2009 Missouri Trout Odyssey — Day 5 (1 Streams)

We could have ended the 2009 Missouri Trout Odyssey a day earlier, but unfortunately a goose egg on the Current River was not acceptable, and besides, we had to drive back to Rolla anyway to get to Brian’s car and really wanted to spend an hour or two more on the Current.  I will spare you a bunch of the details, but big streamers do in fact work on the Current River (in particular a Galloup Black Bottom’s Up worked on this day).  And with the hike back to the rig, the trip was over.  There were no words, there was no ticker-tape parade (although perhaps they were throwing one for us in the town of Neosho), but we set out to do what we wanted to do and that was what mattered.

This trip is one that I encourage everyone to take.  An old internet nemesis once told me to step outside of my box, and knowledge comes through experience not always success.  At the time I didn’t get it, but as time evolves I am certain that the old man is right.  As time goes by the man wasn’t a hater, he was simply trying to point me in the right direction.  So step outside of your box from time to time, and visit those streams that you may not have fished before, chances are that you will head back to them.  We did……and we will again…

THE END.

Maramec Spring Trout Park — A Winter Wonderland

Several years ago, I would frequent the trout parks with great regularity during the catch & release season.  I don’t know at what point I began to change, but I began to become increasingly irritated at the crowds in the trout park (even in the winter), so my fishing shifted to Arkansas and other streams.  It had been awhile though, so when Brent McClane and I were talking about all the trips we have taken together, we agreed it had been several years since he and I traveled to Maramec Spring Trout Park; and with that a plan was hatched.

Southern Missouri got hammered with a snow storm the week of 1/25 and dropped about 6″ of snow near St. James, Missouri with greater amounts further south.  The snow on the ground, combined with temps that were not forecast to get above 30 degrees meant that McClane and I were going to be in for a cold Sunday morning.  To make matters worse, I couldn’t find any of my gloves to wear; but shit happens (one week later, I still can’t find them).

We rolled into Maramec Spring Trout Park around 8:15am, to the sign that read “Free Parking,” which surprised me because in years past we would have had to pay the parking fee to access the property.  When we rolled past the gate, we were immediately greeted by 5 or 6 cars all watching a dozen or so Bald Eagles soar in the sky and roost in the trees nearest the upper parking lot.  Eagles are BIG, especially when you are 50ft from them.  I didn’t bring my 80-200 lens, otherwise I probably could have spent the morning shooting Eagle photos.  Truth be told, I am not set up with the right lenses to shoot bird photos, and not sure I could pull off the panning that needs to occur to really get great bird shots.  But I digress.

We parked at the top of the parking lot, near the handicap hole and began to suit up.  It was damn cold, but we managed and within 20 minutes of rigging rods, loading camera gear, and dawning waders we were on our way to the top of the park.  Everything was white, with bright blue skies and fog coming off the river it made for a wonderful winter scene as we began to fish.

We focused our efforts on the top of the park and the left side of the island and picked up fish at will, once we got the skunk off and the sun came up.  The faster water on the side of the island always holds fish, and McClane sight-fished to a few fish as I shot photos.

As we moved downstream to the end run, the fish numbers increased dramatically (but so did the people).  It seems that the last few times I remember fishing Maramec Spring Trout Park I always run in to an asian fly-fisherman that is fishing light grey / olive scuds without an indicator using really short drifts, no indicator, and more casting than drifting.  He and I have had words in the past, but he is a nice guy and does catch some nice fish.  He was there again today and we exchanged hellos, as a crowd of other people converged on the run.  McClane and I held our distance upstream until the people moved from the hole, and we moved further downstream.

To be rather blunt, the fishing got stupid there.  Fish were everywhere, and they loved the HotSpot San Juan Worm under a short indicator.  Every drift was resulting in a hookup or take, and it soon lost its interest for me so I used the opportunity to shoot some photos.  McClane changed tactics and began to fish to some of the larger fish with better results and was rewarded with a couple of nice rainbows (see the gallery below).

The clock quickly approached noon, and I had Sunday dinner family plans that I needed to attend to, so we headed back to the truck and stowed our gear and headed back to St. Louis.  It was a great day on the water, the weather turned out to be alot warmer than predicted, and the trip reminded me of trips past and trips i look forward to having.

2009 Missouri Trout Odyssey — Day 4 (3 Streams)

We were staring down the tail-end of the trip as we woke up in our hotel room in Ava, Missouri.  We had three streams we needed to knock off today, so that would mean a lot of driving as we fished our way east across the bottom of the state.  The first stop on this leg of the trip was Brian’s home waters, the North Fork of the White River near Dora, Missouri and the Blair Bridge Access.

The North Fork of the White River is a fly-fisherman’s nirvana.  This stream is what every trout stream in the state wishes it could be (well maybe not the Eleven Point..).  I rigged up the rod, and there was something about this morning that I just knew I was going to have my ass handed to me on this river…again.  Brian Wise couldn’t save me as I had my first take only to not get a solid connection and like that it was off.  The more I threw the 12ft long indicator, #4 rubber leg stone, #14 psycho prince dropper rig the more I became frustrated with this river.  The more I became frustrated, the more I loved it.  It is a vicious cycle.  But all good things come to an end, and we needed to get moving, so after the berating I was taking from Brian on the stream I quickly handed him the rod and he hooked up with a dink brown just as we were walking out (but he too….had to work for it….eggs really do catch fish anywhere).

As we rolled out of the access, I marveled at the ridiculous concrete work that the access had just received.  This must be the biggest MDC waste of money, since stocking trout in Hickory Creek.  Of all the things to spend money on, turning a perfectly good gravel parking lot into a concrete parking lot is not one of them.  Hell, I would rather see another boat ramp or the money go to raising the bridges at McKee Bridge and Patrick Bridge.  At any rate, I digress.

