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.

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.

2009 Missouri Trout Odyssey — Day 3 (6 Streams)

The alarm seemed to go off a little earlier this morning, largely because we weren’t sure where we were headed.  We knew we were fishing Crane Creek, but we didn’t know exactly where we were going to fish the creek.  Last year, we decided to try our luck at the Crane City Park and other than spooking some sizeable fish, we only had one hook-up.  This is the one creek, which we wanted to definitely catch something on and we weren’t going to leave until that happened.  We rolled into the access, and followed the trail (in the dark) down to the stream and decided to try and walk a pretty good length until it was light enough to really fish effectively as well as to put some distance between us and anyone else that might have wanted to fish on such a stellar morning.  Crane Creek is a really neat place, although having seen the topography and the characteristics of the stream side…I can assure you that any rumors you heard about cottonmouths and copperheads on this stream must be true.  Some places look fishy….this stream simply looked “snakey”.  Brian was up first on the stream and after a little scouting was able to put eyes on some fish, and it was game on.  Shortly there-after, Brian had landed his first McCloud Rainbow out of Crane Creek.  What the fish lacked in size, it made up for in color and was a fine specimen.  During the excitement, we moved further upstream and as I was rolling tape Brian started to geek out at a nicer fish in the water.  I peered over the edge and laid eyes on a nice 18″ rainbow with a deep red band; but like that, it was gone.  Brian did pick up another fish on the hike out and then we traded places and it was my turn to hook-up on the stream.  I didn’t want to cheapen what Brian had done earlier in the morning, but I whacked two fish in about 5 minutes and like that we were off to Capps Creek.

Capps Creek is a put-and-take fishery, but as put-and-take fisheries go….Jolly Mill Park ranks really high up on the list of places for cool fishing shots.  As a fishery, I still don’t know what to expect from the stream; having only ever fished it at Jolly Mill.  From the looks of it (it flows through private land), it looks like it could hold some nicer fish and might be worth more exploring.  At any rate, we rolled into Jolly Mill and I grabbed a rod and hit the water.  Drifting / Swinging a streamer was the ticket and I was rewarded with a quick hook-up (while watching an even bigger rainbow rise on a feeding lane 30ft away).  I don’t know if I actually landed said fish or not, we were trying to remember that on the drive back; because I hooked up and lost two more fish.  All in all, Capps Creek produced exactly like we thought it would.  And with that, we were off to Hickory Creek, near Neosho, Missouri.

Hickory Creek is a shit hole.  I won’t even begin to sugar-coat it.  There are no fish in that stream, unless the hatchery truck comes and dumps them in there.  And when that happens, all the “trout fisherman” come out of the hills to load up the freezer and as quickly as the fish were stocked they are gone.  In two trips, we never even so much as saw a fish (although I think Wise got a take there last year).  To be super blunt, I don’t really care if I ever lay eye on the town of Neosho, Missouri.  It is just too damn hard to get to, and there isn’t much trout fishing to be had there.  In short, Hickory Creek ranks up there with the Urban Trout Program in my book.  Nothing more than a stream grocery store.  And with that we turned our backs on Hickory Creek and headed toward Roaring River State Park.

As Missouri Trout Parks go, Roaring River State Park is the mac daddy of trout parks.  Your chances of catching a “pig” within this section of water are greater than any of the three other trout parks (don’t believe me, check out some of the photos that Tim’s Fly Shop has of the pigs caught down there).  Both Brian and I were pretty excited to be headed down there again, the problem was that the weather was phenomenal and what should have been a nice quiet afternoon on the water turned out to be a really crowded hour or so spent at Roaring River Trout Park.  We quickly found a section of water, and I grabbed the rod and after a bit of time had picked up my first fish on an egg.  After that, we headed to a different section of the park to see if we could spot any of the larger fish….but we came up short.  With limited light left in the day, we hopped in the rig and headed to Roaring River Conservation Area to tackle the river outside of the park.

