New Year’s Day found Brent McClane and I on the North Fork of the White River again, using Brian Wise’s drift boat. Since we had an empty seat, we coaxed Arkansas fly-fishing guide extraordinaire Jimmy “T” Traylor to come up and fish with us for the day. Jimmy had only been on the river once, and had yet to experience the beauty that is the North Fork of the White River; so we agreed to meet him at Patrick Bridge Access to drop a vehicle and then head back to River of Life Farm and start the float.
The morning started off COLD. After floating and fishing in waders and long sleeve shirts on New Year’s Eve, we were in full winter fishing gear complete with gloves, hats, and permafleece. It was definitely a change, and we figured the fishing would suck, and it was slower than the day before….but it was still better than any of us expected.
We were into fish in pretty much the same fast water runs, just not as plentiful as before, throwing brown rubber legs and dropping eggs or worms or another rubber legs off of it, when we came to one of our first runs of the day below ROLF and pulled the boat into an eddy to get out and wade fish it. McClane and JimmyT eached picked up some fish and we were just about ready to move on when McClane wanted to change something up and kept giving us the “one more cast” look. He immediately hooked up with a fish, although didn’t know if it was the current or the size of the fish he was feeling; but it was solid. As he is fighting the fish, JimmyT reels up and starts to head back to the boat when he takes a spill in the river as I am pulling out the camera and hopping out of the boat. We toss the net to McClane and I help get some dry clothes to JimmyT, as it was 22 degrees and not the time to be wet. JimmyT was in dry clothes just about the time McClane landed the nice brown in the photos below. It was his biggest fish on the North Fork of the White to date and a great way to start out the 2011 year. We shot a few photos and released the fish and continued on our float.
We spent more time fishing the usual spots and unfortunately spent way too much time fishing above the Blair Bridge Access that we didn’t have enough daylight to really fish the sexy water from Blair to Patrick, it was getting dark and were cold and wet, so we paddled out most of the way to just below Patrick Bridge and started rigging down the boat and rods for the trip back to Gainesville and then St. Louis.
McClane headed up to grab the Durango and backed it down the trail, across the backwater, and onto the gravel bar and the trailer into the river when all of a sudden the transmission starts slipping and the Durango keeps going backwards and won’t stop. McClane was able to get it stopped, but the damage was done….as it wouldn’t engage any of the gears. It was 5pm on Saturday (a holiday) in the middle of the ozarks without a good way to tow it out and figure out what was going on. McClane is a life-saver in these situations and we tried all his tricks from rocking the vehicle to rolling it backwards (but not to far back, as that would have put it in the river), but none of it worked. With that, I called Brian Wise and gave him the bad news that I needed him to find me a tow truck to tow us off the gravel bar and he went to work.
About a 1/2 hour later, tow truck on scene, we were winched off the gravel bar and up into the parking lot, where the tow truck driver had to disconnect the drive axel and get it lifted to take to Earl’s Dodge and have the transmission looked at. He gave me the bill, and I couldn’t get him them money quick enough and we were on our way back to River Of Life Farm to pack up our gear and figure out a way to get back to St. Louis. Big thanks to JimmyT for driving McClane and I to Cabool, Missouri to meet up with my dad, who got us the rest of the way back to my house. Without friends like Brian and Jimmy, this weekend would have been a disaster, but in the end fish were caught and it was a helluva way to start out the 2011 year.
As for the Durango, after waiting a week to have the transmission guy at Earl’s Dodge in West Plains look at it, deciding it needed a new transmission and getting the approximate cost of said transmission, I opted to trade it in on a 2007 Jeep Commander 4×4 with 37,000 miles and purchased a lifetime jeep warranty for it (transmission failures be damned). The Durango was a great fishing vehicle, its 155,000 miles included two Missouri Trout Odyssey’s, trips to the Smokys, and countless trips to the tailwaters and streams of the Ozarks. Rest in peace Durangoo…..and I hope the “Save a Trout, Eat a Beaver” bumper sticker lives on.