We had thought about adding the tailwaters of Arkansas on the trip, but I had really wanted to get back to the Spring River, as I hadn’t been on it since October.  So we set our sites across Hwy 160 towards Hwy 63 and headed south to the town of Mammoth Spring, Arkansas.  I didn’t have the Bayou Access marked on the GPS, but we found it just fine.  Bayou Access is one of the nicer sections of the Spring River with plenty of different habitat to fish.  The water was up, and the wading was very limited, so Brian grabbed his rod and headed upstream to give it a shot.  He worked a section of stream right in front of the access and was rewarded with a rainbow on a psycho prince.  It had started to rain a bit (the first time on the trip), so it was time to put the camera gear up and with that, we found a drive-through for lunch and headed towards the Eleven Point River having just fished 20 streams in 4 days.

What can I say about the Eleven Point River, it is a beautiful untouched jewel of an Ozark trout stream.  The Eleven Point has always fished well in my previous trips to it (I wonder why I don’t fish it more), and this trip would be no exception.  The thing about the river is that it is a river that needs to be floated (moreso than any other river in the state).  Unless you are willing to hike the Ozark Trail, the wading opportunities on this stream really are not that present.  We pulled in to Greer Spring Access, we met up with one of Brian Sloss’s newest employee’s, Tito.  He was a really good guy, gave up a handful of his personal flies and pointed us in the right direction and after some general chit-chat we were off.  The Eleven Point held true to form and I was rewarded with two fish pretty quickly while fishing a 12ft indicator rig with a rubber leg stonefly and an egg dropper (both fish took the rubber leg).  Just as we were heading back to the car, Brian Sloss (Eleven Point Canoe Rental) rolled in and we stood around as we de-wadered and recounted the trip we had just completed.  It was good to catch up with Brian and had we stood there much longer, I am sure the beers would have been opened and a campfire would have been found; but we were haunted by th skunk on the Current River and needed to head north back to the Current River and towards Rolla (our original starting point).

On the drive north on Hwy. 63 we stopped just south of Licking, Missouri and had to have one of the finest dinners I have ever had on a fishing trip at Black Forest Grill.  The ham steak that I had, was simply amazing.  If you are looking for a great place to grab some eats when around Licking, I would definitely check them out.  After dinner, we headed towards the Scenic Rivers Inn to sort through video and photos and gear before hitting the Current River in the morning.

Sleeping In The Dirt — New Fly-Fishing E-Zine

SleepingInTheDirt-Issue#1-CoverAaron Otto is a photographer whose work I have admired for some time.  He seems to capture some really stunning images; i mean S-T-E-L-L-A-R Images.  So it was with great pleasure that I read on his blog “Sleeping in the Dirt“, a few months ago, that he was developing an online e-zine called Sleeping In the Dirt.  The issue was finally out Sunday.

The first issue is 47 pages long and is filled with stellar photography and a few destination style articles.  The magazine on its table of content page has the following slogan “No Sponsors, No Advertisers, No Limits…..No Shit.” and that is exactly what you get in this issue.  It is everything that is right with online fly fishing, in terms of killer photography, well written concise descriptions of the photos and maybe a little intro into the pictorial (although there weren’t any really “feature” articles in this issue, he hints at a 15 page article in the next issue).  All in all it is a fine effort, and I look forward to the next issue, you should definitely check it out.

Dry Run Creek — Another Dad & Daughter Trip

My 7yo daughter, Hannah, and I have taken four trips to Dry Run Creek since her interest in fly-fishing began.  Each trip is really special for me, as she always seems to pick up on something around the house and she applies it to the stream to “be like dad”.  Just prior to our last trip to Dry Run in November, I had taught her how to tie San Juan Worms and gave her permission to get into my fly-tying stuff any chance she wants.  Needless to say, she now has about 4 dozen sjw’s tied up ready to fish.  She had been on me for awhile to fish again, but she didn’t want to go when it was supposed to be “too cold”.  So I took advantage of the forecasted 50 to 60 degree weather we were supposed to have  the weekend of January 23, and we picked to drive down Friday after work, stay in a hotel in Mountain Home, get up and fish until she grew tired and then drive back to St. Louis.  I knew that I was going to spend more time in the car than on the stream, but that didn’t seem to matter as we were heading out fishing.

We got on the stream on Saturday morning about 7:15am and dawned our waders and hit the water.  We fished upstream of the handicap access platform on the stream (which by the way they are extending upstream).  She was in to fish pretty immediately, after a few words of encouragement about her casting.  I netted the first fish and immediately she was reaching for it in the net to unhook it and release it.  At that point, I was tickled pink as our first trip to the stream she really didn’t want to touch the fish, but now she was unhooking and releasing the fish in the water.  I think she has watched too many of my home-made fishing videos and bass fishing guys on television though, as the first fish she caught she gave it a little kiss and back into the water it went.  I tried hard not to laugh, and I don’t think she noticed.

We fished for a little more than 4 hours on Saturday, but quit because her feet were getting cold in the Cabela’s boot foot waders that she was wearing.  In total she probably caught close to 40 fish (I quit counting at 25 early in the morning) and had me busy netting fish for her.  I had brought all my photo / video gear with me, but she kept me busy netting fish that I didn’t really have any time to shoot any quality photos, and only used my P&S once to snap two photos of her with one of  the fish.  It was a nice change of pace to fish with her and not have a camera around my neck the entire time and just enjoying the time together.

She did hook into 3 serious fish on the trip — each well over 20″.  The biggest fish that she hooked in to was the biggest brown that I have seen in the stream and when she hooked it the hook actually straightened and pulled out.  She took it like a trooper throwing her arms to her side and then looked up at me and said….”oooohhhhh that was a big one.”  I think she may be hooked.