Spring River (Mammoth Spring, Arkansas) — July 18, 2004

Fly Rod & Reel Trout Bum Tournament Check-In # 10

We arose at 6:00am on this last day of our trout bum adventure to fish the Spring River that rises from the ground in Mammoth Spring, Arkansas. After waking up all those crashing in our room. Not only did we manage to bum a room for our trout bum adventure, we allowed our unofficial Team Ozark Chronicles groupies (Team Chronic Smack) to crash on cots in our room. It was the least we could do for them, since they brought down a huge check for the folks at Hooked On A Cure. Ron Caimi, the bamboo rod maker from Waterloo, Illinois (www.troutcamprods) also drove down to fish with us on the Spring River and make the presentation of the rod he built (we did that on Saturday night – man what a beautiful rod) for the Hooked On A Cure raffle and he met up with us at the tailgate of Rich’s Bronco.

After cooking espresso by the propane burner on the tailgate of the Bronco and casting a couple of different fly rods, we loaded the truck with all our trout bumming gear and headed for the Gooseneck Island Restaurant on the bank of the Spring River for the world’s best biscuits and gravy (not to mention they make a pretty good ham & cheese omelets). Brent successfully bummed breakfast for the both of us, and we ate heartily (of course we had the biscuits and gravy). Owner Jack Bartruff was very happy to help out our cause for St. Jude.

We than got ready to launch the Hyde drift boat on the Spring River. Only Team Ozark Chronicles could successfully bum a Hyde drift boat from Wisconsin to be delivered and used on the last day of the trip. We had never met Rich Brown or Matt Pedersen prior to this trip (other than some emails back and forth), but a couple of comments about wanting to fish the Spring River from a drift boat and they agreed to come on down. So this might be the finest bum of the trip – get two guys to bring down their drift boat for us from Wisconsin and take us out on the Spring River in it. After the launch, we were on the water and fishing by about 8:30am. I made a comment about missing the early morning bite, when I was quickly asked “Are the trout in the Spring River different from any other trout, in the fact that they won’t eat all day long?” by Rich Brown. To which I had no replies and no worries, as the trout bum experience was nearing an end.

[From Brent] While Matt, Matt and Rich were putting in the boat, I took Ron to the hotel to get his truck, checked out of the room and noticed the fuel gage was getting on a quarter tank. I swung into Hocker Oil’s Gas+ station at the state line on highway 63 and explained what we were doing. As I suspected, you really need to get in touch with corporate offices of gas stations to get fuel, and that wasn’t possible on Sunday. However, the manager (who asked to remain anonymous) pulled $20 out of his own pocket to give to us. Can you believe the generosity of people? (This whole experience has really helped me believe in mankind again, as I have noticed myself getting a little cynical living here in the city.) I put the $20 in the tank, noticed it was pretty much full and hoped that would be enough to get us home.

[From Matt again] After walking the boat down a couple stretches of shallow water, I am now convinced the Spring River needs at least 6” more of flow to be prime drift boat water. But we got some interesting questions from the locals about the boat, as we truly believe we were the first drift boat on the upper Spring River. But watch out for when we win the pontoon boat from Cabelas, that should be prime for this river.

Fishing was slow for everyone. Well, everyone except McClane. I ended the day with only 5 fish brought to hand, but McClane brought to hand 19 fish for the day with his damn nymph fishing techniques. Just as we were getting ready to get off of the water and head home, Tommy Garner (http://www.tommygarner.tv/index2.html) and his wife Wanda Garner (http://www.womenanglers.us/) had arrived to shoot some video and photographs of our trout bumming adventures for their respective publications. Tommy was shooting some video tape and the fish were cooperating with McClane, while I was having trouble hooking up. But I was rescued when the battery for the video camera went dead, and he had to shoot still photos. I hooked up managed to land a fish for the camera as well. After some brief conversation and thank you’s, we headed toward the parking lot to meet Rich and Matt and have one last bummed meal before heading back to St. Louis.

We found ourselves at the D&W State Line Restaurant in the Ozark Heritage Mall in Thayer, Missouri around 4:00pm sitting at a table and awaiting the return of McClane who was trying to successfully bum a meal for the four of us. He returned, and said he successfully bummed some burgers and fries for the both of us but our “posse” would have to fend for themselves. During dinner, we relived some of the action of a day on the Spring River and our trout bum experience. In a flash, we were gone from the State Line Restaurant and on our way back to St. Louis. McClane pulled his best Mario Andretti impersonation, and had us back at my house in record time. To which I was met with a sign made by my daughters that read “Welcome Home Daddy.” As quick as I was met with hugs from my family, McClane was gone to see his special someone – and I completely understand. As much fun as we had during our trout bum, it is good to be home.

[From Brent] Yep, I would have to agree with Matt. This has been a trip of a lifetime, one I will never forget and one that I have learned so much from. At the same time…..I also couldn’t wait to get home to see my girl, Jen and all the animals. It’s good to be home. I think I’ll sleep good tonight!!


