Missouri Trout Odyssey III – Day 3

2012-12-08pic020800pxThe Missouri Trout Odyssey is a trip that Brian Wise and I dreamed up more than 4 years ago.  It originally started with each of us trying to bluff the other one into a “megatrip in the ozarks”, then it morphed in to how many streams can we fish and how fast can we fish them.  What has resulted is a helluva appreciation for all the trout water Missouri has to offer and a great time in the process, with lots of stories, pics, and videos along the way.  Each MTO is something that really can be explained in words — photos and video do it best.  But the best way to experience it is to get out there and do it yourself…..besides it is only 1200+ miles and 21 trout streams over 4 days.  As the years go on, less and less planning go into this trip, but we finish every trip telling each other that this is the last year we do it…..only to come back a year or two later and do it again.

Day 3 was our biggest drive day.  After breaking camp early on Saturday morning (much to the surprise of the 2 other groups camping in the campground), we headed south on a 130 mile journey to our next destination, Hickory Creek.  This little creek hasn’t really treated us well over the years of doing MTO, earning such nicknames as “the shithole”, but this year a new leaf was turned over.  Hickory Creek was the most surprising creek of this year’s MTO with several big fish presenting opportunities to both Wise and I (with no love, other than a hookup or two).  This was our longer driving day, and had us after finishing up at Roaring River, heading over to Taneycomo for some quick night fishing.  It was a long day, with more mexican food and lots of windshield time.

On Day 3 we covered Hickory Creek, Capps Creek, Crane Creek, Roaring River, and Roaring River Trout Park, and Lake Taneycomo.  6 more streams covered, for 17 total fished in 3 days.  Here are the photos from Day 3.

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.

Missouri Trout Odyssey (Day 3) — 6 More Missouri Trout Streams

As has been one of the few constants on this trip, the alarm went off at 5am and we were both up with hot showers and feeling pretty damn good after a warm night’s sleep. We were checked out and in the rig by 5:20 and through the McDonald’s drive-thru for coffee and breakfast by 5:30 and on our way to Roaring River to take on the first stream of 6 streams we hoped to fish today.

We rolled in to an access near a cemetery on Roaring River. Neither Brian or I had ever fished Roaring River and were quite surprised by how clear the water was and how “fishy” it looked. The snow was coming down and it was DAMN cold, so we broke out an extra layer of clothes and the Buffs to keep our face warm. We fished up and down the stream to no avail, with no takes or even seeing a fish. The stream was very similar to Spring Creek that we had fished earlier in this trip in both size and clarity. We gave it a valiant effort, but in the end, Roaring River won this battle. Feeling tired and battle sore, Brian decided to leave his mark on the battlefield by dropping a deuce in the woods before departing. He took a photo of it, and I strongly hope he saw a doctor after the trip (and brought the photo) to make sure that nothing was wrong with his insides….it just didn’t quite look right.

We pulled in to Roaring River State Park near the park office / spring headwaters and quickly grabbed the rods out of the rig and were fishing by 8:30am. I have only fished Roaring River State Park twice before, and each time I had fished it I was amazed at the amount of “pigs” that were present in the waters. This time would be no different. I was throwing a tungsten bh copperjohn under a yarn indicator and picked up a couple of fish just in time to hear Brian yell for the net. I walked down (cuz a good net man doesn’t get all overly excited in the moment of action) just to see the hook pull out and Brian’s face of disgust. He had lost the fish of the trip, thus far, and he knew it.

Across the stream from Brian and I, was Tim, the owner of Tim’s Fly Shop and institution on the banks of the Roaring River. Tim was catching fish left and right, and to add to the slap in the face — Tim hooked up with the same fish that Brian had lost and landed it. Tim has a scale built into his net, and the fish weighed just a tad over 5lbs. We both continued to fish, and I was camped out over a serious pig of a fish only have foul hooked him just under the mouth. I put a huge amount of pressure on the fish, and the hook pulled out but the fish was gone. Que sera, sera. We were off to Tim’s Fly Shop.

Tim’s fly shop was on the way from Roaring River to Hickory Creek, so we stopped off (I was running low on tungsten bh midges) and talked to Tim for a bit. His fly shop has improved greatly since the days of his little white building (which is right next door still) to a log cabin that is nicely decorated and fully stocked with whatever fly fishing gear you may need. There were even local fly fishermen hanging out in there, definitely a cool place to visit, and Tim definitely knows the waters around his fly shop.

We headed out of Tim’s Fly Shop towards Hickory Creek around 10:30am. Hickory Creek is a put-and-take fishery near the town of Neosho. Neither Brian or I had held out much hope for this stream as we couldn’t get any recent stocking information about it. We rolled in to the Neosho City Park, parked and found the stream. It was DAMN cold now, and the wind just wouldn’t let up. The eyelets on our rods were freezing with every cast, and we were both throwing meat at the fish (which meant stripping / dripping buggers and wet fans). The stream was definitely not the most scenic we had been on this trip, and won’t win the award anytime in the future, but it does provide a trout fishing outlet for those in the area and if I was in the area, I would be grateful for it. Fishing sucked though, with Brian only rolling one fish and me not seeing or feeling a damn fish. Cold and beaten, we had 3 more streams we needed to fish today, so we reeled up and were on our way back to the car, when we realized that gangs are everywhere…..even in the Ozarks….as there was gang graffiti written on the road and on one of the local water towers. Apparently there is a push to legalize marijuana in the little town of Neosho, and they are quite artful gangstas too. Fearing for our lives, we decided to mount up and exit the town of Neosho as quietly as we rolled in.

