Wednesday, June 22, 2011
6/18 - 6/21 Current River - "Big Fish...Stories and Broken Rods"
It's been almost a month since I've felt cool refreshing spring-fed stream water running over my wading boots and heard the relaxing sound the water makes as it tumbles over the shallow riffles. This time of year there always seems to be projects at home or other activities planned with the family that leave too little time spent on the water. I've been doing my share of warmwater fishing around home to help maintain my sanity , chasing the ever elusive Cyprinus (most times unsuccessfully) and doing battle with the little warriors of the fish world , the bluegill. While I enjoy flyfishing for anything that swims in just about any locale it's the coldwater trout streams of the Ozarks that continually call out to me , constantly filling my mind with thoughts of big browns chasing streamers at dusk or a pod of rainbows sipping blue wing olives as the first rays of sun peek over the surrounding hillsides.
Eventually these thoughts get the better of me and I'm all but forced to give in and head South in search of the rejuvination that can only come from several days spent on the water.
I pulled out of KC early Saturday morning and pointed the truck in the general direction of the Current River where I was meeting up with friend and good fishing buddy Kevin to spend 4 days chasing trout. After a 5 hour roadtrip that felt like 10 due to the anticipation, I finally pulled into Eagles Park campground just outside of Montauk State Park. I arrived first and got my tent set up then proceeded to get our basic camp in order before Kevin showed up.
After finishing with camp prep and eating a quick lunch , complete with the obligatory cold beer to start the trip off right, I geared up and took off walking for the river. As I headed out down the gravel road with flyrod in hand I could feel the weight of everyday life problems slowly dissapearing with each and every step...no work issues , no chores at home that need done , the cell phone has "no service" and I have NO more worries!
The water looked in great shape as I waded in, feeling the initial rush of cold water over my feet. Several small rainbows scurried for a new hiding spot as I walked across and sat down on the far shore to rig up , the river was just as I remembered it from my last trip , peaceful..refreshing and full of good friends to spend the day with. It wasn't long before I was hooked up to one of the many rainbows making this section of river home , it felt good to be back.
That first day we took it pretty easy ,after Kevin arrived we sat around catching up for awhile and then later in the afternoon walked back down to the Tan Vat access for a few more hours of fishing before heading back to camp for dinner and an evening spent retiring a few adult beverages.
We agreed to get up early the next morning and hit it before the sun got too high , unfortunately mother nature had different plans and when my alarm went off at 5:00am I was greeted with the sound of thunder and a good rain pelting the side of the tent. I rolled over and went back to sleep and when I awoke the second time the sun was already peeking through the clouds and the rain was moving out of the area. We got around and ate a quick bite , our usual breakfast sandwich , and then headed down to the water for another day.
Being summertime and a weekend day there were a few more people on the river than either Kevin or I would have liked but we had fully expected it before we planned the trip.
We just walked a little farther down the trail to find places where the only competition for fishing spots was with the local kingfishers and blue herons. Later in the afternoon we took a drive down river and found a new access (new to us anyway) where we spent several hours scoping things out and catching a few fish as well.
Considering the time of year and our location of choice we encountered relatively few people out on the water at least in the sections we were fishing , neither of us was complaining. The day ended as all days should , sitting around a campfire tipping back a few cold ones and telling stories about the one that got away.
After another round of rain overnight we awoke to clearing skies again on Monday morning. I was anxious to get on the water and Kevin was feeling a little lazy so I took off for the river on my own , anxious to hit one of my favorite spots that we hadn't fished yet.
The fish were really on that morning and I was catching rainbows out of almost every hole that I stopped to fish , one particular spot was treating me especially well and I was having a hard time leaving it and moving on downstream. I was fishing a two nymph rig , flipping it up to the top of the pool and letting it drift back down when the indicator disappeared again. I set the hook and immediately realized that this wasn't your average rainbow on the other end. The heavy weight on the other end of my line was just holding in the fast water, occasionally moving from side to side trying to dislodge what it thought was a quick meal from the corner of it's mouth. I thought I probably had one of the rivers big browns hooked and was already planning out my strategy for working him out of the deep pool when for some reason the fish decided to change things up on me. Before I could even react the fish started running upstream full bore and then jumped , not once but twice , clearing the water by several feet it seemed. At the same instance that I saw the fish and realized it was a beautiful bow of about 5 or 6 pounds I also saw the large rootwad that it was headed for. I knew it was all over before the fish even got to the tree , I tried to slow her down, putting all the pressure on her that my 5x tippet could deliver without breaking. It was to no avail and in a flash I was left with nothing but a severed leader to show for the experience.
