North Fork of the White River — Putting In The Time

2012-01-08pic003(Edited)(Resized)It seems that the North Fork of the White River is pretty hot right now.  With Brian Wise, Justin Spencer, myself, and several others are posting photos on local forums of all the big fish the river has been giving up recently; the stream is definitely getting some good press (there also was an article in the latest issue of Fly Fisherman by Zach Matthews featuring friends of the OC (Brian Wise, Kyle Kosovich, and Randy Hanner).  The only saving grace about the press the river is getting, is that it is so damn hard to get to from all of the populated areas in Missouri and Arkansas.  It helps to keep the crowds down.

With all that being said, and the fishing being red hot, I found myself back on the North Fork of the White River this past weekend with a couple of streamer addicts that I met over the internet (Dan Held and Paul Chausse).  Dan and Paul are good guys, even if they are flatlanders, and they offered to swing by my house on the way through STL to pick me up and afforded me the first trip in a long time that I didn’t drive on……and it was damn nice.

We ended up staying at River of Life Farm on the banks of the North Fork of the White River.  With the “Winter Rates”, the place is an affordable fish camp with some high end luxuries.  It is a bit tougher to cook potatoes o’brien, scrambled eggs, and biscuits and gravy while tent camping along the river; but it was easy peasy this past weekend.

The weekend was a streamer weekend, and Dan and Paul came prepared.  We were fishing big nasty schlappin inspired streamers.  On Saturday we floated from ROLF to Patrick bridge and didn’t squeak a fish into the boat the entire day.  We floated the day with Brian and Jenny Wise and Jenny had a consistent nymph bite on a brown wigglestone down deep.  It was a great day to be on the water, the temps were in the high 50’s and we didn’t see an another person on the river the entire day.  It was the way a winter day on the NFOW is supposed to go.

On Sunday, Paul and I floated from ROLF to Blair bridge and took our nymph rods out of the boat so as not to tempt us into breaking the skunk off.  It was a short float, as Dan stayed back because he wasn’t feeling well and just met us at the take-out.  In the short 3hr float, we boated 3 fish with the biggest being a 17″ brown.  All the fish were caught on a rainbow schlappen inspired fly tied by Paul Chausse.  It was a good float and much needed after the day before.  But quite simply it was a weekend that we had to put in our dues.

Traveling with new fishing buddies is always a delicate dance, it is the fisherman’s equivalent to the first date.  How does he pack, what does he pack, can he fish, does he pitch in and help around camp, etc.  A fishing trip is a fishing trip, but we all know that there are only a few that we can travel with.  Dan, Paul, and I seemed to hit our stride and the traveling and the fishing went well.  I am certain it was the first of a few more trips.

All in all it was another good weekend on the water.

I have quite a few things planned in the coming weeks, so be sure to check out the site for updates.

–Matt Tucker



North Fork Of The White River: My Turn.

2011-12-18pic002(Edited)(Resized)After the day Craig had on 12-17-2011 in his first float down the North Fork of the White River, things were looking up for our Sunday morning float on 12-18-2011.  We were up early, a little foggy from the beers the night before, but the biscuits were in the oven and the eggs were on the stove.  We were packed up and waiting on breakfast and Brian Wise, who was going to join us on our float as well on Sunday.

After the success we had on Saturday, we had arranged for a shuttle from ROLF to Blair Bridge again and after a quick bite and loading up the car, we headed down to the field and dropped the boat in.  Brian took the sticks first, as he wanted to see how my new boat handled….which meant that I got to fish for a bit.

Streamers were the order of the day, and I was throwing a 200grain sink tip along with an articulated Bully Streamer tied by Florida Guide, Brad Karczewski, at  The first fish of the day, was coincidentally my first fish out of my new boat, and it was approaching the 20″ mark, but just not quite there once we measured it.  Still a nice brown by anyone’s standards on the NFOW and it set the tone for our quick float.

