We woke to the sounds of the horn being blown around 4:00am for more water generation — so goes the life on the tailwater. It was decision time, do we stay and wait out the water and the crowds, or do we pack up early and head for some different water on the way home? Obviously we wanted to maximize fishing time, so we packed up camp much to the dismay of any of the neighbors of Campsite # 10. We were broke down and packed up within 30 minutes of getting on the road and saying goodbyes to David (he had decided to leave when we did and make a break for Dallas earlier than expected since they were running water). We got to the Spring River around 7am and hit no traffic on the way. We parked at the tourist center and suited up and headed for the river. I learned another important fact on this trip — during late october one must always pack for colder temps, even when the forecast calls for highs in the 70’s and lows in the 50’s. It was butt cold on Sunday morning, but we survived. I brought 5 fish to hand in little more than an hour near the Hwy. 63 bridge (all on mohair leeches) and Craig brought 1 fish to hand on a green serendipity midge. We were the only ones on the river that morning and it made for a nice little hour of fishing. We were worn out and cold and decided to head back to the car and get back to the families a little earlier than expected. Here is an important driving trip, be sure to watch for the 63 exit at Cabool when returning from the Spring River. If you miss your exit, feel free to drive the extra 10 minutes to reach a Citgo that has some MONSTER deer mounts of southern Missouri deer in it, just to get gas and head back to Cabool. We got back to St. Louis around 1:3opm and I was unpacked and in the shower by 2pm. This year was a great trip spent with a great group of guys on a great river, I can’t wait to do it again next year.
I awoke a little earlier than expected on Saturday morning at 5am (having not gotten to bed until 11pm). I decided to suit up and go get an early spot at the mouth of Dry Run Creek. I suited up and then woke Dave up and he looked at me with those “what the hell, you are crazy man, the sun isn’t even up” looks and I told him and Craig that I was headed down to Dry Run to get a spot. I was sitting on a rock by 5:30am with a piece of gooey butter cake and a bottle of Gatorade taking in the sounds of the river and the darkness. The silence was broken by my radio and Dave saying that he was on his way down. By the time he arrived, the crowds had begun to form around the creek (this is one of the most popular places to fish due to the spawning run) but David and I had been awarded a spot. I made a feeble attempt at fishing a glow in the dark indicator rig with a scud, but had no luck. It was just getting light when I switched to a black mohair leech and was promptly awarded with a Brown a little over 20″ — what a beautiful trout. It was quite a battle in the early morning and was the first fish caught out of the creek that morning. David made three attempts to net the fish, and it was both funny and heart pounding to watch as with each attempt the fish would make a run. It was dark enough and in deep enough water that you couldn’t tell where the fish was exactly, but he was finally netted and several pictures were taken. It was my biggest Brown to date (a new personal best), but not the Brown I had been searching for — there were much bigger trout holding in this water. I threw the mohair leech for a little while longer, loosing several fish, and then decided to switch to a black scud / indicator set up and was rewarded with a nice 17″ Brown with beautiful colors. David took pictures (one picture even has me holding the fish and in the background there is a fish jumping) with his digital camera and the fish was quickly released. Dave was still fishless on this trip, but we was fishing better than other newbies I had seen in less than ideal conditions. David then proceeded to hook into one of the Browns that the Norfork is known for, but that is all he did — hook into it. It was a LARGE fish and the only thing I saw was the mouth and the tail as it came out of the water and made the run that snapped his line. David was so distraught by this that he actually quit fishing for about an hour and went back up to camp. That was my que to meet up with Craig in the pool below the Dam. The temperature really took a nose dive by about 9am and we fished this water until about 9:30am and then headed back to camp to grab food and hit the C&R area near the Handicap Platform. We got there about 10:30 and took the only available spot in the lot (there were fishermen everywhere in the stream — both upstream and downstream of the platform). We rigged up and started fishing our way upstream, eagerly awaiting others to finish the pools / holes they were fishing. As other anglers broke for lunch or for the rain (it had started raining) we were able to gain access to a pool that held allot of big fish. Craig and I threw everything we had at these fish (I even resorted to a leader/tippet of 11′ ending with 8x tippet and #28 midge patterns but could not get a strike. It appeared that these fish were feeding, but I will never know on what. Frustrated and wet, David and I decided to head back to the car for lunch and a break — Craig followed shortly. We fished the C&R area until about 3:30pm and then decided to head back to camp and try our luck nearer the Dam. The temperature took a nose dive and the wind started to kick up at the base of the Dam. Fishing was tough out there with no protection from the wind. I tied on an orange scud / indicator set up and was rewarded with my first Brook trout I have ever caught — although it was a little trout, not more than 11″, but it was my first. To my dismay, Craig didn’t have his camera with him (due to the impending threat of rain) and nor did I have mine (it was in my vest back in camp — I switched from vest to wading jacket due to the drastic change in weather and only took the essentials with me — scuds and midges). The wind and cold temps, combined with the start of water generation, put us back at camp for the remainder of the afternoon. Another change from last year was the addition of a new shower house at Quarry Park campground — there was nothing better than taking a hot shower in a private heated bathroom (complete with toilet / shower / mirror) after a hard day on the river being beat up by the elements. After we all cleaned up, we headed into town for dinner at El Charro’s in Mountain Home. It was as good of Mexican food as I have had in awhile (living in the midwest) and sure beat cold turkey sandwiches and soda. After dinner, we headed over to Tom Roger’s (TNT Fly Fishing) house to visit and Becky, his wife, had been having some computer problems they wanted me to look at. They are two of the nicest people you are ever going to meet in Arkansas and both of them have a wealth of knowledge and a willingness to share it. We left Tom’s about 9:30pm and were back in camp falling asleep to the rain by 10:30am.
