Missouri Trout Odyssey III – Day 4

2012-12-09pic046800pxThe 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.

After 3 days of being on the road, we finally reached our final day, and the two streams we were looking most forward to fishing; the Eleven Point and the North Fork of the White.  We also had to fish the Trout Park at Montauk State Park, due to some poor planning and not being able to fish the park on a thursday during the C&R season.  We left the confines of our Branson hotel early on Sunday morning and headed for our comfort stream….the NFOW.  This is the river that Brian Wise guides on and it is the river that I try and fish every chance I get.  Pointing our car in the direction of the river was the easy part, getting there…..not so much…thanks to a massive storm that was settling over the area.  We drove through some torrential downpours and thunder and lightening, only to get to the NFOW just as there was a slight break in the storm.  Like a good woman, the river didn’t disappoint, and provided us with our largest fish of the trip and probably the most photogenic as well.  In a race to beat the rain, we quickly hit the car and headed towards the Eleven Point and met up with Brian Sloss of 11pt Canoe Rental, and like always the 11pt produces in both scenery and fish.

“Trust in Garmin,” were the words both Wise have uttered many times over the years while on an MTO trip.  This last day was pretty special though, as Garmin took us what must have been the most direct route to Montauk State Park, but probably not the fastest, as we traversed various dirt, gravel, two track, highway, and a stream crossing or two on our way to our final destination — Montauk State Park.  It was one of the more memorable and scenic drives of the trip; mainly because neither of us had any idea where we were or how to get out (much like the first night of this MTO, when we drove in circles in Mark Twain National Forest looking for a place to camp that wasn’t partied on by the locals).  We hopped out of the Jeep just in front of the rain and ran down to the ditch to eek out a fish or two, then it was time to take off the waders and settle in for the quick drive back to Licking, Missouri to sort out the gear and hear our separate ways……another Missouri Trout Odyssey completed……..

Plenty of memories, stories, photos, and videos, to keep us appreciating all the different trout water Missouri has to offer.  Day 4 included a ton of miles and the North Fork of the White River, the Eleven Point River, and Montauk State Park Trout Park.  Here are the photos from Day 4.

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.

Missouri Trout Odyssey (Day 4) — 2 More Missouri Trout Streams

The alarm went off at 4am, like the whistle at a trout park (loud and non-exciting). I jumped up and grabbed a quick shower and woke up Brian. We packed up the gear and were out the door in search of coffee and donuts as quickly as possible. It was during his time, that we finally found the Dunkin’ Donuts guy that sings when he is serving your donuts. He wasn’t much of a singer, he didn’t make a latte worth a damn, but he was a nice enough guy and it was breakfast. Besides, Brian not only has a way with the older female drive-thru workers; it appears he has a way with the slightly mind challenged Dunkin’ Donut workers too.

The drive from Branson to the Blair Bridge Access on the North Fork of the White River is a curvy son of a bitch during the daylight hours when you are a city driver. Combine that with icy conditions and nighttime conditions (the sun wasn’t up yet) and it makes from one long drive. We rolled in to the access around 6:30am and suited up in the cold and were soon fishing the run just below the boat ramp. One would assume that since this was Brian’s home turf the river would just bend over and let me have my way with it……..but like on my numerous other trips to the NFOW, the river made me its bitch with only 1 hook-up and plenty of missed strikes yet adding insult to injury Brian fished the water that i had been camped on an hooked a brown IMMEDIATELY. Fuck him.

The river is absolutely gorgeous, and there is definitely fish there, it is just that on certain times the river and I don’t see eye to eye; and the river tends to have its way with me like a whore on the east side. Brian picked up a fish, but saw the ass-whoppin’ that I was taking and offered to help…….proving it was karma I still didn’t pick up a fish. We laughed about it, enjoyed the scenery, and then reeled in and headed towards our last stop of the trip the Eleven Point River.

Neither Brian or I have spent much time on the Eleven Point River in the past, but we really need to not ignore the beauty of a trout stream. We rolled in to Greer Access on the Eleven Point River and re-rigged our rods, just in time to have Brian Sloss, the co-owner of Eleven Point Canoe Rental, to roll into the parking lot to say hello and offer up a few suggestions. We chatted for a bit, but needed to be in West Plains by 12pm (so technically we did all the fishing / driving in 3 1/2 days but we didn’t want to say anything), so we needed to get going on the fishing. We headed upstream and fished the area around the Hwy. 19 bridge. Brian and I both picked up a couple of fish rather quickly and were getting strikes and landing fish rather frequently just downstream of the bridge on an egg pattern under alot of indicator (8ft to 10ft deep). But all good things must come to an end, and we needed to meet Brian’s wife in West Plains so we reluctantly reeled up and headed back to the rig.

As we got back to the rig, we reflected on what we had just done. 20 trout streams in 4 days. Maybe it is impressive to some, and to others not. It didn’t matter to us. We had a hella good time, and with that we cracked the first beer of the trip and endulged ourselfs. After the beer, we peeled off the waders for the last time this trip, joked about running down to the Spring River in Arkansas, and headed back to towards West Plains our souls replinished with the trout streams of Missouri; 20 of them in total.