Tuesday, March 30, 2021

“I Ain’t Never Seen Nothin’ Like It!”



       “ I ain’t never seen nothin’ like this”, I heard one old timer say when it was raining for so many days last week.  I have said the exact same thing several times the last couple of years or so. You have to start getting some age on you to say that effectively.  I never, ever said that when I was 25 or 30 years old.  When I was that age, about everything that happened was a fairly new experience.  But now that I am older, I remember seeing a lot of things happen related to the weather and nature, which causes me to say, “I ain’t never seen anything like this.”


       Uncle Norten, who was eighty-four years old at the time, recalled when he was only about ten years old or so in the spring of 1933 that it rained five days straight and the Big Piney River where he lived.  It rose to the highest point anyone had ever seen.  He said he remembered older folks going around saying, “I ain’t never seen nothin’ like this.”


       “We had built a little log cabin up on the hillside above the river, not far from a nice spring,” he recalled.  “ I had helped Pop cut the logs and build the place, even though I was awfully small.  I did a lot of mud hauling.  We filled the cracks between the logs with red clay from a mud bank not far away, and I think Pop intended to eventually build a floor in it, but we never did. We just hauled in sawdust from a nearby sawmill, and the floor was always sawdust, until we moved out two or three years later to a little broken-down house up the river.  But we’d change the sawdust ever so often, so as to keep things as clean as possible.”


       Norten told me that what he remembered about that deluge in 1933 was that it rained so hard and the wind was so strong at times, that it washed away the clay mud chinking on the west side of the cabin and started blowing rain in through the cracks.  He said that for awhile the sawdust was floating in water on that side of the cabin.  Fortunately, the oak shingles didn’t leak, and so their beds in the attic stayed dry.  Those beds consisted of makeshift mattresses filled with duck feathers.  It was a lot better life than the first Ozark settlers had enjoyed, when they had to live primitively out of wagons that brought them there.


       My uncle said that eventually the rain ended, the sun shined, the river fell and life returned to normal.  Then they just had the heat of July to contend with… and the coming depression. For him the depression was no problem. There in the hills, times didn’t get much worse than they had been, just because the stock market crashed.


       Hard times and floods don’t affect me much.  I live on a remote country ridge-top far from civilization.  My place is not prone to flooding, and so far, free from tornadoes, knock on wood.  The ice storm hit pretty hard here, though, a few years back.  I ain’t never seen nothing like that!


       I think that for those in huge cities, some worse times than we have ever seen are coming, sooner or later.  Those who mass together in a world of concrete and pavement and glass and computers are already trying to find places to escape to, like the Ozarks.  I am not one of those global warming nuts…I have no scientific evidence to call upon to help me predict the future course nature might take, and I don’t know for sure what is coming.  But I am fairly sure that worse is coming.  It is the consequence of huge, ever-increasing numbers of people, and the idea that the lifeboat will hold everybody while the country sinks from too many people. It is the problem of man not realizing that there can be too many people, not knowing that the earth is, after all, the boss…and man is not.  I am convinced that it isn’t the climate changing that we should worry about.  IT IS THE CHANGE IN PEOPLE!


       But one thing for sure, there is no turning around; there is no changing the course.  We are going wherever we are going, and good or bad, global warming, global cooling, or global chaos, ….it is coming eventually.  Some things a man can’t do a thing about.  When a massive black cloud forms on the horizon, you just can’t change the course or the power of the impending storm.  Not even with a computer! My guess there will be more old timers sitting around and saying, “I ain’t never seen nothin’ like this.”  Until there aren’t any old timers left!


       There is one thing that gives me a good feeling.  I know a place or two where the woods are deep and the trees are big, and the spring water is still clean.  There are squirrels there and fish in the river below and blackberries grow in the summer just like they did when uncle Norten was a boy.  There’s a cave there to protect a man from wind and ice alike. Inside, the temperature stays around 60 degrees year-round regardless of what it may be outside. If times get too hard, I intend to take my Labrador and my television and a good sleeping bag with some matches, fishing gear and shotgun, pack it all in my johnboat, and float down to that peaceful little valley.  In the meantime, I am going fishing this week… a whole lot… when the river goes down!

       Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613, or e-mail me at lightninridge47@gmail.com



Friday, March 19, 2021

What a Place to Fish!



Alan Gingrich with one of the bass he caught

         Before all the rain started, I spent a couple of days hunting...  hunting a good place to catch some fish.  High winds made us seek out a long cove, being fed by a creek bringing in warmer water and the fish were attracted to it.  Right off my partner, Alan Gingrich, caught a small white bass about eight inches long.


         Then I caught one an inch longer and commented that the cove likely had a bunch of those little males wanting to go up that creek.  I remember saying that we weren’t going to catch any that were keeping size and about that time my fishing partner’s rod bent over like he had hung his lure on a log.  When he hoisted up a 14-inch female white bass I told him that I was about to say that there likely were a few females up in that cove as well.  But I couldn’t believe there were.


         Between 4 p.m. and dark, we caught fish like we were fishing in a hatchery. The next evening was the same.  We’d fish three hours in the evening, trying to escape 40- mile-an-hour wind gusts, easily catching limits of white bass that were averaging 14 to 15 inches long.  In addition to those chunky white bass, we caught another 40 or so that were much smaller, and we each caught 20 or more bass; largemouth, smallmouth and a few Kentuckys.  With the light gear we were using, we had a great time, but we never did catch a fish above two pounds.  Alan stayed with a quarter-ounce jig both evenings, and truthfully he caught more fish on the jig than I did. But I was using a small crank bait I had found on the lake during the winter that had a small spinner at the lures tail. I don’t know that about any crank bait wouldn’t’ t have caught fish, they were packed in the deeper water out from that warming creek, and they were aggressive.  But there is something fascinating to me about using a lure that I found and didn’t  have to pay for.


         During those two evenings I was sure one of us would hook a walleye or two, which is what we went after in the first place. But we didn’t, and it is puzzling that in the landing of nearly a hundred bass in two evenings of fishing, there wouldn’t have been one somewhere in the four- or five- pound range.


         The rains came the next day and I am sure the creek is rolling high and muddy now.  When it gets back to normal in a week or so l am going to hit that place again.  I am sure the lake level will be higher though, and that could change things.  Spring rains will raise Ozark lakes and provide a much better spawning situation IF the water is kept at a fairly constant level through early June.


         In clear water, bass and crappie and other sunfish will spawn deeper, but in murky water they spawn shallow.  In muddy water they are nearly spawning at the water’s edge.


         To change the subject some-- don’t cuss the March winds, they are absolutely part of the Creator’s plan, because strong winds sweep over the smallest of plants to the highest of trees.  There is a reason for that.  Waving, bending branches pull sap up out of the lower parts of all plants into their trunks, stems, limbs and twigs.  The wind is always a part of the early spring, and essential as the rain. Likewise, the lightning of spring and summer is just as essential, as the electricity in the air fixes nitrogen in the soil.  To get a more complete picture of wind and lightning’s importance, find reading material on the subjects. You will be surprised!


            Before ending this, let me say that on Saturday, March 27 and again two weeks later, I will be taking some folks over to a wilderness spot on Truman lake where there is a large woodland with 200 to 300 year old trees, eagles nests, migrating birds and abundant wildlife.  We can take groups of fifteen at a time, and will go there by pontoon boat, do some hiking, have a big fish fry and return at sunset.  If you want to go, you can contact me via email, lightninridge47@gmail.com, or call my office at 417 777 5227.  Read all the details on my computer site…  larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Best Tackle For You




         There are many people out there who want to learn to fish, and many who have been fishing for years who have questions about the right tackle. One of the most-asked questions from folks I took fishing was.... What should I buy to fish with?  Every guide knows that the success of a fisherman who hires him depends to a great extent on whether or not he can use what he has properly.  I can take you fishing, but you have to make the lure land where it should, and do what it should in the water.


         If you want to catch bass, you need to learn to use an open-faced casting reel, and it needs to hold relatively heavy line.  I use some of those casting reels for bigger bass on reservoirs… heavier line and stronger rods.  When you are fishing in lakes for larger bass, 5 pounds or heavier, you need 10 pound line, minimum. The men who caught the monster bass from Midwest reservoirs back in the sixties and seventies used 20- pound line. Some of them caught had caught a half dozen bass in the 10-pound range.  Heavier line stretches less, so it is easier to set a large hook in the bony jaw of a big bass with the heavier line.


