Reprinted with permission from River Hills Traveler.
“I’d like to kayak the length of Current River,” said Donna Kipp. That’s not a direct quote, not her exact words. But that’s what she said a few years ago.
Pat Todd agreed with her. Dale and Bob agreed too, with a measured approach — a day or two on a new stretch each year until the length of the river has been done.
This year, we did Round Spring to Two Rivers, completing what many people consider the Upper Current River. Jacks Fork River joins the Current at Two Rivers and below there, the river is noticeably larger.
It was larger, too, between Round Spring and Two Rivers this year. We put in on a Wednesday morning with the river running at least a foot over normal and probably double the normal volume of water. It was also off color for Current River, which means it was clear by standards anywhere out of the Ozarks.
With us this trip was Ken Haberl, a neighbor of Dale and Donna in Van Buren. He recently retired and could go with his kayak almost on the spur of the moment.
Dale and I took the supply boat. Dale and a friend built an old style wooden jon boat last year and this was to be its second voyage on the upper Current. Dale would manage the boat and I would simply sit up front and try to coax a smallmouth or two out of cover.
As it turned out, mine was the tougher job the first day. The river was very swift and falling, so smallmouth bass simply were not in the shallow areas where you’d expect them in mid-June. I didn’t make my job easier by trying to catch a smalley on an old Bassmaster lure I’d used successfully on this stretch of river several years ago. That trip was in autumn, on low, slow water.
Ken caught the first fish, a little smallmouth that was fooled by a fly-like lure fished deep with the aid of a weight up the line. Dale hooked the next — a decent fish — but it got off. I maintained he’d caught a stick, not a fish. I finally caught a small one on a jig and grub, something much better for the situation.
Donna and Pat, meanwhile, had to do little more than steer their kayaks and wave us down when they wanted to take a break, or have lunch.
There are several streams called Big Creek and one of them runs into this stretch of Current. It is roughly four miles above Jerktail Landing, which was more or less our destination for the night.
Pat was having trouble with her seat-back and I traded places with her for the last stretch of the day. We floated past one of the more spectacular scenes on this stretch — Bee Bluff — and not far after that, spotted a good high gravel bar. Our Hilton.
With tents up, chairs deployed and a fire going for supper. Ken fished from the bank and caught several smallmouth, including one just over the legal 12-inch limit. It was our best for the day.
I love fishing from the front of the wooden jon boat. It is roomy and stable and I like the sound of water slapping on the wood instead of aluminum. For Dale, it was tougher. Managing with only a trolling motor on the back, he had to spend most of his time steering rather than fishing, and in the swift water, could not slow down enough to let me fish the deep pockets where we suspected the better smallmouth were hanging out.
Nature put its lights out and frogs of many varieties tuned up. One particularly loud fellow crawled up on our tent and called for a long time before he apparently got a date. I tried to count the different frog and insect calls, but fell asleep.
In the night, the Milky Way aligned with the river and fireflies created their magic. A deer snorted in the distance. A coyote called. A heron squawked as it flew by our camp.
As we broke camp and loaded our gear, we speculated on the few supplies we would need to extend our stay several more days. But . . .
We passed Jerktail soon, and then Twin Rocks, a river landmark that is the scenic gem for this day. The volcanic rock that underlies this part of the Ozarks is close to the surface there. In fact, it is exposed a few times. It creates some picturesque scenery even in the limestone. It looks very fishy.
We did better on the fishing Thursday though it was still difficult in the swift water. Ken caught a 14-incher, which was tops for the trip. Dale got some ideas for improving the boat and I tried again to catch a bass on that old lure, but still had no luck. We were not keeping anyway.
We’d got the seat adjusted on Pat’s kayak and she and Donna coasted along. We stopped for lunch. And then before you knew it we were at the mingling of the Jacks Fork and Current rivers, this journey completed.
Earlier segments have been Baptist Camp to Cedar Grove, then down to Akers Ferry, then to Pulltite Spring, then a two-day float to Round Spring. Five days floating and watching the river getting bigger. And now two days more.
We have intentions of doing a one-day float on down to Powder Mill yet this year. Below there, Dale is a river guide and is on the river a lot. Whether we’ll take the kayaks and wooden boat down there next or start on a stretch of the Jacks Fork, who knows? Either would be a worthy goal.
Getting there: to reach Round Spring, follow Route 19 south from Salem, 30 miles; or 13 miles north from Eminence.