Crane Creek; Wild Missouri Trout At Its Best

During the 2008 and 2009 Missouri Trout Odysseys were my first taste of fishing Crane Creek.  During our first visit to the stream, we admittedly hadn’t done enough homework to know where to effectively fish and we had our asses handed to us.  The fish were spooky in the City Park, which is where we spent our time fishing that year.  We were itching to head back there for the 2009 Odyssey, and had done a little more homework and fished the upper river at the Wire Road Conservation Area.  It was during this time that both Brian and I really appreciated all that Crane Creek had to offer, or so we thought.  Fast forward to this Saturday.

Brent McClane and I had had a trip to Crane on the calendar for awhile now, and with the nicer weather this was the weekend that we could make it happen; although a dead alternator in McClane’s truck on Friday almost kept him from making it to my house to depart, he overcame that and we were off, for 4 1/2 hours of highway driving bliss.

I am normally a planning son of a bitch, but as time goes on, the less I like to plan things out.  I didn’t really remember which town Wise and I had stayed in last November near Crane and hotels / motels aren’t exactly lining the streets once you get away from I-44; so a quick 10pm call to Wise and a reply of “i don’t freakin’ remember” meant that we would just drive our way back to I-44 and the metropolis of Mt. Vernon, Missouri.

Late to bed, late to rise, we were on the stream by 8am on Saturday morning at the middle Wire Road Conservation Area parking lot.  Armed with my 7ft 3wt, I headed down to the stream while McClane rigged up and was rewarded with my first McCloud Rainbow of the day.  A pretty little fish, for sure, and like that we were in for a great day.

We fished our way upstream from the parking lot, until we got to the area where the river bottom is both on the right and left of the stream, it was there that we ran in to another angler (who had introduced himself earlier that morning while looking for an access, turns out that he and I visit the same internet forum from time to time, so running into him was cool) and decided to quickly fish our way back to the car and check out some of the other accesses.  The flies that picked up fish were micro eggs (#18), san juan worms (tan), copper johns, psycho prince nymphs, and yellow wire rib soft hackles, all fished under an indicator (most of the time it was a micro thingamabobber).  The fish were holding in the deeper water around structure, not sure if that was because of the winter time, the clear water, or both; but we didn’t pick up a single fish in any riffles (but did in some tailouts).  I did manage to hook up with two nicer fish on this section of stream, the first had a deep red band but that is all I was able to see and after about 3 seconds it was over.  At the end of the day, I hooked up with a nicer fish (that I never saw, but felt heavy) but in an effort to land the fish and take out my camera at the same time, the fish headed for an undercut ledge and dislodged the fly — so it goes sometimes.

The big fish landed on this section of stream went about 15″ and was 100% wild (as are all the trout in the stream), it was McClane’s biggest Missouri wild trout to date which was really cool and it was one of only a handful of fish I actually pulled the camera out for while he was fishing.

After wolfing down on some lunchables and power-aide in the parking lot, we headed towards the City Park and in search of the ever elusive “Dairy Farm” access; but not before noticing a surveillance camera in the parking lot we were parked in.  The camera was perched on a new light pole at the end of the lot and can easily get the license plate numbers of all that park in the lot and visit the area.  I was really glad to see this installed there, and hope this is a sign of things to come at other MDC accesses.

The rest of the day was filled with trying to avoid the crowds at the Crane City Park, wasting too much time fishing to a sucker that I thought was a trout, and fighting the wind with my 7ft pencil of a 3wt.  Frustrated with my lack of success in the city park in the 30 minutes we were there, and at the crowds, we headed downstream to our last stop of the day.

The lower section of Crane Creek is phenomenal.  It has a little something for everyone.  The water is bigger here and there are lots of places the river can not be crossed.  We weren’t going to fish this section, as it was already 2pm and we still had to drive back to St. Louis, but the water looked too good not to fish, so we grabbed our rods and hit the stream.

We fished downstream picking up some fish, and losing some more.  I had just lost my last fly for the day, so I headed over to McClane to see if he was ready to call it when we were greeted by a fellow who introduced himself as “Ray from Crane”.  “Ray from Crane” was an interesting character, as he walked up to us with his two hunting dogs wearing his gun holster.  Only in Missouri after watching scenes from Deliverance did I have backwoods thoughts running through my mind.  But come to find out we had common friends and we got to talking a bit and what not and he had offered to show us the rest of the river.  And with that, we got a tour of the river and conservation area that couldn’t be bought.  We hiked an old railroad track high above the creek as Ray pointed out spots to fish and ways to fish it.  Old timers like this certainly are a wealth of information, and I appreciate him taking the time to pass on his experiences with us.  If there was one mistake that I made, it was asking about the deer hunting on the property, and with that McClane and I took off on a upland hike with “Ray from Crane” and his dogs to see the rest of the conservation area (I have no idea how far we walked, but it was awhile).  We got back to the parking area shortly before dark, shed our waders and hit the road; home by 10:30pm.  Not a bad day of fishing in my book.

More of the photos are below.

Maramec Spring Trout Park — A Winter Wonderland

Several years ago, I would frequent the trout parks with great regularity during the catch & release season.  I don’t know at what point I began to change, but I began to become increasingly irritated at the crowds in the trout park (even in the winter), so my fishing shifted to Arkansas and other streams.  It had been awhile though, so when Brent McClane and I were talking about all the trips we have taken together, we agreed it had been several years since he and I traveled to Maramec Spring Trout Park; and with that a plan was hatched.