We picked up the occasional fish the rest of the way throwing big flies, but no more big fish to speak of.  It was a good trip though as Brian, Craig, and I shared many laughs and stories as we floated the 3 miles or so to Blair Bridge.  All in all it was a great way to finish up the weekend.  We shot lots of photos and Brian shot some video (you can see some footage from this weekend in his 2011 Fall Fly Fishing Video), and the new boat is everything that I had hoped it would be.  Until next time.

–Matt Tucker

Ringing in 2011 on the North Fork of the White River

2011-01-01pic004(Edited)(Resized)New Year’s Day found Brent McClane and I on the North Fork of the White River again, using Brian Wise’s drift boat.  Since we had an empty seat, we coaxed Arkansas fly-fishing guide extraordinaire Jimmy “T” Traylor to come up and fish with us for the day.  Jimmy had only been on the river once, and had yet to experience the beauty that is the North Fork of the White River; so we agreed to meet him at Patrick Bridge Access to drop a vehicle and then head back to River of Life Farm and start the float.

The morning started off COLD.  After floating and fishing in waders and long sleeve shirts on New Year’s Eve, we were in full winter fishing gear complete with gloves, hats, and permafleece.  It was definitely a change, and we figured the fishing would suck, and it was slower than the day before….but it was still better than any of us expected.

We were into fish in pretty much the same fast water runs, just not as plentiful as before, throwing brown rubber legs and dropping eggs or worms or another rubber legs off of it, when we came to one of our first runs of the day below ROLF and pulled the boat into an eddy to get out and wade fish it.  McClane and JimmyT eached picked up some fish and we were just about ready to move on when McClane wanted to change something up and kept giving us the “one more cast” look.  He immediately hooked up with a fish, although didn’t know if it was the current or the size of the fish he was feeling; but it was solid.  As he is fighting the fish, JimmyT reels up and starts to head back to the boat when he takes a spill in the river as I am pulling out the camera and hopping out of the boat.  We toss the net to McClane and I help get some dry clothes to JimmyT, as it was 22 degrees and not the time to be wet.  JimmyT was in dry clothes just about the time McClane landed the nice brown in the photos below.  It was his biggest fish on the North Fork of the White to date and a great way to start out the 2011 year.  We shot a few photos and released the fish and continued on our float.

We spent more time fishing the usual spots and unfortunately spent way too much time fishing above the Blair Bridge Access that we didn’t have enough daylight to really fish the sexy water from Blair to Patrick, it was getting dark and were cold and wet, so we paddled out most of the way to just below Patrick Bridge and started rigging down the boat and rods for the trip back to Gainesville and then St. Louis.

McClane headed up to grab the Durango and backed it down the trail, across the backwater, and onto the gravel bar and the trailer into the river when all of a sudden the transmission starts slipping and the Durango keeps going backwards and won’t stop.  McClane was able to get it stopped, but the damage was done….as it wouldn’t engage any of the gears.  It was 5pm on Saturday (a holiday) in the middle of the ozarks without a good way to tow it out and figure out what was going on.  McClane is a life-saver in these situations and we tried all his tricks from rocking the vehicle to rolling it backwards (but not to far back, as that would have put it in the river), but none of it worked.  With that, I called Brian Wise and gave him the bad news that I needed him to find me a tow truck to tow us off the gravel bar and he went to work.

About a 1/2 hour later, tow truck on scene, we were winched off the gravel bar and up into the parking lot, where the tow truck driver had to disconnect the drive axel and get it lifted to take to Earl’s Dodge and have the transmission looked at.  He gave me the bill, and I couldn’t get him them money quick enough and we were on our way back to River Of Life Farm to pack up our gear and figure out a way to get back to St. Louis.  Big thanks to JimmyT for driving McClane and I to Cabool, Missouri to meet up with my dad, who got us the rest of the way back to my house.  Without friends like Brian and Jimmy, this weekend would have been a disaster, but in the end fish were caught and it was a helluva way to start out the 2011 year.

