Missouri Trout Odyssey III – Day 2

2012-12-07pic004800pxThe 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 cannot 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.

Day 2 of the 2012 MTO was a bit of a challenge and offered us our first real challenge………..trying to find decent Mexican food near the Niangua River.  We were able to find it and several hard earned margaritas were found before we headed back to the campground at Bennett Spring State Park and sat around a fire planning our next day while drunk and having to listen to two campers have sex into the night….as I look back at it, they weren’t really having sex, but animalistically fuckin’ each other in the campground.  At some point neighboring campers started encouraging them and applauding after every 10 minute romp they took as they boinked into the night to the sounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd, at some point Wise and I may have been encouraging them by yelling out different acts to partake in.  Drunk and dog tired we each crawled into our tents and passed out, only to need to break camp at 4am the next morning…..to the sound of Skynyrd’s Freebird…much to the dismay of the other campers looking for the same sympathy we were the night before.

Day 2 included Mill Creek, Little Piney River, Spring Creek, Roubidoux Creek, Bennett Spring Trout Park, and the Niangua River.  6 streams fished today and 11 tackled so far.  Here are the photos from Day 2.


2009 Missouri Trout Odyssey — Day 1 (6 Streams)


(click on “HD” for best quality)

What started as an idea to fish the trout streams along Hwy 63 in southern Missouri during early 2008, transformed to the 2008 Missouri Trout Odyssey where Brian Wise and I fished 20 of Missouri’s 21 public trout streams (we would have fished all 21 of them last year, except the stream that flows through Fort Leonard Wood requires a class prior to access…..and we had too many streams and too little time).  With last year’s trip over Thanksgiving weekend under our belt, it wasn’t a question if we could pull off such a feat again in 2009, it was more of a question what we could do different, as there were several streams last year we would have liked to have fished harder but didn’t and with that, in September 2009 the plan was hatched to do the trip again, only this time we would switch out fishing and photography/video duties so that only one guy is fishing at a time.  Last year, we were so immersed in the fishing the other stuff kind of fell to the wayside.

After waking early on Thanksgiving morning to cook breakfast for my wife and kids, my sister and her family, and one of my uncles prior to thier trip to the St. Louis Thanksgiving Day Parade (Biscuits & Gravy, Hasbrowns, Eggs, Belgian Waffles, and Biscuits) I was out the door headed to Rolla, Missouri to pick up Brian and his gear at the commuter parking lot.  The looks I got from passerby’s as I wadered up in a parking lot a good 20 miles from the nearest trout stream in the middle of a college town was pretty comical but it was so cold no one offered up any heckles as they drove by.

By 10:30am we were loaded and on our way our first stream of the day, Blue Spring Creek; a hidden wild trout jewel hidden near Bourbon, Missouri.  We knew that our goal of 6 streams on Day 1 would be tough, especially because were were going to be tackling 3 wild trout streams in the group,with bright bluebird skies with a high sun.  Fishing was going to be tough and Blue Spring Creek held true to being  tough on this day.  Last year we fished at the first public gate on the right as you drive down the highway, however this year we fished downstream of the first pull-off on the left side of the highway (this is the first time I have ever fished this section of stream) and only had one take in the short hour we fished the stream (on a small brown mohair leech).  The section of river holds trout, and alot of the runs just look “fishy”, but today was not the day.  All was not lost, we got to see more of this stream than we did in previous years and we were greeted by sounds of turkeys gobbling as we exited the stream camera gear along with a myriad of deer carcasses from the recent passing of rifle season in the state.  We were done with Blue Spring Creek and were off to see the Meramac River and Maramec Spring Trout Park.

We rolled into Maramec Spring Trout Park on Thanksgiving Day around noon and were one of 4 vehicles in the entire park.  The day was warming up, and the water was slightly high and off color.  We needed to bang a fish out of the stream pretty quickly and headed to the faster water above the island near the cable.  Within minutes Brian had landed his first fish on a psycho prince under an indicator, and missed then landed another fish.  I quickly checked out a few locations that generally hold bigger fish but there were two anglers camped out on the water, so we decided to head back to the rig and drive to the end of the parking lot and hike down to the Meramac River where the spring branch dumps in.

Brian was up again in an effort to try out his new Redington CPX Switch Rod he had gotten a few days prior to the trip.  We parked the rig, and hiked towards the end of the park and the suspension bridge, where Brian quickly entered the water just below the Red Ribbon Trout Stream sign, and was quickly rewarded with a take and a hookset while swinging an articulated streamer.  What we thought was going to be a healthy trout turned out to be a nice smallmouth brought to hand and a few laughs.  The high sun made shooting photos tough and I only managed to get a few shots that were worth a damn while Brian fished the river.  The water below the park was higher than normal and it would have made from some tricky wading, so with fish in hand and a long day ahead we counted the smallie and headed towards the rig and our next destination.