Tight Lines,

Matt Tucker & Brent McClane


Current River (Licking, Missouri) — April 16 – 18, 2004

This weekend was a mini get together for members of the St. Louis Fly Tying Group on Yahoo, and some other select St. Louis area fly fisherman. I had been looking forward to this trip, since it was almost a month since I had been on the water. The trip had started out to be one that McClane and I were going to leave on Thursday night and arrive down on the Current River late that evening — instead McClane didn’t have a chance to be late……because he cancelled on this trip due to “work” commitments. I scrambled to find someone to ride down with me in the maiden fishing voyage of the 18ft travel trailer I had bought on eBay last november. The trailer has proved to be a little too much weight for my Blazer in its first outing to Washington State Park (near Desoto, MO) in March, so I borrowed my brother’s Tahoe for this trip since there was a ton of Ozark highway miles.

I finally got Mark Kotcher to ride down with me and by 8am on Friday morning, we were on our way. Towing the trailer with the Tahoe was night and day when compared to towing it with my Blazer. Gas mileage sucks while towing, but the accomodations were nice. We finally got down to the EaglesPark Campground in the Trophy Trout Management Area on the Current River, just outside of Montauk State Park around 11:30am or so. Several other people had already arrived and were on the water. We quickly set up camp, suited up, and hit the Current River at Baptist Camp and fished upstream. We ran in to Illinois bamboo rodmaker, Ron Caimi, taking a lunch break at his vehicle and said our hellos (he was part of the group that was staying at the campground and one of the tents were his) he informed us that the fish had really turned off around 11am, but the morning brought a ton of stockers on caddis imitations. The weather was unseasonably hot and the temperature was near 90 with bright blue skies, when we finally got on the water and started the trek upstream. They had previously stocked the river with several thousand Brown Trout a week earlier, but the fish were not anywhere to be seen in these section of river. As we worked our way upstream, Mark Kotcher picked up two Brown Trout on an elk hair caddis and I missed one fish. I was not feeling well on the water today (probably a combination of allergies and dehydration) and was pretty set on just walking upstream to the bluffs and fishing. We never made it up to the bluffs, and fishing was so slow and crowded that we quit fishing around 4pm and waded back to the Tahoe and decided to check out the other accesses and then head back to camp. There was a ton more cars at the Baptist Camp Access, complete with a group of guys swimming in the big hole in front of the access. At Parkers Hollow, we only saw one car and I didn’t think the water looked very attractive so back to camp we went to wait for everyone else to arrive (I drank a ton of Gatorade and actually took a nap and tied some flies — I was pretty anti-social on Friday). The others started to arrive around 5pm and set up camp and Craig made it down around 6pm.

The fishing was much of the same on Saturday morning, several of the guys in the group set out to float from Tan Vat to Parkers Hollow (including Mark Kotcher — who was trying out his pontoon boat for the first time), while Craig and I got on the water early and parked at Tan Vat access (with the plan to fish down to Baptist and back and make the trip last a full day). We got to the access around 7am and there was already a ton of cars there and as many people suiting up and getting ready to hit the water. Craig and I were already suited up so we made our way across the pool and high tailed it down river. I picked up two browns and Craig picked up one brown prior to 10am, but then the fishing just shut down. We fished down past the bluffs and were frusturated and hot — the weather was near 90 again with bright blue skies and there were more people on the river than I had ever seen. We decided to head back upstream and fish some of the runs that we had skipped over when trying to stay ahead of all the other anglers. It paid off, as I foul hooked (it was hooked underneath the mouth — so is it really a foul hook) a beautiful Brown Trout on a leech pattern but lost the fish (it was faul hooked anyway right……LOL). We both agreed to hit the car for some liquids and check out some of the other accesses and campgrounds. I took Craig to Parkers Hollow and there were at least 10 cars parked down there, complete with about 4 anglers cleaning trout in the river as we pulled in. We then hit Cedar Grove Access (man that is quite a drive from Parkers Hollow) and watched as a school bus load full of people launched at least 10 canoes on the water. On the way back to camp, we checked out Baptist Camp Access and were amazed at the amount of people and cars that were parked there. We grabbed some food and headed in to the state park so that Craig could call his wife. We were both frusturated and didn’t really feel like fishing (afterall, today was a carbon copy of yesterday) so we checked out the campground in Montauk (only 3 campsites not occupied in the whole place) and were back at camp by 2pm. After a nap and some rehydration we were tying flies in the camper as the other anglers whom had had much of the same luck (or worse) than we had made there way back.

Saturday night was when the main festitivities were to start, complete with a feast for kings and a huge bonfire (bonfire compliments of Dave Dawson — proprietor of EaglesPark Campground). We sat around the campfire and compared notes from the day as we waited for the fire to get just hot enough to start cooking. It was then that I realized we had assembled a great group of guys together to share a campfire and a river with. Gavin Poppen was in charge of cooking the meat for tonights dinner (18lbs of Pork Steaks from Mattickers Meat Market in St. Louis), Dan Burleigh prepared some kick-ass chili, and I assembed the italian salad that McClane had sent down (he volunteered to bring a salad — before he knew he couldn’t go). It was a great meal with great guys. We continued drinking until I went to bed about 2am, and some people were still up at 3am (when nature called for me). Most of what went on Saturday night, is best left at “You had to be there.”