I think for a moment I was upset, but after sitting down streamside ,hands still shaking , I realized that this was the best fish of the trip so far. No matter that she was still swimming around in that pool after my lost chance , I was going to release her anyway. A pic would have been nice but they're just for bragging rights , the mental picture in my mind will last longer than any snapshot ever would.
That afternoon we threw a cooler of beverages in the truck and took another drive in search of access points that we hadn't previously fished. Spots were found..fish were caught..beer was drank ,need I say more.
We spent the last hours of daylight on the river that evening , nymphing right up until dusk and then switching over to streamers for that magical last part of the day.
Several browns came out to play but nothing big by this waters standards for sure , still , between the morning encounter with the big bow and an evening spent watching deer playing around in the water just 75 yards downstream from me while hooking up with a feisty brownie , you couldn't have wiped the smile off my face with a belt sander.
Tuesday morning was packing up day as we'd decided to head out and make a slight detour on our way home to fish a different stream. As always seems to be the case when I camp it rained again just before sunrise , meaning I'd be packing up wet gear and then drying it out again once I got home...typical. Our destination for the day was a much smaller body of water holding the status of Blue Ribbon trout Stream as designated by the state of Missouri.
I'd been here before and been pretty successful in catching numerous small wild bows out of the tree shaded pools. It was Kevins first trip here and I secretly hoped my description of the pretty little stream and it's brightly colored inhabitants would meet his expectations. At first sight of the water I could tell that there was more water this time than on my previous trip , it actually looked better I thought.
It didn't take long after setting up on the first likely looking hole to hook into the first fish of the day , a small but beautiful wild rainbow. I know some who would disagree but in my mind there's just no comparison between the fight of a hatchery fish and a wild one , these little bruisers would jump 3 feet out of the water when hooked and bolt around the pool like they were being chased. Kevin and I were both catching fish regularly out of each spot we stopped and enjoying another wonderful Ozark day on a stream we had all to ourselves.
I'm not sure how many fish were caught or how far downstream we walked before Kevin hollered out that he was gonna call it a day. He'd been traveling for work and hadn't been home for awhile so I totally understood. We said our goodbyes and he headed back towards the vehicles while I headed off in search of a few more fish to play with.
I'd caught more fish than I could count , including my largest out of this stream , and I was starting to think about that 5 hour drive I still had to get back home.
The next section looked pretty good so I told myself to fish it on out and then call it a day. One deep run in particular looked inviting and I just couldn't leave until swinging a fly through it a few times. My first drift reinforced what I had thought as the indicator disappeared below the surface , upon setting the hook I soon realized that this wasn't your average fish from this small stream. The fish bore down deep and wouldn't budge from it's holding spot , it didn't help that I was using the two weight , but up until now it'd been all the rod I needed. As I pressured the fish he began racing from one end of the small pool to the other , shaking his head and trying to dislodge my fly. I still hadn't seen him yet but I was getting excited at the thought of what I might have on the other end of my line. The battle was still going on several minutes later and it wasn't clear who was gonna be the victor in the fight , the little rod was strained to it's limits trying to keep the fish in the small pool I was fishing. Out of a last ditch effort I believe , the fish began to run downstream out of the pool and towards the next run which held several trees that had washed into the river. I had no choice but to stop him , remembering the bow who had taken me into the rootwad and broke me off, I put as much pressure as I dared on the fish. Just about the same time that I got my first glimpse of him I heard a heart-stopping crack , looking up at my rod I could see my four piece rod now had five pieces. Somehow the fish stayed on and with a lot of luck I managed to continue the battle with the broken rod.
Luckily the fight was all but over when it happened or this might just be another fish story about the one that got away. As it was I landed the fish , a beautiful wild rainbow with colors that I can't start to describe and a camera can't capture , snapped a couple of pics and sent the fish back on it's way.
I really didn't want to quit fishing but with a broken rod my options were sort of limited so after sitting streamside and calming down for a few minutes I began the hike back to the truck. All I could think about on the walk back was that fish , in that last pool , on the last day of the trip and how lucky I was to have been there. Although not the biggest fish by any means, I've gotta say that was the fish of the year for me, it's gonna be damn hard to top that one but it never hurts to try right??
Posted by HighPlainsFlyFisher