Monday, March 24, 2014

3/21 - 3/22 Boys Weekend Out...The Search for White Bass with a Few Salmonids On the Side

With Spring making it's yearly appearance it seems the urge to get out and shake off some of the shack nasties left from a long , cold winter is taking hold. This past week I had a couple of invites to spend the weekend fishing at various locations with good friends , unfortunately the work schedule and other activities precluded me from accepting any of those invitations. Where there's a will there's a way though, so Joe and I managed to sneak away and get a little river time in anyway.
Our little roadtrip started off with the intention of being a long one-day outing , one of those days where you drive six hours roundtrip for about the same amount of fishing time. As always though , I threw several totes that I keep loaded with the basic camping supplies in the back of the truck just in case plans happened to change.
We headed out before the sun made an entrance and pointed the truck South towards our end destination. The plan for the day was to do a little exploration on the Sac and Little Sac rivers on the upper end of Stockton Lake in search of a few white bass.
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We pulled into the first spot at Taylor Bridge around 9:00 am and the first thing I noticed was the fact that there were at least a dozen individuals with the same idea as Joe and I.
It looked like the memo had made the rounds , Spring was upon us and it was time to dust off the fishing gear and hit the water with renewed interest. After an hour of walking the bank , stripping clouser minnows through dark holes which I hoped would be full of white bass with procreation on their mind , I realized that someone had forgot to inform the fish about this recent change of seasons. We hiked around and fished a couple of different accesses in the area, all before noon and all with the same results...nada.
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Joe made a few friends and I visited with a few gentlemen who gave me the most recent fishing reports. While I heard the usual,"I have a buddy who knows a guy , who knows this other guy ,who caught a few yesterday." , I didn't actually talk to anyone who had done any good nor did we see a single fish caught during the mornings foray. I've learned from experience that you can't catch anything (except Hell) by sitting home on the couch so I wasn't too disappointed by our lack of success , it goes with the territory this time of year.
We had already exhausted all of the options on my list and the rumbling in my stomach was telling me that it was already past my normal lunch hour so we dropped the tailgate and had a quick lunch while deciding on our next course of action.
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I'm not sure what it is about cold beer and cold fried chicken on the tailgate of the truck , but it always seems to hit the spot.
The day was warming up nicely and although the search for white bass hadn't panned out as planned it was just too early in the day to start making the drive back North. After some deliberation I decided to cut my losses and make the 45 minute drive over to one of my favorite coldwater streams in search of a few hungry trout.
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By the time we arrived at our destination, temperatures had warmed up even more under sunny skies and Joe and I made the most of the afternoon. We spent some time just sitting on a log soaking up the suns rays , enjoying each others company and the lack of other people around.
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The first pass down through this section of water resulted in hookups with close to a dozen fish , one brown and the rest rainbows. None of the fish were very big but considering the circumstances I wasn't complaining.
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As we reached the last corner , just out of site of the truck , I had a decision to make. Continue fishing downstream and then work my way back to the truck by early evening and head home or turn around now and go pay for a nights camping, set up a quick camp and pop the top on another cold beer before fishing out the evening.
Half an hour later I was sitting riverside with a cold beer in my hands after setting up the tent and stacking up some firewood for the evening.
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The area we were fishing and the campground where we were staying would be overrun with drunken houligans sometime in the very near future as the float season gets kicked off here in the Ozarks. But for today we were the only people camping and more importantly the only ones fishing the area. One beer led to another and it felt kind of nice to just sit and listen to the water as it meandered along in front of camp. Joe stretched out and enjoyed the warmth of the sun on the sandy soil while I grabbed a favorite magazine off the dash of the truck and did a little light reading (looking at pictures).
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We spent the last hour or so of the day back on the water , swinging small streamers through the riffles and runs and hooking up with several more rainbows along the way. While the days fishing hadn't gone exactly as originally planned , we had changed gears successfully and ended up having a great afternoon and evening.
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That night we made dinner out of the few measely items I had quickly thrown into the cooler before leaving the house that morning , a couple of hot dogs..some pasta and a small block of cheese. While you can't exactly create a culinary masterpiece out of that list of ingredients we made the most of it and were feeling pretty satisfied as we kicked back around the fire for the night.
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We sat around looking up at the stars and listening to the owls and coyotes starting up their nightime conversations , watching until the last of the firewood was relegated to nothing but red coals in the bottom of the firepit before retiring to the tent for the night. I try to never leave home without some reading material , and so the day was finished off with a good book by lantern light.
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The next morning we awoke to much colder temps and a brisk Northerly wind.
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It felt like Spring had come and gone in less than twenty-four hours , much to my dismay and many other folks as well I'm sure. After a cup of coffee and a couple of granola bars to ward off the chill we packed up camp and decided on a plan of action for the morning. I had worked over the waters right around camp pretty good the previous day so I decided to head further downstream and try my luck on a different section. I wasn't terribly concerned over the matter of catching fish or not (I only changed flies once all weekend , to switch from a clouser for whites to one of my mink sculpin patterns for trout) but instead was just happy to be enjoying some time streamside with my best friend.
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We caught a few more rainbows and one more bonus brown before deciding to call it a day.
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It was lunchtime , the food rations were depleted and I knew of a little greasy spoon about an hour down the road that was calling my name.
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While we didn't set the world on fire with our fishing results it was nice to get out and enjoy some solitude one last time before the maddening crowds start making their appearance once again as they do every year. Soon enough there'll be other things vying for our free time every weekend , things that aren't nearly as much fun as not catching fish , such as mowing the yard.
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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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