Sunday, March 9, 2014

Spring...has Sprung?? Annual March Fishing Trip 2014

This is an annual trip that I've written about before here on the blog. Some family , some friends and a tradition of heading South every year on February 28th to spend four days eating , drinking , fishing and catching up on time missed. For lodging we stay in one of the cabins inside of Bennett Springs State Park and get to be witness to the craziness that is an opening day at one of Missouri's trout parks.
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I lost the desire to fish among the crowds of people more than a few years ago , luckily for me there are other opportunities to fish in relative solitude just a short drive away. I still get to spend a long weekend with a great group of guys and while they enjoy partaking in the madness inside the park I sneak away and enjoy some time on a peaceful river.
This year we all headed down on a Friday and got settled into our temporary home for the weekend before noon.
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With groceries and gear unpacked I decided to head down to the river and see what the conditions were like since I hadn't seen the river in awhile. With the park not opening until the next day the river was unusually crowded at the nearest access so I headed downstream to some private water that I figured to have all to myself. After paying my two dollar access fee I made my way down to the river and found just what I had expected , nobody.
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I spent the next couple of hours swinging small streamers through some of my favorite runs and catching several small rainbows.
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A pair of immature eagles were the only company I encountered the entire afternoon to my great pleasure. Nothing like a day on the water with only mother nature to keep you company
That night , after a meal that could have fed a small army , we sat around readying gear for the next morning and enjoying a few cold beverages. The rest of the group had plans to be up early to get their spot in the park , while I intended to sleep in and start breakfast when I got around. After breakfast I had plans to drop my boat in for a four mile float on the river where I hoped to have the same results as the previous afternoon , solitude and a few hungry fish.
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After a lumberjack breakfast that would have sustained the normal person for several days , I headed down to the river access right outside the park and loaded up for the float.
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Between the impending winter storm forecast and the dropping temps all day I didn't have to worry about any crowds on Saturday , I passed two guys in a canoe in the first mile and then never saw another soul the entire day.
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The fishing was as good as I've seen it on this river for awhile. A couple of nice holdover rainbows , two small browns and a bunch of stocker bows made it a very enjoyable float for sure.
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All of the fish came on my mink sculpin pattern in a light olive color.
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While I'm sure there were some spots where I could have picked up a few more fish with an indicator and nymphs , but I much prefer to swing small streamers and the fish seemed to approve as well.
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I made a full day of it and didn't get of the river until the sun was starting to dissapear below the horizon.
The evenings dinner was already started by the time I got back to the cabin which left me with nothing to do but take a nice hot shower and sit back with a cold beer. I love my camping expeditions but sometimes it sure is nice to have the comforts of home after a long day on the water.
Sunday we awoke to snow , sleet and temperatures around twelve degrees. Needless to say, nobody was in a big hurry to hit the water. As a matter of fact , I don't think anyone else was even considering it.
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After another big breakfast I decided to head out and see if I could steal a few hours on the river without freezing my fingers off. It was no big surprise that I didn't see a single person on the river and only a handful of folks in the park.
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The place looked almost deserted for an opening weekend , probably as few of people as I can remember ever seeing on an opener.
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I fished off and on all day at a couple of different accesses, catching good numbers of rainbows, and never saw another fisherman. The one advantage to nasty weather.
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Another great dinner and an evening spent sitting around with good friends in a warm cabin , telling stories and having a few adult beverages made up the remainder of the night.
Monday was my last day and when I awoke the temps had dropped down to eleven below zero! I had a few cups of coffee and got some gear packed before breakfast , debating whether to fish at all before heading home considering the weather. I finally decided to make one pass down through the closest public access and call it a weekend.
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I caught three small rainbows , still swinging my small streamer patterns, before I couldn't feel my fingers and my reel had locked up solid.
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That was enough for me , even I have a limit. I headed back to the cabin to say my good-byes and grab another cup of coffee for the road. Another great trip in the books , one of many in 2014 I hope.
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  1. That combat angling, shoulder-to-shoulder stuff is ridiculous. Glad you found some solitude and some willing trout. If the cold snowy weather is good for one thing, it thins the crowds for sure.

    1. Definitely not my cup of tea either Jay , but still I got started trout fishing at this place and in all honesty I'm glad Missouri has these trout parks. They're designed for the occasional weekend angler who wants somewhere they can go and readily catch fish for a small fee , which relieves a lot of pressure off of other local streams that couldn't handle that kind of catch and keep.

  2. Those are some hearty looking rainbows, good job man. Hope to see you on the water soon.

    1. Thanks man...the fishing was good for sure. Same here , gonna try to make it happen.

  3. I'd say 11 below breaks my cold-weather record. Way to tough it out. Very nice fish. Gotta love swinging those streamers!

