Ditch Water…

That’s what my friends call it. I call it an opportunity.

Oklahoma has a few trout streams and they usually contain too many people for my taste. I prefer my own company and hence, try to find overlooked or ignored places to fish. And catching trout is fun, I just prefer another species at this moment in my life.

I’ve spent thousands of dollars chasing the Micropterus dolomieu velox or Neosho-strain Smallmouth bass. I don’t see an end to it in the foreseeable future. Sure, I could go to the North Country and catch really big Smallmouth bass, and I’ve done that many times, but there’s something special to seeking out our native Smallmouth bass.

I don’t go with the “societal flow” or “social norms”, in fact, I could care less. I am on this Earth for a certain period of time and plan to use as much of that time as I can wisely. So I prefer to chase whatever species I am interested/fascinated in. And if I do it right, you will never know I was there. Since I enjoy my solitude and “soul time”, I don’t always give trip reports or name locations of where I’m fishing…and I think most readers understand the WHY behind it. It’s my way of recharging my internal batteries.

I enjoy fishing immensely and hope to continue doing so for years to come. I don’t care if its a really small creek leading to a stream. And if I’ve never been there…that’s a bonus.

So…Ditch Water huh? You never know what you’ll encounter. You will never know what’s around the creek/stream/river bend unless you go. And I WILL GO.

Cossatot River…

This river was awesome! The more we journeyed upstream, the more it reminded me of Colorado. The river rock and the smell of pine was a nice change of pace.

Wading was a challenge. The rocks were slippery and you had to place your feet on pockets of gravel nestled in the nooks and crannies of the boulders. It was doable but required constant focus to keep from falling. This was the only time I have ever wished for felt soled wading boots and studs.

We had great luck here and were finally catching decent sized smallmouth bass.

This fish made her day!
The little Walmart rod did just fine!

I normally keep detailed records but on this day, we were catching so many fish I lost count. This is a river I would have to spend a lot of time on to fully understand the fishing. We could see schools of smallmouth of decent size swimming circuits but they were never enticed by anything we threw at them.

And I can tell you…it was really nice to just submerge yourself in a pool of cool water during the heat of the day to cool off.

We are making plans to go back to this river for further exploration and fishing.

Cossatot River State Park, Arkansas…

Before we got to the actual river we stopped in Mena Arkansas at an old Walmart. I perused through the meager fishing section there and ended up finding a rod. It was a Shakespeare Micro Series Blue BMG2SC 4’6″ single piece rod that had the action I was looking for. So, $25 and 2 bags of ice and we were on our way.

We drove through Wickes Arkansas until we found the forest road that would take is to the Cossatot River State Park ( South End ) and had a “fun” drive to the river. When we arrived, we instantly bailed out of the vehicle and started scouting out the river before deciding to grab a campsite.


The tent sites were nice and spacious. They are built on an elevated platform with a railing on the front and steps leading up.

If you go, remember that there are no other amenities. No water and they only have pit toilets. Fees were $15 per night. We carry a 6 gallon water jug and have a pump filter to resupply our water as needed. During summer, A LOT of people show up to the swimming holes during the day. We only encountered one other fisherman during our entire trip. The rest of the people we met were trying to escape the heat.

Staying in a place like this during summer is a trade-off. We had lots of shade to get out of the direct sun, but there wasn’t much of a breeze to speak of. I rarely use insect repellant but the biting flies were a nuisance so I applied some. We encountered a few mosquitoes and never saw a tick on our entire trip.

Rest Day at Devil’s Den State Park…

I needed to find a baitcast rod and we were about out of adult beverages, so we decided to find a place to get both. Sounded easy enough until you factor in the lack of cell reception and a dry county!

We hunted high and low for a tackle shop or even a WalMart but there wasn’t one close by. I’ll have to wait til later on the rod. Next mission was for cold beer. When we stopped for ice, that’s when we were informed that it was a dry county. Well S#!%, now what? 60 some odd miles later, we had beer in the cooler! It probably would’ve been faster to drive back over to Oklahoma to get beer at a gas station lol.

Upon arrival back at our campsite, we noticed the campground was filling up fast. We prefer to camp off by ourselves to enjoy the peace and quiet. Out came the maps and a plan was laid to head to the Cossatot River a day early. Of course I was more interested in finding a replacement rod so we decided to hit a WalMart in Mena. I’m sure I could have found one in Ft. Smith, but we would be going through there during the morning commute so we nixed that idea.

We killed some time around camp and decided to go for a hike up to the caves. I’m not one for the heat and was sweating like a goat on the hike up but I remembered the cool air blowing out of the caves so I soldiered on.