It was close to 1:30pm by the time we rolled in to our 4th trout stream of the day, Capps Creek. Capps Creek is another put-and-take fishery but this has got to be one of the most scenic streams I have ever had the pleasure of fishing. It could be the fact that you are fishing next to a mill that was built in 1848 and that there are actually trout in the stream. The snow and wind were still coming down, so that hampered getting good video or photos (I am a pansy when it comes to wet snow) but we gave it an effort with our point and shoots. Brian hooked up with the first fish, just under the spillway and that was all the fish that Capps Creek would give up in the brief time that we spent here. I had two hook-ups, LDR’s, but no fish landed. There is no doubt in either of ours minds that this stream does hold some fish and it is the only put-and-take fishery that Brian and I are actually excited about getting back to fish it. Not only from a fishing standpoint, but the photography subjects that are present on this site are enough to keep you busy for an entire day. But we had two more streams to fish so by 2:30pm we were on our way to Crane Creek.

Brian and I were both excited to try our and at fishing Crane Creek. We hadn’t done much homework as to where to fish this stream, but we were excited nonetheless. We parked in town near the Crane City Park and fish around the bridge area. Stealth is the name of the game on this wild trout stream, where McCloud strain rainbows survive, or so we had been told. We put on our “A” game of taking turns fishing and shooting photos (it was still snowing / raining, so we didn’t bust out the video camera at this site or the DSLR). As dark was approaching, we decided to leap frog each other, so I hiked a trail down along the back of the baseball fields to be approximately 20ft from the stream and get busted just as my head popped over the bank. Man the fish on Crane Creek are S-K-I-T-T-I-S-H. Brian rounded the corner, just as I had my hat handed to me by the fish and we both decided to head upstream and give it a go just above the bridge. With long downstream drifts Brian was able to get 2 hookups, but no fish landed. He fished upstream, and I took my shot at the pool just above the bridge. On my third or fourth cast, WAM, fish on. I yell up to Brian and he comes running just in time to see me hoist a nice creek chub out of the water (notice I said “Fish On” not “Trout On”). It was at that point that we decided to reel in and head towards night fishing on Taneycomo. The one thing that will stick out about Crane Creek, other than how skittish the fish are, is how DIRTY the stream was. This was the dirtiest trout stream we had been on all trip, perhaps other sections of this stream not in the city aren’t as bad, but the section of stream through the city left lots to be desired. And I also can COMPLETELY see how this stream would be a haven for snakes in the spring / summer months.

We roled out of Crane Creek towards Branson and Lake Taneycomo with 16 trout streams fished in 3 days, and we were on our way to night fish the 17th stream of this trip. Lake Taneycomo is home to the Missouri State Record Brown Trout (and previous record as well), and is home to some seriously big fish. The reports of late, since the high water, has not been that great from a big fish standpoint but the numbers of fish caught have been good.

It was 6:31pm, when we rolled into the parking lots near the outlets on Taneycomo. There was only one other car in the parking lot and we saw only a couple of headlamps in the waters. I don’t understand it about night fisherman. Turn the damn lights off when you are fishing, don’t spook your fish. There was one guy fishing just downstream of us that had his light shining all over the river and it was on almost constantly. I just don’t get it. It was plenty light out, from the lights at the hatchery and dam, yet this guy was putting on a laser light show with his flashlight. Perhaps he was signaling the ganstas in Neosho. I guess we will never know, as when the wind picked up he headed in and left Brian and I out there freezing our nuts off.

It had been a year or so since I had been on Taneycomo, imagine my surprise when walking out there is a HUGE DEEP hole that is upstream of Outlet # 2. I had no idea it was there, and no I didn’t fall in it, but would have had Brian not said anything. Brian set up and fished this section and I headed upstream towards the cable. The Kelly Gallop Sex Dungeon was the name of the game for me this evening with my 6wt. Which created quite an adventure in the wind and at night. Brian picked up two fish on streamers, and I was again “O’fer” with only one hook-up and one massive strike. We fished until about 8pm and decided that 12hrs+ in waders was enough for the day.

We were cold, wet, tired, and hungry as we headed on to the strip in Branson to find a place to eat. We settled on a Mexican joint that served pretty good food (again, i think that would get downgraded if we weren’t fishing) but “it would eat” and was warm. We had fished 18 Missouri trout streams and had two more to finish out our trip. The weather forecast was for an inch or two of snow and possibly some freezing rain, and by the time we finished dinner neither of us wanted to drive the 2hrs towards Gainesville, Missouri so we grabbed a room at one of Branson’s Super8 motels and settled in with hot showers and about 2 hours worth of computer time transfering stuff from cameras to the external hard drives and what not. But we finished it, and were in bed by midnight again for some seriously needed sleep with 18 Missouri trout streams being fished in 3 days and 2 more to go.