Thursday, December 25, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

All I Want for a Peaceful Day on the River (Chasing Winter Smallies!)

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I do love the Holidays , don't get me wrong. The lights and festive decorations , the parties , all of the great food and drink and most of all ,the extra time made for spending with family and friends you don't get to see often enough the rest of the year. With all of these extra activities the last month has been busy for me , a few overtime days at work covering for folks on vacation and then a full plate of things to do at home as well.
Fast forward to this last weekend , with a forecast that was saying high temperatures around 65 degrees and myself with nothing pressing on my calendar for at least one day out of the two. I decided to hit the water and unwind from a little of this Holiday Madness that's been surrounding me here recently. With only one day to make this trip happen it kind of limited my available options due to drive time. I've basically got one river where I can go catch a few stocked rainbows or a couple of streams where I like to chase smallies during the warmer seasons that are within the 3 1/2 hour one-way drive time window I consider doable. Considering that it's mid-December and we've had some bitterly cold spells here recently , the stocked trout would have probably been my smartest option to take. Then again , I can't remember the last time someone told me how smart I was!
After throwing out a few feelers to try and convince someone else to join me on my December smallmouth float (and getting nothing but sneers and laughs)I finally just decided to go it alone.
This was one of those trips that you go into with no expectations , except the fact that you'll need more than shorts and a pair of sandals for this trip as opposed to your last time here , and that you probably won't see many others on the river. And in fact , both of those expectations came to be true statements. I'm pretty new to this smallmouth fishing thing but I knew enough to realize that fly fishing for them with water temps where they are now would probably be a matter of fishing really slow for a few bites in a day , not the fast streamer action I was used to. If nothing else I told myself it would be a good learning experience on winter stream bass fishing.
I arrived to the put-in just after 9:00 and loaded up the boat for a day on the water.
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After pushing away and floating downstream for a 1/4 mile or so I realized what a good choice I'd made. I still didn't expect to catch any fish , but the peacefulness of an Ozark river in the winter is something you have to experience to understand. Eagles sailing overhead on the thermals , whitetail deer grazing along the riverbank and the sound of water breaking over the rocks at every riffle you come to. Merry Christmas to me....
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I had a great winter day on the river when all was said and done. I worked really hard for a handful of bites from my intended quarry , and even managed to bring a few fish to hand.
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The largest fish of the day (maybe pushing 15 or 16 inches) escaped at the last minute before I could get a decent mugshot , but even that couldn't wipe the smile off my face.
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I never saw another person all day long...not at the put-in , not at the take-out and not anywhere on the five miles of river I floated. I'm sure I could have caught more fish if I'd have done the smart thing and joined the folks that I'm sure were out on the local trout rivers on such a beautiful day , but I enjoyed my time on the water learning a thing or two about winter stream smallmouth even more I think.
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*I got a new camera after the last one quit on me after my most recent vacation. Still learning how to use it (would probably help if I'd read the manual but that'd be too easy) so some of the pictures are better than others. All of these new features are a learning experience for sure!*

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!!

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The above picture is a couple of years old (and a reprint) but it still makes me smile. Nothing says Thanksgiving like pumpkin pie and family.
I don't know about you but this holiday season has crept up on me and I'm still struggling with the idea that it's already Thanksgiving. It seems like just yesterday that I was floating down my favorite stream in shorts and a pair of sandals flinging streamers for smallies. Now we're already moving into the season of Christmas lights , snow shovels and my favorite pasttime this time of year...chunking meat for big brown trout. Between work projects , weather and the Holidays I havn't been out near as much as I'd like but I have high hopes of sitting at the tying bench, filling the streamer box and then getting back out on the water after the holiday.
On top of wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving , I'd like to take a minute to thank all of you who follow the blog and take the time out of your busy schedule to see what Joe and I are up to. This year I surpassed 100,000 views, something I would have never believed possible when I started this whole thing. With so many blogs out there it amazes me that folks wade through all of those choices and a few still end up here at HighPlainsFlyFisher.
When I sit back and look at this crazy , messed up world we live in I realize just how much I have to be thankful for and how lucky I am. Here's hoping that each of you have a wonderful too much , re-connect with family and friends and then take a long overdue nap on the couch. Joe and I will catch you on the water after the tryptophan wears off....

