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Weather has not been this fisherman's friend this summer.

Last week in this space, I shared an adventure on the Caddo River that became a rodeo ride when the river rose suddenly from torrential rains in the headwaters. The U.S. Geologic Survey graph from that day shows a steadily descending line that suddenly spikes about 4 feet before dropping almost vertically.

A reader from Ruston, La., who I met on the river at that time described the experience as "interesting."

For several days, Alan Thomas and I had debated where to take a Sunday float trip. We last fished together about a year ago, and we wanted this trip to be memorable. We settled on a lower stretch of the Kings River approaching Table Rock Lake, but we were dissuaded by a report from Cody Qualls of Berryville. He said the Kings River was substandard, and that it would likely deteriorate over the weekend due to heavy rain Friday.

"That's an awfully long way to drive for poor fishing," I said.

The debate began anew.

During the weekend, a friend texted photos of his son holding a smallmouth bass on the Saline River between Nickel Bill and Peeler Bend. The young man quit counting at 15, but he caught more fish than anybody else in the group, his dad said.

Armed with that knowledge, we finally agreed to an afternoon trip on the Saline River between Nickel Bill and Peeler Bend.

We arrived about 2 p.m. to find the river in immaculate fishing condition. The flow was good, but clear and cool. Several families frolicked in the water at the ford where Tom Kelley Road meets Mountain View Road.

This area was in the news recently because several landowners petitioned the county to close portions of the roads that end at the river. Their petition was denied. In response, a landowner placed a big tree across a gravel bar and marked it with purple paint to denote it as a private property boundary. Metal stakes were placed at spots in the woods that were formerly used as parking.

That's reasonable. Reducing parking availability naturally reduces the number of visitors, so whatever problems existed before the controversy are probably self-correcting.

One person started to park on the gravel bar, but another visitor warned him against it. She said the sheriff had visited earlier and said anyone parking on the gravel bar would be ticketed.

"He was very nice about it," she said, "but that's what he said."

Al and I have a unique way of fishing small waters like this. We load our gear in his kayak and in my mini canoe. We tie the boats to our belt loops and fish by slowly wandering upstream. We fish side by side, working the same water and often the same targets to great effect. It's necessary to fish that close together so that we can converse in normal tones. If we get far apart, we either have to yell or not talk, and the fellowship is what is most important to us.

Fish were certainly feeding. Al caught a smallmouth within a few casts, and I caught a small Kentucky bass. As usual, my reflexes were a little slow at the beginning, so I lost a couple of good fish from setting the hook too late. Have you ever noticed that the ones you lose are always "good" fish?

Meanwhile, thunder rumbled all around us. We listened and watched the clouds closely, but the rain seemed to be to the sides. We worry only when it rains upstream.

The sky darkened to the west, and we grew alert as thunder neared. Then a lightning bolt zapped nearby. We jumped in our boats and paddled back down in a downpour to take refuge in Al's truck.

Confident the storm would be short, we checked the radar on Al's phone. A band of heavy rain was coming straight at us. It would only worsen.

The river had turned chocolatey, and water running into the river from Mountain View Road looked like a tributary.

Al and I resolved to try again as soon as possible, but this trip was a wash.

The river already had risen about 3 inches as I dragged my canoe across, and then I waded up Mountain View Road to my truck in ankle-deep water.

The whole time, my only thought was, "Thank goodness for good friends and four-wheel drive."

Sports on 07/11/2019

Print Headline: Rain douses Saline River trip

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