Friday, May 13, 2011

Spring River 5/3 - 5/6 " Cinco de Mayo Trip...Cervesas and Salmonids"

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The last couple of years my good friend Kevin has invited me to go along with himself and a small group of guys on their annual Cinco de Mayo fishing trip that they've been doing for some time now. Something always seemed to get in the way and I hadn't been able to make it happen before , this year when he asked I rearranged some schedules and took some vacation time to make it work. The promise of endless coolers of ice cold beer and food that would put most restaurants in town out of business coupled with camping streamside for 4 days was a pretty easy sell for me. The Little Red had always been their destination previously, but after fighting generation for several years in a row the trip had changed locations to the Spring River in Arkansas.
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I'd never fished or even seen this river before so I was excited to check it out for the first time. Of course as luck would have it the Ozarks decided to have one of those 100 year floods just days before we were scheduled to head out. The week before the trip I was watching the weather channel daily and kept seeing the same breaking news report talking about the flooding and heavy rains across the Ozark region , I had my doubts as to whether the trip would happen at all to be honest. With a good weather forecast and the river high but dropping out quickly (or so we were told) the decision was made to hit the river as planned. Our original campsite had been flooded when the river came up so we were moved to higher ground but other than that everything was a go.
I left KC Tuesday morning around 8:00 and pointed my fully loaded truck in the general direction of Mammoth Springs Arkansas.
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After making a few pit stops for goodies along the way I finally arrived at Mammoth Spring State Park about 2:00 in the afternoon. My first look at the water coming out of the spring didn't do anything for my hopes of getting much fishing in , the normally clear cold water looked more like a watered down yahoo milk shake. After spending some time sightseeing around the park I headed down the road for our campground , Spring River Oaks. I was the first one to arrive and since I wasn't sure which site we'd been moved to I just drove down and parked by the river and made myself at home until the others arrived.
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As bad as the water looked I still had to give it a shot so I rigged up a streamer on my sink tip and started fishing the section along the lower campground. I gave it an hour or so and then decided to go see if anyone else had arrived yet , as expected I didn't get a strike in the high ,dirty water.
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When I drove back through the campground I found Kevin , his son James and Terry all unloading gear and setting up camp. Don and Mike were set to arrive on Wednesday so the clan was here for the first night. Tents were set up and the kitchen area organized for the week and then we got down to business...drinking of course , with the water situation it seemed prudent to pop a few tops and hope for improving conditions in the morning.
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Wednesday morning we awoke to see that the water had dropped another 6-8 inches overnight but still looked like chocolate milk , it was decided to eat a quick breakfast and then head up to Dam #3 where we hoped to find some better water to fish. Upon arriving at Dam #3 I met Mark , a local guide , in the parking lot.
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Kevin had been in contact with Mark the previous week asking about water conditions and getting fishing reports so I introduced myself and asked how the fishing was. He said that he'd caught a couple and offered to show me several spots in the area , having never seen the river before I gladly took him up on the offer. Before the other guys arrived I'd caught several stocker bows following Mark around , the hot fly of the day seemed to be a pattern he ties called the "Grandmas Brownie" , basically a brown WB with white legs and tail.
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While this wasn't great fishing by any means I was pretty satisfied just knowing that we could find and catch a few fish in this water , and I was in hopes that the river would only get better as the week went on.
I fished the dam #3 area most of the day on Wednesday , catching maybe 15 stocker bows on various patterns. I tried the area along our camp again that evening for an hour or so and picked up two small bows on a streamer pattern to finish out the day. While I was dissapointed in the water conditions and the fact that we probably wouldn't be floating as planned on Thursday it had been an enjoyable day , the weather was nice and I was hanging out with some great guys and even catching a few fish.
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That evening we ate like kings , washed it down with plenty of cold cervesas and even invited our good friend Don Julio to the party. As is usually the case we all ate and drank too much and generally had a great time...trips like this remind me that it's not always about the fish , a big part of what I enjoy about fly fishing is the comraderie of good friends.
Thursday morning we drug ourselves out of our tents still feeling the repercussions of the "good time" from the previous night a little too well.
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Not to fear , a big breakfast of homemade biscuits and gravy and a cup of java was enough to give us a much needed kick in the ass , unfortunately the river conditions hadn't changed much overnight so we still had high muddy water to contend with. Some of the group decided to hang out around camp and fish that area while I decided to head back up to the dam where I felt I had a better chance of catching a few fish.
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It was a little better day of catching on Thursday , I probably ended up with close to twenty fish , mostly small stockers, but I did manage a couple of decent 15-16 inchers before the day was over. Not too bad considering the conditions we were dealing with , I'd already lowered my standards after initially seeing the water on Tuesday so I was pretty happy with any fish at all.
That evening we ate smoked wild pig with settlers beans and potatoe salad..good shit for sure.
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A few more adult beverages were consumed and we sat around the fire talking fishing and solving the worlds problems one at a time like only a group of intoxicated fly fishermen can.
Friday I was scheduled to head back to KC to get ready for another trip I had planned for the upcoming weekend. After another great breakfast I began taking down my camp and packing things back in the truck.
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I don't know how it is that my gear expands over the course of a trip and even though it fits nicely when I leave home it's always a struggle to find room for everything when it's time to leave. Hell , I left a case of empty beer bottles in the trash can at camp so you'd think I'd have room to spare! It was about 9:30 when I got it all packed away and said my goodbyes to the crew , I didn't need to be on the road until around noon and dam #3 was on my way so I figured I might as well get a couple more hours of fishing in. I landed another dozen small bows that morning and just as I figured the water was starting to clear slightly and the fishing seemed to be picking up just as I had to call it a day. Story of my life..the fishings always better the day before I arrive and the day after I leave!
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With any luck I didn't offend anyone too much and I might get an invite again next year , these are the kind of trips that a guy can look forward to every year and we all need a few more of those in our daily grind.
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3 comments:

  1. Looks like a good time was had despite the less than ideal fishing conditions. Wish I could have joined you. The Spring is one of my favorite places.

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  2. HighPlainsFlyFisherMay 14, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    I can't say that I got a chance to appreciate the river much with the water conditions as they were. We had a great time but I sure would like to get back when it actually looked like a trout stream and float it. Maybe next time...

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  3. It was good, wasn't it!! What's next buddy?

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