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sometimes It's Not Really about the Fishing , Right?....Weekend TR

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It seems as though I've been struggling to keep my head above water the past couple of weeks since the wife and I returned from our Florida vacation. I'm still trying to understand how I could leave town for only eight days and yet have a months worth of projects and to-do's pile up on my list while I was away! I've been making some headway though , thus the reward I decided I suredly deserved when this past weekend rolled around on the calendar. A check of the weather forecast on Thursday was the last bit of encouragement I needed to make up my mind. A quick text to the wife with the, by now, often heard plan..."Joe and I are gonna head South in the morning for a couple days of R&R on one of our favorite rivers" , and I could already feel the pressure of the work week starting to slip away.
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Friday morning we got up at the crack of....well OK , we slept in and didn't pull out of the drive until almost 7:00 am. After all , I wasn't expecting to set the world on fire with the fishing anyway , just looking forward to spending a couple of days with my buddy and forgetting about those lists for at least a short time.
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The particular river that we ended up on wouldn't make anyones top ten list of Ozark waters , as a matter of fact for the three months between Memorial Day and Labor Day I'd about as soon poke myself in the eye with a sharp stick as I would spend a day on this river. Once the kids are all back in school and the leaves start to drop off the surrounding trees the river makes a transformation into an entirely different entity altogether.
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This time of year the river gets a much deserved break from the legions of people hell-bent on drinking beer , being loud and obnoxious and from my experience just basically trashing the river and it's surrounding landscape. These people , who as you can guess I don't have much use for , are replaced by deer standing mid-stream around each corner and eagles sitting majestically on the trees overhanging the water. This is the time of year when someone like myself can actually enjoy a little bit of what the summertime visitors all miss out on , solitude and relaxation.
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With our late start to the morning we didn't arrive at the campground until around 10:00. Just enough time to get camp setup before grabbing some lunch out of the cooler and twisting the top off of that first beer of the weekend.
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The weather really couldn't have been any nicer for this time of year...sunshine , a light breeze and temps in the 60's were enough to make me pretty complacent just sitting in my chair enjoying the scenery after finishing up lunch.
Eventually the itch to wet a line got the better of me and Joe and I headed off upstream of camp to see what kind of trouble we could get ourselves into.
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While the fishing is hardly ever anything you'd write home about , the fact that I can start hiking the riverbank this time of year and fully expect to not see another person the entire time puts this place close to the top of my list of places I'd rather be. This beautiful afternoon was no exception to that rule , we made our way upriver as the afternoon progressed , catching a pretty good number of stocker rainbows in the process.
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Occasionally these waters surprise you and give up a nice holdover bow or maybe even a stud of a brown trout that somehow managed to elude the 5-gallon bucket brigade that arrives in force at the mere mention of the latest trout stocking. Unfortunately , this wasn't one of those times and we just had to be content with the latest arrivals from the local fish hatchery. Honestly I didn't mind one bit , I just kept thinking back to that list and how I couldn't care less how many items got scratched through or added to it today.
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Once the sun started to dip below the surrounding hills the temperature began to drop and I decided to head back to camp so I could get a fire going and give Joe a chance to dry off before dark.
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With that taken care of I still had what is always my favorite time of the day to be on the water in front of me , that last hour of light before darkness sets in. I left Joe stretched out on his bed in the tent and headed back out with the seven weight and a handful of streamers.
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This river isn't much for streamer water but every once in awhile you can stick a decent brown if you get lucky and put your fly in front of the right fish...this just didn't end up being that night. Even though it was a fishless outing it was still my favorite fishing of the day. Just being on the water as the light fades , hitting every likely spot with "that one fly" , in search of that predatory fish that just can't resist the thought of a mouthful of meat...that's as good as it gets for me and I've grown to love both the good and the bad.
By the time I got back to camp my stomach was telling me that I needed to throw together something for dinner to finish off the day. I sat around the fire and finished off a cigar I'd started earlier in the day while the pork chops cooked on the grill , not a bad way to finish off the day.
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Saturday we did wake up at the crack of dawn , nights this time of year are long when you're camping and I rolled out of the sleeping bag around 6:00 feeling fully rested.
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Clouds had rolled in overnight and it didn't feel like the temperature was going to climb as high as the previous day, but it was still nice for November. Keeping in line with the moral of the story , we lounged around camp and cooked up a little breakfast before even contemplating putting the waders back on.
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After all , those fish weren't going anywhere. Today was pretty much the same story as the day before as far as the fishing was concerned , the only difference being downstream instead of upstream. We caught more rainbows and even managed one small brown on a black sculpin pattern before deciding to head back and take camp down.
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It was late afternoon by the time we got the truck loaded back up for the trip home and hit the road North. The fishing might not have been anything to write home about , but the weekend outing with my best friend was just what the doctor ordered to cure the post-vacation blues.
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Monday, November 3, 2014