As for the Durango, after waiting a week to have the transmission guy at Earl’s Dodge in West Plains look at it, deciding it needed a new transmission and getting the approximate cost of said transmission, I opted to trade it in on a 2007 Jeep Commander 4×4 with 37,000 miles and purchased a lifetime jeep warranty for it (transmission failures be damned).  The Durango was a great fishing vehicle, its 155,000 miles included two Missouri Trout Odyssey’s, trips to the Smokys, and countless trips to the tailwaters and streams of the Ozarks.  Rest in peace Durangoo…..and I hope the “Save a Trout, Eat a Beaver” bumper sticker lives on.

Ringing Out 2010 on the North Fork of the White

2010-12-31pic005(Edited)(Resized)I couldn’t think of a finer way to ring out 2010 than drifting the North Fork of the White River with my good friend, Brent McClane.  This trip kind of just happened without much forward thinking.  Up until Wednesday (12/29/10) we were kicking around the idea of heading to Louisiana to try our hand at fly-fishing for Red Fish, but the pocket book, lack of planning, and our love for all things Ozark won out and we found ourselves driving towards Gainesville, Missouri on Thursday morning to pick up Brian Wise’s drift boat (he had promised a weekend away from his trout fishing bretheren, but did offer up the use of his boat……to which I obliged) and visit with them a bit before heading to River of Life Farm on the banks of the North Fork of the White River.

Unfortunately, the storm system that ravaged parts of Missouri and Arkansas on New Year’s Day also took its toll on our fishing trip.  We woke up to 62 degrees and a cloud system moving in as fast as I can remember ever seeing one move in.  With cell phone reception being spotty, we searched for a brief signal to check out the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center web site to see what the outlook for weather is today and then checked the various warnings and statements issued.  What we found was the the NOAA had issued a statement essentially saying that there was to be “Extreme” weather today.  McClane and I knew we were in for a treat and discussed storm chasing for the day, but knew we were way late in the game and didn’t think we had enough time to get in front of the storm as it was already 7:30am.  So we opted to not drop the drift boat in, and headed to Blair Bridge Access to wade fish until the storm hit us.

We got a good 2 hours of fishing in before the storm hit, and the fishing was solid as we were picking up rainbows on brown rubber legs and various different droppers.  I managed to land two dink smallmouth and a small brown trout, and McClane picked up a number of young of the year rainbows.  With the thunder rolling, the lightening starting, and it as dark during the day as I can ever remember it, we headed for the car just before the rain hit and headed back to ROLF.  We stopped for cell coverage to check our messages and had plenty of messages telling us to get off the weather, as well as messages from concerned friends about our homes back in St. Louis as apparently the storms had started hitting St. Louis or were about to.  After a couple of quick chats with my wife, who was down in our basement as there was a tornado about 7 miles away in Fenton), all was well and we continued our drive back to ROLF.

By the time we made it back to ROLF, the storm had passed and we were looking at windy conditions and blue skies.  We grabbed some quick chow, asked Myron to run a shuttle for us to Blair Bridge Access, and we dropped the drift boat in and set off on a 4 1/2 hr float.  We immediately got into fish, again on brown rubber legs and various droppers, as we floated downstream.  The fish were holding in the faster water, and it seemed that every drift was rewarded with at least a take.  We stopped off and wade fished a couple of the runs and swapped on and off of the oars, but we had a stellar day on the river bringing well over 30 fish to boat and had hook ups / LDR’s with close to as many fish.  It was a fun day on the river, fishing with temps in the 60’s and falling on the last day of 2010.

Just above Blair Bridge we ran in to a guy on a pontoon with a black lab.  He was definitely a friendly fellow, as we had ran into him just as we put the boat in, but fished pretty slow to give him some room between us and pretty much didn’t see him up until this point.  He was a friendly guy and we chatted a bit, before moving on.  He was the only person we saw fishing on the river all day, and it made for a pleasant day.

We finished the day back at ROLF grilling porterhouse steaks, potatoes, and vadellia onions, and were off to bed by 9:30 tired from a great day of Ozark fly fishing.  It was a perfect way to end 2010.

North Fork of the White River (Dora, Missouri) — October 2 – 3, 2004

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.