The temperature was 3 degrees according to the thermometer in the Dodge pick-up truck when Brent McClane and I pulled off of Hwy. 8 and into the drive towards the entrance to the James Foundation property. The gate to the property was open and the sign said “Free Parking” which led us to believe we were partly crazy for fishing when it was so cold as the lodge workers did not even want to show up to work today. There was only one other car in the parking lot, and we suspected that to be Joe Asinger from Blue Springs, Missouri and his 9 year old son Nathan with whom we were to meet on stream at some point today. After the initial hellos, we started to suit up. There is something to be said about stripping down and suiting up for a day on the river in single digit temperatures while standing on a sheet of ice — to me it is almost a religious experience. I think we finally got on the water around 9am or so and there was still no one else on the stream.
We all started at the top of the park, near the cable and spent most of the day in the upper stretches of the stream. By the time I got to the stream Joe had already caught a few fish including a nice 16″ rainbow which is when he found out the cold had drained the batteries in his digital camera — I promptly gave him 4 of my quick charge batteries and we were back on stream. McClane had tied up some experimental flies in the weeks prior to this trip after pumping the stomach of a trout on his last trip here. The flies consisted of a micro translucent egg pattern (I will concur with Brent — this one was not a GloBall) and a dry fly that was a modified Irresistible (Joe, Brent, and I swore to secrecy on this pattern — as we believe this to be the ultimate Missouri Trout Park dry fly). Joe had quickly picked up 4 fish on an olive beadhead with Brent and I fishing mohair leeches to no avail (each with some hook-ups but none brought to hand). Brent switched up to the modified Irresistible and started slaying fish with it, fished upstream and dry. Brent had picked up close to 7 fish really quick on it and that was enough for me, so I made the switch as well. It was a blast fishing this little fly. By noon I had only brought 7 fish to hand using various flies, but had countless rises and missed strikes (you had to strike quick with this fly or you missed the fish) and lost fish. Joe and Nathan left around noon and Brent and I fished the rest of the day in the upper section of the park — switching flies between the Irresistible and the micro egg pattern. We also started sight fishing to fish in the faster water. I was able to pick up three fish holding along the far bank one by one on top and was the high light of my day due to the conditions of the drift and the fact these fish were caught on top. By 3pm I still only had brought 10 fish to hand, but I still had one Irresistible left and I headed to the deep pool below the island to see how many I could pick up. By 3pm there were only 3 anglers in the park, all were fly fisherman, and Brent and I constituted two of those. In the last hour of fishing, I landed 10 fish on one fly all on top. It was an absolute blast. None of the fish were terribly huge, but they all had beautiful color. I must admit to crying wolf twice on what I thought to be a large fish and making McClane get out of the water and come up with the net — one of the occasions I snapped off on a large fish in the upper section and the second occasion was that of a foul hooked 16″ fish in some strong current (I thought the fish was bigger because it took a lot of line and I never really saw the fish). I finished the day with 20 rainbows — 2 on an Olive EZ Bug Sculpin, 2 on a #20 tungsten v-rib midge larva, 5 on a micro translucent egg pattern, and 11 on the modified Irresistible fished dry. Brent ended the day with 24 fish — 1 on a Tan/Ginger Mohair leech, and the rest pretty evenly split between the micro egg and the modified Irresistible Joe who left around noon ended the day with around 7 or more fish and was quite pleased with his results. All our fish were caught in the upper section of the park but no really big fish were caught.
The downfall of today was that I didn’t get to fish with my Trout Camp Bamboo Fly Rod made by Waterloo, Illinois rod maker Ron Caimi. It is an absolutely beautiful 7-1/2′ 4wt rod that I have only had the pleasure of lawn casting a few times due to recent bad weather. Brent and I agreed that we probably shouldn’t fish with such a fine piece of equipment on such a cold day. Having never fished a bamboo rod before, I didn’t know if the cold would effect the integrity of the rod and didn’t want to take the chance. I will say this about his rod making ability though — this rod is a piece of art work and I can’t wait to fish some dry flies with it when the weather warms up a little. If this rod casts on stream as good as it casts in my front yard, I can’t wait to fish it. A more thorough review of the rod and my take on fishing a bamboo rod for the first time after fishing with graphite all my life will be posted to this site and a few other internet sites once I get to fish with it on stream a few times. The other cloud in the day was that we couldn’t get to fish the tail out of the riffle water because there was a guy that was camped out there for half the day. In my last trip to Maramac Springs (12-27-03) I had had some words with this gentleman because I felt he was crowding me (literally fishing his drift directly in front of me) and I was not about to give him the same discourteous fishing behavior that he showed me. It was funny to watch this guy fish though, as he was making quick casts and drifts and was literally trying to sight fish some sort of small fly, but the funny part was when he hooked a fish the first thing he did was hold his rod high (he held his rod higher than the photo of Brent McClane high sticking that fish that ran in the Post-Dispatch in early December) and looked around to see if we were watching him — he must have made 15 casts/drifts a minute, I wonder how his arm feels after a day of fishing like that. He finally left the park around 2:30 and cleared out of the riffle.
Today was the exact reason I love fishing the winter catch & release season in the parks. I love the cold weather, the fish cooperated, the crowds stayed home, and we even saw a ton of deer on the drive home. It was the coldest day that Brent had ever fished, but neither of us got cold while on the water. The weather cooperated and the wind stayed away. During the final hour of fishing McClane and I had the pleasure of meeting another guy from Ballwin, Missouri that was new to the sport of fly fishing and was making his first fly fishing trip. I walked back to the car with him and had a chance to talk with him, he ended the day with 4 fish on flies that he had tied him self in the St. Louis County Parks & Recreation Department’s Gone Fishing Fly Tying Program. What a great day to make your first solo fly fishing trip and he got the results as well. Kudos to him and everyone else that braved the cold and snow to fish today.