During the 2008 Trout Odyssey we fished the Little Piney River at the Mill Dam Hollow access and had a good trip there, it was one of two rivers we actually wanted to go back and fish, so we figured if it wasn’t broken don’t fix it and headed back to the same access.  As was the common theme on Thanksgiving, we arrived and found we were the only vehicle in the access point.  We hopped out and I grabbed my 4wt and off we went to fish the water just below the access.  Like a fat kid on prom night, the fish just didn’t cooperate with me in the one hour we spent here and I couldn’t raise a fish so I retreated to the car with my tail stuck between my leg still with the skunk on me.

“Trust in Garmin” brings a whole new meaning when you are following outdated maps and driving through the Mark Twain National Forest, what once was a road now is a driveway, etc.  It was a great reminder that I needed to update my maps and ensure that I have the topo maps loaded on my hand held GPS but I digress.  We trusted in Garmin for the most part, but made a few departures when the sultry voice of my GPS was going to take us straight through a barn or living room.  Garmin did provide us with one easter egg on this trip though….as we were rolling down the road, I glanced over to the left to be greeted by the sight of a Missouri Mule in a parking area, with no human in sight and no rigging on the mule.  It was an oddity that made us turn around and go check out the animal….i bet someone was pissed he got out but I digress.

We rolled into the Forest Service Picnic Area on Mill Creek, while barely setting a tire on blacktop, just in time for Brian to be out of the rig and running towards the stream.  The water was slightly higher than it was last year and off color, which should have been ideal for fishing; but this year, Mill Creek had our number.  Brian fished a section of stream about 100 yards long to no avail with a nymph rig, then switched to drifting / swinging a mohair leech down the same section before retiring to the rig and stowing the rod and camera gear off to our final destination of the day, Spring Creek.  It was another year, and another frustrating trip to Mill Creek.  The stream definitely holds nice fish, now if we could just get the timing to coincide with “the trip” that would be ideal.

Neither one of us have come to expect much from Spring Creek, a small wild trout stream that flows into the Big Piney River near the town of Doolittle, Missouri.  Brian and I have fished it on several occasions in the past, out of shear hope and chasing a dream that some of the bigger fish may have made its way down from the Danforth Property on the river.  We certainly figured that today would be no different than our past trips, and rolled into the parking area near a low-water crossing just at dark as we walked upstream.  I was transfixed on shooting some low-light photos, so Brian grabbed the rod and rigged it with an egg pattern under an indicator.  Within minutes of being on stream, we were rewarded with a beautiful 5″ par marked beauty of a wild rainbow from the stream.  Both of us were surprised, and slightly shocked, but figured it was a great way to end the fishing for the day.  We stowed our gear and headed towards Rolla and eventually Licking, Mo and the Scenic River Inn on Hwy63.

Out of the 6 streams fished, we had caught fish in 3 of them and didn’t fish any of them for more than an hour at a time, funny how the small wild fish was the trophy for the day but it was definitely the conversation at the Huddle House in Rolla as we enjoyed a nontraditional Thanksgiving Day feast of scrambled eggs and hash browns.  Brian and I had jokingly made a pact to only eat at Mexican restaurants this trip, but on Thanksgiving Day at 7pm that is easier said than done, and Huddle House was one of the few restaurants that were open (although later we started to compromise with fast food so long as we had a burrito or wrap).  We rolled into Licking around 9pm tired and ready to hit the sack, but we had photos to go through, video to transfer, and batteries to charge and up and at them again at 5:30am on Friday morning.  All in all, not a bad way to spend Thanksgiving.

The  rest of the photos from Day 1 are below, and the video will be up shortly.

Missouri Trout Odyssey (Day 1) — 7 Missouri Trout Streams

After a night of getting gear organized, rods rigged, and things generally ready to go for the 1000+ mile road trip to Missouri’s trout streams, the alarm went off at 5am. Winter camping at Montauk State Park is always relaxing and quiet as there were only a handful of other campers there and there were no RV generators to contend with combined with only a couple of locals driving through the campground at night.

4:45am. I crawled out of my bag and exited the Hotel Durango to go wake Brian up in his tent and begin the morning process of breaking camp. We were stowed away and ready to go alot quicker than I would have thought we were, and soon we found ourselves driving towards the TanVat Access on the Current River in the dark.

The logistics of this trip were pretty important. We needed to keep daylight driving to a minimum and maximize fishing time and the number of streams that we could fish. We identified Montauk State Park as a good starting point for the trip and laid out our plan of attack for the 7 streams we were going to fish today. We simply need to fish the Current River before the fishing hours within Montauk State Park to make this work.

