A Brotherhood Forged in Bad Fishing – The Plan

By Alex Cagle,

In an earlier article I detailed how fishing cemented Clint’s and my friendship. As we set our sights on late May to early June for a summer fishing trip, we settled on Arkansas, an ideal spot due to close proximity and its two main features: hiking and fishing. We broke up the trip into two parts and each of us oversaw planning one part. Both of us wanted to hike and fish, but we were not equally enamored by each activity. While Clint was more excited about hiking and took charge of that portion, I most looked forward to fishing and planned it accordingly. Clint researched online and found that the best hiking trails in Arkansas are in the Ozarks, near the Buffalo National River. So, he found a beautiful campsite on the river where we would first set up shop.

For my location I knew exactly where I wanted to camp and fish in Arkansas: Lake Ouachita. Damned in 1953, and the Ouachita River created the lakes Ouachita, Hamilton, and Victoria near Hot Springs, Arkansas. I knew I wanted to go to Ouachita because as a kid my family would sometimes vacation there, and I always wanted to camp on an island in the lake. One summer my family camped on an island, but we chose the island poorly. As we unloaded our gear onto the island we inadvertently tracked it through poison ivy, so the next morning both my parents woke up covered head to foot in poison ivy. We canceled our trip early and headed home. However, my desire to camp on an island remained, and Clint was just as gung-ho about the idea as I was, so we had our two locations set.

Next, we fell right into the details of planning. We had already planned when, the end of May, and now we knew where. Our next question, “What do we need?” This trip was going to be my first camping trip with all my own gear as an adult. The only problem was…I had no gear! Clint being the expert camper that he is sent me a list of all the essential items I would need to bring. So I set about either borrowing or buying the stuff I needed. The hardest thing to get was a large camping backpack. I didn’t want to spend money and buy one that I would use very little, but I still needed one. Luckily I was able to borrow one from a friend at church who camps and hikes quite often. One thing I did have to buy was a small cooking set. I found a great deal on Amazon that included a pot, pan, utensils, drawstring bag, cup, and most importantly a head lamp! The headlamp proved to be the deciding factor, so I bought it.

The very last thing that I had to get was food. We intended—note the word “intend” because this will come into play later in the story—to eat the fish we caught while we were fishing. Yet, we didn’t want to leave all our meat to the fish, so I went to the store and loaded up. I bought three bags of jerky, ten bags of instant mashed potatoes, 8 bags of instant rice, and twenty cliff bars. After the trip I would learn that I grossly overestimated how much food I would need for a five-day excursion. Once we had everything bought we were finally ready to leave on our adventure (the suspense for which is now thoroughly killing you).

A Brotherhood Forged in Bad Fishing – Intro

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.