Spring River (Mammoth Spring, Arkansas) — March 20, 2004

The trip started out on a rough note when we got to to the Gooseneck Island Cafe in Mammoth Spring and couldn’t get the world’s best biscuits and gravy because the cook decided not to show up today. We ordered our food as other locals started to arrive to discuss the day’s business. They were amazed by McClane’s ballerina leaps while swatting caddis in mayflies outside the restaurant window. Meanwhile, breakfast was served almost 45 minutes later after being ordered (other patrons in the restaurant still hadn’t gotten their food and one brave soul started serving coffee to everyone while the waitress cooked in the back). I must say, the Ham and Cheese Omlet and Hashbrowns I had were some of the best I have ever had — McClane seconded that by letting a verbal appreciation for the food for every hungry soul that hadn’t received their food yet. I thought McClane was going to get sporked, but they were good sports and were laughing at his sarcastic humor all while he was eating and they were not.

We got on stream about 8:30am and the first thing we noticed was the water level was considerably higher at the Lassiter Access then our last trip to the river (October 2003). Man what a beautiful river. We rigged up and walked upstream to the first set of riffles and spread out from there. Kotcher hooked up with the first fish on a black wooly bugger. McClane followed up with a fish on a soft hackle with a scud dropper. I was still fish-less. Kotcher and McClane each kept hooking up with fish with ease while I still hadn’t brought a fish to hand. I decided to walk upstream to the island and fish the faster side of the island. I did have a few hook-ups but couldn’t get a decent hook set, but I won’t make excuses — I just didn’t have it on Saturday. To make matters worse, we were all wearing FRS/GMRS radios so anytime someone hooked up they made sure to let me know like all good friends would. We had beautiful weather with the temperature in the 70’s and cloudy, but soon the storms rolled in at the Lassitter access around 11:00am and it poured down rain, thundered, and a little lightening. It brought everyone off of the river except for us fools from St. Louis. While a few of the diehards sought shelter in their vehicles at the access, McClane and Kotcher continued to hook up with fish at will directly in front of the boat ramp. What made the Lassetter Access more interesting this trip was that we were catching bonefied cutthroat out of the river (see the photo gallery for photos). I was a little unsure at first, but McClane confirmed it. What a morning to not be catching any fish on the Spring River. We fished a little while after the rain, and decided to head to the Bayou Access and try our luck there. The problem with the Bayou Access is that there really isn’t that much “fishable” water for the wading fisherman when the water is at normal flow. We pulled down into the river bottom and the place was full of cars and fisherman. I decided to wait out the fisherman that were in the first run, right at the access, while McClane and Kotcher opted to walk upstream to a dam / waterfall that Kotcher had fished successfully last April. I was not having any luck and was getting pretty fed up fast with fishing. I thought that if I wasn’t going to catch any fish anyway, I might as well be doing it while fishing with dry flies and on a bamboo rod. I headed back to the mini-van to get string up the rod. The rod I was fishing with was a Trout Camp Bamboo Fly Rod made by Waterloo, Illinois Rod Maker Ron A. Caimi. It is a 7-1/2ft, 4/5wt, bamboo rod that was an absolute pleasure to lawn cast — now it was time to give it a test on the water (a full review of my first experience with a bamboo fly rod will be coming shortly — along with photos of the Trout Camp Bamboo rod). I promptly tied on a #20 elk hair caddis and headed to the far bank. The rod casted with ease, and accuracy was not an issue. Then the wind picked up, and another storm moved in. I started fishing my way back to the car, and got back just before the sky opened up. The temperature dropped about 25 degrees, the wind picked up, the rain came down, then the small hail came down, then more rain. Kotcher made it back to the friendly confines of the mini-van just before it really opened up. We had fun giving McClane trouble over the radio, as he waded his way back to the car in the pouring rain. The storm had ended almost as quickly as it began, then the sun came out and it was an absolute beautiful afternoon. We all ended up fishing the run in front of the access for another hour or two. We all mutually agreed it was about beer-thirty, and headed up to grab a barely soda. McClane struck up a conversation with two other fly fisherman that were at the access. Gerry and Al were down for a week of Arkansas fly fishing from Wisconsin, and had stopped off for a day of fishing on the Spring River before their guide trip with Tom Hawthorne on the fabled Arkansas tailwaters the following Monday. We shared some stories of our experience on the river today, and some tips that seemed to work for everyone (I was still fishless — so I didn’t have any current tips), and the conversation made its way to the river where we began to take some insect specimens by kicking them into a kick net and by flipping some rocks and logs.

The Spring River has a wide variety of insect life — some of which was down right interesting. I am trying to convince McClane to start an Ozark Entomology site or at least help me add some content to OzarkChronicles.com. We found a ton of bright green caddis larva, small stone fly nymphs, and a bigger nymph specimen that looked to be about a size 4 (kind of looked like a stonefly nymph). None of us had ever taken a closer look at the insect life on the river — I am glad we did. After another beer, we decided to head back to the motel and then meet up with Gerry and Al at Fred’s Fish House for dinner. It was a great dinner, and great conversation. We traded lots of tips and tricks and sat around talking until we were all ready to hit the sack. We convinced Gerry and Al to try the Current River on their trip back to Wisconsin, instead of stopping off on the Spring River again and traded a ton of flies back and forth. After the email address exchange, we wished each other luck on our angling adventures and we were off to find EverClear for the insects that we had collected earlier (McClane swears that you take 70% Everclear and 30% water). The town of Mammoth Spring is in a dry county in Arkansas and you can not purchase alcohol, so you must drive to Thayer, Missouri. We found a liquor store and the lady behind the counter pulled out a pint of EverClear but told us that she wasn’t “Haus” enough to drink that stuff and didn’t need any hair on her chest. She even informed us that she had seen bigger guys then me try and drink the stuff — but they weren’t “Haus” enough either. Little did she know they were for insects, and not for the drinking. We were all pretty exhausted so we hit the sack around 11pm (without drinking too many beers). If you have read this far, I figure I should give you the important details about the fishing. McClane brought 27 fish to hand (including several Cutthroats) mainly on a soft hackle, but some fell victim to a tan scud. Kotcher had brought 20+ fish to hand (including several Cutthroats) mainly using black and olive wooly buggers, although I think he did pick a few up on an elk hair caddis. I didn’t catch a fish all day (other than a few bleeding shiners, which the bamboo rod manhandled them), and was ready to get on it the next morning.

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