The Current River is a great river. Sure it receives quite a bit of fishing pressure, but the pressure it receives is worth it because the fishing can be that good. We rolled into the TanVat Access around 6am to find two guys already unloading from their truck and rigging up. Brian and I kind of stalled and waited to see which direction these guys would head before taking off. They promptly headed downstream, so Wise and I headed upstream to the high bank and the first run just above the parking area. A Psycho Prince nymph under a yarn indicator was all the was needed to put the first fish on the board for both Brian and I. Brian was on the board with the first fish, as I was up-top shooting photos / videos, but after he hooked up we traded spots and I promptly hooked up and lost a fish (indicator, tippet, and fly) only to hook the same fish again about 20 minutes later and get back my previously lost Pyscho Prince, indicator, and tippet. We both had a laugh over that and decided we needed to move on to the next stream as this was also our first taste of running the video camera and fishing at the same time. This proved to be something that is very time consuming and requires constant coordination between the guy at the camera and the guy fishing.

The headwaters of the Current River at Montauk State Park were next on our list, and we promptly headed to the C&R area where we were both rewarded with quick hook-ups. As Brian and I separated a bit and fished different water, I heard the call for “net” only to hurry downstream to see the tippit break on a nice fish Brian was trying to land (it took a globug egg). We fished our way to towards the Hatchery Office and our vehicle and I was rewarded with a nice rainbow on a Black BH Crystal Bugger in the big pool just above from the Hatchery Office.

We loaded up and started the trek towards the Barren Fork Creek. This was one of many highlights of the trip, as the drive from Montauk State Park to the Barren Fork Creek is one of the most scenic drives I have ever been on in Missouri. We drove past Akers Ferry and got to see the ferry still in operation across the Current River, then we were rewarded with hellacious views from atop the Ozark foothills that rival those I have seen in the Smoky Mountains. Simply gorgeous. On hindsight, I wish we would have pulled over to take a few still photos from this area — but we had fish on the mind. This is a trip that I will be going back on (but ensure you have plenty of gas in the tank, because there is not much out there).

I had only loosely GPS’d the access points using my computer, and since neither one of us had been to the stream before we really didn’t know what to expect or where we were going. To put it simply, the Barren Fork Creek is in the middle of NOWHERE. We didn’t know how remote it was until we were getting ready to leave, but more on that later. The Barren Fork is a small super clear stream that rivals the other wild trout streams in terms of scenery. We fished the access close to a Church and near the headwaters with the spring and struggled our short time on this stream. We didn’t spot a fish or see much holding water. We were walking out with our tails between our legs when a truck pulls in and blocks the Durango in. Much to our surprise (bars of Dueling Banjos were playing in my head) it was the Shannon County MDC Officer that had come to check on us. After quick hellos and checks of our coolers we got to talking and he was telling us about the vast public land that Shannon County has (over 135,000 acres of public land to hunt/fish on and only 8,000 residents in the entire county) he let it slip about some stream improvements that were done on the stream several years ago. At my asking, he did better than tell us about the stream improvements, he offered to lead us on the 1/4 mile hike down stream to these undercut banks that they built on the stream. By far, this was the best trout holding water we saw on this stream. As I shot photos and talked to the Agent, Brian tried his look at fishing the water where he was promptly rewarded with a strong take. But alas no hook-up or fish landed. The Agent wanted to check out the status of the stream bank improvements and we needed to move on to our next stream, so after he was done looking at the stream we hiked back out and we were on our way. That was my first enounter with an MDC Agent while fly fishing in Missouri and I was impressed with his professionalism, knowledge of the area, and willingness to just hang out and talk with Brian and I. The residents of Shannon County are very lucky to have him fighting for them.

We pulled out of Barren Fork Creek and headed towards the town of Salem, Missouri which would provide us with fuel and lunch for the rest of the day. As we barreled through a Burger King drive-thru (our only nourishment thus far) and towards the Mill Dam Hollow Access on the Little Piney we threw out the possibility of knocking off the remaining 4 streams today in less than 5 hours of drive time.

We rolled into the access on the Little Piney around 2:00pm and after saying hello to two spin fisherman that were heading downstream, we were on the water. It wasn’t long and the Pyscho Prince delivered again on a new river, for Brian. I had opted to fish the water nearest the access and was picking up fish with a Tungsten BH Copperhead midge under a yarn indicator. I think both of us could have finished the day out on the Little Piney, but we had to hit 3 more streams before the day was over so we headed back to the rig and on to Mill Creek we went.

GPS’s are a funny thing. It seems that if it was ever a public road, Garmin calls it a road and the drive from the Little Piney to Mill Creek, I am quite sure, could have been done without setting tire on pavement. Mill Creek is a small spring fed stream that meanders through typical Ozark bottom land and is home to a wild population of some of the most colorful rainbows that Missouri has to offer. At 3:30pm we were pulling into the new Bohigan Conservation Area access on Mill Creek. This was the Friday after Thanksgiving and both Brian and I were surprised at the number of people fishing Mill Creek. There were vehicles parked in several locations. We chose to check out the area nearest one of the springs and headed in to the stream. As has been my experience with this stream in the past, we were stood up with little more than a wet fly and wet waders to show for it. Realizing that we were going to struggle this afternoon on this river and that daylight was dwindling, we reeled up and headed towards Spring Creek.

