Tuesday, November 22, 2011
With the Thanksgiving Holiday right around the corner my presence was required at home and the flyrods sat forlornly in the corner all weekend. Instead I spent my time getting some small projects done around the house and then my wife and I began preparing for the family to arrive for the big meal on Thursday. Decorations were drug out of the basement and placed around the house and I even completed the always entertaining task of getting the Christmas lights hung. As part of all this I was instructed by the wife to clean up my fly tying desk and make my room presentable so I took advantage of it and did a little organizing that had needed to be done for quite some time. It's amazing to me the amount of materials a fly tyer can accumulate over the years and even more incredible how hard it is to keep it all somewhat organized so you can find it when you need it. Of course I tied some flies off and on as I usually do when I'm stuck at home. I re-stocked the GRHE's and PTN's , both simple ties that never fail to catch fish , and then tied up something new using some materials that I dug up while cleaning.
It's a caddis pattern using Henry's Fork Hackle for the collar , thus the name. Not sure how durable the CDC will be but it looks good in the vise so I'll give it a shot next time I get out. It was an easy fly to tie and should work well in most of the Ozark streams I spend my time fishing. Following is the recipe for anyone interested in adding a couple to their own arsenal :
Hook...Daiichi 1250 Caddis Hook / Upturned Eye
Body...Insect Green Ice Dub in a Dubbing Loop
Back Carapice...Pheasant Tail Fibers
Collar...Henrys Fork Hackle (Natural Color) Palmered
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Thirty minutes of a blustery ,overcast fall afternoon. On this day that'd be all the time I had to cure the ache that had gnawed at me for the last week. With my wife on vacation this week we had decided to head over to Clinton State Park and take advantage of the nice weather by hiking a couple of our favorite trails. Somehow I had managed to sneak the flyrod and a box of flies under the seat of the truck unnoticed, so the plan was set in motion from the beginning. I'd heard a report or two of some wipers being caught on windy points of the lake and with the conditions the way they were today I hoped to take advantage of the situation if given the opportunity. We spent several hours hiking through the park and seeing as it was a Monday we had the place pretty much to ourselves. As always, our fearless trail guide Joe led the way into the unknown.
I couldn't think of a better way to spend the afternoon...well , maybe one. As we began our trip back home I decided to drive across the dam and look things over ,still in hopes of pulling that rod out from under the backseat. When I saw a couple groups of gulls working the open water on the windy side of the lake I knew I had to give it a shot.
After a little convincing the wife agreed to sit and read while I spent 30 minutes fishing.
Most of the action appeared to be out of reach of the seven weight , but I managed to fool a few stragglers.
Chalk one up for the old "Blind Squirrel" theory. Three whites and two wipers if my identification was correct , they were all under two pounds and at that size it's not always easy to tell. Regardless of what exact species or sub-species they belonged to ,the tug was sufficient to take the edge off until the next fix.
When I got back to the truck and announced my success ,five fish in thirty minutes , I was given a shake of the head and informed that I'd been down there for an hour and fourty-five minutes. It took some doing but I finally convinced her that fishermen have their own understanding of time that doesn't neccessarily fall in place with what the standard timepieces of today are capable of calculating. I like to think we're one step ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to time management , give me thirty minutes and I can somehow turn it into two hours almost effortlessly. She wasn't impressed , but nonetheless what a great way to spend thirty minutes on a blustery fall afternoon!!
Thursday, November 10, 2011
As I pulled out of Bennett Springs State Park Saturday afternoon I kept glancing down at the map sitting in the passengers seat , not neccesarily for navigational purposes (thats what GPS is for...right?) but more in furtive anticipation of seeing the stream displayed on the open page for the first time. I was headed to one of the Ozarks wild trout streams that I'd only read about and I felt kind of like a teenage girl getting ready for her first prom...giddy with excitement. It's alway fun to see a piece of water for the first time , sometimes it's just as you imagined it and other times it's not at all what you expected , but that element of surprise always makes it interesting.