Friday, I awoke in the midst of an allergic reaction of types (that damn thing in the back of your throat that hangs down swells up and makes swallowing awfully tough) and had forgotten my Benadryl (for some reason, 4 Benadryl pills make that darn thing go away) and needed to run into Wal-Mart. I woke up David and into Mountain Home we went. Again, this is just proof that fishing trips with me are always an adventure. We got back to the camp in time to suit up and be on the water by 7am or so (they weren’t generating water — it was shut off around 5am). Fishing for me was tough on Saturday, I only landed one fish (a rainbow on a tan scud up in the big pool below the Dam). However, Craig had a good morning. Craig landed three or four fish including a 23″ Brown (his biggest trout to date). David went fishless, but this was his first trip out on the water and the fishing was tough but his casting was adequate for a first-timer. We all concentrated our efforts near Quarry Park and basically from the mouth of Dry Run Creek and towards the Dam (although never really ventured that close to the Dam). The water was turned on about 1pm and ran the rest of the day. We made a half-hearted effort to fish the high water near Dry Run, but it was crowded and we were bored with it so we decided to check out Dry Run Creek and look at all the trout that are making their spawning runs. Dry Run Creek is one of the neatest little streams I have ever seen and it is loaded with BIG TROUT. However, the only people that can fish Dry Run are children under the age of 16 and handicapped adults. We walked up to “the falls” and there we witnessed one of the neatest things I have ever seen. It was a 3 1/2 foot waterfall (Craig swears it was 5ft, but I doubt it) and there were trout everywhere trying to jump the falls. Some fish made it up the fall by timing their jump perfectly, but most didn’t. Both Craig and David took photos on their digital cameras and David even got some video clips of fish jumping the falls. There were also two kids fishing the pool below the falls and they were catching fish left and right, with some being of trophy quality. I also got a chance to meet up with Becky Rogers (wife of Tom Rogers owner of TNT Fishing in Cotter, AR ) who was guiding 3 kids on the creek with the help of her daughter. Craig and I used Tom as a guide on last year’s trip to the Norfork, and I had kept in touch with them over the internet — as they are two of the nicest people one could ever meet. After visiting with them for awhile, Craig and David chose to check out the upper reaches of Dry Run Creek while I visited with Becky some more. They returned with stories of the biggest rainbow they had ever seen — what was even funnier was the Becky described exactly where that fish was holding even before they got back. It was unusually hot (the low on Friday night was in the upper 40’s or low 50’s with the high temperature reaching into the mid to upper 80’s), and we finished the day futzing around camp and BBQ ‘d dinner. We were just pulling the brats off of the grill when Tom buzzes us on the radio (we had told Tom about the GMRS/FRS radios we use while fishing that on his trip to Wal-Mart he picked up a really neat pair of super tiny Motorola radios) and asked if any of us had brought a net with us and that he had a “serious” fish on and had to put the radio away. So, of course, we throw the brats in a pan and grab the net and cameras and head down to were Tom was (he was fishing in the high water off of the far side of Dry Run Creek in the main channel current in really fast water) and he had already landed the fish — it was a beautiful 19″ Brown. Tom felt bad about calling us down there for a 19″ fish, but the fish was a good fish and had beautiful colors. It also had to be one helluva fight in that high water, as I always got the impression that Tom doesn’t get excited over a 19″ fish having fished these waters allot in the past. We finished up the evening around a larger than normal campfire (thanks to my pyromaniac tendencies) and a stroll around the campsite looking for a fly fisherman from Texas that was to be in the same campsite and tent camping but there was no luck in locating his car (a red Honda or Toyota 2-seater) or tent; although I don’t wonder if it was due to the beer and cigars that were consumed.