1st Annual Campout on the Current Attendee List:

  1. Gavin Poppen
  2. Craig Stevens
  3. Keith Stevens
  4. Bill Peterburgo
  5. Craig Peterson
  6. Adam Smith
  7. John Nesselrode
  8. Dan Burleigh
  9. Andrew Arnold
  10. Matt Tucker
  11. Ron Caimi
  12. Brian Meiss
  13. Mark Kotcher
  14. Dave Dawson
  15. Norm Crisp
  16. Joe Weber
  17. Tom Hargrove
  18. Gene Horbelt
  19. Keith Gamn
  20. Several Other Unidentified People

1st Annual Campout on the Current Top 10 List

  1. Norm Crisp’s wisdom on getting older (Never Underestimate a fart)
  2. Gavin Poppen’s 6 foot bamboo rod
  3. Mark Kotcher’s maiden voyage of the personal pontoon
  4. Camp Tucker (and the fact it only has 2 windows that open)
  5. John Nesselrode & Craig Peterson’s humor
  6. The 60′ bonfire
  7. Tom Hargrove’s m-80 and the general burning of stuff
  8. Cutthroat Beer & Little Yeoman Beer
  9. Matt Tucker’s BBQ smeared all over his body
  10. Dave Dawson’s Hospitality (stay at EaglePark Campground when you are down there)

This trip was not about catching fish (seems like I would say that, since I only caught two fish), and we didn’t even fish on Sunday morning. Actually Mark Kotcher and I got up around 6am and packed up camp and headed for home (after stopping off at PJ’s Diner in Licking for breakfast). This trip reminded both Craig and I why we do not fish during the warmer months — the fish didn’t bite as well; and the river was crowded. We both left this trip, thinking that we probably won’t fish again until the fall (unless there is a cool day with some rain that just begs for us to be on the water) and spend the summer tying flies. Even though there was disappointment in the fish cooperation, I will be back for the campout next year. Until the next hook-up……………

Current River (Licking, Missouri) — February 22, 2004

This was almost the fishing trip that never happened. It had been some time since I had hit the water and I had the fever real bad. I had made tentative plans to fish the Current River with Brent McClane, but he had to cancel due to an invite to bird hunt — he definitely needs to get his priorities straight (although he didn’t make that trip either due to work,so it serves him right). A quick follow-up call to Mark Kotcher found me set to meet him at 3:30am at Denny’s at Bowles and I-44 and I was set, or so I thought. Saturday night I was filling my fly boxes with some flies when I got an instant message from Mark’s wife informing me that he had to cancel due to the stomach flu. Now I was pretty pissed and almost gave up on the fishing trip to the Current River (it is too long of a drive to drive those hours by yourself) when I posted a desperation message to the message board at OzarkChronicles.com. Enter Waterloo, Illinois bamboo rodmaker Ron Caimi to the rescue; “Matt I will meet you at Denny’s by 4am” his message read. Like a true fishing partner he was 5 minutes early (perhaps McClane should take lessons).

We arrived at the Tan Vat access around 6:30am and were suited up and walking up the field by about 6:45am. Fishing was slow, but the weather was awesome. In the first hole I hooked up with a little brown trout of about 13″ and as early as it was I thought the day would be alright — I caught this fish on a newly tied mini rag sculpin. It was some time before I picked up my second and last fish of the trip, a little 11″ rainbow on a black wooly bugger. I had two other legitimate hookups but couldn’t get either fish to hand. Ron decimated the shiner population of the river by giving them free air tickets with every strike. I must say that Ron’s hook setting is definitely on as I have never seen a person hook that many shiners on dry flies. I spent almost as much time shooting photos as I did fishing — and was rewarded with some great shots including a deer walking down the stream in the morning fog. Ron is a great fly fisherman and it shows in his casting ability. Ron wasn’t rewarded with a trout this trip, but to his defense he was fishing dry flies with one of his beautiful hand made split cane bamboo rods while most of the fish were hibernating on the bottom.

We witnessed some caddis coming off about 10:30 am with some random fish rising to them — but nothing that I would consider a hatch. We ran in to two other fisherman while on stream. The first gentleman was courteous enough to get out of stream when he saw us fishing down (observing the “upstream fisherman has the right of way” stream side etiquette rule) and came down to chat as this was his first trip to the Current. Just as we were fishing the last hole, we ran into two other gentlemen on a scouting trip to check out the river. It was a great day on the river and I definitely got my fix. The weather was perfect — high temp near 50 with morning temps in the 30’s, partly sunny skies, and little wind — and so was the river (although I will say that the river was definitely lower than on my last visit). I didn’t catch the number of fish that I quite honestly expected, but I didn’t get stood up at the dance and had a wonderful day on the stream. Looking forward to the next hookup……..