What a family vacation. We headed to Dallas, Texas to visit some friends (David Stinnett and his wife and new child) for a few days before backtracking and heading towards Branson, MO for a day or two at Silver Dollar City. Picture, National Lampoon’s Tucker Vacation. It was a really great time, as I love road trips with my wife. One of the benefits was that I got to fish a little more than anticipated. The trip to the Lower Mountain Fork was planned hower as an escape from Texas for David and I for a day (to leave our wives hang out), as I had always wanted to catch a trout in a new state I visit. However, looks like I will need to head back there. First a little something about Oklahoma………….there is nothing there. This will be a short report, due to some laptop issues I am writing this chronicle more than a month after the trip. Some of the highlights including paying $33 for a ONE DAY trout permit to fish the waters. Having my buddy Dave foul hook a fish to think it was the greatest fish in the world (he foul hooked it on accident, after that he was ribbing me for not catching a fish). And lastly David teasing me with some of the most beautiful water on a little side stream as we were driving out. The tailwater section didn’t impress me that much — although we did see some fish and I did believe I missed some fish but didn’t have any photos to show for it. I am told that David is writing a more detailed humorous look at our fishing trip. I will post it……if he ever sends it…….
I am writing this report more than a month after the trip, as I was waiting for the new OzarkChronicles web site update. The trip started off with Craig Peterson and I leaving for the Norfork River around 12pm on Thursday, October 21. We got down to the Ramada Inn in Mountain Home, Arkansas just in enough time to give John Wilson (www.flyfishingarkansas.com) a call and inquire about the fishing and a place to watch the Cardinals vs. Astros NLCS game 7. We ended up at the BackForty Bar & Grill and watched the Cards to victory while enjoying a great burger and some cold beers. We headed back to the hotel room in preparation of David Stinnett driving in from Lewisville, Texas. David showed up about 11pm and after quickly unpacking and checking the generation on the Norfork, we opted to do some night fishing at Quarry Park.
We got to the river around 11:30pm and suited up, and headed towards the river. Not being on the river for 30 minutes, the horn started blowing and the water came up. During the rising water, David hooked up with his biggest brown trout to date of about 16″. As we were standing around the boat ramp waiting to make a decision, another angler made his way up to us. It was Troy Miller, an internet acquaintance from John Wilson’s message board. We talked like we were old pals for at least an hour, during which the water came back down. We all decided to fish a little more (even though falling water normally means no fish), and I gave the riffles in front of Dry Run Creek a try. I was rewarded with a nice 21″ brown trout, which made my trip and was the reason I came down. About 3:30pm we all met back up at the truck and decided to head back to the hotel room and get some sleep, since it was a long day.
On Friday, we rose about 10am to find that the water had been running for some time that morning and after a quick conversation with John Wilson it was decided that they were probably going to run it all day. We ate breakfast at the Country Kettle, and then decided to check out the fly shop and then go check out the White River dam area (since I have never seen that water). We walked around for a bit, and it was crowded, but there was some wadeable water on 3 generators so we decided to suite up and fish the area around the trout dock in the State Park. After about 2 hours of fishing, I found a nice incline on which to take an afternoon siesta.
After a shower, we met up with John Wilson for some drinks at the BackForty bar until about 11:30pm on Friday night. The only good that came of that night, other than the great conversation and friends getting together and telling lies was that the other guys learned how to say “Put it on Tucker’s tab.” All in all it was a great time, no matter what the bar tab.
They ran water all day on Friday and were still running water when we got back to the hotel room from the bar, and we made the decision to head over to the Spring River in Mammoth Spring, Arkansas to ensure that we got some fishing done. The Spring River diddn’t disappoint, and on Saturday we caught over 80 fish between the 3 of us (Craig caught over 40). We fished out the river for an hour on Sunday and then headed home. I am forgetting a lot about the Spring River, but it has definitely become a great standby in place of the tailwaters if they are running water. There is talk that we may head to Wisconsin to chase steelhead and lake run browns instead of doing Arkansas in October (due to water generation), we will see………..
David Stinnett and his wife were visiting us this weekend from near Dallas, Texas. David is a childhood friend of mine, that I recently introduced to fly fishing. He made his first fly fishing trip with us last October to fish the Norfork River. Since then, he is several dollars lighter and heavier in fly fishing gear and has many trout to his credit on the waters in Oklahoma and Texas. The problem is that these trout aren’t very big. He was lured to St. Louis with a promise of tickets to a Cardinals Game (we went Friday night, and the Cards beat the Dodgers, as Matt Morris struck out 11), a tour of Anheisur-Busch, lunch on “The Hill,” and the chance at some decent sized trout on Sunday morning by fishing the C&R area of Montauk State Park.
