It was a typical mid-July day in Missouri, which dictated a high temperature in the nineties and high humidity as well. Pulling myself out of a deep slumber at 5:30 A.M. presented no problem, since I was about to engage in my favorite pastime. My brother Greg would be knocking on the front door by 6:30, and because it was his turn to drive it would take me about ten minutes to load my fishing gear and icebox into the back of his pickup truck.
I slugged down two cups of Starbucks coffee inbetween taking a quick shower and getting dressed. We were going to our favorite creek, a small stream which permits standing in about two or three feet of water while casting into likely lurking spots for largemouth bass. The fishing in this creek was usually so good that nearly any spot that looked like it could contain a fish probably did.
The drive from St. Louis took about two hours and fifteen minutes, and as we made the final right turn onto the gravel road which led to the low water bridge the characteristic smell of the creek water permeated the cab of the truck. The bridge was just a large concrete slab which contained cylindrical metal pipes to facilitate water flow downstream, and it also served as our entrance point. Parking about three hundred yards uphill in a wide bend of the gravel road, we quickly got out of the truck and put on our wading boots. The water would be very warm, at least eighty-five degrees, so bulky waders were definitely not called for. We rigged our light spinning outfits with chartreuse buzz baits and enthusiastically headed down the road toward the creek.
It was not uncommon for us to catch thirty bass each, and since we never kept any of them it was often hard to keep count. Our record for this creek was Greg 49, myself 47. We always had a friendly competition, and on that particular day although my brother beat me in the total count my big fish was a three and a half pounder, which took top honors.
Stepping into the water from the concrete slab was always an adventure. Years of floods had deposited quite a few good sized boulders on the immediate downstream side of the slab, and the water pouring over and through the bridge created a scouring action which resulted in a fairly deep section for the first twenty feet or so. The game plan called for gingerly stepping onto some of the larger boulders and then easing down the bank in about three feet of water until arriving at a point where the shoreline ended in a gently sloping angle. This was the second hardest maneuver of the day; the return trip after nine hours of fishing required a little more energy.
The best fishing was found a considerable distance from the road, since anyone with a rig and live bait could do quite a bit of damage from the bridge without even getting wet. This is where being adventurous really paid off, and we usually waded downstream about a mile or so before turning around and heading back. Fishing with anything other than topwater lures was a waste of time on this creek. I always used either a buzz bait or some sort of popper like a Hula Popper or Pop-R.
By about 3:30 in the afternoon the sky turned dark and a slow drizzle settled in. Since it was about 95 degrees in the shade the rain actually felt rather good, but it also killed the fishing. On a lake rainy weather generally improves the bite, but these small stream fish really turn off during a storm. My theory is the fish head for cover and hold tight because they are conditioned to expect high water and fast currents after a heavy rain. Still, this small drizzle we were experiencing had little or no chance of causing any such phenomenon, or so we thought.
With the fish refusing to bite and the prospect of the rain increasing, we decided to head back to the truck and call it a day. It was then that we observed a rather noticable rise in the water level. The creek had come up about six inches, and the usual lack of current in the pool was replaced by slowly moving water. We were still about a half mile from the low water bridge, so instead of fishing as we headed back it seemed smarter to step up the pace. Now the creek was rising more quickly, with the current bringing off-colored water down to us. With an increased effort we continued to trudge upstream, and the rain changed from a light drizzle to a slow but steady fall. Thunder was heard rumbling in the distance, but the rise in the water level was certainly unexpected based on the amount of precipitation we had encountered. Rounding the last bend the low water bridge came into view, but by then the water level was roughly a foot and a half above normal.
It seemed judicious at this point to exit the creek via a steep bank and walk through the woods back to the road. With brown muddy water now over waist high, Greg handed me his fishing rod and used the exposed roots of a large oak tree to pull himself up the bank and climb into the edge of the woods. He then reached down as I handed him both rods and stepped onto the lowest root of the tree. I could feel the current trying to prevent me from completing the climb up the bank, but it never got to the point of being worrisome to me. I climbed up the tree roots and we walked back to the truck, deftly pointing our rods ahead of us and between any tree branches in our path. We arrived at Greg's pickup truck in less than ten minutes.
However, those ten minutes were indeed eventful! As we looked down the gravel road toward the low water bridge we couldn't believe our eyes! There was at least six feet of water pouring over the top of the concrete slab bridge! Tossing our rods into the bed of the truck, we ran down the road to the creek. Ten minutes ago we had been standing in the water, but now the force of the flash flood was strong enough to wash away anything in it's path! We just stood there in awe, barely able to force ourselves to say "Holy shit!".
To this day, whenever Greg and I get together we always have enough time to recount the events leading up to this flash flood on our favorite creek. Man may occupy the planet, but the forces of nature can often overrule any claim we may have on our sovereignty.