    1. Thanks Jim...I was probably only on the water for an hour that day , it was more than I could take. The worst part was the fact that I had to get my hands wet for each fish because I didn't want to take them out of the water at all in those cold temps.

  4. On the streams I fish I don't see that many anglers in 5 years.
    Glad you chose other waters to fish.
    Nice opener.

  5. Thanks Alan...I wish I could say the same thing for my local waters. Even though I try to avoid crowds at all cost for most of my outings , the Ozarks here where I fish mostly has gotten to the point where unless I float away from the public areas it is often too crowded for my liking. I suppose it's selfish of me to want these beautiful areas all to myself.

  6. I thought you guys in the USA enjoyed free fishing ? Why the huge crowd?

    1. This is in a state park which stocks trout every day of a set season into the spring creek in the picture. The people have to buy a $3 tag each day they fish , but with the daily stocking it makes the fishing much easier than on a natural river , which is why you get the crowds on opening day and most other days after that as well.

  7. Jeff, been looking forward to your "Opening Day" report again. I remember the foil on the stove last year, looks like it's been improved with duct tape this year, that's innovation! I also love the river in that area and hit the conservation area downstream last Saturday. Four hours of pure solitude and isolation but for the first time EVER, I couldn't buy a fish on my swinging woolies. I ended up having to go to heavy nymphs with constant mending.. I'm ordering my Predator Kayak this week with my Spring bonus and hope to hit that stretch a bunch as it's the closest decent trout water to Columbia.


    1. Appreciate the kind words Dave. I found just the opposite on my excursions opening weekend , that mink sculpin pattern did most of the damage but the wine colored mohair leach was equally effective for me. I did strip the fly most of the time instead of a dead drift type approach , but I can't imagine that making much of a difference.
      Give me a shout sometime if you want someone to float with , two guys definitely make for an easier (cheaper) shuttle!

  8. Looks like a great trip! I always love reading about your trips. That combat fishing is just crazy! When I was down at Taneycomo last year, and saw 6 guys fishing the same hole, I thought that was outrageous. The amount of people in your pictures is just mind blowing!

    1. Thanks Justin...It does get crazy for sure , especially to guys like you and I who prefer a little solitude and some room to spread out. I've seen Taney just about as bad on a summer weekend , only on a larger scale.

    2. Just mind blowing how some people can be so accustom to that style, and not see any issues with it. I will have to try and stop by one of my local lakes when they open them for trout fishing. It's shoulder to shoulder all the way around. I have never fished on the day they open, because, of that. It usually leaves the other nearby lakes, nice and peaceful :).

  9. I need a recipe for the lumberjack breakfast \(*-*)/!!

    1. I get the task of buying groceries for this group of guys for 4 days , you should see the looks I get at the checkout line when I throw down 8# bacon , 6# sausage ,5 dozen eggs , and about 5 dozen frozen biscuits! Not to mention the 10 bags of donuts for pre-breakfast snacks!!
      We've got one of the guys that makes the BEST biscuits and gravy (pictured) that is by far the highlight of our morning meals. Makes me hungry just thinking about it....

  10. the crowds in the first couple of shots made me laugh! solitude is definitely much better for the soul - fishing or not. great looking fish. you can keep the sleet, though. :)

    1. TexWisGirl - Thanks. I can't handle the crowds anymore as I get older , but the scene does make for some pretty good people watching. Anytime you get that many people together there's bound to be someone doing something that you just have to shake your head and laugh at.
      I'm hoping this winter thing is about over around here , I've been having lots of robins in the backyard and many more finches showing up at the feeders every day so that's a good sign!

  11. I recently discovered your blog and have enjoyed the articles and photos. Thanks for posting them. If you don’t mind me asking, what type of St.Croix outfit were you using to swing streamers?

    1. Thanks for stopping by , glad you found the site and enjoyed it.
      That particular rod is a 9' six-weight St. Croix Imperial. I bought it for a spare rod just before heading up to Wyoming last summer and after stringing it up one day I found it to be a nice little rod for throwing small streamers.

  12. Hey buddy, I swear you take the best trips. This one sure looked like a winner!

    1. Thanks know what they say "No such thing as a bad fishing trip". This one is a trip I always look forward to simply because I get to spend some time with my dad and other relatives that it seems I see less and less each year as life gets more hectic.

  13. 1st couple of pics looks like the first day of trout around here. nice looking trout you caught. thanks for sharing the trip. ~jerry

    1. And here I thought Missouri was the only place to witness that sort of madness!! Appreciate the comments , after the winter we've had it doesn't take much of a trip to get me excited. The fact that the sun was out and the temperature was above freezing was good enough for me!