We left St. Louis at 4:00am, and were sitting at the Denny’s in Eureka by 4:15am awaiting the arrival of the standard fishing breakfast. I will say this about Denny’s. I thought that this would be quicker than backtracking to the Denny’s at I-44 and Bowles, but the service and the food wasn’t near as good. Looks I will have to go back to the regular location. After breakfast we took off for Montuak, and arrived at the Lodge / Park Store at 7:15am. I was wearing one of my Team Ozark Chronicles Trout Bum fishing shirts, and was quickly asked by one of the store employee’s “You Know about OzarkChronicles?” To which I replied, “Yes sir, its my site.” I find it quite humbling, the amount of attention that OzarkChronicles.com gets. David was really surpised by this, as well. We chatted about fishing for a bit, and about the Trout Bum experience and then it was time to hit the stream.
The park looked packed as we were driving through it, and I was not quite sure what we would find in the Catch & Release area of the park. I hadn’t fished it since the MDC did the stream bank “improvements” in this section, and I was not sure what to expect. Although I had already promised David a shot at a personal best rainbow. We walked into the C&R section and no one was there but the fish. The fish were pretty healthy in size, but the water was very unattractive. I think that that C&R area of the park has got to be the most unattractive place in Montauk State Park. But the fishing isn’t bad, and David wanted a shot at a big fish. Well, he got his shot for about 3.5 hours that morning fishing to fish that averaged about 2.5lbs. He had 4 quick hook-ups, but each snapped him off. He did end up bringing two fish to hand during the short time we were at Montauk. I landed 7 fish during the time on the water. The fish were fairly finicky and fed in spurts. David was having hook-ups on various colored glo-balls and an orange beadhead scud. I had luck throwing a white rag sculpin (# 4) as well as various colored glo-balls (I cheated though, and mine were tied simply by using the craft pom poms. David did catch his biggest rainbow of his brief fly fishing career to date I believe it measured to about 16″ or so. He will hopefully continually beat this fish as there are a ton bigger fish in all the streams that we will fish together this fall.
On the walk out, we ran into only the third other angler that we have seen. As we were approaching, I was quickly asked by the angler if I was Matt Tucker. The mystery angler introduced himself as Chris Maurer. He complimented me on the web site, and we had a brief conversation about the fishing. I have to admit to being bad with names and cross-referencing it to people’s identities on message boards (Sorry Chris). It is always a pleasure to meet new fly fisherman, especially those that post on OzarkChronicles.com. We wished each other luck, and Daivd and I packed up the Blazer and decided to show him the Tan Vat Access on the Current River. I was surprised to find only three cars and one tent at the parking lot, but a quick look downstream revealed 3 anglers. Due to time constraints, we didn’t fish, and after a photo or two we headed back towards the park and St. Louis. I had just started to tell Davide about the long hike from the parking lot up to the bottom of the park and how I will normally walk the field up and then fish back down to the access, when we came across three anglers walking back on the road towards the park. I quickly offered them a ride, and took them back to the camping area where they had parked. During the short ride with them, they had explained that the fishing was a little slow but they did come across two people cleaning fish in the Trout Management Section below the park to which they said that the fish didn’t look legal in length. This is something that I think the MDC, and possibly fly fishing organizations, need to do a better job of — hanging signage on the river explaining the regulations and the importance of them (along with the punishments). We were on our way back to St. Louis by 11:00am, after a great day of fishing. 260 miles driven, 3.5 hours of fishing for 9 fish. We were back at my house before our wives and kids were back from Grants Farm, so it was an absolutely perfect trip. Next time I will be on the water will probably be the North Fork of the White River the first weekend of October.
We woke to the sounds of the horn being blown around 4:00am for more water generation — so goes the life on the tailwater. It was decision time, do we stay and wait out the water and the crowds, or do we pack up early and head for some different water on the way home? Obviously we wanted to maximize fishing time, so we packed up camp much to the dismay of any of the neighbors of Campsite # 10. We were broke down and packed up within 30 minutes of getting on the road and saying goodbyes to David (he had decided to leave when we did and make a break for Dallas earlier than expected since they were running water). We got to the Spring River around 7am and hit no traffic on the way. We parked at the tourist center and suited up and headed for the river. I learned another important fact on this trip — during late october one must always pack for colder temps, even when the forecast calls for highs in the 70’s and lows in the 50’s. It was butt cold on Sunday morning, but we survived. I brought 5 fish to hand in little more than an hour near the Hwy. 63 bridge (all on mohair leeches) and Craig brought 1 fish to hand on a green serendipity midge. We were the only ones on the river that morning and it made for a nice little hour of fishing. We were worn out and cold and decided to head back to the car and get back to the families a little earlier than expected. Here is an important driving trip, be sure to watch for the 63 exit at Cabool when returning from the Spring River. If you miss your exit, feel free to drive the extra 10 minutes to reach a Citgo that has some MONSTER deer mounts of southern Missouri deer in it, just to get gas and head back to Cabool. We got back to St. Louis around 1:3opm and I was unpacked and in the shower by 2pm. This year was a great trip spent with a great group of guys on a great river, I can’t wait to do it again next year.
