Sunday morning I got up at 4am and was packed my bags and headed to the parking lot of the Ramada Inn in Mountain Home, Arkansas. It was the last day of a great trip, the only thing that I had to look forward to now was a few hours on the river before a long drive back to St. Louis. I met up with Kris Maurer in the parking lot, and we hit the McDonald’s drive through and drove to the White River below Bull Shoals Dam to meet Tom Rogers (TNT Fishing Service) at the parking lot at 5:30am. It was a quiet Sunday morning, and we were the first ones to arrive at the parking lot. We opted to wet wade and were in the process of rigging our rods when Tom pulled in (early as usual — or in fisherman’s terms, right on time). We were going to throw large dry flies to the cruising risers this morning in the fog. We headed out to the water and began systematically casting and wading our way into the river in a line. Within the first couple of casts, I had a strike but no hookup. As we stood in the water and fog, it was amazing to see and hear the number of fish rising. It was one of those unique moments where you know that there is no better place to be anywhere at that exact moment. As the sun began to cook some of the fog off of the water, I tied on a #8 stimulator and continued to work the water. I was rewarded with a 16″ – 17″ Cutthroat. I continued with this fly until the fog had completely burned off the water, picking up one more decent sized rainbow. I then switched to a #18 tan colored scud (one might call it Trout Crack) and fished it under about 2ft of indicator and was rewarded with two additional fish for a total of 4 fish in about 3.5 hours on the water. Because of the long drive back to St. Louis, I said my goodbye to Kris Maurer and Tom and I walked out to the ramp. After a quck yell to Matt Pedersen and Renee to say good bye, I was at my car and was putting up the fly rod and stowing away my gear when Jim Traylor came up and we chatted for a bit. As he headed back to his fishermen, I headed for the long drive back to St. Louis. Man do I hate I-44 construction, it took me almost 6hrs to make the trip back.
Brent Hinds (aka Tiny)and I left St. Louis at 7pm on February 11. After an hour trip to the local Schnuck’s we were stocked with enough food and beer to feed an army for the weekend — in this case it was only about 10 Ozark Chronicles Message Board Members. It is amazing how much gear Tiny brings with him. I didn’t think we were going to make it, but we got all his gear in, plus all of mine, and all the beer / food. It was a long drive down as we were both sick and trying to get over some wicked cold that we had. You should have seen us, sucking down cough drops and cold medicine the entire drive down there.
We arrived at Montauk around 10:30pm and headed toward the condo that we would call home for the weekend. After a quick hello, it was time to unload the Blazer and enjoy the campfire and beer that were already being enjoyed by many. Norm Crisp, Brian Greer, Kris Maurer, Pat, Lee, Brent Hinds, and I all enjoyed the campfire and stayed up until it started to rain a little. I wasn’t feeling well and only sucked down one beer, before I opted for Gatorade and sleep on the couch (after losing to Tiny at Paper, Rocks, Scissors).
We rose on Saturday morning to have a hot breakfast of sausage, eggs and waited for Craig Peterson to join us. Craig showed up, and we suited up and rigged our rods. Norm Crisp, Craig Peterson, and I opted to fish the river. We started the morning fishing from TanVat to just up from Baptist. We started by throwing streamers and the fishing was tough, we went some time without any of us hooking up well into the morning. I was throwing a conehead slumpbuster, while Norm was throsing a Clouser, and Craig was throwing a black wooley. The weather was perfect, the conversation was good, but the fish were not cooperating. Craig picked up the first fish, then Norm picked up a fish, then Craig started hooking up just up from Baptist. It was interesting to fish with Norm Crisp, as it was fairly apparent that our fishing styles were different and Norm moves fairly fast while fishing — opting to cover more water and present flies to more fish. We did spot a very large fish, just down from TanVat near the high bank. This fish, in my estimation, was at least 26″ and was the biggest Brown Trout that I have seen in the Current River to date. We watched the fish for several minutes, before Norm and Craig moved down the trail (which was soon enough to keep me from trying my luck on the monster). Craig had his casting mojo with him, as we were on a stretch just up from Baptist and picked up a couple of fish but missed a ton more. We headed back upstream and decided to try and catch the Caddis hatch on some water below Baptist.
