Turbulent waters below Barkley Dam are known for great fishing. From stripers to catfish and white bass, this fertile fishery always seems to give up something to anglers hoping to test their tackle.
On a recent outing it proved to be much more than a good fishing spot on a hot summer day. When I stepped in the boat with two veteran outdoorsmen from the Paris area the stories of yesteryear started flowing faster than the swift water coming through the turbine discharge.
Tommy Snow, former Parisian who comes from a well-known family of outdoorsmen and Crockett Mathis of Paris, who seldom lets a day get by without fishing or hunting something, invited me on the Kentucky excursion.
After a high school reunion earlier this summer here in Paris, it seems some of the classmates of 1957 decided to reunite more often under the guise of fishing and hunting trips. On several other fishing trips this summer Jimmy Williams had joined the two classmates and rekindled memories of yesteryear.
Snow, whose outdoor legacy has taken him from the back roads of Kentucky Lakeís Lick Creek to fishing and hunting guide in Springville bottom, sporting goods store owner and now retirement, seems to be enjoying life. After all the years in the outdoors he never seems to loose his passion for fishing and hunting.
Those who remember the Snow family figure itís just in the blood. Seems there was always a Snow on the outdoor scene in times past. Cecil and Charles Snow called many a duck and fooled more than their share of illusive largemouth bass from the stumps of Kentucky Lake with a Houser Hell Diver.
Nowadays, Tommy resides in Reidland, KY and fishes frequently while he waits on duck season to arrive. Married to the former Mary Ann Dyer of Paris, he shared many stories of growing up in Paris with the likes of Mathis and Williams.
Mathis, who if he wasnít named after Davy Crockett ought to have been, helped rekindle stories from Springville bottom and the likes of the late Wes Wisehart and Herman Cravens, two characters whose names always seem to surface anytime outdoor yarns are woven from area outdoor history.
In-between the sunrises and sunsets that still burn bright in the memory of these two avid outdoorsmen were interruptions from drag pulling strikes that almost took the rods to a watery grave. Tommy tossed miniature hair jigs along riprap banks in hopes of catching our bait, which consisted of river herring or skipjack and yellow tail, better known as threadfin shad.
Catching bait can be challenging. Sometimes Tommy cast a throw-net and came up with the sliver delights that wiggle a fragile lifestyle. Live bait is important, as the fish are often finicky about whatís on the table during their morning breakfast buffet.
Despite the moving water, the big fish seem to know the difference between a fresh morsel and day old bread. The pattern is to come up with a few lively shad and then motor up near the dam where the discharge and swift water quickly take you downstream for several hundred yards.
Heavy lead pencil-style sinkers help keep the bait and snell loop hooks in the business zone. Snagging is all part of the game and we planted our share of the lead seedlings. Sometimes a snag and a fish feel the same, at least for a few seconds.
On the first drift both Crockett and Tommy tied into aggressive stripers as drags squealed and rods bent with success. Moments later two nice stripers weighing in the 6 to 8 pound range were in the boat.
In the hours ahead we would land a Dukeís mixture of white bass, sauger, huge drum, and the ever-popular channel catfish. Another striper or two fell prey to our presentations but there was never a dull moment. Ducks flew and fish jumped. From duck dogs to duck blinds, I was the beneficiary of story after story swapped when both Kentucky Lake and these two sports shared youthful times.
I couldnít help but wonder just how much fish and fowl these two outdoorsmen had taken during their years. No doubt it would amount to quite a pile. With well over a century of sunrises behind them, they still loved getting out there and it was yet another call of the wild that proved to be the catalyst for this rendezvous.
While both are retired, neither has strayed from frequent outings in the swamps, woods, and rivers of an outdoor landscape that has helped shape their lives. A lot of memories to choose from. A lot more ahead.
In a world where change is constant, it appears these two outdoorsmen have found consistency. Every day brings on a new outdoor opportunity for those willing to pursue it.
Even on the days when fish donít bite and ducks donít fly, thereís always a fond memory waiting in the wings for Tommy Snow and Crockett Mathis.
Some great days are behind them but the best ones are still yet to come as they plan future fishing trips and lay plans for duck seasons that are fast approaching.
On this summer day we logged yet another successful fishing trip but it was the days gone by and the ones yet to come that are most cherished.
Steve McCadams is a professional hunting and fishing guide here in the Paris Landing area. He has also contributed many outdoor oriented articles to various national publications.
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