Visiting An Old Friend; A Spring River Trip Report

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After getting our fill of dink rainbows on the White River the past three days trying to float dead low water on the tailwaters, we were in search of some “strange.”  Enter the Spring River.  It had been since March, since I had been on the Spring River.  But after the trip that Will King and I took with Mark Crawford, I was looking for any chance to get back to the Spring River.  A few nights before, we were trading stories about our favorite rivers and the Spring River came up.  It is more of a catch and keep river, and currently is managed as such, but it would offer the best opportunity to get out of the tailwater grind and chase some of the big rainbows that congregate on the river in the fall.

The river didn’t disappoint.  We each caught a handful of fish in our limited time fishing the standard egg fair, and even picked up a fish or two on a small streamer.  The highlight of this stop was watching Craig hook up with a pig of a rainbow.  When we first spotted the fish flashing on the bottom, I thought it was a carp.  I was not convinced it was a trout, until Craig was hooked up with it.  It was over in 5 seconds, but he tangled with his first double digit rainbow on the Spring River.  It was the biggest rainbow I had seen on the river to date, and stoked the fire for each of us to get back. We rolled off the river after about 3 hours and headed back to St. Louis after 4 days on the trout waters of Arkansas.  Lots of fun and lots more to come.

–Matt Tucker

The Passing of a Spring River Legend

I first met Tom Anderson at the Lassetter Access on the Spring River back in 2003.  Mark Kotcher and I had headed back to the access for lunch and in rolls Dan Sears and Tom to do a little fishing.  Dan suited up real fast and was on to the water but Tom, as he always did, took time to talk with Mark and I about the Spring River and his love for it.  He then offered for us to hop in his mini-van and give us a grand tour of the various access points and fly recommendations.  We spent the next few hours with Tom riding to Bayou Access, Dam 3 access, and a few other places on the Spring River.  He offered his insight on how to fish the river, and didn’t hold anything back.  It was a conversation I remember to this day, and signified everything that is right with helping a couple of new to his river fishermen.

 

 

Tom lived near the Spring River for many years and considered it his home waters.  We traded emails off and on ever since that first trip.  A year after our first meeting, Tom and his wife joined Craig Peterson, David Stinnett, and I on our annual trip to the Norfork River.  We camped next to each other in our pop-up campers, and all I can say is that Tom was right there with us by the campfire during the trip and fishing as hard as the young bucks; with his wife up at the camper “tending to things”.  Tom landed a nice Norfork River brown during this trip, and it is this image of him that I will forever carry with me.  He was so excited over the FRS radios we convinced him to carry, and he hollered for us to come with the net, as the water was coming up and he wanted to land the fish.  He was all smiles, under his beard that night.


We traded more emails over the years and met up for dinner or breakfast once or twice in Mammoth Springs, but we only spent those two days fishing together.  Funny, how strong the memory of those two days on the river are.  Tom left this world on  08-16-2012, his daughter notified all those whose name was in his permanent address book of his passing on Sunday via mass email; I was one of those lucky ones to know Tom.  There was no public wake or funeral service, as Tom chose for his life to be celebrated and not mourned.  So to you Tom Anderson, I say thank you and god speed.

–Matt Tucker

2009 Missouri Trout Odyssey — Day 4 (3 Streams)

We were staring down the tail-end of the trip as we woke up in our hotel room in Ava, Missouri.  We had three streams we needed to knock off today, so that would mean a lot of driving as we fished our way east across the bottom of the state.  The first stop on this leg of the trip was Brian’s home waters, the North Fork of the White River near Dora, Missouri and the Blair Bridge Access.

The North Fork of the White River is a fly-fisherman’s nirvana.  This stream is what every trout stream in the state wishes it could be (well maybe not the Eleven Point..).  I rigged up the rod, and there was something about this morning that I just knew I was going to have my ass handed to me on this river…again.  Brian Wise couldn’t save me as I had my first take only to not get a solid connection and like that it was off.  The more I threw the 12ft long indicator, #4 rubber leg stone, #14 psycho prince dropper rig the more I became frustrated with this river.  The more I became frustrated, the more I loved it.  It is a vicious cycle.  But all good things come to an end, and we needed to get moving, so after the berating I was taking from Brian on the stream I quickly handed him the rod and he hooked up with a dink brown just as we were walking out (but he too….had to work for it….eggs really do catch fish anywhere).