Brian and I had fished Spring Creek once before in 2006 just after a period of extremely high water and did not fair very well with only 1 fish between the two of us. We were ready for a rematch and were on the water fishing by 4:30pm. We had previously learned that former Senator Jack Danforth owns property upstream of the access that we were fishing and had rumors of his family being fly fisherman and private stream improvements on his property — so we held up hope that this stream yields a healthy population of wild fish. However, our trip on this stream was cut short when a father and son rolled through the stream crossing and into the access we were fishing to “empty” their muzzleloaders from their afternoon road hunt (they were out of the woods way too early to be doing anything but road hunting). As the son set up a plastic bottle in the direction we were fishing, Briand and I decided it was time to reel up and head back to the vehicle. Just as we made it back to the vehicle and had our packs off, the first gunshot was heard and there was nothing but a dirt hill between us and his target. So we left Spring Creek with only 1 take and zero fish landed — but the belief that fish can be had here with the proper amount to time (we were hear for less than 45 minutes).

As we rolled out towards I-44, it was almost a joke that we were going to fish the Roubidoux at night. Neither of us had held out hope for fishing the Roubidoux and neither knew much about the stream as I had only briefly fished it once before. We rolled into the Waynesville City Park at dark (6:30pm) and quickly went to work throwing streamers off of the handicap fishing platform. This was probably our most feeble attempt at catching a fish that we threw up in the 4 days of fishing. The Roubidoux is a put-and-take fishery and from reports that we had heard the locals line up when the stocking truck arrives and there are hold-over trout in the stream but getting to them requires knowledge of the stream and access away from the access points. The Roubidoux offered little more than casting practice to us on this day and after about an hour of casting blindly in the dark we decided to call it a night and head back towards the Meramac River valley and wherever we decided to place our camp for then night.

With nothing more than a Whopper & fries for nourishment for the day, we opted to stop at a Mexican restaurant that is right off I-44 in Rolla (it is behind the Mobile station near Fast-Food row). The food was warm, and good (but to be honest warm dog piss might have been good about this time) and afforded us the chance to talk about where we were going to camp for the evening and our assault for tomorrow. We settled on camping at Onodaga State Park as it was close to our first stop in the morning, Blue Spring Creek.

There is something to be said for sitting around a camp fire after a long day in the car and on the river. It afforded us the chance to sit back and relax in the pitch dark (other than the campground hosts, we were the only campers that we could see) and just appreciate the Ozark winter. I think I finally crawled into Hotel Durango around 12am or so; looking forward to tomorrow.

Mill Creek & Little Piney River (MO) — Jan. 01, 2003

This was Craig and myself’s annual New Year’s Day fishing trip. This year we decided to check out some new water — the Little Piney River and also Mill Creek. We left St. Louis about 4:45am and arrived in the town of Newberg, MO by 6:15am or so. We found our way to Mill Creek and decided to park at the White Church and hop the fence at the gate (climbing over the gate, not the bob wire) and cross the field to the stream. This was our first trip to Mill Creek, and were really excited about catching our first MO Wild Trout. We hiked/fished downstream until we came to a “No Trespassing” sign nailed to a tree in the middle of the creek — it was a ways down stream. We did not see a single fish, other than minnows. We then decided to hike upstream from the church and see what lies upstream. We hiked all the way to the campground/low water bridge and did not see a single fish. We did see ALOT of spots that looked perfect to hold trout — however we saw nothing. We hiked back to the truck on the paved road that runs in front of the church from the low water bridge — that is quite the hike.

We threw the rods in the truck and decided to try our luck at the Little Piney — near Mill Hollow Access. We arrived there about 10am and grabbed our rods and hit the river. What allot of nice looking water — but still no fish (we didn’t even see one there either). We fished downstream until noon (about 100 yards downstream from the old bridge that is in the creek) and decided to head back to st. louis, as we had enough casting practice for the day. All in all, it was not that horrible of a trip. I did get to check out some new MO water, it was disappointing though to not spot any fish – – even in the deeper holes when overlooking them from a bluff. Mill Creek is a special place that looks as though it could be spectacular if the stream flow would remain constant and the Little Piney near Mill Hollow Access also looked like great water. I was told that the locals clean out the Mill Hollow Access as soon as the stocking truck leaves, and also that Mill Creek was hit hard by the drought the last several years, but wanted to check them out for myself. I will visit these streams again — probably in March or April, when there is a better chance of some dry fly activity. — Matt Tucker