Bob Mitchell: River floating experiences

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Here it is almost the first of May, and while there won’t be any May poles wrapped these days, there probably will be a lot of fishing going on, joined by some big-time garden making accomplishments in these parts.

May Day will always have a memory for me from 63 years ago in Tokyo, Japan, across from the United Nations Command Building (McArthur’s headquarters). A couple of American sailors were tossed into the Imperial Moat by Japanese Communist who were parading on their day. Apparently, the sailors had jeered at them or provoked them in some way that put them in the drink. They were quickly rescued by Japanese guards at the palace and found refuge and a ride back to their ship at the UN building.


It seems like there have been fishing experiences on my mind the last few weeks, and this time of the year probably provokes this way of thinking as much as anything else.

You see, this time of the year is when oak tree buds get as large as a squirrel’s ear, which (according to some folklore) is a sure time to start putting new line on reels and sharpening hooks. And that goes for about any time of fishing that you might have in mind.

Several years ago, that involved either going to the rivers or making an occasional trip to Bull Shoals Lake, which was the first to be available in this area. This impoundment frequently backed water to just below Powersite Dam near Forsyth, for some reason or other, created what was called Barker Hole.


This stretch of water was a favorite of many fishermen from this region in their pursuit of catfish, which seemed to be plentiful when there was backwater. There was a boat required to reach the hole of water from an excellent area upstream that served as a campground for the anglers who chose to try their skills for more than one day.

It was a very pleasant stretch of water and with good bait out of Flat Creek Cassville anglers were often the most successful. Spending a lot of time in this area was the late Paul Henbest, who apparently liked this type of fishing above all others.


One of the most memorable experiences was a day trip that two late businessmen in Cassville, Bill Edmondson, Snake Turner and I made to the Barker Hole. We were right in the middle of the location and began catching some good catfish. For some reason we decided to move and in doing so sheared the pin in the small motor we had on the boat. To make matters more complicated none of the three had thought to have a spare in our tackle boxes.

So, we went to the bank and pondered our situation for some time, before deciding to get a piece of hardwood and carving a required piece of equipment. We did so with our trusty knives, each of us providing a model until one fit.

We started the motor and headed back to our vehicle since we didn’t know how long our improvised equipment would last, which wasn’t very long, so we stopped again, getting some material and going through the carving process again. This one lasted about another 100 yards or so before it broke, making us realize that something else had to be done.

Finally, someone came up with a wire bottle opener that was about the correct diameter, and we went to work on it with a pair of small wire cutters. After about three tries we got the right length, put it in the propeller and we were off, back to our landing in high style.

Next jaunt

Probably the next trip to this area was by four families, the Wilsons, Edmondsons, Harold Reese and Mitchells to an overnighter at the Swan Creek Campground in that area. We left Cassville after the Edmondsons closed their store and drove to Forsyth that evening. We had both our kids with us on this trip in a Chevy station wagon.

After we got the families settled for the night, we launched our two boats and headed up White River to anchor below Powersite and fish through the night. No longer had we gotten our lines in the water than it started raining proverbial “cats and dogs.” We fished several hours, finally deciding to give it up.

When we got back to the campground, we found some scared people after lightning had struck several trees. So it was back to Cassville and the Edmondson home where we finished off all the food we had packed to Taney County.

An oddity of the trip was when we got back to Cassville, the kids woke up and wanted to know, “are we there yet?” They had slept through the entire trip in their compartment of the station wagon.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.

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