It doesn't seem possible that another year has come and gone again , bringing with it my personal indicator for the arrival of Spring...March 1st. While this date may hold no special significance for most , here in Missouri it brings with it the annual opening day festivities at the four Trout park destinations here in the state. There was a time when that meant the first trout fishing trip of the year for me , along with five thousand other folks who show up at the four areas to start off the new season. These days the first trip of the year most often occurs much earlier for me and the excitement of the actual "Opening Day" scene has lost much of it's appeal as far as fishing goes.
The insane crowds and the whole idea of fishing in a stream where the fish were residing in a concrete raceway just the night before doesn't interest me any longer. That being said , it's still a date that I look forward to every year, if nothing else for the chance to get together with a group of family and friends and carry on a tradition that's been ongoing for almost thirty years now. There's still an original cast of about six who havn't missed an opening day for going on twenty years , myself included , and those kinds of tradition are something special and just too important to let fall by the wayside.
It's one of those trips that doesn't require any worrying about weather , water conditions or if you're going to be able to put up with the guy snoring in the bedroom next to you. The fishing takes a backseat to the comaraderie of the group, so the simple fact that you'll be spending five days with people whose company you enjoy makes all other variables a mute point.
As far as fishing trips go it's pretty much the standard recipe for success..eat too much , drink too much and take comfort enjoying all of the things you couldn't get away with around home and still have a place to sleep the next night. You know how it goes , what happens on a fishing trip stays on a fishing trip.
This year March 1st was on a Thursday so I arrived on Wednesday morning with a truck full of gear and $500 worth of groceries for the upcoming event. It's always interesting to see the look on the face of the person checking you out at the grocery store when you wheel up two shopping carts and start unloading 10 dozen eggs , three gallons of cooking oil and 14 bags of powdered donuts onto the conveyor (did I mention that we call this little get together the "Gutbuster Trip"?).
Somehow I even managed to squeeze in a little fishing over the five days between all of the eating, drinking and general laziness that ensued. As has become my tradition the last few years I took along my pontoon and spent Wednesday afternoon floating the Niangua.
The weather was spectacular and the fishing was some of the best I've had on that river for a long time. I fished small (size 4 and 6)streamers the entire float , with an olive sculpin pattern being the most productive for me.
Most of the fish were average sized bows , but they were good healthy fish.
I was pleasantly surprised to get a couple of browns as well , recently they've been few and far between on this river.
Wanting to see some different water , I took the advice of some folks I talked with on one of our local forums and floated a different stretch of river down below where I normally would fish. Not only was the fishing good , but I didn't see another soul on the river all day. Needless to say it was a fine way to start off the trip.
Day two my buddy Rob and I decided to leave the opening day crowds behind and visit one of the small Missouri Blue Ribbon Trout streams , B.R.T.(4).
While I've visited several of the Blue Ribbon areas, this spot was one that I hadn't been to yet which made it that much more enjoyable. We had a little over an hours drive to get to our destination so after stuffing ourselves with a big breakfast we loaded up and hit the road.
I've grown extremely fond of these wild trout areas over the last year or so and this little creek didn't disappoint either. It was another glorious weather day with temps in the upper 60's , definitely not the norm for this time of year but who's complaining?
We picked an access that looked like it would afford us good water both up and downstream and then started working our way upstream. Right off we noticed some tiny BWO's and larger caddis coming off in several sections of the small creek but although a couple of fish were taken on dries the majority of them fell for a nymph setup. We just took our time and enjoyed what the little creek had to offer...solitude , beauty and small pools inhabited by a handful of wild rainbows.
Most of the fish were the size I've come to expect from places like this but we managed a few nicer fish thrown in the mix as well. What else could a guy ask for?
We covered a pretty good size section of stream in one afternoon but didn't even come close to hitting it all , I guess that'll require a second trip.
We packed up and hit the road just as the Western sky was turning a light shade of orange and the light breeze was starting to cool off. Dinner was fried crappie with al the fixings and we didn't want to be late!
Friday dawned considerably colder and with a strong wind out of the Northwest. I'd planned ahead of time to spend the day kicking back a little ,just relaxing, and with the cold bite in the wind this morning it sounded like an even better idea. Another friend , Kevin , was set to arrive later that afternoon and I had told him I'd be around when he showed. I spent a couple hours in the morning fishing the upper access on the Niangua without much success , only a couple of small bows to hand.
When the fingers got cold I retreated back to the cabin and spent a few hours tying flies and telling stories with other members of the clan who were hanging out as well. It was nice to take it easy for a change , I usually find myself running from sunup to sunset when on a fishing trip. I guess my mentality being that I don't get nearly enough opportunities to be out there so I'd better not waste any of the time I do have. Kevin arrived around 3:00 PM and after getting unpacked we decided to head back down to the river and spend the last couple hours terrorizing a fish or two. We finished up the evening with several rainbows and two little smallmouth bass to hand. A cold beer on the way back to the cabin for the Friday night steak dinner was the perfect ending to another fine day.
After enjoying our day on Thursday so much we made a collective decision to hit the road again after breakfast on Saturday and head back out to another wild trout stream. We chose a different stream this day with plans of checking out some new water again , B.R.T.(3).
I'd previously fished this creek but it'd been awhile and there was plenty of new water to explore. After getting geared up we decided that Kevin would work his way downstream while Rob and I went in the opposite direction. These creeks aren't big enough for more than one guy to fish at a time so Rob and I took turns hitting spots as we came to them. I know Kevin fished a dry for awhile but Rob and I stuck with nymphs for our presentations. Once again the fish were pretty cooperative and each of us managed to land a fair number of fish to hand.
While we did see another vehicle parked at one of the access areas we still didn't see another fisherman on the stream all day , considering that it was a pretty nice Saturday in March I was kind of surprised.
Obviously small wild trout just don't draw much interest in this part of the country for some reason , not sure if it's the average size of the fish or the number of flies you lose to the tree limbs while you're fishing. I'm definitely not complaining , I have to say that the lack of people I encounter is the biggest draw for me , that and those beautiful little white tipped fins on those rainbows that I never tire of looking at.
With the sun setting once again we headed back to the cabin for one last "Gutbuster" dinner to finish out the day.
Sunday I chose to forego the fishing and work on packing stuff up after we had finished breakfast. I'd had four great days of fishing and enjoyed the comaraderie of a great group of guys. I'm thinking that this is one tradition I won't be giving up anytime soon...here's to that next "Opening Day".