We got to Baptist Camp around 11am and hiked downstream. I had never been below Baptist Camp Access before, so this was all new water for me. It was very cool. The fact that Norm and I fish completely different was again illustrated as we passed deep hole after deep hole on the way to Norm’s caddis water. Immediately arriving at our destination, I plopped down on the bank — man I got to lose some weight (LOL). While sitting on the bank, Norm and Craig were having a field day catching browns on a caddis pattern that Norm ties. I had on an elk hair caddis and missed several fish. We fished this water for about an hour or so, and both Norm and Craig tore them up — with me only landing a measly 5 fish. It was more dry fly fishing than I had done all of last year though. Craig had to get back to St. Louis, so he had to leave around 12:30pm and Norm had graciously offered to drive him back to his car at the condo and let me fish. I fished my way upstream and picked up occassional fish on Cracklebacks. I didn’t break 10 fish for the day — but all of my fish did come on dry flies (which is new to me). Norm hiked back down and ran into me, just as I was releasing a Brown. He was going to hike back down to the caddis stretch and I was not feeling much better so opted to hike back to the car and get some rest. I was feeling pretty miserable, and Norm called my cough a Foghorn most of the morning. On the hike back out, I ran in to Ron Caimi (www.troutcamprods.com) and he had found much of the same luck with the caddis as we did. The caddis started coming off at 11am and were heavy until about 2pm. They were about a #16 tan caddis. On the walk out, Ron and I caught up on things since it has been awhile since we have seen each other. Then it happened……..for the second time this season, I slipped in fell into the river — filling up my waders and buggering up my knee in the process. It was quite silly actually, since I took a spill in only about 3 feet of water after tripping up while trying to walk into the water. I did manage to take in more water with this spill then I did when I was on the Norfork in July, but it was still a dumb mistake on my part. I high-tailed it back to the Blazer, where I promptly stripped down to my underwear and drove back to the condo. It was then that I realized how truly bliss it is to be on a fishing trip — sick and soaking wet from about midchest to your toes — and driving back to camp in nothing more than a pair of underwear. It was definitely one of my finer moments.
Upon getting back to the condo, I took some ribbing by Pat and Lee (both of which were resting up and tying after a day in the trout park). I took the opportunity to take a hot shower and put on some dry clothes and take a nap. As everyone arrived back at camp, telling stories of the caddis hatch and the fish they caught, it was time for dinner. We ate like kings with T-Bones, Shrimp, Potatoe Salad, and a ton of other stuff (including some ultra-rare uncooked duck tips — which I passed on). Most everyone stayed up drinking and telling stories, but I was still feeling completely miserable so I opted for early sleep.
This was a trip that actualy had a plan. This weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Brian Wise of Gainsville, Missouri. Brian is the head guide at River of Life Farm on the North Fork of the White River and consequently is one helluva fly fisherman. We had been trading emails back and forth about fishing together for some time, and finally the time arrived, as Brian was giving a presentation to the St. Louis County Parks Department on 01-18-05 about his home waters and because of this was willing to turn a trip to St. Louis into an excuse to fish together.
I met up with Brian at 7am at PJ’s Cafe in Licking, Missouri. The plan was to fish the Current River from the TanVat Access to Baptist Camp Access. Upon the drive to the river, my cell phone rang and it was Brent Hinds. We were supposed to meet up with Brent Hinds and Kris Maurer for a little fishing in Montauk Trout Park after I showed Brian the river. Brent was bringing some bad news though. The Current River was closed due to high flow, which meant if we got caught fishing the river it is a minimum $200 ticket. We checked out the river anyway and shot some photos, then headed towards the trout park to fish. It was the first time that Brian had fished a Missouri trout park and I wanted him to get the full experience. Although the weather, which was sunny, windy, with a single digit air temperature helped to keep the crowds off of the water, the high water concentrated the anglers into the upper section of the park.
We fished until noon with limited success. Everyone caught some fish, but not too many. I broke from fishing at 12pm to cook up some brats and set up for lunch on the cold winter day. After lunch we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring different sections of the park. Again, I don’t know how many fish I caught — it was more than 10 but less than 20. I do know that Kris Maurer was completely slaying rainbows off of the old low water bridge by drifting a mohair leech under an indicator (for awhile, he could do no wrong). The fly of the day proved to be a mohair leech again.
After closing out the day in the C&R section fishing for one of the hog fish near the bridge, we all got out of our waders and said our good byes and started making plan for the next hook up. Brian and I headed to Rolla to find a hotel and plan our assault on the water for Sunday. We settled on the new Holiday Inn Express in Rolla where we watched the Rams loose thier playoff game and tied a couple of flies while looking at fishing photos. Most importantly, the plan for tomorrow was hatched. We were going to fish Spring Creek.