At camp, getting the maps out.
Climbing down to the cool air, err, I mean cave opening.

The main cave is still closed and probably will be for a long time to come. The White Nosed Bat Disease or something like that. Anyway, the air was cool and I liked it.

Waterfalls provided some nice relief to the heat so I stood under it and got soaked. I’ll save you from viewing the pictures by leaving them out. Nobody wants to see a wet goat!

After that little jaunt, we headed back to camp so I could cook dinner. We eat well when camping and the nights dinner menu consisted of grilled shrimp on a bed of rice with garlic bread….AND cold adult beverages.

After dinner, we went into “Tick Mode” and just sat there, not moving and trying to stay cool.

Up next…the Cossatot River

An Evening on Lee Creek…

After lunch and a few hours whiling away the time and the heat, we headed back to Lee Creek to push upstream further than the previous day.


As you can see from some of these images, the water is not very deep so wading is not an issue. Certain sections had a lot of rock that had to be traversed carefully but it was still a fun section to fish.

Think that’s the smallest fish I’ve ever caught.
Certain sections opened up but the pools were never more than a few feet deep.

We both love exploring and covering new waters. The end result on this foray was 37 fish caught (6 Velox and 31 perch).

On a side note, I had started this section with my Shimano Calcutta Conquest BFS reel and my Majorcraft Finetail Area Stage FAX-B6242UL rod. First cast and the rod broke into 3 pieces! Apparently it had been stepped on in the tent the night before and I didn’t notice. Needless to say, I raced back to camp and grabbed another rod to continue fishing. I was bummed out but in my head was making plans to find something of a replacement since it was the only baitcast rod I brought with me. After the days fishing was over, we headed back to camp for dinner…

A nice Steak dinner and cold adult beverage!

Ellis Creek @ Devil’s Den State Park Arkansas…

Stepping into Ellis Creek early in the morning looked promising. The previous evening, we had noticed that our lures of choice (Gamakatsu Round 211 1/8th ounce jig and a Bobby Garland 2.5 inch Stroll’r in Tadpole) seemed to spook a lot of the fish. We decided to downsize to the Owner Cultiva JH-85 2.2 gram jighead and the EuroTackle B-Vibe grub in Green Pumpkin and that was the ticket! We managed to catch and release 15 more fish (12 perch and 3 Velox) before coming to the junction of Ellis Creek with Lee Creek.

We had a great time on this short section before heading back to camp for lunch.

Average Size of Velox in Our Favorite Streams…

As I’ve stated before, the Neosho-strain Smallmouth Bass does not grow to the same size as the Northern-strain Smallmouth. Habitat and other environmental conditions severely limit the growth potential of the Velox (Neosho-strain Smallmouth Bass.)

Our local stream conditions vary greatly during the course of a year. Floods and droughts are the biggest factors. Some years there is barely enough water to get your ankles wet and other years you are pushing the limits of safe wading. Yet the Velox perseveres!

I have spoken with biologists and have read various papers on the Neosho-strain Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu velox) to gain insight into this magnificent little fish. How they over-winter, seasonal stressors, forage and feeding patterns etc. etc.

And that’s also why I refuse to fish a stretch of river to death…I just pick a few prime spots and move on so that I am not negatively affecting a larger proportion of fish.

Knowing what this fish endures during a one year cycle makes me respect it even more. And the fish in the picture above is estimated to be between 8 and 10 years of age! Long live the Velox…

The Reel Arrived…

So the reel (Daiwa Presso LTD 1025) finally arrived yesterday. In fact, Friday turned out to be a great day, despite a 4.2 earthquake, and with everything else going on. Now we can move on and stop the trivialities…we have more important things to do.

The coldest temperature I registered here without wind chill was -13F which was on a Wednesday if I recall. And next week by Tuesday we’ll be up to 66F. I’m ready for Spring as I’m sure many people are.

We have plans to make, reconnaissance trips to consider and map explorations to do. We’ll have to purchase licenses and get gear and tackle ready. All of which comes from wanting to fish new waters.

Sometimes I sit back and think, “how absurd all of this is.” All of this energy and focus and expense for a fish that rarely grows to 3 pounds! But I can assure you that we earn every single fish we catch. Just getting to these waters takes planning and effort.

We would much rather listen to the river churning and bubbling than to the mindless drivel pouring from a TV. A brief excursion to escape the outside world.

I am reminded of a quote from Charles Bukowski…”We have nothing to lose, But ourselves.”