Time was gonna be short on this trip so I wouldn't have much opportunity to actually fish , but I wanted to get a good look at the stream and figure out some logistics of where to camp when fishing it and other streams in the area. Thanks in part to a combination of mapquest and Google Navigation I began seeing signs for the conservation area and traded in the smooth pavement for a one lane dirt road leading to my destination after a short , uneventful road trip . It was already approaching 5:00 and I knew the intelligent decision was to scope out a spot to pitch a tent for the night since I wasn't even sure camping was allowed on this state owned land , so of course I threw caution to the wind and pulled off the road along the stream and rigged up for a quick look at the water.
It was love at first sight and before even seeing a fish I knew this could become one of my favorite places to get away. This little creek runs shallow, with fewer deep plunge pools than some of the other small streams I'd fished but still had enough good holding water to give the fish some shelter. The AP Black nymph I had rigged up on the two weight worked it's magic and I took a small wild bow out of the first pool I cast into.
I like big fish just like everyone else , but the smile on my face as that first fish slid out of my palmed hand said it all , to me that fish was a trophy. I enjoyed discovering new pools around every bend as I walked upstream fishing likely looking spots. As with most small streams the fish were where you would expect them to be , not in great numbers or size , but they were there. The small bows averaged 5-8 inches in length but there were a few slightly larger fish that put a healthy bend in the old two weight.
I fished until the sun was setting over the surrounding hillsides and knew I'd better go find a spot to put up camp before total darkness set in.
With the help of a map and some widely scattered signage I finally located a primitive campsite in a big wooded valley with no one else around...heaven. By the time I finished setting up the tent the truck headlights were needed to illuminate the process , a small price to pay for a little time on the water.
Dinner was homemade chili , piping hot and very tasty after a day of being submersed in 57 degree water for an extended period. A little campfire time to round out the day and then I hit the tent to make plans for tomorrow.
Sunday dawned cloudy and breezy with that unmistakable scent of fall in the air. I had tentative plans to meet a buddy today and fish another small stream within an hours drive of my location , but if I hurried I could still get in an hour or so on my new creek. Wanting to learn my way around , I chose to fish in a different area than the previous evening. Not as many fish were caught but I did find some good looking water that I'm anxious to return to. While many folks might turn up their nose at a stream where the fish average a mere 6 inches I had a great time fishing this little creek. I'm sure there are some bigger fish around and that premise is a good reason to plan my next trip to the area.
With the friendly lady inside my GPS telling me to turn right I pulled back on to the paved road and headed for my next destination. I was less than halfway there when I got the text message on my phone letting me know that my friend couldn't meet up with me this morning...new job , new home , moving plans...it wasn't too hard to understand how fishing needed to take a backseat to what he had going on. Now my dilemma was whether to turn around and head back to where I just left or continue on. Decisions..decisions , in the end the old cliche that "the grass is always greener..." forced me to continue on in the direction I was headed. A little less than an hour later I was pulling into the parking lot at my next destination. This piece of water wasn't new to me , in fact it's become one of my favorite streams since fishing it for the first time last year. With a small hike required to get to where I planned on fishing I decided to throw together a quick lunch for streamside.
This little place seldom disappoints and I had no reason to believe that today would be any different. The first few pools I fished each yielded a couple of fish , but they were small , not what I'd come to expect from this water.
Hey that's fishing right , it was a beautiful fall day and I was out doing something that I love. The next spot , where I always do well , didn't even provide me with a strike. Now I knew something was wrong and as I walked around the next corner I saw what it was...there were three fishermen just rounding the next bend and traveling in the same direction I was headed. That explained alot , and left me with a decision to make. This stream is really too small for more than one group or angler to fish the same area successfully so after some thought I decided to turn around and head upstream in the other direction.