Sunshine State Getaway...Freshwater Springs and White Sand Beaches

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The only thing worse than a Monday morning is a Monday morning after a week long vacation. I should know , having just finished up my first week back at work after spending nine days either traversing the country between Kansas and Florida or basking in the Sunshine states warm rays. Even after a week back at home I'm still struggling with the basic concept of things such as alarm clocks and to-do lists and whether they have a useful purpose in my life.
The wife and I had been needing a week away and had talked about wanting to do some scuba diving wherever we went. With that in mind , a plan was devised to pack up the Blazer and head for the state of Florida to sample just a couple of the diving opportunities it has available.
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It was a cross country trip that had us spending our first night in Nashville with family and then proceeding on down to High Springs Florida and our first destination , Ginnie Springs.
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We spent two nights here , camping under the Florida stars and diving some of the most amazing freshwater spring systems in the country.
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Ginger and I both dove the main cavern accessible to open-water divers ,Ginnie Spring , and I also dove the Devils Ear and Devils Throat cavern systems while there.
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The spring waters were crystal clear and the entryways to all of these systems were amazing sights to see. I took some photos while diving but unfortunately very few of them were even useable and none of them capture the beauty of the systems. My underwater photo equipment is an outdated 35mm print camera and this trip convinced me that I need to upgrade to digital. For now you'll just have to take my word for it , these cave systems are an incredible sight to see , true works of art by Mother Nature.
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After leaving Ginnie Springs it was off to the Gulf Coast and four nights in Destin Florida. The last five days were spent sampling some of the Gulf diving available offshore of Destin , lounging around on some of the most beautiful white sand beaches we'd ever seen and trying unsuccessfully to eat our fill of fresh gulf seafood.
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We dove both natural limestone ledges covered in coral and artificial reefs in the course of our gulf diving. We didn't see anything large on any of the dives but the waters were full of smaller tropicals and various baitfish. The visibility averaged around 30 feet on our dives with lots of sediment in the water , this again made my attempts at underwater photography almost totally fruitless.
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After one dive I just left the camera onboard the boat and enjoyed the underwater views the gulf had to offer.
Our topside time was spent lounging on the local beaches , myself occasionally breaking away to ply the surf for any of it's local citizens , and just generally relaxing and enjoying the beautiful weather we were afforded.
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I didn't work too hard at the fishing on this trip , a couple of mornings on the jetty and walking the beach and then some time fishing the surf while lounging on the beach in the afternoon. I never saw any fish busting any bait , nor did I see any bait in the water. I know the fishing can be really good around the Destin area and I'm sure the fish were going somewhere , just not anywhere I fished in my four days.
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I saw a couple of big redfish caught off the jetties using live bait but I just couldn't hook up with anything in my timee there. My only accomplishments were a couple of small ladyfish and several long ,thin surf dwellers called needlefish. With a little more time I'm sure I could have figured out a bite somewhere , but with all of the activities vying for my attention in such a short time it just wasn't happening on this trip.
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And lastly we did our best to sample all of the fresh seafood that the gulf had to offer on our stay in the area. From shrimp po-boys to blackened amberjack , if it was swimming yesterday we were game to eat it today!
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We hit the top rated restaurants (as long as they were on the beach) and the hole in the walls , as well as cooking up our own seafood feast one evening at the condo.
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If the trip had been any longer I would have needed a new membership at the local gym or a larger wardrobe , one of the two.
Another great getaway that seemed to come to a close all too soon , if only these work weeks would go by half as quickly.....
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