"Clear raise," my dad said emphatically as we topped the bank of the
Muscatatuck River's East Fork and looked down on the water. "We should
have a catfish this morning."
It was just after daylight on a summer Sunday morning when I was a kid
at good ol' Crothersville, my hometown in Jackson County.
My dad, the late Jacob W. Scifres, and I had spent most of the previous
afternoon catching longear (redbelly) sunfish in the deep, languid pools
of the river.
As the sun went down we used them for bait on what my dad called "throwlines,"
five-hook rigs on 20 to 30-foot mainlines of very strong stagen tied to
an underwater root on one end and a railroad spike for weight on the other.
Five strong steel hooks dangled from the mainlines, and each was baited
with a sunfish--hooked lightly through the back to keep them alive and
My dad had stretched the last long line along the bank, swung the railroad
spike pendulum style, and flung it into the depths of a deep hole just
before dark the previous day. And now we were out to "run" the lines, and
(hopefully) to haul out a flathead catfish for Sunday dinner.
"A clear raise makes fish bite," my dad told me, explaining the natural
phenomenon as we swished through great beds of stinging nettle that caused
my arms and legs to itch right through my clothing. Before we had reached
the first line, he had told me that clear raises occur on rivers and streams--even
lakes in some cases--when a heavy rain hits far up the drainage area.
The greater flow of muddy water swells the water level far downstream,
my dad said, and this causes clear water to rise before the muddy water
"It makes fish bite," he said. And that it did.
Our first line gave up a flathead catfish that weighed eight pounds,
and one of the others held a smaller blue catfish.
My dad may have been a tad short on grammar--not unusual for country
folks in those days--but he was long an outdoor savvy, and it was a gala
Sunday dinner that day at our house. The neighbors probably had a fish
dinner, too, because there were no home freezers in those days--just ice
The clear rise, as we know it now, is just as important to angling success
today as it was then. When the heat of summer days lowers water levels
in streams and lakes, the water can get warm and be depleted of oxygen.
But when a rising stream pushes increased amounts of water over riffles
(causing clear water to rise ahead), the lethargic attitude of fish can
be well compared to the relief a hot and sweaty human experiences
on entering an air-conditioned room with a frigid glass of lemonade in
A few years later--this time on the ol' Muscatatuck's West (Vernon)
Fork--I saw the effects of a clear rise turn bass on.
Roscoe "Rocky" Haulk, another of my older outdoor mentors, and I had
put his little tin boat into the river on Saturday afternoon at the point
where it runs under the U.S. 31 bridge, upstream from Chestnut Ridge.
We had fished the river hard that afternoon with every artificial lure
we owned, but the bass fishing had been slow at best.
We hid the boat in the weeds at dark that afternoon at a point on the
river west and slightly north of Uniontown. Clarence Koerner, our trusty
chauffeur, had picked us up at dark in his old panel truck, and had agreed
to return us to the river at daybreak.
When we slid the boat into the river next morning, Rocky noted that
the river, while still clear, was six to eight inches higher that it had
been when we left at dark the day before.
I tied on a Jack's Dual Spinner (made at Columbus in those days) with
black hair. Rocky opted for his favored Johnson Silver Minnow (spoon) with
reversed (yellow) 20-tail Hawaiian Wiggler skirt.
Rocky was deadly with any lure he tied on, but I started in the "conning
tower" (the old short-backed kitchen chair we had installed at the bow
of his boat) that morning, and I nailed five bass before we had moved 200
I have seen the clear rise work its wonders on small lakes and reservoirs,
too. When heavy rains pour great flows of muddy or murky water into the
upper end of such waters as Monroe, Patoka and other reservoirs, the lower
expanses of water remain relatively clear. But they rise and this puts
fish of all species on the feed.
This phenomenon may no be quite so pronounced in smaller lakes and other
standing waters. But any runoff can create a clear rise--however minuscule
it may be--and change the attitude of fish.