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!*