We rolled into the parking lot at Roaring River Conservation Area around 4pm, just as a fisherman was walking out.  He was an older gentleman that was severely out of breath.  We struck up a conversation about the fishing in this area (as neither of us had tried this section of stream before) and the old man called us over to his truck as he was stowing away his gear.  He told us the hike to the river was a “pretty good walk” and convinced us not to follow the trail, only to “turn left at the scared up tree”……i don’t know what concerned me more, the fact the guy was carrying a pistol, the fact that the stream was on our right as we descended and not our left, or the fact that he told us to rub our flies in powerbait before using them.  After grabbing a flashlight and Garmin, we headed down the trail and found the river after a “pretty good walk”.  Brian was up and he quickly laid eyes on fish, but they were a bit skittish and in the half hour or so we had before dark he didn’t bring one to hand.  We walked the stream up to where we thought the car was and bushwacked out to the rig.  This section of stream left us both wanting to explore a bit more of it, had there been more light and I think it would offer a good place to get away from the crowds if the people are too much at the state park.

After stowing some gear, he hit the road towards Lake Taneycomo.  It was going to be the second year in a row that we had planned to fish Taney after dark.  We rolled into the Outlet # 1 parking lot and I strung up a 7wt sinktip rod and put on a new streamer that IdleWylde flies had sent to FeatherCraft to test and after a few casts, the horn blew and i suddenly was sourrounded by other wade fisherman….at night…..what a croc.  Brian was messing around with painting photos with a flash light while I fished, and was rewarded with a nice strike about 30 minutes into fishing.  It felt alot bigger than it actualy was…maybe a 16″ rainbow.  We were starting to get crowded out by guys fishing at night with thier headlamps on…….so we de-wadered and headed into Branson to grab dinner and decided our plan of attack for tomorrow.

2009 Missouri Trout Odyssey — Day 2 (6 Streams)

Day Two of the this year’s trout odyssey began at 5:30am with a wake-up call, a quick cup of gas station coffee and some blueberry muffins as we drove to the TanVat Access on the Current River.  I was up, after being skunked twice yesterday, and I thought the Current would hold good things for me.  The weather was COLD, as we dropped into the river just above the TanVat access to fish the first run.  There was already a truck in the parking lot when we arrived, so we were not the first group on the stream.  I was rigged with a Psycho Prince Nymph under a thingamabobber indicator and proceeded to nymph the run to no avail, I switched to an egg, and then to a San Juan Worm to no avail — but I knew there was fish to be had there.  In a last ditch effort, I drifted a mohair leech through the run with no love what-so-ever.  I still had the skunk…..and it was beginning to stink…..really bad.  With the sound of the whistle ringing through the valley, telling all that it was “ok” to fish the C&R season the trout park, we retreated to the rig with my tail tucked between my legs as we drove toward Montauk State Park.

Needing to get the skunk off me in the worse sort of way, and the new Sage VT2 4wt that I had for this trip, we headed straight to the dirtiest place I knew to fish Montauk State Park, the ditch.  It isn’t pretty, and it isn’t tough but I quickly got the skunk off of me by catching a dink rainbow and proceeded to put PETA to its knees by wiping the skunk off of me by getting a little fish slime on the face……finally a fish.  I felt like a dirty whore standing there drifting egg after egg into the ditch with hook-up after hook-up and I new it was bad (kind of like going hogging…..it is fun, but only if know one sees you doing it).  Here I was shin-deep in the ditch and Brian Wise videotaping the whole damn thing, so I had to change that and summoned him into the dirty.  I am pretty sure he needed to shower after catching dinks on a neon orange w/ neon green tungsten beaded san juan worm, but we had a good laugh at each others’ expense and decided we needed to head out as we had some driving to do today.

We left Montauk and headed down Highway 19, one of the most scenic drives in the Ozarks as we were driving towards the Barren Fork Creek.  The Barren Fork Creek stomped us last year, but with the help of the Shannon County Conservation Agent we felt better prepared to tackle the beautiful wild trout stream.  We parked the rig near Sinking Creek and hiked downstream to the location of some stream bank improvements.  The river definitely has trout holding habitat, but the bluebird skies and the warmer weather made it a tough stream for us again this year.  Brian was up and fished a mohair leech through anything that looked like it would hold trout to no avail.  Despearate to prove that this stream held fish, we stayed here a bit longer than we should have, to no avail.  The river is tough to fish, but is a hidden Ozark jewel if you are willing to take the drive.