This section of water hasn't been as kind to me and for some reason I don't think there are as many fish in this area as downstream. All the same , if I didn't encounter any more fishermen it would be the right choice. I spent the next couple hours working my way from pool to pool , catching an occasional small wild rainbow.
Perhaps a large part of the reason I enjoy fishing these small creeks (besides the usual lack of people) is the chance to go in without any pre-concieved notions about catching big fish. It seems when I visit one of our local tailwaters or larger rivers that I always have these expectations looming in the back of my mind about fish over twenty inches , often times as you can imagine that feat isn't accomplished. It by no means ruins the experience for me , I enjoy any time I get on the water , but it does tend to lessen the appreciation you have for some of those smaller fish.
When I visit one of these small wild trout streams I find myself appreciating every fish I catch , regardless of size, and that makes for a truly enjoyable day. Shortly after 1:00 I found a good spot streamside and sat down to enjoy a quick lunch and just kick back for a while.
Nothing's quite as peaceful as listening to the water flowing over the rocks and watching the wildlife in the surrounding hillsides as you sit there and take it all in. I must have sat there for close to an hour , just happy to be where I was and not really wanting to leave anytime soon.
Unfortunately , I had plans to keep later that evening and the five hour drive to get back home was still looming , the reality was setting in that I had to leave sooner or later. I picked up another stray fish or two on the way back downstream and then it was time to begin that trek back to the real world...where something else matters besides running water , beautiful wild fish and a cold beer.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
This past Saturday I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to dive at one of Missouri's largest springs , located within Bennett Springs State Park. Every year the stream in this trout park closes for two weeks between the regular and catch & release seasons. During this time the MDC has a weekend stream cleanup where they invite scuba divers to come and dive the stream and clean-up trash from the years multitude of visitors. Every year I try to dive the spring at least once and the clean-up is a good reason to get wet and do something good for the river as well.
Each group of divers was assigned a section of stream to cover , my group had requested and been given the actual spring outlet and downstream section of stream. Since the three of us were all certified cave divers we took the opportunity to do a little exploring of the spring. These diagrams show the layout of the spring cave in relation to the surrounding park.
At our deepest point of 78 feet we were somewhere deep in the hillside beneath the kids playground on the hill. The lack of rain recently made for perfect conditions , low outflow allowing us to penetrate down into the tunnel without issue and gin clear water.
The mouth of the cave opening is always full of trout and this day was no different. It's always a cool sight to drop into the cavern opening and see all of the fish hanging there in the current.
A guideline leads down into the cave opening and it's neccessary to use it to pull yourself forward against the current even at low flows.
Once inside the spring opening itself, trout can be seen down to about 30 feet deep hovering in slack water areas along the edges. I've seen some decent sized fish before but today they were all just average stockers.
Once you come to the first real restriction the going gets tougher and I had to put away the camera to maintain a grip on the line and hold the regulator against my face to keep the current from free-flowing it.
We did a little minor exploring and then headed back out of the cave. With plenty of air to burn up I took advantage of the situation and did a little trout watching on my second dive. The area just below the spring branch was loaded with fish and I spent several hours laying in seams and watching trout move about and feed.
It was really enlightening to watch that many fish in one area and study their behavior as they went about their business. Probably the biggest thing I noticed was that these fish (stocked rainbows) will eat almost anything that drifts naturally through their feeding lane , if it tastes good they eat it...if not they spit it back out.
This tells me that at least for these fish the drift is far more important than the fly you're using , which while it's not breaking news was very interesting to see proven first-hand. It was a great day alltogether , I got several dives in and cleaned up a section of stream that needed some attention.
The MDC served us a free lunch of hot dogs and burgers at the nature center for our cleanup efforts...free foods always good in my book. By the time I got around to heading out of the park it was already approaching 3:00 PM and I still had at least an hour drive to get to my evenings destination , one of Missouri's little wild trout streams. After swimming with hundreds of trout all day I was more than a little anxious to get out on the water and try to fool a few before the evening sun set over the horizon.