Southern Missouri got hammered with a snow storm the week of 1/25 and dropped about 6″ of snow near St. James, Missouri with greater amounts further south.  The snow on the ground, combined with temps that were not forecast to get above 30 degrees meant that McClane and I were going to be in for a cold Sunday morning.  To make matters worse, I couldn’t find any of my gloves to wear; but shit happens (one week later, I still can’t find them).

We rolled into Maramec Spring Trout Park around 8:15am, to the sign that read “Free Parking,” which surprised me because in years past we would have had to pay the parking fee to access the property.  When we rolled past the gate, we were immediately greeted by 5 or 6 cars all watching a dozen or so Bald Eagles soar in the sky and roost in the trees nearest the upper parking lot.  Eagles are BIG, especially when you are 50ft from them.  I didn’t bring my 80-200 lens, otherwise I probably could have spent the morning shooting Eagle photos.  Truth be told, I am not set up with the right lenses to shoot bird photos, and not sure I could pull off the panning that needs to occur to really get great bird shots.  But I digress.

We parked at the top of the parking lot, near the handicap hole and began to suit up.  It was damn cold, but we managed and within 20 minutes of rigging rods, loading camera gear, and dawning waders we were on our way to the top of the park.  Everything was white, with bright blue skies and fog coming off the river it made for a wonderful winter scene as we began to fish.

We focused our efforts on the top of the park and the left side of the island and picked up fish at will, once we got the skunk off and the sun came up.  The faster water on the side of the island always holds fish, and McClane sight-fished to a few fish as I shot photos.

As we moved downstream to the end run, the fish numbers increased dramatically (but so did the people).  It seems that the last few times I remember fishing Maramec Spring Trout Park I always run in to an asian fly-fisherman that is fishing light grey / olive scuds without an indicator using really short drifts, no indicator, and more casting than drifting.  He and I have had words in the past, but he is a nice guy and does catch some nice fish.  He was there again today and we exchanged hellos, as a crowd of other people converged on the run.  McClane and I held our distance upstream until the people moved from the hole, and we moved further downstream.

To be rather blunt, the fishing got stupid there.  Fish were everywhere, and they loved the HotSpot San Juan Worm under a short indicator.  Every drift was resulting in a hookup or take, and it soon lost its interest for me so I used the opportunity to shoot some photos.  McClane changed tactics and began to fish to some of the larger fish with better results and was rewarded with a couple of nice rainbows (see the gallery below).

The clock quickly approached noon, and I had Sunday dinner family plans that I needed to attend to, so we headed back to the truck and stowed our gear and headed back to St. Louis.  It was a great day on the water, the weather turned out to be alot warmer than predicted, and the trip reminded me of trips past and trips i look forward to having.

White River — May 12 – 13, 2007

This weekend myself and 3 other anglers (Brent McClane, Brian Wise, and Tim Biesendorfer) headed down to the White River in Arkansas on a last minute Mother’s Day weekend trip. We got out of St. Louis around 6pm and arrived at Bull Shoals Dam around 11pm with just enough energy to suit up and hit the water. It is always amazing to me, how the cool water can energize us enough to night fish upon arrival (after all, they weren’t running water….so you take your wading chances when you can get them). The night fishing was a little slow, despite seeing fish cruise all over. We ended the night around 2:30am with McClane catching 2 fish on cork bass poppers he was fishing loudly on the surface. We were up at 6am on Saturday and were on the water at Roundhouse Shoals around 7:30am. My three partners were in to fish right away, while I struggled and then with a buggered up left foot decided to do a little studying up on how they were fishing this area. I am unsure how many fish they caught, but they were all in to upper double digits with nothing of any real size. The fly of the day appeared to be a tan scud (tied with the fur from McClane’s dog). We fished around Roundhouse until about 11am and then McClane and I decided to take a little drive and check out some other accesses and then head over to the Dam (after all the recording said they were only running 1 unit). The recording was wrong and we ended up taking a long drive and then meeting up with Wise and Beez for lunch in Gassville before they headed over to the State Park to fish for the afternoon. I opted to catch up on some sleep back at the White Sands Motel. After dinner we night fished around the Cotter access with no success and hung it up around 1:30am. Back up at 6am when I receive a call from a good friend Jim Traylor (aka JimmyT’s FlyFishingArkansas Guide Service) and he wanted to go fishing this morning. We loaded up in the boat and took off. Jimmy made fly suggestions and placed me in the perfect location and within 30 minutes of fishing I was hooked up with my biggest White River Brown Trout to date (a tape measured 26” fish with a 15” girth). The location of the fish and the fly recommendations you might be able to gather from the photos, but if you really want to know I would suggest looking up Jim Traylor for a trip on the White River. I was amazed at his ability to navigate the river on zero generation and he was able to get us away from the crowds at a chance for great fish.

I was all smiles the rest of the morning as I sat back and watched my buddies fish (after all……if I was only going to catch one fish, this might as well have been the one) and enjoyed a few barley beverages at 9am on Mother’s Day. Shortly after kicking back to relax, McClane hooked and landed a nice 21” brown trout and not long after that Mr. Beez hooked up with a nice fish that would have went 20”+ but lost it when my fly knot slipped (since I was done fishing I didn’t re-tie my fly after the fish…..and Beez decided he wanted to fish my rod). All in all it was a great trip. More photos, video, and details of this trip will be updated on my site in the coming weeks, so you can check it out there. I think we got some underwater video of the 26” fish as well as video of the fight. Apparently I shake quite a bit after landing a fish like this.

Hopefully everyone else got a chance to get out this weekend.

–Matt Tucker