Current River (Licking, Missouri) — April 16 – 18, 2004

This weekend was a mini get together for members of the St. Louis Fly Tying Group on Yahoo, and some other select St. Louis area fly fisherman. I had been looking forward to this trip, since it was almost a month since I had been on the water. The trip had started out to be one that McClane and I were going to leave on Thursday night and arrive down on the Current River late that evening — instead McClane didn’t have a chance to be late……because he cancelled on this trip due to “work” commitments. I scrambled to find someone to ride down with me in the maiden fishing voyage of the 18ft travel trailer I had bought on eBay last november. The trailer has proved to be a little too much weight for my Blazer in its first outing to Washington State Park (near Desoto, MO) in March, so I borrowed my brother’s Tahoe for this trip since there was a ton of Ozark highway miles.

I finally got Mark Kotcher to ride down with me and by 8am on Friday morning, we were on our way. Towing the trailer with the Tahoe was night and day when compared to towing it with my Blazer. Gas mileage sucks while towing, but the accomodations were nice. We finally got down to the EaglesPark Campground in the Trophy Trout Management Area on the Current River, just outside of Montauk State Park around 11:30am or so. Several other people had already arrived and were on the water. We quickly set up camp, suited up, and hit the Current River at Baptist Camp and fished upstream. We ran in to Illinois bamboo rodmaker, Ron Caimi, taking a lunch break at his vehicle and said our hellos (he was part of the group that was staying at the campground and one of the tents were his) he informed us that the fish had really turned off around 11am, but the morning brought a ton of stockers on caddis imitations. The weather was unseasonably hot and the temperature was near 90 with bright blue skies, when we finally got on the water and started the trek upstream. They had previously stocked the river with several thousand Brown Trout a week earlier, but the fish were not anywhere to be seen in these section of river. As we worked our way upstream, Mark Kotcher picked up two Brown Trout on an elk hair caddis and I missed one fish. I was not feeling well on the water today (probably a combination of allergies and dehydration) and was pretty set on just walking upstream to the bluffs and fishing. We never made it up to the bluffs, and fishing was so slow and crowded that we quit fishing around 4pm and waded back to the Tahoe and decided to check out the other accesses and then head back to camp. There was a ton more cars at the Baptist Camp Access, complete with a group of guys swimming in the big hole in front of the access. At Parkers Hollow, we only saw one car and I didn’t think the water looked very attractive so back to camp we went to wait for everyone else to arrive (I drank a ton of Gatorade and actually took a nap and tied some flies — I was pretty anti-social on Friday). The others started to arrive around 5pm and set up camp and Craig made it down around 6pm.

The fishing was much of the same on Saturday morning, several of the guys in the group set out to float from Tan Vat to Parkers Hollow (including Mark Kotcher — who was trying out his pontoon boat for the first time), while Craig and I got on the water early and parked at Tan Vat access (with the plan to fish down to Baptist and back and make the trip last a full day). We got to the access around 7am and there was already a ton of cars there and as many people suiting up and getting ready to hit the water. Craig and I were already suited up so we made our way across the pool and high tailed it down river. I picked up two browns and Craig picked up one brown prior to 10am, but then the fishing just shut down. We fished down past the bluffs and were frusturated and hot — the weather was near 90 again with bright blue skies and there were more people on the river than I had ever seen. We decided to head back upstream and fish some of the runs that we had skipped over when trying to stay ahead of all the other anglers. It paid off, as I foul hooked (it was hooked underneath the mouth — so is it really a foul hook) a beautiful Brown Trout on a leech pattern but lost the fish (it was faul hooked anyway right……LOL). We both agreed to hit the car for some liquids and check out some of the other accesses and campgrounds. I took Craig to Parkers Hollow and there were at least 10 cars parked down there, complete with about 4 anglers cleaning trout in the river as we pulled in. We then hit Cedar Grove Access (man that is quite a drive from Parkers Hollow) and watched as a school bus load full of people launched at least 10 canoes on the water. On the way back to camp, we checked out Baptist Camp Access and were amazed at the amount of people and cars that were parked there. We grabbed some food and headed in to the state park so that Craig could call his wife. We were both frusturated and didn’t really feel like fishing (afterall, today was a carbon copy of yesterday) so we checked out the campground in Montauk (only 3 campsites not occupied in the whole place) and were back at camp by 2pm. After a nap and some rehydration we were tying flies in the camper as the other anglers whom had had much of the same luck (or worse) than we had made there way back.

Saturday night was when the main festitivities were to start, complete with a feast for kings and a huge bonfire (bonfire compliments of Dave Dawson — proprietor of EaglesPark Campground). We sat around the campfire and compared notes from the day as we waited for the fire to get just hot enough to start cooking. It was then that I realized we had assembled a great group of guys together to share a campfire and a river with. Gavin Poppen was in charge of cooking the meat for tonights dinner (18lbs of Pork Steaks from Mattickers Meat Market in St. Louis), Dan Burleigh prepared some kick-ass chili, and I assembed the italian salad that McClane had sent down (he volunteered to bring a salad — before he knew he couldn’t go). It was a great meal with great guys. We continued drinking until I went to bed about 2am, and some people were still up at 3am (when nature called for me). Most of what went on Saturday night, is best left at “You had to be there.”

1st Annual Campout on the Current Attendee List:

  1. Gavin Poppen
  2. Craig Stevens
  3. Keith Stevens
  4. Bill Peterburgo
  5. Craig Peterson
  6. Adam Smith
  7. John Nesselrode
  8. Dan Burleigh
  9. Andrew Arnold
  10. Matt Tucker
  11. Ron Caimi
  12. Brian Meiss
  13. Mark Kotcher
  14. Dave Dawson
  15. Norm Crisp
  16. Joe Weber
  17. Tom Hargrove
  18. Gene Horbelt
  19. Keith Gamn
  20. Several Other Unidentified People

1st Annual Campout on the Current Top 10 List

  1. Norm Crisp’s wisdom on getting older (Never Underestimate a fart)
  2. Gavin Poppen’s 6 foot bamboo rod
  3. Mark Kotcher’s maiden voyage of the personal pontoon
  4. Camp Tucker (and the fact it only has 2 windows that open)
  5. John Nesselrode & Craig Peterson’s humor
  6. The 60′ bonfire
  7. Tom Hargrove’s m-80 and the general burning of stuff
  8. Cutthroat Beer & Little Yeoman Beer
  9. Matt Tucker’s BBQ smeared all over his body
  10. Dave Dawson’s Hospitality (stay at EaglePark Campground when you are down there)

This trip was not about catching fish (seems like I would say that, since I only caught two fish), and we didn’t even fish on Sunday morning. Actually Mark Kotcher and I got up around 6am and packed up camp and headed for home (after stopping off at PJ’s Diner in Licking for breakfast). This trip reminded both Craig and I why we do not fish during the warmer months — the fish didn’t bite as well; and the river was crowded. We both left this trip, thinking that we probably won’t fish again until the fall (unless there is a cool day with some rain that just begs for us to be on the water) and spend the summer tying flies. Even though there was disappointment in the fish cooperation, I will be back for the campout next year. Until the next hook-up……………

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