I awoke a little earlier than expected on Saturday morning at 5am (having not gotten to bed until 11pm). I decided to suit up and go get an early spot at the mouth of Dry Run Creek. I suited up and then woke Dave up and he looked at me with those “what the hell, you are crazy man, the sun isn’t even up” looks and I told him and Craig that I was headed down to Dry Run to get a spot. I was sitting on a rock by 5:30am with a piece of gooey butter cake and a bottle of Gatorade taking in the sounds of the river and the darkness. The silence was broken by my radio and Dave saying that he was on his way down. By the time he arrived, the crowds had begun to form around the creek (this is one of the most popular places to fish due to the spawning run) but David and I had been awarded a spot. I made a feeble attempt at fishing a glow in the dark indicator rig with a scud, but had no luck. It was just getting light when I switched to a black mohair leech and was promptly awarded with a Brown a little over 20″ — what a beautiful trout. It was quite a battle in the early morning and was the first fish caught out of the creek that morning. David made three attempts to net the fish, and it was both funny and heart pounding to watch as with each attempt the fish would make a run. It was dark enough and in deep enough water that you couldn’t tell where the fish was exactly, but he was finally netted and several pictures were taken. It was my biggest Brown to date (a new personal best), but not the Brown I had been searching for — there were much bigger trout holding in this water. I threw the mohair leech for a little while longer, loosing several fish, and then decided to switch to a black scud / indicator set up and was rewarded with a nice 17″ Brown with beautiful colors. David took pictures (one picture even has me holding the fish and in the background there is a fish jumping) with his digital camera and the fish was quickly released. Dave was still fishless on this trip, but we was fishing better than other newbies I had seen in less than ideal conditions. David then proceeded to hook into one of the Browns that the Norfork is known for, but that is all he did — hook into it. It was a LARGE fish and the only thing I saw was the mouth and the tail as it came out of the water and made the run that snapped his line. David was so distraught by this that he actually quit fishing for about an hour and went back up to camp. That was my que to meet up with Craig in the pool below the Dam. The temperature really took a nose dive by about 9am and we fished this water until about 9:30am and then headed back to camp to grab food and hit the C&R area near the Handicap Platform. We got there about 10:30 and took the only available spot in the lot (there were fishermen everywhere in the stream — both upstream and downstream of the platform). We rigged up and started fishing our way upstream, eagerly awaiting others to finish the pools / holes they were fishing. As other anglers broke for lunch or for the rain (it had started raining) we were able to gain access to a pool that held allot of big fish. Craig and I threw everything we had at these fish (I even resorted to a leader/tippet of 11′ ending with 8x tippet and #28 midge patterns but could not get a strike. It appeared that these fish were feeding, but I will never know on what. Frustrated and wet, David and I decided to head back to the car for lunch and a break — Craig followed shortly. We fished the C&R area until about 3:30pm and then decided to head back to camp and try our luck nearer the Dam. The temperature took a nose dive and the wind started to kick up at the base of the Dam. Fishing was tough out there with no protection from the wind. I tied on an orange scud / indicator set up and was rewarded with my first Brook trout I have ever caught — although it was a little trout, not more than 11″, but it was my first. To my dismay, Craig didn’t have his camera with him (due to the impending threat of rain) and nor did I have mine (it was in my vest back in camp — I switched from vest to wading jacket due to the drastic change in weather and only took the essentials with me — scuds and midges). The wind and cold temps, combined with the start of water generation, put us back at camp for the remainder of the afternoon. Another change from last year was the addition of a new shower house at Quarry Park campground — there was nothing better than taking a hot shower in a private heated bathroom (complete with toilet / shower / mirror) after a hard day on the river being beat up by the elements. After we all cleaned up, we headed into town for dinner at El Charro’s in Mountain Home. It was as good of Mexican food as I have had in awhile (living in the midwest) and sure beat cold turkey sandwiches and soda. After dinner, we headed over to Tom Roger’s (TNT Fly Fishing) house to visit and Becky, his wife, had been having some computer problems they wanted me to look at. They are two of the nicest people you are ever going to meet in Arkansas and both of them have a wealth of knowledge and a willingness to share it. We left Tom’s about 9:30pm and were back in camp falling asleep to the rain by 10:30am.