One mile short of a river


Smith Fork Creek is one mile short of being the Smith Fork River. So it is told. They say, the old timers that should know, that to be a river, a stream must be 100-miles long. The Smith is  only 99-miles.
It starts up above Dowelltown and empties into the Caney Fork-99-miles later. Therefore, it is a creek. So they tell it at the corner store or along side a hay field. Someday, I would like to start up near the source and float, fish and camp my way down to the Caney. Might take a couple weeks. The Judge says he is in. Maybe he can get us an injunction or something to camp on private land. Anyhow, it is a creek cause it is one miles short of a river.
I have always heard it that way and I have fished the Smith for close to 40-years. Some years, back I was bullet proof and tougher than Superman, I would fish it two or three times a week. I love fishing the Smith. Lotta history on the Smith. They was an old mill went under water in 1940 or thereabouts. Now it is a great place to catch a smallmouth. Great creek.
To start with, it is a beautiful piece of water, clear, cold and giggly. It giggles as it goes over rocks. It also holds a variety of fish, best of all, smallmouth bass and big ones. You don’t always catch a big one but five-pounds is not unusual. Kentucks, black perch and trout are also abundant.
Judge Dave Durham has been with me on several of those trips. A while back, we reckoned that it had been 10-years since we fished it. That is too dang long, we agreed and set out to rectify that. Job One- find a put-in and take-out location we could get in and out of easily with the trucks. Then, getting permission was the tough part.
Our first stop brought us slam up on a posted sign Hiz Hnor could not overrule. The water is public water-you can float a boat down it. The bank aint. You must have permission to cross the land. I got out a topo map and Dave put his younger eyes to scanning it. We found a place to put in or take out. Now, to find the owner and get permission.
There were two trucks parked in the road, just a ways up from us. I figured one of them might know who owned the land. So, we idled up to them. That is when luck came to call.
One of the gentlemen was Larry R. I’ll not give last names because I don’t want them inundated with people wanting permission to cross their land. Turns out, he owned the land we wanted for a take out place. Bang! Luck again. The other gentlemen, Bobby R, owned the spot we wanted to put in.
We talked a bit and after introducing myself, Larry said, “I know you. I use to see your truck parked on the road a lot.” Just that easy, this nice man told us to help ourselves. Then, Bobby, who also knows Jimmy McDowell and some others in my club here, he allowed we could help ourselves to crossing his land and put in. It was about four miles upstream. Perfect. We set out to find it.
How lucky is that?
So we are easing down the road a bit and here is Bobby again, talking to another man, Mr. Boyd H. We stop and jaw a bit and Boyd H. says, “Sure, just drive down there and you’ll be right on Hamilton Creek which runs into the Smith about 100-yards down.”
It is not always that easy. Sometimes, you just don’t get to put in where you want. But the key is, Judge Dave and I went looking and asking. We were not dressed like fishermen or hunters in full camo and dirty boots. We took the time to talk and found out we knew folks in common and let the landowners know we were not going to pull down there and cook meth.
So often both hunters and fishermen don’t go about getting permission the right way or quite often, don’t even bother to ask. That ruins it for all of us. We told them what trucks we would be driving and where we would park and what we going to do. The end result, permission for us…just us, to cross their land, put our boat in and park.
It did not take long for us to plan a trip three days later. I immediately began to plan what rods and how many I would need and what lures to take. Three rods, six-pound test on all and an assortment of the same Smith Fork baits I have used for close to forty years.
So we launched on Sunday morning about 8:30.

Part Two -- the trip, next week.

Contact John L. Sloan at