Lost in the Dark
R.L. "Bob" Nunley, Poteau, OK
I had been fishing in the most of a hot August day on the Lower Mountain Fork
River in Southeast Oklahoma, without much luck. One small brown trout about
12 inches was all the day's fishing produced. A bit bored with the way the fishing
was going, I decided to drop by Beavers Bend Fly Shop. I met a gentleman at the
Fly Shop, a very nice young man, who is considered by many to be a "Mountain
Fork Expert". I told him about the days action, or lack of it, and he invited me to
fish the Hexagenia Hatch in the deep part of the river, except that he had a
pontoon boat for the deep water, and I did not! Luckily, he knew of a place where
I could hike in and fish it from the shallows. I was game for it and, let me tell you,
I had a blast! We got into rainbows and browns until it was too dark to see. After
that, we just kept casting, and when we heard something rise in the vicinity of our
flies, just set the hook. I lost count, but landed well in excess of 20 trout (stopped
counting at 14), in the 12" to 18" range, mostly rainbows, but did catch
one 16" brown trout.
Not particularly being the vision of grace, I have fallen in many rivers, but that night
was the topper of all my falling adventures. If you've never fished the Lower Mountain
Fork River, beware, it has, undoubtedly, the slickest rocks I have ever seen in all my
years of flyfishing. I ll fell twice. . . in the same spot. . . off the same rock!!! The first fall
just put me up to my neck in 53 degree water. Yes, it was cold, and I was wet wading to
begin with. On the second fall, I had moved to the edge of the rock where I "thought"
it wouldn't be quite as slippery, and fell and hit my thigh about mid-point, on the corner
of the rock. I honestly thought that I had broken my leg, which was black as your hat the
next day. While sitting there moaning, a Bow rose about 10 feet from me, and from my
non-ambulatory position in the river, I cast to him and caught him. I even landed him
without removing my sore butt and my throbbing leg from the rock on which I landed.
In any case, the leg was not broken, although I did sport a pretty good limp for a few
Finally the hexagenias stopped coming off and the fish stopped rising, so it was time
to head out of the river. Preparing to start the short trek back to my car, I discovered
that, apparently, during one of my falls, I had lost my flashlight, so I had to hike in the
dark on a moonless night, what should have been about a quarter of a mile through
flat woods back to the car. Keep in mind, there was no sign of the moon, and the tree
canopy was so thick you couldn't see the stars. Did you ever notice how you can't
remember in the dark if the moss grows on the north side or the south side of the tree?
Well, I think I covered somewhere close to 6 miles. My legs look like I've been tortured
by two angry Tom Cats. Like I said, I was wet wading, and had on my wading boots and
nylon shorts . . . well now they look like nylon dubbing, and they certainly weren't much
protection for the legs. I hit every briar patch in the woods, and probably some of them
twice (yes, I WAS lost for awhile, but geez, there wasn't anyone to ask directions from!
I tried talking to the Owls, but all they would say is WHO, WHO and I really wanted to
know WHERE? WHERE?). I am now on first name bases with every low hanging limb
in Southeast Oklahoma!
On my "altered" route back to the car, I finally saw a car go by on a road not 50 feet
from where I was standing. As the headlights passed, I scanned the forest, and saw a
treeless path to the road. The ground looked flat and level, no big rocks sticking up,
so I set out in a long stride for the road. About 10 steps into this "power walk" the
whole world disappeared from beneath my feet. I had fallen down a ravine. It seemed
to be bottomless, but I found out later it was only about 6 feet deep. The ground really
did look flat in the glow of those headlights and besides, there were no ravines the way
I went in, and I really think someone dug that sucker while I was on the river! I did
save the rod, but didn't do too good of a job of saving my back, ribs and derrier. All
were extremely sore, as were my feet, knees and neck! The abrasion over the right eye
was no big deal . . . it would heal faster than the rest of me!
After climbing out of the ravine and carefully feeling my way to the road, my new fishing
partner, who had floated downstream to his truck, finally found me walking down a road
about 3 miles from where we went in (keep in mind that we were only fishing about a
quarter mile from the car) and took me back to my vehicle. After verifying that I would
survive and that the bloody mass on my legs was just briar and limb scratches, he
mentioned the Walleye that fed below the Power House late at night. Not having enough
common sense to give up and go home, we went on to the Power House to fish some more.
I stayed for awhile, and had one fish on, and a few hits on a Clauser, then I told him
I didn't think my body could take any more fishing for the night, and I headed home.
All in all, a pretty good night of fishing! Matter of fact, an excellent night. However,
I truly think we need to re-classify flyfishing as a contact sport, cause I look worse
than I used to in my Football days!
Now . . . Anyone want to go fishing with me? I seem to have problems finding a fishing
partner that can handle "Flyfishing with Bob's Rules." Maybe, because I consider
that night to be a GREAT fishing adventure!
One last note . . . all of the fish were caught on a 5'6" 2pc 4wt cane rod . . . she never
wavered, even when we were boulder fishing in that ravine, somewhere in the dark in
McCurtain County, Oklahoma!
~ R.L. Bob Nunley
Lighter Side Archive