         If I want to fish a stream for big smallmouth, I might want to go with a more limber rod, a little shorter because of the restrictions of overhanging limbs when I am casting, and lighter line, perhaps eight or ten pound test. But lighter line the clearer the water. And some smallmouth fishermen would argue that they prefer spinning gear with line only six pounds.  I use that too, of course, when I'm fishing smaller lures.  You can't effectively fish large crank baits, large spinner baits, buzz baits and big topwater lures with a light spinning reel. 


         Heavy spinning reels can be used for heavy fish of course, with stronger line and stiffer rods.  Up north they go for trout and walleye of considerable size with heavy spinning gear and 10 to 12-pound line.  But here in the Ozarks, my spinning reels are used for lighter fish, smaller lures with lighter line.  Casting reels should be used with lures and weights of 3/8 ounce or larger.  Light spinning reels should be used with lures smaller than 1/4 ounce.


         No, you can't effectively cast a little quarter ounce jig with an open faced casting reel and 12 or 14-pound line.  Fishermen learn with experience that a jig falls in the water in direct proportion to the diameter of the line. With four-pound line, a small jig drops much faster than it will with eight-pound line.  That's why crappie fishermen like the spinning reels with light line.  For crappie, use a light, limber little rod which helps you feel a slight tap, and gives you a fight out of a fish that doesn't resist all that hard, and doesn't take a strong hook-set.


         I use medium spinning gear and 6-pound line for white bass when they are hefty, the three- or four-pound specimens not found often.  Most of the time, when I am fishing a spring spawning run for whites that only average a pound, I want four-pound line on a light spinning rod.  If I am going to fish for hybrids or stripers, I want to use heavy casting gear, and if the stripers are big enough, strong rods and 14- or 20-pound line.  Same thing for big catfish when using live bait.  But then, when I fish for stripers on Norfork with guides, we are using long light rods and only eight-pound line.  A 20-pound fish can't break it if the drag is properly set.


         When I go to Canada to fish for smallmouth, muskies, largemouth or northern pike, I use casting gear and strong line 10 to 14 pounds, and you have to use steel leader.  Sometimes, just for kicks I fish for smallmouth in Canada lakes with light action spinning tackle and six-pound line.  For walleyes that are usually less than four pounds, I use that same gear, but heavier spinning gear for lakes that have six- or eight-pound walleye.  The thing about walleyes is, they usually are found in unobstructed waters up there, and they aren't going to run away from you.  They usually stay deep and under you.  Big bass don't do that, they find something to get around, and you have to horse them a little.


         Though I often fish with the heavy casting gear for bigger fish, I just love to fish with an ultralight spinning outfit, and four-pound line for smaller fish; trout, white bass and crappie, even goggle-eye and bluegill.  Sometimes in the summer, I like to find a cool shoal on an Ozark river late in the afternoon and cast a small floating minnow-type lure for smallmouth from 10- to 15-inches long.  What fun that is on the light tackle.  Of course, sometimes an 18- or 20-inch bruiser takes your lure and leaves you wishing you had a heavier outfit.


         It is wise to stay away from push-button reels if you want to become a serious fisherman.  I guess they are okay for kids, or inexperienced fishermen who won't fish very often, and with a really small youngster that's only five or six years old, that's what you begin them on.  But start a youngster that is 10 or 12 years old, learning to cast the better tackle, and you'll be glad you did.


         Well, as you might guess, I take a variety of tackle on most fishing trips, different rods, reels and lures almost all the time, but never more than three rods and reels.  I suggest you learn to use types of fishing gear one at a time and practice casting to a two-foot ring in your back yard until you never miss.  Then hire a guide to teach you the rest.  If you want to learn to fish, a good guide is the best investment you can make.  BUT… I said hire a good one! That takes some research.  In this day and time there are lots of  ‘guides’ trying to pay for a bass boat rather than trying to teach you how to fish.


Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, MO  65613.  The website is www.larrydablemont.com. And my email address is lightninridge47@ gmail.com  




Tuesday, March 2, 2021

The Greatest Swap Meet Ever!


  We had to skip the   Grizzled Old Outdoorsman’s swap meet last year because of the Chinese virus, but for about ten years before, we had held it in late March at a church gym in Brighton, Mo. We didn’t charge admission and all vendor spaces were free. Therefore we had lots of tables and lots of people and the gym was always packed. And we always raised a lot of money for the youth projects of that church. But then they got a new preacher. And since the whole thing wasn’t his idea, he nixed it! I figured that might be the end of our swap meet, but not one to give up easy, I found a big church in Bolivar, MO that had a gym twice the size of the one we had been using. 

     This year we will have our Outdoorsman’s swap meet there, in a space of two end-to-end gymnasiums that will easily hold a thousand visitors and 75 or 80 tables. It has a small cafĂ© attached to it where folks can sit and talk and eat breakfast or dinner. And once again while having a great day, we will raise a lot of money for the church and other charity projects. Best thing is, unlike other such outdoor swap meet events, ours will again be free. If you have stuff to sell, call me and I will hold you an 8, 10 or 12-foot space and it won’t cost you a penny. In the past there has been a bunch of antique guns, antique fishing gear, modern day fishing lures and equipment, knives, camping gear, outdoor art, canoes, fishing boats, outboard motors, mounted fish and deer heads… you name it. I always give away copies of my magazines and sell my ten outdoor books at discounted prices.  This will likely be held this year on Saturday, April 17, but I will let you know here if it has to be set back again to a week later.  IF YOU KNOW YOU HAVE STUFF TO SELL, CALL ME AT 417 777 5227 TO RESERVE YOUR SPACE.  You can do it via email… lightninridge47@gmail.com or even send me a post card at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. I want to get some vendors that have stuff for ladies too, so all the spaces won’t be outdoor items. We may have a space or two with baked goods, jewelry, women’s clothing, etc.

     One year at our swap meet an elderly lady brought all the tackle from her husband’s hideaway. There were some antique lures there worth 40 or 50 dollars and some old rods and reels made in the twenties and thirties. She was selling the lures for three dollars each. She couldn’t understand why she had become so popular with dozens of male visitors. Best buy I ever found at one of our swap meets was a double barrel shotgun that was a hundred and fifty years old. Antique outdoor gear of all kinds is becoming more popular each year, especially fishing lures. Certain collectors pay into the hundreds of dollars each year for just one lure.

     My friend Dennis Whiteside told me he was contacted by a neighbor lady in the late ’80’s who had an old lure she wanted 25 dollars for. “I had no idea if it was worth anything,” he says, “ but it was in the box and looked like it had never been used, even though it was really old. “I stood there thinking, ‘Holy cow, how can I pay 25 dollars for a fishing lure.’ But I did! And that was several times more than I had ever paid for a lure.”

     Whiteside heard of a local restaurant owner where he lived in northwest Arkansas who was a big time lure collector, so he took the lure to him. “When he saw it, he was really fascinated with it, so I knew I hadn’t wasted my money. Then he invited me to his place to see his collection. I didn’t know it then, but I was looking at what amounted to a million dollar lure collection in that guy’s basement.”

        The restaurant owner got him into a group known as the National Fishing Lure Collector's Club, an organization that actually sent out newsletters and magazines informing its members about collectible fishing gear. He said that he saw then just what a big business old fishing lures were. Dennis recalls seeing one lure sell for thirty five hundred dollars. Today, that old lure he bought from his neighbor who thought she was getting a really good deal, is worth about a thousand dollars. Neither of them knew what it was worth at the time. I have saved a lot of lures and now have about a thousand in my basement that I am going to bring to the swap meet. Most are just good ol’ lures that will still catch fish… but I have some weird old lures from my grandpa’s time. I might sell trade one for an old magazine, or an old gun. I will talk more about the coming swap meet in future columns, but I want to let everyone know my outdoor magazine and my Ozark magazine will be mailed around the tenth of this month. Let me know if you want one. I might trade you one for a real good topwater lure!