Blog by: Lloyd Tackitt 6/14/2018
In my years of fishing in warm Southern waters I have encountered a lot of water moccasins. I've read many times where experts say that snakes are more afraid of you than you are of them. I'll call BS on that one. I've met many snakes that weren't afraid of me at all.
I've met a few that were downright aggressive. But I've met a few that were downright passive too. They are like people, they are individuals with their own quirks and good days and bad days. No pattern to their behavior is a safe bet.
When I was a kid of about eleven I lived for a while in a small town in Central Texas. Outside of town a mile or so was a big slough, and that slough had a lot of fish in it. It was an easy bike ride to get to. So naturally I fished it a lot. A slough is sort of a swampy area.
This slough was one snaky place. Water moccasins thrived there and I had many encounters. Never got bit, knock on wood, but got pretty close to it. On my first trip into the slough I wasn't aware of how many snakes were in there so I wasn't watching as closely as I should have. I stepped over a log with barely a glance on the other side and put my foot in between two big moccasins that were both coiled up. About a foot apart. I levitated for the first time right then, but not for the last time.
After that I did watch for snakes with a fervent intensity, but the fishing was so good that I kept going back.
One day my Mepps Spinner hung on a branch about thirty feet out in waist deep water. I wasn't on an allowance, I had to work for the money I bought lures with and I wasn't about to break the line off. I started wading out to the lure, got about half way there and made a wide sweeping look around me and saw three different moccasins swimming towards me as fast as they could. That line sounded like a 22 rifle when it popped as I left the water.
My theory was, and still is, that the snakes were attracted to the splashing sounds I was making, thinking an easy meal might be available.
One night, in another location, a friend and I went frog gigging. This too was a slough and we were wading along, shining our lights, locating bull frogs and gigging them. And we were chopping at moccasins with our machetes. After about six or seven of these it dawned on us that the snakes were attracted to the flash lights. Then we had the dilemma of deciding whether to go back with lights on so we could see but attract more snakes along the way - or to wade back in the dark and not see the snakes. We chose the lights on option after about a nano-second deliberation. Never went gigging again.
I've stepped right over moccasins, and even stepped on one once. On its head fortunately. More levitations.
Not too long ago I was wade fishing in the Brazos in a stretch of river that was about forty foot wide. I was casting to the bank. Behind me was a shelf of limestone rock that is only about six inches out of the river when it is low and is submerged any other time. This rock is slick, and if still wet it is like ice. It's dangerous to walk on under the best of conditions and I avoid walking on it. At this time it was a couple of inches out of the water and still wet.
I spotted a moccasin coming down river. Normally when this happens the snake moves over towards the bank when it spots me. Not this one, it saw me and angled directly at me. It was deliberately coming to me. I kept waiting for it to turn away. It kept not doing that.
Moving towards the bank was out because that was deeper water and too far away, the snake was too close for that to work. I stood my ground, so to speak in waist deep water, and when the snake got within range I swatted its head with the tip of my fly rod thinking that would make it go away. Mistake.
It went under water. Now I'm in waist deep water with a pissed off moccasin inside nine feet that I can't see. And yes they can bite under water, I've seen them catching fish under water, I have no illusions about that. So I start backing out of the river and up onto that slick rock shelf. I am moving as fast as I can while in the water, last thing I need is to fall down, and then as carefully as I can once on the rocks. As I clear the water the snake comes up out of the river onto the rock shelf following me.
I'm swatting at it with my fly rod which is just making it mad and I'm backing up on what is basically greased ice with an irregular surface and I'm cussing a blue streak. If I fall on the rock it's not only going to hurt but I'll be in a far worse position. I don't want my throat down there in striking range, or my face either for that matter. I'm thinking, if you can call it thinking at that point, that I'd rather get bit on the lower leg than up higher. So I stop moving, but even standing still is something of a balancing act as that rock is so slippery that my feet want to slide apart from each other into a split.
And I'm still swatting at that snake. As I stop, it stops, hisses at me, turns and goes back into the river. I watch it swim away until it is way down river, and only then do I carefully get back into the river and go back to fishing.
Every leaf, bubble, piece of bark, or stick that floats towards me from then on is watched super carefully for the rest of that day. I still do that, it was a lesson learned. I still see moccasins in the river, but so far they've stayed away from me.
So far, so good. I don't see me quitting fishing over something like that. But I can get jumpy, and brother you should see me levitate.