I added a new river to my list of trout water in the Ozarks that I have fished this weekend. This trip was planned several weeks ago when I was invited (or did I invite myself……still not quite sure) to attend what will hopefully become an annual trip to the North Fork of the White River at the River of Life Farm with a group of fly fishermen from St. Louis (and 1 from Kansas City). The trip was organized by Ted Lammert, the Store Manager of Feather-Craft Fly Shop in St. Louis, Mo. and the group was made up of Feather-Craft emplolyees and regular shop patrons and all around good guys. Some of the attendees this weekend were: Ted Lammert, Joel (sorry man, still only know you as Joel), Brent Hinds, Mike Swederska, Earl Swederska, Gavin Poppen, John Nesselrode, Bill & Carol Omar, Dale, Sharron, Matt, and several other people whose names are slipping my memory at the moment.
This trip was almost the trip that wasn’t. We have been remodeling our main bathroom and it still isn’t finished and it also happened to be my company’s fiscal year end on 09-30-04. Those two things almost caused me to bow out on this trip. Somehow I got my gear packed on Thursday night, and was on the way down to the River of Life Farm on the North Fork of the White River by 6pm. I wasn’t quite sure of the directions that I printed off of the internet, and to be quite honest I don’t like driving by myself at night on long trips. Mapquest told me it would be about a 4.5 hour drive to the middle of nowhere. By the time I hit Cabool, I was petering out and was really starting to doubt finishing the trip that night and contemplating heading towards the Spring River and a Super8 motel. But there was hope, as when I hit the town of Cabool I noticed Gavin Poppen’s Jeep Liberty and Canoe at the gas station. I pulled in to the gas station, said quick hellos and follwed Gavin the rest of the way to River of Life Farm. One thing is definitely for sure, this place is in the middle of absolutely nowhere and there is no quick way to get there. We pulled up to the Tree House Cabin, which happened to be where Ted, Joel, and Brent were staying and the party happened to be. It was a complete hoot, but I will just leave it at lots of beer being drank on the bank of the river and a great time was had. I snuck out a little early to take out my contacts, but while out it had started pouring so I didn’t head back to the party and a few of us in our cabin (the Mountain Log Cabin) had a few more beers and hit the sack (around 12:30am). Apparently the real party didn’t end until about 3:00am.
We were all a little slow to wake on Saturday morning, and after some PowerAid and some ultra strong coffee I was on the river by 10:00am. It was a cool morning with some cloud cover that quickly gave way to blue bird skies and rising temperatures. Myron McKee has a really nice place on the river and it offers the wading fisherman some excellent water to fish. I headed upstream of “The Falls,” and tried my luck while the others decided to fish from “The Falls” downstream and Gavin & John opted to float the river. Fishing was a little slow in my opinion but the river is absolutely beautiful and the most scenic Missouri trout river that I have been on to date. Man it was a neat river with a ton of aquatic life (including some HUGE stoneflies). I am not sure on the fishing pressure the river gets, but it is a Wild Trout Management Area, and the rainbows have not been stocked in the river for more than 10 years. As I started to say earlier, the fishing was slow for me. In an effort to keep my feeble mind interested, I opted to throw a large Madam X. I don’t know why I chose that fly other than it was the middle of the day, but I did and was quickly rewarded with 2 beautiful rainbows of about 8 inches. I finished up the day without any additional fish, but it was still a good day on a new river. The others in the group faired a little better than I did, but not much. No one hit the double digits in rainbows on Saturday. Saturday night was a feast fit for a king, complete with Fred’s Fish House Pickled Tomatoes. It was a great night on the river with a great group of people, and hopefully this event turns in to an annual event. My only suggestion is that next time Ted lets us help out a little more with the food.
Sunday morning we rose not so early and discussed whether to fish or to leave and head to Rockbridge to get some photos of some large fish and play a little joke on a fellow fly shop employee (Steve @ FeatherCraft). Some of us opted to stay, while a few headed over to Rockbridge. I packed up my Blazer and John Nesslerode and I decided to fish the river until about 10am or so. It was this morning that I finally got to see the numerous fish in this river. I only picked up one fish though as I was walking out, but did a little bit more exploring and spent some time on the big brown that we had spotted on Saturday (it was holding in the same spot). The Northfork of the White River is a beautiful river and I highly recommend checking out River of Life Farm while you are down there. I will definitely be back, although hopefully with a pontoon boat the next time.