Ringing in 2011 on the North Fork of the White River

2011-01-01pic004(Edited)(Resized)New Year’s Day found Brent McClane and I on the North Fork of the White River again, using Brian Wise’s drift boat.  Since we had an empty seat, we coaxed Arkansas fly-fishing guide extraordinaire Jimmy “T” Traylor to come up and fish with us for the day.  Jimmy had only been on the river once, and had yet to experience the beauty that is the North Fork of the White River; so we agreed to meet him at Patrick Bridge Access to drop a vehicle and then head back to River of Life Farm and start the float.

The morning started off COLD.  After floating and fishing in waders and long sleeve shirts on New Year’s Eve, we were in full winter fishing gear complete with gloves, hats, and permafleece.  It was definitely a change, and we figured the fishing would suck, and it was slower than the day before….but it was still better than any of us expected.

We were into fish in pretty much the same fast water runs, just not as plentiful as before, throwing brown rubber legs and dropping eggs or worms or another rubber legs off of it, when we came to one of our first runs of the day below ROLF and pulled the boat into an eddy to get out and wade fish it.  McClane and JimmyT eached picked up some fish and we were just about ready to move on when McClane wanted to change something up and kept giving us the “one more cast” look.  He immediately hooked up with a fish, although didn’t know if it was the current or the size of the fish he was feeling; but it was solid.  As he is fighting the fish, JimmyT reels up and starts to head back to the boat when he takes a spill in the river as I am pulling out the camera and hopping out of the boat.  We toss the net to McClane and I help get some dry clothes to JimmyT, as it was 22 degrees and not the time to be wet.  JimmyT was in dry clothes just about the time McClane landed the nice brown in the photos below.  It was his biggest fish on the North Fork of the White to date and a great way to start out the 2011 year.  We shot a few photos and released the fish and continued on our float.

We spent more time fishing the usual spots and unfortunately spent way too much time fishing above the Blair Bridge Access that we didn’t have enough daylight to really fish the sexy water from Blair to Patrick, it was getting dark and were cold and wet, so we paddled out most of the way to just below Patrick Bridge and started rigging down the boat and rods for the trip back to Gainesville and then St. Louis.

McClane headed up to grab the Durango and backed it down the trail, across the backwater, and onto the gravel bar and the trailer into the river when all of a sudden the transmission starts slipping and the Durango keeps going backwards and won’t stop.  McClane was able to get it stopped, but the damage was done….as it wouldn’t engage any of the gears.  It was 5pm on Saturday (a holiday) in the middle of the ozarks without a good way to tow it out and figure out what was going on.  McClane is a life-saver in these situations and we tried all his tricks from rocking the vehicle to rolling it backwards (but not to far back, as that would have put it in the river), but none of it worked.  With that, I called Brian Wise and gave him the bad news that I needed him to find me a tow truck to tow us off the gravel bar and he went to work.

About a 1/2 hour later, tow truck on scene, we were winched off the gravel bar and up into the parking lot, where the tow truck driver had to disconnect the drive axel and get it lifted to take to Earl’s Dodge and have the transmission looked at.  He gave me the bill, and I couldn’t get him them money quick enough and we were on our way back to River Of Life Farm to pack up our gear and figure out a way to get back to St. Louis.  Big thanks to JimmyT for driving McClane and I to Cabool, Missouri to meet up with my dad, who got us the rest of the way back to my house.  Without friends like Brian and Jimmy, this weekend would have been a disaster, but in the end fish were caught and it was a helluva way to start out the 2011 year.

As for the Durango, after waiting a week to have the transmission guy at Earl’s Dodge in West Plains look at it, deciding it needed a new transmission and getting the approximate cost of said transmission, I opted to trade it in on a 2007 Jeep Commander 4×4 with 37,000 miles and purchased a lifetime jeep warranty for it (transmission failures be damned).  The Durango was a great fishing vehicle, its 155,000 miles included two Missouri Trout Odyssey’s, trips to the Smokys, and countless trips to the tailwaters and streams of the Ozarks.  Rest in peace Durangoo…..and I hope the “Save a Trout, Eat a Beaver” bumper sticker lives on.

Ringing Out 2010 on the North Fork of the White

2010-12-31pic005(Edited)(Resized)I couldn’t think of a finer way to ring out 2010 than drifting the North Fork of the White River with my good friend, Brent McClane.  This trip kind of just happened without much forward thinking.  Up until Wednesday (12/29/10) we were kicking around the idea of heading to Louisiana to try our hand at fly-fishing for Red Fish, but the pocket book, lack of planning, and our love for all things Ozark won out and we found ourselves driving towards Gainesville, Missouri on Thursday morning to pick up Brian Wise’s drift boat (he had promised a weekend away from his trout fishing bretheren, but did offer up the use of his boat……to which I obliged) and visit with them a bit before heading to River of Life Farm on the banks of the North Fork of the White River.

Unfortunately, the storm system that ravaged parts of Missouri and Arkansas on New Year’s Day also took its toll on our fishing trip.  We woke up to 62 degrees and a cloud system moving in as fast as I can remember ever seeing one move in.  With cell phone reception being spotty, we searched for a brief signal to check out the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center web site to see what the outlook for weather is today and then checked the various warnings and statements issued.  What we found was the the NOAA had issued a statement essentially saying that there was to be “Extreme” weather today.  McClane and I knew we were in for a treat and discussed storm chasing for the day, but knew we were way late in the game and didn’t think we had enough time to get in front of the storm as it was already 7:30am.  So we opted to not drop the drift boat in, and headed to Blair Bridge Access to wade fish until the storm hit us.

We got a good 2 hours of fishing in before the storm hit, and the fishing was solid as we were picking up rainbows on brown rubber legs and various different droppers.  I managed to land two dink smallmouth and a small brown trout, and McClane picked up a number of young of the year rainbows.  With the thunder rolling, the lightening starting, and it as dark during the day as I can ever remember it, we headed for the car just before the rain hit and headed back to ROLF.  We stopped for cell coverage to check our messages and had plenty of messages telling us to get off the weather, as well as messages from concerned friends about our homes back in St. Louis as apparently the storms had started hitting St. Louis or were about to.  After a couple of quick chats with my wife, who was down in our basement as there was a tornado about 7 miles away in Fenton), all was well and we continued our drive back to ROLF.

By the time we made it back to ROLF, the storm had passed and we were looking at windy conditions and blue skies.  We grabbed some quick chow, asked Myron to run a shuttle for us to Blair Bridge Access, and we dropped the drift boat in and set off on a 4 1/2 hr float.  We immediately got into fish, again on brown rubber legs and various droppers, as we floated downstream.  The fish were holding in the faster water, and it seemed that every drift was rewarded with at least a take.  We stopped off and wade fished a couple of the runs and swapped on and off of the oars, but we had a stellar day on the river bringing well over 30 fish to boat and had hook ups / LDR’s with close to as many fish.  It was a fun day on the river, fishing with temps in the 60’s and falling on the last day of 2010.

Just above Blair Bridge we ran in to a guy on a pontoon with a black lab.  He was definitely a friendly fellow, as we had ran into him just as we put the boat in, but fished pretty slow to give him some room between us and pretty much didn’t see him up until this point.  He was a friendly guy and we chatted a bit, before moving on.  He was the only person we saw fishing on the river all day, and it made for a pleasant day.

We finished the day back at ROLF grilling porterhouse steaks, potatoes, and vadellia onions, and were off to bed by 9:30 tired from a great day of Ozark fly fishing.  It was a perfect way to end 2010.