Maramac Springs Trout Park (St. James, Missouri) — January 31, 2004

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.

Montauk State Park (Licking, Missouri) — January 18, 2004

This trip started out a little differently than most of my trips, my fishing partner Craig was on time for a change. Not only was he at Denny’s near I-44 and Bowles at 5:00am, he showed up 10 minutes early. I was in complete shock at the start of this trip. We were also supposed to be fishing with Brad Guenther today, but as is Brad’s tendency — he was a no call no show. Fishing, or not fishing I should say, with Brad Guenther is kind of comical in the sense that he always says he can make it and never does. We waited until 5:00am and we were off — figuring that on the off chance that Brad calls my cell phone, we will turn around and get him. He never called. The temperature when we left Denny’s in Fenton was 36 degrees and the wind had just really started to kick up. After gas and gatorade we arrived at Montauk by 7:30am and were suiting up in one of the nice warm restrooms. The temperature was still in the 30’s at that point and it really wasn’t all that cold — but we still needed to layer. We had just finished suiting up and rigging up when the whistle blew and it was time to fish. The first hole we fished (the deep hole below the C&R area) didn’t produce any fish for me for the hour that I fished it in the morning with my leech (there were stocker sized fish rising all over the place, but I was after the big fish that I saw swimming in that hole). I opted to head up to the C&R area and check it out, while Craig put on a #18 grizzly adams and proceeded to slay the fish on the top. Up in the C&R area there were a ton of LARGE fish and they were feeding like crazy. I put on my Tan / Ginger Mohair leech and went to town. I proceeded to hook up fish with ease in the water. My first rainbow was of decent size (at least 16″) and fought great. I also had a hook up with a HUGE Brown — with out a doubt the biggest fish that has taken my fly in Missouri. I threw my leech against the far bank and took one strip for it to hit the current, and then the whale of a fish came out of nowhere and inhaled my fly and then laid on its side like it was trying to get out of water only it was too big to make much of it and snapped my 6x tippet without hesitation. Needless to say my heart was pounding after that encounter. I proceeded to have lots of hookups on a variety of leeches and wooly buggers, with the end result being very few brought to hand. I threw white mohair leeches, black mohair leeches, brown mohair leeches, olive wooly buggers, brown wooly buggers, and black wooly buggers — but my Tan / Ginger Leech and my ginger sculpin seemed to produce the best. The highlight of the fish I landed in the C&R area was a 20″+ Brown that took a tan/ginger mohair leech. This fish was a huge accomplishment, because I sight fished to this fish all the way and set the hook as soon as the fish opened its mouth and landed the fish without the aid of a net or anyone else. After snapping a few pics of the fish it was time to revive it and off it swam — I just wish someone was there to share in the excitement. So I reeled up and went to show Craig the photos and was duly pumped. He had continued having luck with the grizzly adams on top in the deep pool and I opted to finish out the day in this hole sight fishing to the rainbows that were “spawning” in the riffle water at the head of the pool. It was pretty cool, spotting the fish and then tossing the leech up and high sticking it down to the fish and watching them turn on the leech and inhale it. The fish today were really aggressive and were hammering my leech and sculpin — I started the day with 8 tan/ginger leeches and ended the day with none of them left (breaking each of them off on a fish). Craig fished down to the hatchery office and back with a black wooly bugger and picked up several fish. In total I brought to hand 9 fish (with allot of LDR’s and a few foul hooked fish not included) and each of those fish were over 14″ in length. Craig brought to hand 13 fish and experienced the same thing with regards to nice healthy sized fish. We stopped fishing about 12:45 and in total caught 23 fish with each of us catching a fish of 18″ or better (Craig’s biggest was about 18″ or 19″ and mine was over 20″). The weather would not make up its mind what it wanted to do today — it would be sunny with no wind or it was cloudy with a steady breeze that made casting difficult. It was definitely a good trip and it was good to share the water with Craig again. Tight Lines….

Springrise @ Westover (Steelville, Missouri) — January 3, 2004

My annual New Year’s Day fly fishing trip with Craig was postponed a few days due to events out of our control, so we opted to head to SpringRise with a few other fishing buddies and build our fishing confidence in the 2004 year. I fished the private waters of SpringRise at Westover near Steelville, Missouri with Craig Peterson, Brent McClane, Todd Buttzlaff, Mark Kotcher, and John Nesselrode (and his two young sons). It had been a year since I had fished these waters, and was prompted to head back down there due to rumors of the property being sold in the near future. McClane, Todd, Craig, and I met at Denny’s at Bowles and I-44 for breakfast around 5am and were on our way by 5:30am. We were supposed to meet up with two more individuals from the message board, but they never showed up and we didn’t wait for them. By 7am we had arrived at SpringRise and started to suit up while waiting for Marty, the property caretaker, to arrive; just as we were pulling up our waders Marty pulled in and opened the gates. After paying the fees, we were set loose to fish the manicured waters. SpringRise is the only private trout water I have ever fished. It costs $37/person per day to C&R fish there, and they “limit” the number of rods per day (although I tend to believe there is no true limit on the rods). Today we were in luck, there was only one other individual fishing the property other than in our group. There is no need to go in to great detail about what the fish were biting on and who caught what on what, as SpringRise has been equated to some as fishing in a barrel. There are in fact times when it is fishing in a barrel and there are times when it is not (it depends on what water you choose to fish). The key fly of the day was a #16 or #18 tan scud, with Cracklebacks, Gray Sowbugs, green brassies, cream midge larvas, and I did OK with my Mercer Rag Sculpin (I caught a total of 6 on them). In terms of fish numbers it was a pretty good day, with everyone losing count of how many fish they caught. I can say with certainty that McClane easily caught over 50 fish, Craig caught over 30 fish, Mark caught over 30 fish, Todd caught over 20 fish (to his defense he left early), John caught quite a few fish (but he was trying to teach his boys to fish and wasn’t fishing that much) and I easily caught over 30 fish. The Dry Run Creek portion has changed allot since the last time I was there. There was hardly any flow in the upper sections and also hardly any fish as well. I walked this section of stream from where the Garden Stream dumps into the Dry Run portion all the way to the spring and only spotted a hand full of fishable pools and only a handful of fish. In the past, this was an area where you stood a good chance at catching a Brown Trout or two. When I got to the actual spring, it too looked low; perhaps all the low rainfall had taken a toll on these waters as well. I was a little taken back by the lack of care in the stream portion of these waters, it looked like some of the waters need to be mowed or dredged and the Dry Run Creek portion is now hardly worth fishing the upper stretches. I did get a chance to question Marty on the sale of the property, but he could neither confirm or deny that it was sold and only offered the comment, “they don’t tell me anything, I just work here.” So only time will tell if the place will sell, but as rumors go I don’t think it will be long before these waters are part of some private club. All in all it was a good trip, and I think we all have had our fill of fishing SpringRise for the year. On another note, I did take my new Fuji FinePix s5000 digital camera on this trip (3.1 megapixel, 10x Optical Zoom, 3x Digital Zoom) and took over 60 photos with it and am utterly impressed with the photo quality and zoom capability — I just wish there was an easier way to carry it while on stream. All in all, it was a great way to start off the 2004 year.