Wednesday, April 17, 2013

4/12 - 4/14....Drift Boats ,Trout and Mason Jars

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Headed South Friday morning to meet up with a group of guys for a little fishing , drinking and general good time. The destination was Sunburst Ranch on the NFOW where Justin , the owner , was throwing a little shindig he aptly named the 1st Annual NFOW DriftBoat Conclave. He graciously opened up one of his rental cabins on the river free of charge and invited quite the band of houligans down to fish and party for the weekend. Just goes to show that sometimes it does pay to be a worthless trout bum.
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My boat ride for the weekend wasn't showing up until Friday evening so I loaded up the pontoon boat and planned on a day of solo floating before the rest of the group arrived. It was a beautiful Spring Ozarks day and I didn't waste any time after arriving to get on the water. After having Justin shuttle the truck I was soon floating down one of the prettiest rivers in the Ozarks.
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This river has it all , from the beautiful wild rainbows to the abundant browns on the lower end , this fishery always leaves me wishing I lived just a little bit closer.
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The fishing didn't dissapoint on this day either , it wasn't long before I was into fish , both bows and browns.
I spent most of the afternoon nymphing , catching fish out of pretty much every fast water riffle I stopped at.
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As the sun started to drop below the horizon the caddis started to pop everywhere and it was something just to sit back and watch the occasional small trout clear the water chasing his evening dinner.
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I suppose I might have been able to tempt a fish or two with an EHC but I was more interested in tying on something a little bigger and probing the depths for Mr Brown.
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I finished out the day chucking streamers to no avail , a chase or two but no eats , such is the nature of streamer fishing.
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By the time I got back to the cabin the party was just getting started. A few people were already there and more were arriving from various locations around the four state area. Before long the festivities were in full swing , grills were blazing and the mason jars were being passed around. Homemade bratwurst , deer steaks , grilled redfish , an entire buffet of sides and liquid apple pie to wash it all down. Good times for sure!
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Saturday morning had a few of us moving a little slower than normal (that apple pie kind of sneaks up on you!), but a big breakfast of homemade biscuits and gravy and the anticipation of a 70 degree day soon had everyone loading gear in the boats and headed for the river.
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Dan , Paul , Kevin and myself decided on an all day float from Kelly down to the landing at Justins new place. Kevin decided to put his new kayak in the water instead of hopping in a drifter for the day so we threw it in the Hyde and headed for the put-in. Once on the water our plan was to huck big stuff in search of unicorns , we broke out the nymph rigs occasionally when a particular spot warranted a deep drifted nymph , but for the most part we stuck to our guns.
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The very first fish of the day also happened to be the fish of the weekend for us , unfortunately he never made it into the net for pics. Paul hooked up with a big bow not thirty minutes into the float and we got several good looks at the fish ,which we estimated to be 20+ inches, before he came unbuttoned right at the net.
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Dissapointed...yeah , but shit happens and it was just more motivation to keep at it.
The bright sunny day and clear water weren't the most conducive conditions for the streamer bite but we managed to stick a few more browns and nymph up some bows as well.
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We stopped off about halfway through the float and had the usual streamside lunch washed down with an adult beverage or two. Some of the best meals take place on the river , I'm pretty sure an old wading boot would taste good if you ate it streamside and washed it down with a cold PBR.
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The afternoon continued with more of the same , throw streamers until you come to a good spot to beach the boat and then get out and nymph the runs that warrant that approach. We never hooked into anything else that could surpass Pauls first fish for "Fish of the Day" honors , but we had a damn good time working at it.
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We pulled over at the takeout with less than an hour of daylight left in the day...a little sunburned , out of beer and happy as hell!
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Saturday night picked up right where we left off on Friday with abundant food and drink. We had a fish fry with some local white bass , red beans and rice , hot wings , fried potatoes , cole slaw , cornbread , etc....etc. You get the point , we had enough food to feed an army and a never ending supply of liquid refreshments to wash it all down.
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Sunday we rolled out of bed , packed up and said our good-byes to the others before hitting the river. Paul , Dan and I decided to float the lower section as it had seemed to produce the most fish for us on the previous day. After a quick shuttle we were back on the river soaking up some sun and trying to catch a few fish.
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We spent a little time throwing streamers early and then as the sun got higher in the sky we broke down and nymph fished for most of the afternoon. The fish were cooperating again today and although we didn't stick any pigs everyone enjoyed catching numbers of average size bows and browns.
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Without a doubt the wild fish in this river have more fight in them than ten of their stocker cousins that inhabit most of our waters here in the Ozarks and we had a great time playing with them.
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We finished up the float around 3:00 leaving everyone time to get their gear packed up and still get home at a decent hour of the day. I'd met both Dan and Paul before but hadn't had the opportunity to fish with either of them yet , a couple of great guys and after this weekend I hope to make the next trip sooner than later.
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Big thanks go out to Justin and Amy for putting this whole thing together and working so hard to make sure everyone had a great time. Already looking forward to the 2nd Annual Sunburst Ranch Driftboat Conclave.....


  1. Yet still another wonderful post.
    You guys do it well.

  2. great report. see you soon.

    1. Enjoyed the hell out of it Dan...anytime you need somebody to row your ass around feel free to give me a call , it'd be my pleasure!

  3. That looks like a great trip. Beautiful fish, great looking eats, and topping it off with a mason jar and friends... nice.

    1. Thanks man..It's pretty hard to not have a great time when you get a group of guys together like that. The fishings just a bonus!

  4. Looks like you had an amazing trip. Looks like you caught some nice fish too.

    1. Thanks...I think it's safe to say that everyone enjoyed themselves. There are bigger fish swimming around out there of course , but that's what keeps us all going back , the idea that the next cast might be the one.

  5. From Paradise Valley, MT, we envy you floating under such beautiful weather. We are being hit by late winter again and have to put down our rods and boats.
    Good trout and great foods with good friends, fishing trip can't be better than that!

    1. Thanks...I feel your pain on the weather. Every time I think winters over we get another bout of cold weather.
      Luckily you've got that little spring creek up there that seems to fish good no matter what the weather!!

  6. Replies
    1. Homemade shine with fruit (apple slices) and cinnamon flavor. Apple pie with a kick!!

  7. Looks like a great trip! I've never heard of the NFOW, but I have been floating the Current River the past 4 years down in the Ozarks, and your post is making me wish it was that time to go again, already. I'll be down there towards the end of June. Can't wait! Great the grill shot!

    1. Thanks Justin...The Current is a great river , one of my favorites. The NFOW reminds me a little more of a western trout stream and unlike the Current it has totally wild rainbows. Maybe I'll get down to the Current closer to your trip and give you a little pre-trip TR!!

    2. That sounds great! Looking forward to it! If I ever get down to the NFOW I will def look up your friends rental place. I like the sound of wild rainbows! That's a bonus!

  8. Great job of documenting what was obviously a great trip. Well done.

    1. Thanks Howard...It wasn't a bad way to spend the weekend for sure.

  9. Great looking photos. I usually prefer smallmouth pics but those trout are beautiful.

  10. Thanks man...I wouldn't mind throwing up a few smallie pics myself , the problem for me is catching them first!!

  11. Amazing trip! Thanks for letting me live vicariously through you! Great post! Great friends, great food, and amazing fly fishing hard to beat! F3 Thanks for sharing!

    1. Appreciate it man....we all need more trips like that one for sure!