I found myself sitting at Denny’s near I-44 and Bowles Avenue at 4:25am this morning, ordering my usual breakfast and awaiting the arrival of my fishing partners. It seems the drunks were out in full force on Saturday night as the restaurant was a mess and there even was a couple passed out in the booth next to me. The only thing I could think of is, how the heck is that guy going to fish today. By the time my breakfast arrived, it appeared that I would be on my own for breakfast. I was supposed to meet up with a guy and his son from the message board on my web site, but as sometimes goes when meeting people from the internet, they never showed. I finished my breakfast, left the waitress a generous tip (I have come to a point in my fishing life where when I walk in to this particular restaurant before a weekend fishing trip she has my Coke poured and my order placed and promptly asks me what river it is today) as she was run raggid that night but still was her chipper self to me. As I was walking out the restaurant to warm up the car, Kotcher came pulling in. We quickly loaded his gear into my Blazer and waited the obligatory 5 minutes (it was 5:00am already) for the guys that never showed, and we were on our way.
We arrived at Montauk around 7:10am and took our time getting suited up, when Kris Maurer showed up, then Brian Greer (a guy from the message board on my site), then Ryan Mueller and his friend (I fished with Ryan on Taneycomo during our Trout Bum trip). We stood around for a bit trading fishing tips / recent experiences on the water since Ryan and Chris had fished the water yesterday and had good success with a purple midge pattern. We got suited up and headed our separate ways.
Brian and I headed to the Catch & Release area. Since he has only been fly fishing for less than a year and his biggest fish to date on a fly rod was a 13″ trout, it was something that had to be broken. We fished the water nearest the new habitat improvement, and had limited success. I hooked up with 2 very nice fish on beadhead olive leeches, I lost one when it snapped me off just as Brian was going to net it for me. The second one snapped me off clean, but might have been my biggest Missouri Rainbow Trout ever, if I would have landed. The biggest fish I caught out of this water (and subsequently the day) was a 17″ Brown Trout that fell to a black zonker. Brian had very good success and caught a nice rainbow — his biggest. But this trip, as most trips go, was about the fish that got away. Brian hooked and fought a very nice brown in excess of 5 minutes before he lost it as he was going to net it. It would have definitely made everyone’s day for Brian to land that fish. Next time Brian, I will keep my mouth shut……..
The rest of the day, the weather started to turn sour. I was prepared for 55 degree weather, and what I got was windy, rainy, and cold temps. I was very fortunate that I threw a pair of fleece wader liners and a zip tee in my bag before leaving or I wouldn’t have made it. We spent the better part of the rest of the day fishing some newer water (behind the lodge / hatchery) and upstream to the bridge. What saved my day from a numbers perspective was the 10 fish I picked up at the hatchery outlet in less than 40 mintues on a tan/ginger mohair leech.
Kris Maurer made his way downstream to the camp ground bridge to check out that water. He picked up some fish here and there and spotted one large fish. I drove down to pick him up and we walked the bank of the campground section of stream (this section is closed to fishing) to see if we could spot any fish spawning or at least try to put a reason as to why this section of stream is closed for the winter. We didn’t see many fish, nor any reason why this stream is still off limits, but we didn’t cover the entire area.
The day ended with us back in the Catch & Release area trying for that last photo opportunity that never materialized. The rain started to pour down a little harder, and Kotcher and I had decided to turn it in for the day about 1:30pm. After saying goodbye to Ryan and Kris in the C&R area, and getting out of our wet waders, we were on our way home.
The specifics for the day are as follows: Temperature = 28 – 44; Cloud COver = Cloudy; Wind = Windy; Number of Fish Caught = Matt (13), Mark (not sure), Kris (quite a few), Brian (quite a few); Best Fly = Olive Mohair Leech.
Kris Maurer (aka Maurer), Brent Hinds (aka Tiny1351), and I (aka Matt Tucker) met up down at Montauk this Saturday for some C&R fishing. The fishing was pretty good in my book. I honestly don’t have a clue how many fish we each caught — I am guessing somewhere around 20 fish each or so but I could be way off base. Highlights of the trip include a nice fish Maurer caught in the C&R area (I didn’t get to see this fish, but will be getting the photos developed hopefully this week); a nice brown I “caught” in the C&R section (it was foul hooked); a nice rainbow that I got to sight fish and land thanks to the net job of Maurer; Tiny learning how to sight fish in the riffles; but the highlight of the trip has to be the fish that got away. Maurer had a massive attack of a brown on the Spring Branch, but missed the chance. We talked about that fish the rest of the day. It was a great trip, and I hope to fish with these guys again. Oh yeah, the fly of the day was an olive mohair leech.