Craig and I left my house about 1pm on Thursday and arrived at campsite #10 in the Quarry Park Campground at the base of the Norfork Dam in Salesville by 6:45pm (quite a feat considering we were riding in a Toyota 4-Runner and pulling a borrowed pop-up). We were greeted by Tom Anderson and his wife from near Mammoth Spring, AR. I had met Tom this past April on a trip to the Spring River and have kept in contact with him via the internet. Tom is a wealth of knowledge, and a pleasure to share a campfire with; thus, I was pleased that he was one of our neighbors. We also arrived to running water, which was turned on around 12pm on Thursday and ran well into the evening. The major difference from this year’s trip and last year’s trip was that we had borrowed a pop-up camper (a newer 8ft pop-up camper). While Craig set up the camper, I was busy unloading the car and starting the camp fire — we were sitting around the camp fire enjoying a beer no later than 20 minutes after arriving. Another difference in this year’s trip, was that David Stinnett (a friend from the days I was a wee pup) was making the trek up from Dallas, Texas to join us. David is a new fly fisherman, and bought all his gear for this maiden voyage. He traveled over 8 hours (he left Dallas around 5pm and arrived at camp around 1am) and over 450 miles to chase trout with us for the first time — he had no idea what he was getting in to.
I made an uncharacteristic trip to Maramec Springs Trout Park today for the Catch & Keep season. The reason for my trip was for an Ozark Fly Fishers (OFF) outing. Ozark Fly Fishers is a St. Louis based fly fishing organization that is fairly active, and which I am a member of (although I am not a very active member — having never attended a regular club meeting yet). Mike Swederska is the Outings Chair for OFF, and had planned a “Buddy Outing” that would pair the clubs more experienced members with those that are just getting started. I consider Mike one of my fly fishing and fly tying mentors, having learned allot from him since getting started — thus I was quite shocked when Mike asked if I would give him a hand with “instructing.” Mike and I made plans to meet up at 5am at the Denny’s in Eureka for breakfast prior to driving down to the park for the whistle. When we got together for breakfast, I found out exactly what I was in for — Mike and I were the only “on-stream” instructors and there were 6 students (Al Bourisaw, the Education Director for OFF was down, but due to a recent medical procedure he couldn’t cast or anything — but he was there for encouragement). After rigging up my rod and throwing on my waders and what not, the fun began. Mike promptly assigned me the married couple of Mark and Mary Jo, and I thought I was relieved that I only had 2 students (but secretly wondered if Mike gave them to me for a reason). I helped them select flies (they were throwing buggers and leeches) and off to the top of the park we went. I will only say this about Mark and Mary Jo, if I were ever to be blessed with enough talent to be a guide it would be the potential for clients like these that would keep me from doing it. However, separately they were fine to work with — but god forbid they get within casting distance of one another. I didn’t fish that much, or hard, and spent my time answering questions or showing them why the fish feed where they do and what not (even had to instruct them on how to wade — as neither had ever waded in a trout stream before). I did hook up with two fish (one above the island) and one below the island in the deep water (both on leeches); but I didn’t get a proper hook set on either and promptly lost each fish. I left Mark and Mary Jo and headed back to my Blazer to get my 3wt and some tiny flies (and 8x tippet). I decided to take Mark and Mary Jo down the far bank and spot fish and try to explain fish behavior (and maybe even catch one or two). I dropped each of them in the water, and they fished downstream for a bit — which is when I gave up and went to visit with Al and Mike. I did drop down to the water on the far side occasionally and proceeded to get looks at a #18 brassie under an indicator on 8x tippet. They were having as horrible of luck as I was having and it was almost lunch time, so we broke for lunch. I ate my two packs of peanut butter crackers and bottle of gatorade and was back on stream to actually get 15 minutes of fishing in — no luck. After everyone was finished eating, we decided to switch students (Mike was now in for a fun filled afternoon) and I took Dick and John downstream to try and show them how to fish streamers. They were perfect students, each knew how to cast and only had questions that were great, and they didn’t expect to catch a fish and just wanted to learn how to fish a wooly bugger and a leech. I could sense that they were ready for a break, so we headed back up the far bank and I tried to explain to them fish behavior and why they are holding where they were holding. It was a BLAST, because they would ask questions about what I was telling them and they weren’t bickering with each other. We got off the stream by 3pm and met up with Mike and played around with all the different rods in his rod bag (trying to show the difference between weights of rods and what not). By 3pm, Mike had only landed one fish. Fishing was tough today for everyone involved. All in all it was a good day on the water, and good practice for my trip this Thursday to the Norfork River. Tight Lines………