As we rolled out of the access, I marveled at the ridiculous concrete work that the access had just received.  This must be the biggest MDC waste of money, since stocking trout in Hickory Creek.  Of all the things to spend money on, turning a perfectly good gravel parking lot into a concrete parking lot is not one of them.  Hell, I would rather see another boat ramp or the money go to raising the bridges at McKee Bridge and Patrick Bridge.  At any rate, I digress.

We had thought about adding the tailwaters of Arkansas on the trip, but I had really wanted to get back to the Spring River, as I hadn’t been on it since October.  So we set our sites across Hwy 160 towards Hwy 63 and headed south to the town of Mammoth Spring, Arkansas.  I didn’t have the Bayou Access marked on the GPS, but we found it just fine.  Bayou Access is one of the nicer sections of the Spring River with plenty of different habitat to fish.  The water was up, and the wading was very limited, so Brian grabbed his rod and headed upstream to give it a shot.  He worked a section of stream right in front of the access and was rewarded with a rainbow on a psycho prince.  It had started to rain a bit (the first time on the trip), so it was time to put the camera gear up and with that, we found a drive-through for lunch and headed towards the Eleven Point River having just fished 20 streams in 4 days.

What can I say about the Eleven Point River, it is a beautiful untouched jewel of an Ozark trout stream.  The Eleven Point has always fished well in my previous trips to it (I wonder why I don’t fish it more), and this trip would be no exception.  The thing about the river is that it is a river that needs to be floated (moreso than any other river in the state).  Unless you are willing to hike the Ozark Trail, the wading opportunities on this stream really are not that present.  We pulled in to Greer Spring Access, we met up with one of Brian Sloss’s newest employee’s, Tito.  He was a really good guy, gave up a handful of his personal flies and pointed us in the right direction and after some general chit-chat we were off.  The Eleven Point held true to form and I was rewarded with two fish pretty quickly while fishing a 12ft indicator rig with a rubber leg stonefly and an egg dropper (both fish took the rubber leg).  Just as we were heading back to the car, Brian Sloss (Eleven Point Canoe Rental) rolled in and we stood around as we de-wadered and recounted the trip we had just completed.  It was good to catch up with Brian and had we stood there much longer, I am sure the beers would have been opened and a campfire would have been found; but we were haunted by th skunk on the Current River and needed to head north back to the Current River and towards Rolla (our original starting point).

On the drive north on Hwy. 63 we stopped just south of Licking, Missouri and had to have one of the finest dinners I have ever had on a fishing trip at Black Forest Grill.  The ham steak that I had, was simply amazing.  If you are looking for a great place to grab some eats when around Licking, I would definitely check them out.  After dinner, we headed towards the Scenic Rivers Inn to sort through video and photos and gear before hitting the Current River in the morning.

Getting Back to the Basics on the Spring River

Having just spent a day floating the White River, I think both Brent Hinds and I were relieved when we had made the decision on the trip down to fish the Spring River on the way back.  I used to fish the Spring River quite a bit several years ago, but had for some reason or the other, not made frequent trips there in several years.  I don’t know why.

The river is an absolute gem.  We rolled in to the Lassiter Access about 8am and were the only ones there.  After quickly wadering up, we hit the water.  I headed to a faster riffle section above the access and after making a handful of fly and indicator changes, I seemed to have hit the mark with a #16 trout crack under a yarn indicator about 3ft.  The presentation was straight upstream and fishing the seams back down to me.  I picked up 4 quick fish in about 10 casts out of the same run and decided that I needed to do a little less fishing and some more exploring to realize what I was missing on this river.

Brent Hinds was fishing the far bank and it seemed that every time I looked down river at him, he was hooked up with a fish.  He was fishing a fox squirrel nymph under an indicator and doing well.  This was his first trip to the Spring River and I think he was very pleasantly surprised.

After about an hour of fishing at the Lassetter Access, we headed up to the tourist center and did some exploring in the faster water at the base of the dam.  I didn’t get any hookups in this water, but there were some bait fisherman that were fishing the choice areas and I didn’t want to be that guy that disturbed their fishing, so we left soon after checking out a few areas.

The Spring River is about 3.5hrs from St. Louis and is worth the trip, if you are looking for a river where the trout are plentiful (you can even catch a cutthroat there as the AGFC stocks them annually) and the scenery is a big freestone stream with no generation worries.  I know I will be back, hopefully sooner rather than later.