Thursday, November 10, 2011
11/05 - 11/06 "Missouri's Small Streams...Wild and Beautiful"
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.
Posted by HighPlainsFlyFisher