The alarm went off in Hotel Durango at 5am this morning, and I quickly rose out of the rig to take a leak campground style (with nothing more than my underwear, t-shirt, and sandals using the world as my urinal). A quick tap on Brian’s tent and we were breaking down camp and loading up the rig. We were extremely close to Blue Spring Creek and probably could have grabbed another hour of sleep — but we were anxious to get on another one of Missouri’s wild trout streams.
Blue Spring Creek is the closest publicly accessible trout stream to St. Louis and it offers the chance for anglers to fish for a self-reproducing wild trout population. The stream isn’t for the faint of heart, and fishing is often done in close quarters with very little casting being done and wading is always kept to a minimum. This is one of the streams that I was most excited about getting on, and we had chosen to fish a stretch that I had fished several times in the past and had done quite well drifting v-rib midges and tan/ginger mohair leeches. So we were walking into the woods near the stream just as the sun was coming up, with a faint turkey gobble heard in the background. Today was going to be a good day, you could just feel it.
Because Blue Spring Creek is a smaller stream, Brian and I took turns fishing the first run. The stream had changed since I was last on it (more than a year ago), but not that much. I was suddenly reminded why I should have brought the 7ft fly rod with me, that I have fished it with in years past, as the confines are tight here. We fished our way upstream with little more than one missed take, when Brian yells at me to not take another step and to look down. We were standing near a sprung trap that a trapper had left. Which normally isn’t a big deal, but this trap location wasn’t marked which led us to thinking how many more were not marked and perhaps not tripped. We made the conscious decision to fish the remaining run from the water — which generally proves to be useless — and it held to tradition and once the feet were in the water, we were not afforded any takes. We had probably spent too much time here this morning, before we decided to leave, but it was pushing 9am and we had 4 more trout streams to fish, so we hiked back to the rig.
Next on our list was Maremac Trout Park and the Meramec River which we had hoped to knock off our list very quickly. We had already seen some terrific trout water on this trip, and we were quickly reminded why we preferred our previous stops over the trout parks. The stream was crowded, and manners were at a minimum. This is the stream that I learned how to fly fish on, but other than fishing near the top of the park, i realized that I hadn’t missed fishing this stream in some time. As I set up at the top of one of the pools and Brian set up just below it, we were greeted with the Meramac Spring Dance as illustrated by a guy wearing rubber footed boots trying to cross water he shouldn’t have (he did earlier and had his clothes out on the handrail to dry, prior to him crossing back over). It was funny, but the guy acted like it was no big deal. There wasn’t much to write about the trout park, it is trout park fishing, and we didn’t hook up with or catch any pigs so there isn’t anything to write about here. We fised our way down to below the bridge, where Brian eased down the bank and quickly picked up a rainbow just outside of the park to add a Meramac River fish to the list. We hiked the far bank back to the car (whic was parked at the top of the park) and were both relieved to get the northern leg of our trip in the books.
With little to eat, other than a granola bar and bottle of PowerAid, we stopped off at the Jack-In-The-Box in St. James, where Brian was a hit with the drive-thru lady. She really wasn’t much of a looker, but I think if Brian would have asked her to be camp whore for the weekend…..she would have been down with it (literally). He does have that sort of way with the women drive-thru workers. I don’t know what we were thinking but after a breakfast that consisted of tacos, egg rolls, jalapeño poppers, supreme croissant (spelled “sprm crosnt” on the drive through display), and a breakfast burrito along with 2 large sodas we felt really good and the waders would hold in the smell nicely for the remaining part of the day.
With 3 streams down, we headed down I-44 to finish up the day with the Niangua River and Bennett Springs. We rolled into the Bennet Spring Access on the Niangua River around 1:30pm, where I quickly found the nearest toilet and disbursed with the breakfast pleasantries of the morning. The Niangua was a bigger river than either Brian or I had expected and both of us quickly determined that we will be floating this river in our drift boats in the near future. We talked down the bank and started fishing in the first run at the access. I was throwing a tungsten bh copperhead under a yarn indicator. I picked up the first fish with a nice little rainbow. Brian headed off downstream to another section of water and was rewarded with his first Niangua rainbow. With numerous fish out of the way and only an hour or so left before the whistle blows to stop fishing at Bennett Spring, we reluctantly reeled up and headed in to Bennett Spring State Park.
We settled into an area of “sexy” water and Brian quickly put a beating on some fish with a nymph setup. I was struggling on this section of water and we both hopped in the rig to check out the rest of Bennett Spring since neither of us had ever fished it, and I had never been here before. We rolled up to the headwaters in time to see a man and woman dive team taking thier gear off in the parking lot (they must have dived the spring earlier). By this time it had started to rain just a little bit, off an on, so we headed back and found a parking lot to get a little bit more time in the water. This time, I fished while Brian rolled the camera. It wasn’t pretty, but right at 4pm I was rewarded with what would be the best brown trout of the trip a nice 16″ fish that was fairly fat. Both Brian and I were pretty pumped by the success we had had today, and there was still some daylight left, so we headed back to the Bennett Spring Access on the Niangua River and both of us fished in the cold rain until dark and continued the success we had had earlier in the day on this stream. It is safe to assume that the Niangua has earned a special place in the minds of both Brian and I and more people should experience this stream and neither of us can wait to put our drift boats on it.
I won’t lie, after 12+ hours in waders, we were both looking forward to a little road time after fishing 5 streams today. And road time was definitely what we were going to get — in the dropping temps, rain, freezing rain, and snow — as we drove towards Cassville, Missouri.
Because of the drive time, we opted to stop at Cracker Barrel in Springfield, Missouri for dinner and to get something to warm us up from the cold day of fishing. It was as we were slowly sinking into our warm chairs after dinner listening to the wind and rain, that we both decided we were going to opt for a cheap motel room somewhere near Cassville.
We settled on a fairly new Super8 in Cassville and got checked in to the our room just as the snow started to dust the parking lot. The night attendant, Walt, was checking his maps for mileage between Houston and Cassville, simply because there wasn’t anything better to do on a cold night. We set up the laptop and got the video and photos transfered to our external drives and finally hit the sack around midnight or a little after. 12 trout streams down and 8 to go.