White River (Mountain Home, AR) — October 22, 2005

I did a kamakazi trip to the Trout Capital of the World …… Cotter, Arkansas, to visit my friend and fly fishing guide Tom Rogers (TNT Fly Fishing Service). I left STL around 6:00pm and arrived at the Comfort Inn in Mountain Home, AR around 10:30pm (after checking vacancies at the newly built Holiday Inn Express to find that they had no vacancies). It was a nice room, and the price was right (plus it is one of the newest hotels in the city). I grabbed about 5 hours of sleep, before I met up with Tom Rogers, his friend Tommy, and fellow guide Jim Martin. Jim was taking out some of Tom’s clients, while Tom visited with me and we caught up since our last visit together in June. We had breakfast at The Brass Door Restaurant, which was pretty good — but not as good as the Norfork Cafe or the Country Kettle was.

This trip wasn’t about fishing at all, although I did throw a rod or two into the back of the Blazer for good weight distribution. I was going to see Tom before he heads out West for his trip to Montana, and he needed some computer help and what not. We got the “business” side of the work done about 1pm and then headed over to the Southern Rod Builders Guild gathering at Fulton’s Lodge, where I was introduced to a ton of great people and saw some freakin’ beautiful rods. They were all there to display and cast, but against my better judgement I tried to limit picking up a rod and casting it as I didn’t need another toy. About 3pm and a ton of handshakes, it was time to hit the water briefly. My goal was to be on the road back to STL by 6pm — but that didn’t happen.

They did not generate water on the White all day on Saturday, so we headed to the base of the dam to see what was up there (since they shut down the C&R area at the end of october and this would be my last chance to fish it until February). Fishing was slow for me, but there wasn’t another sole on the water nearest the dam. Just Tom and I, and it was great. Tom was tearing them up, while I was struggling to get a solid hookset. We were fishing with #18 scuds and sowbugs under the smallest white palsa indicator that I have ever seen (like 10 times smaller than a normal palsa) — you could barely see it on the water (which I believe was my problem, trying to follow it in the setting sun). It was a great time though, and we fished until about 6:30pm. Tom slayed them, and I didn’t officially bring a fish to hand. But it was still a good day, and I did get to wet a line.

After dinner at El Charro’s, a mexican staple in Mountain Home, and a trip to Walmart, it was time to say goodbyes and for me to get on the road back to STL around 10:00pm that night. Man what a drive in the rain, but I got back safe around 2:30am on Sunday morning.

Montauk State Park (Licking, MO) — October 8, 2005

This weekend was the maiden voyage of the newest Tucker Family Camper (a 1988 Coleman Sequioa Pop-Up). My wife and kids took out of St. Louis by 5:30pm on Friday for the trip down to Montauk. I will say the pop-up tows like a dream behind the Blazer. We made ok time, stopping for gas and dinner — we arrived at camp site #111 at 8:30pm. We were camping with Mark Kotcher (aka mkotcher) and his daughter. They had the fire going and we set up the camper and hung out by the campfire.

It was a camping weekend, and not so much a fishing weekend from the get go — which is why the family came along. Saturday night it was frigid. We stayed in a basic campsite (no electric) and the pop-up doesn’t have heat we froze that night. We woke up, started a fire, and cooked breakfast (eggs, ham, sausage) then decided to take everyone to the lodge to getĀ theirĀ tags and to head over to the C&R area to let the kids fish.

The temps in the morning were in the low 40’s with sunny skies and a wind that could gust fairly hard. This was my first chance to fish the C&R area since they rehabbed it last winter and I am impressed with what they have done. New to the area is now you are only allowed to fish from one side of that section of stream — they also tried to creat a little more current in the lower section of the run. Make no mistake, it is still like fishing to fish in a barrel as there are a ton of fish in this section of water. But there are also a ton of anglers, and the fish see a ton of flies. Today was about the girls catching fish though. Mark and Alyssa scoped out a spot near the bottom of the C&R area and I took Hannah and Kaitlyn further up. A white mohair proved fatal for Kaitlyn as she quickly landed a rainbow when the MDC employee pulled up to feed the fish — well the girls were off like a stampede of buffalo to help them feed the fish and the MDC employee let each of them empty a bucket of feed into the runs. My youngest daughter is still talking about it. A big thanks to the MDC employee that took time out of her work to let the kids “help” her. Definitely put a smile on all thier faces. After feeding the fish, now Hannah wanted to catch one — so we put on a madame x and started to fish it dry. Hannah quickly caught 2 fish with a little help from me (she is only 3 — so I was helping her cast and set the hook). She got a kick out of watching the fish blow-up on the fly. After about an hour of fishing, each of the girls caught 2 fish, and I caught a few as well, they were ready for lunch and a playground. On the walk out, Mark and I decided to have some fun and I started throwing the “x” in the slower water at the end of the C&R area and the fish were going nuts over the thing. The last fish of the morning actually sucked my fly through its gills. It came out of the water several times and was a nice fish of about 16″that appeared to be foul hooked (and fought like it). Upon landing the fish and trying to unhook it, the fish actually sucked the fly through its gills somehow and I had to cut my tippet to unhook the fish.

After lunch and pointing the girls in the direction of the playground, Mark and I decided to get in 2 hours of fishing before he and Alyssa had to head back to St. Louis. Because it was right there, and the girls were “playing” near the water we opted to just walk down to the river behind our campsite and we fished from campsite 111 until the end of Loop # 3. It was interesting water that I have never fished, and Mark had only fished it once or twice. We fished dry flies the entire time. I started out throwing the same madame x and Mark threw a small crackleback. The fish were not as plentiful as in other sections of the park — but there were fish to be had. Several of us missed fish on top, and then Mark got into a group of risers and proceeded to get what seemed like hook-up after hook-up on his fly. I ended up changing to a crackleback as well and got a few rises and LDR’s but didn’t get a hand on a fish from this particular group. I did pick up a fish in front of the handicap access, but that proved to be the last fish of the weekend for either of us. By 4pm, we headed back to the campground and Mark called it a weekend, while I tidied up camp and got dinner ready.

There was no fishing on Sunday morning, just packing up the camp and heading to the lodge for breakfast (youngest wanted pancakes). I did run into Norm when we were at the lodge — and just had time for a quick handshake / hello (starving kids wait for no one).

It was a good weekend by anyone’s standards. To see the look on my kid’s faces when they hooked up with fish was priceless (as I am sure the look on my face was too), and the camper proved to be a sound $400 purchase. Hopefully that is the first of many future camping trips with my wife and kids. My youngest is already asking to go fishing again…….