Little Piney - Water was normal level and clear
Current River - Water was low and clear
Headed out early Friday morning and pointed the truck in the direction of the Little Piney river just southeast of Rolla. This was a new destination for me, I had driven past it several times on my way down to the Current River but never taken the time to stop and fish it. I knew it was designated blue ribbon trout water and should have a few wild rainbows lurking in it's waters but that was about the extent of my knowledge.
Arrived about 10:00am at the Lane Spring access and didn't see another car , good start already , so I geared up and headed down to the stream.
This is a beautiful little stream and I was glad I decided to stop before even wetting a line. I wasn't sure what to expect as far as fishing success but the beauty and solitude of this place was going to make the day for me regardless.
I stopped at the first riffle that looked good and flipped out the small caddis imitation and let it swing downstream. It hadn't gone 5 feet in the drift before my indicator disappeared and I was connected to my first Little Piney rainbow. Funny how a grown man can get so excited over such a small fish , but I was stoked.
It was a small fish of about 5 inches but just a perfect specimen with beautiful par marks on it's sides. After admiring him for a quick second I slipped him back in the water and made another cast. To my surprise the indicator disappeared again and I was fast to another little rainbow.
After fooling a dozen fish or so in the first stretch of water I came to I decided to try something different. These fish were super aggressive, jumping on my flies almost as soon as they hit the water sometimes, so why not try a small hopper pattern? I put on a Dave's Hopper and only made a cast or two before a small 6 inch trout threw himself practically out of the water going after the fly.
He missed it altogether but I knew I was on to something good. For my money I'll take small wild fish on dry flys all day long. Not that I don't like to catch big fish too, but something about fishing a small stream for wild fish just clicks with me.
For the next 3 hours I worked my way slowly downstream fishing the hopper in any good looking pool and catching more trout than I ever expected too out of this little gem.
They were all small by most standards (biggest might have went 8 inches tops)but what they lacked in size they made up for in pure attitude. I only saw one other flyfisher the entire afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed fishing this place, my days of driving past and only looking down from the bridge as I speed by are definitely over. This will no doubt become a regular destination for me and not just a stopover while headed somewhere else.
While walking back to the car I stumbled across a small blackberry patch along the creek and sat down on the bank to enjoy a snack and take in the beauty of this place before moving on. First priority on my 3 day trip was satisfied , fool a couple of Little Piney trout.
I Pulled in to Montauk State Park about 5:00 PM and grabbed an open campsite, I quickly threw my tent up and stacked some firewood I had brought along next to the firepit. I was still pumped from my experience on the Little Piney and itching to hit the river for a couple hours before settling down for dinner and a few cold beverages.
I decided to start down at Baptist access figuring that it would have the most canoe traffic once the weekend crowd arrived the next day. One other car in the lot upon arriving, must be too hot to fish I guess??suits me just fine I thought. I put up the 2 weight from earlier and grabbed the 5
weight out of it's case. The river looked low and very clear so I ruled out streamer fishing in the heat of the day (the temp gauge at the bank in Licking read 98). One of my favorite stretches of water on the Current is
the water downstream of Baptist so that's the direction I headed. It wasn't long before I was hooked up with my first Current river bow of the weekend , a fish of about 13 inches.
For the next two hours I nymphed my way downstream catching fish out of almost every good looking spot I stopped at.
Nothing big was caught, but the amount of fish in every hole was almost incredible. I noticed some clouds rolling in from the West and still had camp to finish setting up so I called it a day, a very good day at that, and headed back to the park. This ended up being the right decision to make because I no more got the rainfly on the tent and shit put away when
the wind picked up and the storms moved in.I just had time to grab a few items out of the cooler for dinner (cold smoked chicken and a beer) and crawl inside the tent before all hell let loose.
After dinner I sat back with the latest issue of The Drake and a couple of cold ones while listening to the rain pound against the tent. I just hope this shit moves out before tomorrow morning I thought to myself. I fell asleep with the rain still streaming down the sides of the tent and thunder crashing all around.
I awoke to the sun creeping over the eastern hills which was a welcome sight after the nights storms. I quickly fried up some sausage to make a quick sandwich for breakfast and then loaded up the truck and headed for TanVat access. I arrived to find the river still cloaked in a dense fog and one other vehicle in the parking lot.
There were a couple of guys fishing the area right below the access so I walked on downstream a ways until I was out of sight. I worked the holes and riffle water with my pine squirrel sculpin and picked up several rainbows and a couple browns but knew I had to be fishing over too many fish considering yesterdays results.
I decided to go back to the nymph setup of the day before and was immediately rewarded with a quick hookup. After a little trial and error I decided upon a red sj worm with a caddis pupa imitation as a dropper for the top setup.
Once I started using this combo the fishing became almost too easy , every hole that looked like it should have fish did have, and they were all hungry.
It was one of those times when you almost begin to think you know what you're doing, and then you realize that they must have just stocked the river with a bunch of dumb trout recently as the only logical explanation. Either way I wasn't complaining , this was some great fishing.
I fished below TanVat and below Baptist again and the fishing was equally good in both locations, and to my surprise I didn't see but a couple of fisherman all day on the water. After a quick dinner back at camp I wanted to hit the river below the park and try my luck at some dry fly fishing.
I started at the water gauging hole and sat down on the bank to watch for fish activity and rig up. I immediately began noticing fish working the surface along the far seam and numerous caddis flitting about on the waters surface. I guessed at about a size 16 tan elk hair caddis and began fishing. These fish were a little selective and you had to get a good drift to hook up but I caught probably a dozen fish out of that one stretch before moving on down to the boulder hole to finish out the evening. Fish were working the far seam just as they usually are and I proceeded to catch several fish on the same elk hair caddis that produced up above, all rainbows of average size. A great way to end the day, a good cigar, a beautiful sunset and fish working the surface during a strong caddis hatch.
Sunday I awoke to skies that already looked like the promise of rain to come so I decided to eat breakfast and hurriedly take camp down so that I wouldn't have to do it in the rain later. This would prove to be a wise decision. I decided to park at the lower campground and start fishing at the gauging station hole where I finished the previous evening. I arrived to find an incredible hatch of tricos in full swing and the same pod of fish from the following day gorging themselves happily. I rummaged through the flyboxes and found some small trico spinner patterns that I had bought in Colorado last year for the Frying Pan. As luck would have it they were just the trick and numerous rainbows and a couple of small browns fell to that pattern before the activity died down.
With the skies looking more ominous all the time I put on my go to nymph rig for the weekend and began working my way downstream. Fishing was very good and I had made it probably halfway to TanVat when I began to notice thunder rumbling in the distance.
I had a long hike back to the truck so I decided to turn around and quickly work my way upstream. It's hard to fish fast when every hole is producing fish for you , but I knew if I pushed my luck I might regret it.
As it was I stretched my time to the very limit and got about a hundred yards from the truck when the skies opened up. It's always that one last cast that gets you in trouble.
By this time it was about 11:30am and I decided to hit the road and stop back by the Little Piney on my way back. A quick lunch on the road to minimize downtime and I was pulling into the Lane Spring access by 1:00. There was still a light rain coming down but nothing that would keep me from trying to tempt up a few more wild rainbows to top the trip off. I found the stream up about six inches and ever so slightly off colored. To my disappointment the dry fly bite was not what it was only a couple days earlier. I reluctantly put on a nymph setup and once again began hooking up with some of these beautiful little fish. After a couple of hours I decided to call it a day and start the trek back to KC. I had found a new stream which I couldn't wait to return to and had another great trip on one of my favorite rivers in the Ozarks. Until next time........