It was quite a day... as you can probably tell from the title of this post. Here's the breakdown...
On the way to the river from Memphis, we saw an impressive display of North American raptors that included: approximately 20 Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), 8 Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus)- including the first gray male we've ever seen, 2 Red-Shouldered Hawks (B. lineatus), 2 Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and a whole bunch of Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) that we didn't really bother counting.
Once we were waist deep in the river, we saw at least 10 Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias)- at one point, eight of them flying low over the riparian treetops together as a group. We also saw an American Mink (Neovison vison) enjoying some Christmas day fishing on the Spring River- an animal which normally stays out of sight when the river is crawling with fisherman and recreational paddlers during summer. The mink was a good indicator that there weren't many people around.
We fished with our now traditional Christmas Crawdads again, but they weren't terribly productive. I caught the first trout on one which I believe was the only fish of the day interested in eating Christmas decorations tied onto a hook. The second fish brought to hand was a 12 inch Golden Redhorse (Moxostoma erythrurum), a species which likes to make an appearance on Christmas day. Unfortunately, I can't take credit for landing it on a crawdad fly this year. It was apparently dying, and I simply scooped it up with the net to see what it was.
|Not a happy Christmas for this guy|
None of the 7 Rainbow Trout we caught were really that impressive, despite the fact that this would normally be the time of year to catch a big fish. The "big" fish of the day...
|My lucky Christmas fishing hat, not so lucky this year|
We ended up keeping 5 stockers and brought them home to share a Christmas dinner with our friend Don. He was kind enough to let us stay at his house while we visited the "Big M" for the holidays. Our fresh trout dinner wasn't fancy, but it was the least we could do to show our thanks.
|Baked in aluminum foil with Cajun seasoning and butter.|
Since the trout fishing wasn't really that exciting (and the Spring River always offers up some variety), Kelly decided to go after a 3 foot Carp (Cyprinus carpio) about midway through our day. Actually... it was an accident, but she did hook up with the big fish briefly. From my vantage point on the other side of the river, she put up a valiant effort with her 9 foot six weight doubled over as the monster minnow dove into the deep. It lasted about fifteen seconds before her 6 pound tippet snapped.
The excitement of our day didn't end when we got out of the water. We drove back to Memphis through the beginnings of a rare blizzard for the Natural State- a couple of Arkansas locales got over 11 inches of snow. The snow and sleet were only beginning to really come down as we drove between Mammoth Spring and Jonesboro, but as we made our way further south the situation became less and less severe. It was just a little bit precarious as the frozen precipitation began to accumulate on the roadway, and the driving conditions on an icy US Highway 63 were made far worse by strong blizzard winds.
It wasn't quite the white Christmas most people hope for, but it was unforgettable nonetheless.
Did I forget to mention that we only saw 4 other folks down by the river? We pretty much had the place to ourselves the whole time we were there.
That's my kind of Christmas.