Meramec River…First Descent….

2013-02-07pic038original800pxThe Meramec River is a river that haunts many of the fly fisherman that live in and around St. Louis.  It is one of the closest trout fisheries to St. Louis, the fishing isn’t always great, and you can’t just roll up to the stream hop out of your car and start fishing.  With declining fish count numbers and stream accesses with names like “Suicide” and “Cardiac Hill”, the Meramec River is for the committed.  Over the years I have heard the old timers at Hargroves Fly Shop talk of the white fly hatch and seen pictures from some of the guys at Feather-Craft of the glory days, and if you take a close look at some of the canoe outfitters that run floats on the trout waters, there are hidden photos of extremely large brown trout taken from the river back in the 90’s and early 2000’s.  With so much alure, and not much fishing pressure, I have been bound and determined to drift it in my drift boat…..if the flows hit the right level and I found the right group of guys to help get through anything we encounter.

After watching the water levels, Dan Ritter, Bob Weber, and I hatched a plan to float the river on February 7, 2013.  It was a solid plan, we packed the come-a-long hand winch, 300ft of rope, a chainsaw, bow saw, and a few other odds and ends we might need along the way, in addition to all our fishing gear.  With that, we launched the boat at the Hwy 8 bridge and set off on the float.  What an absolutely scenic river.  With the river flowing at 475cfs at Steelville, we had plenty of water to float and didn’t have to push the boat through any shoals.  That isn’t to say we didn’t run in to any problems.  Our first major issue was just before Dry Fork Creek, where two large trees were completely across the water.  Thankfully with the chainsaw, some tools, and some rope, we were able to drop the trees about 3ft and push and pull the boat over the hazard.  A little further down stream, we ran into a section of river that we lined the boat through — it looked alot gnarlier than it was, and on second through I could have tried to row it, but pussed out as we drifted up on it.  The fishing was tough, as the river has become.  Dan Ritter landed one rainbow in the section above the park, and then landed a brown near the cardiac hill walk-in access.  We threw big nasty streamers, and did get a few more follows and did see a few trout in the river as we floated.  Later, I inquired with the MDC Biologist for the river and learned that the brown trout population for the river is less than 11 fish per mile, so we were definitely pleased with the results of fishing for the day.  It was a great day, and if the river levels are right, we will be back on it again.  It is definitely a river that haunts me and needs our help.  I would encourage everyone to contact the MDC and tell them you are interested in helping the Meramec River trout fishery.  Here are the photos from our first trip down it.

Catching Up on the Niangua River

2012-12-22pic012800pxThe Niangua River is a river that really caught my eye in 2012, as being a river big enough to float in a drift boat, and just close enough for a day trip….albeit a long day trip, with a nearly 3hr drive to get there.  With only a little time left in 2012, and the Christmas holiday fast approaching, Dan Ritter, Paul Chausse, and I elected to make a “quick” float on the Niangua.  It was a cold morning, requiring ice to be broken as we slipped the boat off of the trailer and into the water, as the water above the spring at the Bennett Spring State Park boat ramp is a lot colder before the spring dumps in.  We floated from Bennett Spring to NRO, as they are one of the few outfitters on the river that will actually run a drift boat shuttle.  The fishing on the Niangua is always acceptable, but the fish seem to hold in different places than some of the other rivers we fish — here, they will be out in the middle of the river holding to the divets in the bottom at times, which means for us this is primarily a nymphing river (although with Chausse and Ritter in the boat, several hours were spent chucking streamers).

All in all it was another great day on the river.  On the way back to St. Louis, we stopped by Charlie Reading’s Fly Shop…..holy crap, this shop has everything.  I was able to walk in and buy new size 14 soles for my Korker Red Sides…..something i could not have done at any of my local shops.  Charlie is a hoot, his shop has just about everything and while it appears unorganized, he knows where everything is that is in it.  It was well worth the stop……however, i wonder what the vegas line is for him to actually finish the water feature in front of his shop (he has been working on it for years).  Here are the photos from the float today.

Back To The Basics On The Current River

2012-11-18pic036800pxThis was a trip with a purpose.  I was asked to write a 2400 word feature article for Eastern Fly Fishing Magazine on the Current River and needed to shoot down to get some photos for the story and do a little fishing while there.  It is always convenient how those things work out.  I called Dan Ritter and coaxed him in to a quick drive down to the river to get photos first and fish a little, and he was game.  The fishing was a bit slower than both of us expected, but we were shifting from access to access on the river, trying to avoid the crowds and chase the light.  In the end it was a good morning on the river with a few fish caught.  The end result of the article can be seen in the May/June 2013 issue of Eastern Fly Fishing Magazine.


Visiting An Old Friend; A Spring River Trip Report


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

Dead Low Water II; A White River Trip Report


After a long night hanging out with the locals at the house we rented, we were up fairly early the next morning wrestling with the same decision….water flows suck, where are we going to float on Saturday (2012-10-27).  The White River was on its 4th day in a row of zero generation, and was representing a traveling wade fisherman’s wet dream.  However, I have traded those low water wet dreams in for hopes of 4,000CFS or larger flows, but I digress.  As we kicked back in the morning, it was apparent everyone had different ideas about where to fish.

Dan, Paul, and Jim had decided to tow their Hyde drift boat up to Lake Taneycomo to fish some higher flows, while Corey Dodson decided to stick close to the house and wade fished the Narrows area and Wildcat Shoals on the White, Ray Reidy and Jeff House decided to try their luck on the Norfork with the promise of the possibility of some midday increased flows (their gamble paid off and they were rewarded with full generation for a few hours), and Craig Peterson, Dan Ritter, and I decided to head in to Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher shop for a shuttle from Cotter access to Rim Shoals (on dead low water).  If anything, we had all the White River tailwaters covered.

The fishing from Cotter to Rim Shoals was pretty solid.  We continued rolling dinks in the boat with ease on various nymph, eggs, worms, and midges throughout the river.  We put in and rowed up to the railroad bridge above the Cotter ramp and spent entirely too much time fishing around the bridge and dock near the campground.  Fish were caught, but we should have pushed on quicker.  We ended up banging the bank with streamers from Cotter down to the top of Round House and picked up several fish (dinks) on a Cinnamon Colored Bottom’s Up near the Spring Branch.  And this fly continued to be the ticket for the rest of the day.

The most interesting part of the day was floating through Round House Shoals.  The river at dead low is still a learning experience, and this was the first time I rowed this section of river.  Round House Shoals is just super sexy water and the low water brought out all the wader fisherman.  It is amazing to me that they all flock to the river-right side of the island instead of fishing the fast pocket water on river-left (which coincidentally is also the boat channel we had to row / walk the boat through).  The Hyde G4 bottom took a beating again today as we pinballed our way down some of the skinnier slots and when we hopped out to walk it through some of the super skinny stuff.

We ended up pulling off the river around 5pm or so and headed back to the rental house.  Surprisingly, the guys that ran to Taneycomo had just beat us back to the house and had the BBQ pit going for a night filled with more beer, brats, and good bullshit.  Corey got back from his wade fishing trip, and Ray and Jeff headed back after floating the Norfork and the conversations all confirmed that the fishing was still the same… big fish and lots of dinks.

With little promise for a change on Sunday morning, the conversation after dinner turned to where to fish on Sunday morning.  It didn’t take long for consensus to be met, and on Sunday morning we would head out early for redemption on the Spring River.

More to follow.

–Matt Tucker