By Alex Cagle,
I became friends with Clint at the beginning of 2014. At that time we were only loosely acquainted through the Christian Student Center at the University of Tennessee, but things would change over the next year. I needed a new place to live but couldn’t search until late spring which was cutting it close for the fall semester. Then a mutual friend told me that Clint needed a roommate. In early fall we moved into an apartment that we would share for over a year and a half—becoming best friends over that time. Our bond was forged not only through day to day exchanges but also through trips and adventures such as the doomed fishing endeavor of summer 2015.
Before the start of fall classes, Clint and I decided to host a “self-caught” fish dinner for some friends in our apartment. The problem, however, was that we were both relative novices in fishing. Equipped with a twelve-foot jon boat Clint hauled to Knoxville we fished Thursday, Friday, and Monday in an attempt to catch food for that Monday night. On Thursday we fished for approximately eight hours and, between the two of us, caught a grand total of one fish. Friday was an even greater exercise in futility as we left the lake empty-handed. We had attempted to change our luck by exploring a different lake, but Douglas proved much too large and turbulent for the little boat and trolling motor. On Monday, everything changed.
With our backs against the wall we tried a third lake, Melton Hill. Within ten minutes of putting the boat in the water we doubled the amount of fish we had caught in the first two days. After that the bounty just rolled in. Our luck could do no wrong, especially when the rain started. In what began as a light drizzle that soon cascaded into a monsoon, the fish swarmed to our lures. We brought in about half a dozen fish before booking it to shore, bailing water from the boat along the way. As we set about preparing our bounty to cook for our friends we realized neither one of us had a clue how to clean fish. We frantically sliced off what little bits of meat we could and pan-cooked them. Luckily, Clint had frozen a wild turkey that he killed earlier that year, and we were able to augment the fish with roasted turkey steaks (wrapped in bacon of course). Between the fish and the turkey, a taser and an airsoft gun, we hosted maybe the best party that has ever been thrown.
Despite our lack of success the first couple of days, we ignited a love bordering on obsession for fishing. We thought, “Why limit our fishing to Knoxville or local ponds? What if we took a long fishing, hiking, camping trip to somewhere remote and peaceful?” This idea especially took hold when I moved to Starkville, and our adventures all but ceased completely. We set our sights on late spring of 2017 to take our inaugural fishing expedition. Our first idea was actually a two week trip to Cuba; however, that proved to be too grandiose an adventure due to cost, travel constraints, and the current political environment.
Instead, we decided to heed the call of Horace Greeley and planned to “Go West, young [men]”. Neither of us had ever been to Colorado (except a skip around Four Corners for Clint), so we dove right into planning. I spent hours upon hours scouring Google Earth and the National Park Service’s website looking for the perfect site. And I found it. About 50 miles west of Fort Collins there sits a paradise with numerous lakes, ponds, and reservoirs for fishing, a beautiful mountain to hike, and ample places to camp. The only problem was the time of year. In late spring our spot would be covered with snow and the roads closed to public traffic, so yet again we needed a new plan. We briefly toyed with the idea of going north to Michigan, but we decided that we did not have the proper equipment and that the time of year was still not ideal for fishing there. That’s when Clint mentioned the Ozarks, and I immediately thought of Lake Ouachita.