The next stop on our trip was the Roubidoux River.  The Roubidoux is a river that has not been historically good to me in the past, because of my previous experiences we blew it off last year with a little night fishing excursion, but this year when we rolled into the parking lot we got a few pointers from some guys that were finished up in the parking lot at the Waynesville City Park and we headed downstream following thier directions.  I was up for this stream, after my “stellar” whoring at the trout park I needed some redemption and was rewarded quickly with a rainbow while swinging a black wooly bugger with an egg dropper (he took the egg).  After a release, I hooked up again, and as it was getting later in the afternoon and with a good drive ahead, we headed back to the rig and headed towards Lebannon, Missouri.  But before we headed out, we needed to grab a photo of the MDC trout sign, and it was there that my waders met their demise…..a barbed wire fence that I tugged against leaving a pretty good tear in them.  My waders were no more, but there is no crying in trout fishing so we hit the rig and headed on down the road (secretly wondering if I remembered to pack a spare pair of waders).

When tackling 21 streams in 4 1/2 days, minimizing drive time is a big task, and today was going to put it to the test with a long trek which took us from the Barren Fork Creek all the way to Bennett Spring and the Niangua River.  Because daylight was dwindling and our time was limited, we drove into Bennett Spring State Park and headed to the hatchery outflow for a quick pick-up of fish.  The weather was unseasonably warm, and we were quickly reminded why trout parks are some of our least favorite places to fish in the fall / winter when the weather is nice as the park was PACKED with people.  I know alot of people look down upon people fishing eggs or san juan worms, but when fishing a new stream or needing to pick up a fish quickly they are great patterns to use in the Ozarks (and most anywhere).  I dropped down to the stream, and was quickly rewarded with a bunch of dinks.  The water was clear and also provided us a place to try out the homemade underwater housing that Brian Wise made for my HD Video Camera.  It held up and really did a nice job, even if Brian froze his hands holding it underwater.  With the whistle blowing, signaling another day of trout park fishing has come to a close, we headed towards the Niangua River, right outside the park.

The Niangua River fished really well for us during the 2008 Trout Odyssey, and we were looking forward to fishing it again.  We had both wanted to float the river last year, but schedules didn’t pan out before the party float season began, so this was our first time back on the stream.  Brian was up this time, and was quickly into fish at the public access.  Fishing was a bit slower this year, but we opted to swing wooly buggers this year and pick up fish.  The day quickly faded and it provided me with a chance to shoot some longer exposure shots on the water (something I have been dying to do for awhile now).  It is amazing how much color you can extract from an image that is shot at dark.  The colors are much more vivid.  After playing with the cameras a bit longer, we had had a long day and headed back to the rig.  All in all the Niangua delivered again this year.

We finished the day by eating at Senor Peppers Grill & Catina in Lebanon, Missouri.  It will be the last time that either of us ever eat there, what smelled really good outside was a damn nightmare on a plate when we got inside.  I ordered fajitas and was “rewarded” with grilled chicken strips and vegetables that were coated “generously” with the chef’s favorite store bought barbecue sauce.  It was horrid, and i have now met the first fajita I didn’t like (after all, it is hard to f ‘ up a fajita….just not in Lebanon, Missouri).  We had a good laugh, were left with heartburn as we headed out the door towards our destination near Crane, Missouri and Crane Creek.

The rest of the photos from Day 2 are below, enjoy.

2009 Missouri Trout Odyssey Trailer

While we may have ended the 2009 Missouri Trout Odyssey at the end of November, that doesn’t mean the “work” with the trip was over then.  Visiting 21 trout streams in 4.5 days is a daunting task, but so is wading through the countless hours of HD video and the hundreds of photos that we shot.  Brian Wise has finally gotten through most of the video and put together a little trailer (I am still wading through the photos), if you will, that will hopefully tide you over until the full written reports, photos, and videos are posted to the blogs.  For the Facebook friendly, Brian and I have been pushing out hints a little at a time over the past week or so.  All in all, it was a hella good time.

–Matt Tucker