With the onset of colder weather recently I'd been needing to get down to the lake and take care of some last minute winterization on the boat that I'd been putting off for one reason or another. The upside of the trip was that I'd be able to work a little fishing in if all went well and I didn't have any issues with the boat work. While I was blessed to have a wonderful Thanksgiving meal with my family on Thursday evening , I was feeling a little left out of the whole holiday weekend thing , working 12 hour shifts all weekend while you're friends are spending time with family or out playing on the water tends to have that effect on a guy. Luckily for me, a few hours with a flyrod in my hand is usually all it takes to re-balance the work / life equilibrium and set things right in my world , I'm easy that way.
I awoke Monday morning to overcast skies and a temperature of 23 degrees outside , great fishing weather but not so much for winterizing the water systems on a boat , nevertheless it had to be done and on the bright side I was gonna get at least a little fishing in one way or another. After throwing a few tools and some fishing gear in the truck Joe and I hit the road.
The four hour trip went by fairly quick , thanks in part to several Itinerant Angler podcasts that I'd downloaded ahead of time for my listening pleasure. Of course after listening to people talk about fishing for three hours I had to force myself to make the turn down towards the boat slip and not head straight below the dam for a full afternoon of fishing. Thankfully everything went pretty smooth and I was finishing up on the boat shortly after 2:00 o'clock , with a couple of hours left to wet a line. I hadn't checked generation schedules, as I was making the trip more for work than fishing anyway , but hoped for low water and some wading. As is usually the case my wishes were totally disregarded and the SWPA decided to run three units all day long ,limiting my fishing options to mostly shoreline areas. Luckily I found one of my favorite spots devoid of people and rigged up and hit the water.
Right off I noticed a good number of midging fish in the shallow riffles I intended to fish. Normally this would be a good thing , but on this day it proved to be an effort in futility! Here's a brief description of how the next hour went...started off with a zebra midge under a palsa , changed colors of zebra midge , switch to CDC midge under a palsa , swing CDC midge with no indicator , switch to griffith's gnat , downsize to a smaller griffith's gnat , switch to parachute midge dry and finally tie back on the same black/silver zebra midge I started off with. And yes , I managed a few casts in between all that somehow. I don't mean to imply that I didn't catch any fish , because I did , but when at any one time there are twenty little trout mouths visible in the surface film and you're only getting bit every 10 minutes it can get a little frustrating. I think I caught a fish , sometimes two, on just about everything I tried (except the parachute pattern) but couldn't for the life of me find the right fly that the fish would eat readily. After a while it almost felt as if the fish were just feeling sorry for me and my inability to come up with the proper pattern. I'm pretty sure they took turns drawing straws to see which one would take their turn at eating the poor example of a midge I was trying to present with each new cast. Oh well , not the first time I've been outwitted by a fish with a brain the size of a pea and I have no doubt that it won't be the last.
A guy can only endure so much humiliation, so with an hour and a half of daylight still left I decided to cut my losses and save what was left of my sanity and head for greener pastures (or so I hoped). I'd really wanted to check in on a couple of small tribs that run into Taneycomo and can sometimes have pretty good numbers of rainbows in them this time of year. We hopped back in the truck and headed over to one of my favorites, Turkey Creek. This watershed isn't the most scenic by any means but it often fishes pretty well and you can have it to yourself if you luck out. The water looked good and the first hole I came to held several stocker bows.
I tied on a grey scud pattern trailed by an olive/brown g-bug and proceeded to get my karma back in working order by catching three of the six fish that I could see in the run. Working my way upstream I continued catching a couple fish out of every hole , nothing but stocker sized bows, but after my run-in with the ultra finicky midgers earlier in the afternoon I wasn't gonna complain. I released my final fish just as the last little bit of light was disappearing over the hills to the West.
After the drive down , working on the boat and then cramming some last minute fishing in I was pretty wore out and ready for some dinner. When I got back to the truck , Joe was waiting anxiously and stuck his head partway out the window to greet me. Normally I wouldn't think of leaving him in the truck while I was out fishing , but considering our close sleeping quarters for the night I decided to keep him out of the water for the couple of hours I had to fish (if you've ever spent the night sleeping beside a wet dog , you know where I'm coming from!). He didn't seem to mind at all , a little ear rubbing and a bowl full of kibble and everything was right in his world as well as mine.
