The morning sun began to spread over the Ozarks. The trees dressed themselves in green, gold and red, while the valleys still slumbered under their blankets of fog.
It was promising to be a beautiful fall day on the river.
We dropped our boats and gear at the put-in and I was nominated as guard while the shuttle was ran.
Typically this is when the thunderstorms come, but not today.
After spending some time making careful lure selections and getting the arsenal ready, I walked down the hill to the water’s edge.
I wasn’t really prepared for the scene that laid out in front of me — I had to scramble back up the hill and grab my camera.
A few clicks of the shutter and I knew this was going to be a special day.
With the crew back, we dropped in and headed downstream. Priority one was to catch a fish, and the first few miles we hit it hard with everything we had.
We take pride in being some pretty good river fishermen — three guys exceeding 100 years of combined fishing experience — but the river was handing it to us that day and wasn’t being shy about it.
With the exception of a nice crappie that I swung across the bow of the boat for a quick release on the other side, we received no love from the fish.
I don’t remember us ever being skunked on the river.
Most people would probably consider this day a disappointment — and maybe under different conditions we would have done the same — but on this particular day, I think the fish did us a favor, granting a wish we didn’t realize we’d made.
The rods and casts soon gave way to aluminum cans and conversation. We turned from being hardcore fisherman to just a few buddies catching up, because we simply don’t spend enough time together.
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And that gave us an opportunity to realize and appreciate the beauty that Mother Nature was displaying that amazing fall day.
I kept my camera handy and did my best to capture what I saw. Close to the end of the float, we were joined by a bald eagle.
He stayed pretty far out, jumping from tree to tree downstream, staying just out of reach of the camera.
As we neared the takeout, he made one more jump, but this time he was headed upstream! We were floating toward him, side by side, watching and waiting for him to glide right over us.
I had him framed up in the camera, squeezing the shutter to focus. I waited.
Just a little closer, focus again, just a little more, c’mon, just a few more yards…
And that’s when a gang of turkeys decided to storm out of the woods and cross the river right between us and screw up the shot.
Or did it? It was an outstanding moment I will never forget.
Fishermen always hear the cliché it’s not always about the fishing. That day proved the saying was more than just an excuse for a poor day of fishing.
That day, it truly wasn’t about the fishing — it was much better than that.
It gifted me a better appreciation of the beauty we have right here in the Ozarks and the amazing friends I get to share it with.
(Ronnie Moore can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)