid out of a spray container that might fit in an angler's pocket.
Later years, the rivers
Later years found some of us on the rivers either floating or fishing from the banks. In those days, soft shell crawfish were in abundant supply in the water of Flat Creek, providing you had a carbine lamp, a bucket and were quick enough to catch the buggers. Their availability was best at night, which meant catchers were frequently sighted if you were driving in the vicinity of the creek.
Jimmy Ketchum (aptly named) and Harold Miller were the top softshell pickers in the area. When the crawfish use was popular, they sold for a nickel each and were available at the Railways Ice Co. in Cassville. Most usually, they had to be reserved ahead of time, this particular bait was that popular.
A favorite for young boys to try their catching skills was the float trip from Viola Ford to the mouth of Kings River. This particular run took about a half a day, depending on how many times in the trip we stopped to bait fish.
Fishing in your blood
The love of fishing never really leaves a person, so far as most folks I know. Maybe it slows down, but getting out on the water can be as enjoyable as ever -- whether it's on a body of water like Table Rock, Bull Shoals, or one of the area streams that is still floatable.
Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.