Feeling too lazy to cook anything I made a beeline over to my favorite little BBQ joint in Branson , Danna's. I got my usual, the best catfish in a four state area, bar-none.
It was a short drive back down to the boat where Joe and I spent the remainder of the evening just kicking back , I played around with some flyboxes and watched a fishing video I'd brought ,while Joe just crawled into bed and crashed after his long day.
Tuesday we woke to a cold sunrise , the clouds were gone but the brisk wind cut right to the bone.
Anxious to get back on the water I loaded up the truck and we hit the road. I made a quick call to see what the water situation was like below the dam and wasn't surprised to hear that the same three generators were still online this morning. I can't ever seem to catch a break with generation which is why I've practically given up on this tailwater recently. No big deal , I just pointed the truck in the opposite direction and we headed for Crane Creek to finish up the trip.
Fourty five minutes later we were pulling into the Crane city park. The wind was still whipping pretty good and I decided it was time to dig out the cold weather gear for the first time this year.
I geared up quickly , not much needed for this kind of fishing , my small stream box and a spool of tippet was all I needed to carry for this creek.
Joe was anxious as always to start with the running and sniffing and rolling and everything else that goes along with being a happy dog so we took off downstream. We took our time , enjoying the sights and sounds as we made our way along. I really wasn't in any rush , being a Tuesday I didn't expect to have any company on the water today anyway.
My first cast sent several small trout skittering in all directions and I failed to get a bite out of that pool. Moving upstream I caught two small wild bows out of the next hole and again saw many others darting around. These fish are always skittish but I just had a feeling that they'd been hammered over the holiday weekend and were still recovering from the pressure. One more small fish fell to my AP Black and then I saw something that I hadn't really put any thought to. From a high bank I watched a beautiful female bow , probably close to 18" , being circled by a couple of smaller fish. They continued this for several minutes while we just watched from above unnoticed. As I looked around the bottom of the pool I saw what I thought could very well be a redd created by the fish I had just watched and I thought how amazing it was that these fish could survive all of the hardships of this little stream and still carry out the spawning process. Obviously I didn't fish for that big female , as a matter of fact the fly didn't leave the hookkeeper for the rest of the day. I don't know that my fishing would of had any effect at all on what was starting to happen but for me it just felt like the right decision at the time. I probably saw more big fish than I ever have while Joe and I walked the high streambanks just enjoying the beautiful morning.
It was a spectacular Ozark day and just being streamside with my best friend was enough to make the day a success , even without fishing. Once back at the truck I decided to head upstream to eat some lunch and then just hike that section of creek as I hadn't seen it since this time last year. A short drive and we were pulling into the Upper Wire Road access. Lunch was a huge turkey and stuffing sandwich thrown together from the turkey day festivities and some cheese and crackers.
Joe and I sat there and shared a Thanksgiving feast made up of leftovers and somehow it seemed rather fitting. Not only was I eating the last of Thanksgiving leftovers but I kind of felt as though I'd been fishing for Thanksgiving leftovers , getting my shot at what was left after a long holiday weekend.
After lunch Joe and I packed a snack and hit the trail , this is a beautiful area and we enjoyed just walking along taking it all in.
The first object of interest that we came to was a very large beaver dam backing up the small stream.
The deep pool above the dam was very muddy and it was obvious that the culprits had been working on their masterpiece very recently. These beavers did one hell of a job , I've seen COE dams that let more water seep through.
We hiked along the stream until we came to the point where it just vanishes into the bedrock , not enough water to continue on it's way winding through the hills.
This was the end of the road for us and we stopped and ate our snack then headed back towards the truck. By the time we got back it was approaching 2:30 ,leaving us just enough time to load up and make it back home in time for dinner. I'm not sure how Joe felt , but I could only hope that we were through with the leftovers.
**Not long ago I posted a comment on another bloggers post saying how most of the time it was the sights , sounds and smells of a day on the water that we remember most , not the fishing itself. While fish were caught this trip , that statement rings true in this instance for sure. If anything it's the fish I didn't catch that I remember most! That being said , you won't find any fish porn in this post for that reason. And yes , that's also another way of saying that I didn't catch any truly photo worthy fish!!