North Fork of the White River — April 22 – 23, 2006

I got to say, the thing is the nicest vehicle I have driven w/ plenty of room. Although the site of my Durango going down I-44 with 2 pontoons strapped on top of each other on the roof rack had to be a site. In total the Durango was almost 11ft tall and a HUGE sail going down the highway.

Having been up since 5am on Friday morning (4/21/06), the drive down to Dora, Missouri and the Kelly Access was anything but normal. This weekend was to be a trip down to the North Fork of the White River with several fly fishing friends (Steve Black, Andrew Arnold, John Nesslerode, and Brian Wise) and a trip that each of us really looked forward to. For starters, we didn’t roll out of St. Louis until 1am with the Durango (new fish car) packed to the hilt (complete with 2 pontoons stacked on top of each other as they were strapped to my CataCarryAll rack – the entire vehicle was more than 10ft tall with the pontoons). We arrived at Kelly Access a little after 5am and dead tired, with only enough time to unload and rig the boats / rods / gear and then I needed to leave to meet Brian Wise at the take-out (Blair Bridge). Both Steve and I were dead tired, but we were didn’t drive 4hrs on no sleep for nothing. After playing some musical vehicles (one of John’s pet peeves…..as he always wants to drive) and introductions, we were on our way back to Kelly Access to launch to flotilla of boats and then promptly paddle upstream about a 1/2 mile to Lamb Shoal (a big shout out to my buddy Brian for that early morning excercise…yes this fat man needed it). As we finished up at Lamb Shoal both Steve and I took our pontoon boats and floated downstream and to the first riffle / run that we would cross. As I was waiting at the bottom of the run for Steve to come through, he happened to hit the run sideways and had the oar in the water at the same time and broke his oar lock (and lost it in the river). After witnessing how this happened, I will be ordering a spare set of oar locks to keep in my boat bag while floating. Steve was a trooper and finished the float in his boat, and by the end of the day both of his oars were incapcitated in someway or the other (his oar stop too).

The North Fork of the White is a beautiful river, but i didn’t catch squat today. We launched the boats about 8:30am and took out around 4:30pm, and the day was filled with everything but fish. I threw a golden stonefly rig under and indicator almost all day. My only saving grace was that as we stopped for lunch, I pulled out the sink tip line and a black rag sculpin and promptly had a hookup complete with splash….which I promptly lost the fish (but at least there was a crowd there to witness the excitement). We stopped at most of the runs along our float, although I don’t know the names of them, and beat them with 5 fly fishermen and none of us lit up the fish. As a matter of fact, I believe the only person to hook up with fish was Brian Wise (1……we are not going to count the nice brown that he foul hooked in the tail…there is a pic with the fly in its tail) and Andrew Arnold (1 or 2). The only real excitement of the day was when Andrew hooked a nice brown in the hole we were fishing during lunch. It was a picture fish, but it didn’t want to be landed (it did make some nice runs on Andrew though and gave both Brian and I time to get the cameras out and get ready to see the fish up close). ¬†When fishing the North Fork of the White, a trip isn’t complete without eating at The Antler in Gaineville, Mo. They have the best chips and salsa in the Ozarks (so long as the waitress remembers to bring your second order). We had a total of 6 people eat and drink for a couple of hours and the total bill was less than $70. So what if the service is slow (talk to the locals and they will warn you), the beer is cold and the food is good.

Saturday night we stayed at Taylor Inn Bed & Breakfeast near the town of Dawt, Mo. and really close to Dawt Mill. Sean and Chris Taylor were gracious hosts, and Sean spent some time chatting with us on Saturday evening before bed about his trips on the river and his days as a guide in Alaska and out west. It had been a long day and both Steve and I were dead tired, having been up for more than 35 hours. Temps in the high 80’s and not a cloud in the sky and barely a breeze made fishing extremely tough for me (and everyone in our group). I don’t think more than 3 trout were caught by the fish the entire day, but it won’t stop me from heading back down there as it is really a unique river.

After a great nights sleep and breakfast (omlette and bagel) at the Taylor Inn Bed and Breakfast, we headed to Blair Bridge to fish the run directly below the boat ramp. Andrew had to head home yesterday, and Brian was attending to family matters, but neither missed much as it was just as warm as the previous day with the bright sun and no clouds in the sky. I will say that it was a better day than yesterday in the terms of fish caught, as I did manage to catch a chub but that was it. At one point I looked downstream and saw John releasing a fish and then looked back again to see he had a bigger fish on (but it promptly took the liberty of unhooking itself). We pounded the water at the access with a bunch of different flies. I threw a black stonefly as well as a golden stone fly pattern. I also tossed a stimulator for awhile (and actually got one rise). We were tired, cranky, and give the weather conditions of the previous day and the fact that we were experiencing the same conditions led us to start looking for insects in the stream rather than fishing. We found several different insects (but I won’t pretend to know what they all were) that included a very large hellgramite, stoneflies, and mayflies. After some obligatory photos and good byes Steve and I were on our way back to St. Louis just in time to see John climb out of his Explorer with soda spilled all over him. Yup, it was one of those weekends…….but you know we would all do it again.

–Tucker