Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Changing of the Guard...Last Streamer Trout Trip of the Season??

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I had some plans fall together this past weekend that allowed me to spend a couple of days floating one of my favorite waters with a couple of good friends. I originally signed up for a spey casting class on one of the local tailwaters that required me to be in the Springfield area on Saturday morning for the better part of the day and wasn't sure what I was going to do with the rest of my weekend after that. After trading texts and discussing current water levels with a good friend ,the decision was made to head a little further South when I got done and meet up with a couple of buddies and get in one last streamer trout trip of the season.
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I headed South early Saturday morning so I could be at River Run Outfitters flyshop in Branson by 8:30.
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Since acquiring an 11'6" switch rod earlier this year I've played around with it a few times but decided that I really needed some expert instruction to get the most out of my casting. When I saw that River Run was offering a half day casting class for a reasonable price I couldn't pass on the opportunity.
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We started off with a liitle bit of education on the history of spey casting and then jumped right into the equipment itself and proper line set-up. This was one of the things I really wanted to learn more about , line selection for a switch or spey rod is much more difficult than just picking up a 5 weight floating line for your standard single hander. After about an hour of classroom we headed down to the river for some on the water casting lessons.
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We learned four different spey casts which we were told would cover most any situation we encountered on the river when actually fishing. Once I was shown the basic casting movements and began practicing on my own it all came to me pretty easily. I'm not saying it was pretty by any means , but at least I was able to perform all of the casts relatively well in a short time. As with everything else , the only way to get better is practice. The instructor , Jim Haeck , is a great guy and knowledgeable in all aspects of spey fishing. He was from Michigan where he used spey rods a good part of the year while chasing steelhead , salmon and brown trout on his home waters. What impressed me most about the class was that Jim based it on what he thought would give us the most benefit when actually fishing. It wasn't so much about perfect loops and pretty casts , but instead more focused on the basics needed to utilize the spey cast to your advantage while pursuing your favorite quarry on the river. All in all it was a great learning experience and well worth what it cost me to attend.
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We finished up about 2:00 that afternoon and after grabbing a quick bite to eat in town I headed on South to my final destination. The guys were still on the river when I arrived at camp so I set up my tent and played around with some gear while I waited on them to finish their float. Just as I was sitting down to pop the top on my first beer of the afternoon I saw Chance and Cory coming around the river bend up above camp ,perfect timing. After beaching the drifter we talked about how the days fishing had went and quickly came to the conclusion that we still had enough daylight left to run a shuttle and get in another short float before dinner. Needless to say , after a morning of casting practice I was ready for some actual fishing.
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With the higher than average water levels and slightly milky coloration of the river, streamer fishing was the name of the game on this trip. Big uglies were tied on and we proceeded to pound the banks on the couple miles of river below camp for the next hour or so. The big boys eluded us but we were able to stick a couple of hungry fish that made the float well worth the effort.
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We spent the rest of the evening throwing together a quick dinner and then hanging out around a campfire discussing the fishing plans for the next day.
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Sunday morning we opted to float a different section of river than what the guys had done the day before , not that they hadn't had a great day , but you know...the grass is always greener. After running a quick shuttle the four of us were headed downstream once again , three fishermen and one happy god.
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It didn't take us long to break the ice and hook up with the first fish of the float and from there things just got better as the day wore on.
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The water was almost perfect for hucking streamers and the cloud cover made for even more conducive conditions. We ended up sticking a few more quality fish before pulling over on an island for a hearty lunch.
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Lunch today was one of the highlights of the float for sure. If you havn't eaten a steak grilled in a cast iron pan on a gravel bar while fishing your way downstream on a beautiful Ozark havn't eaten!
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After lunch we pushed off to finish up the second half of the float, hoping for more of the same action we encountered earlier. For once we weren't disappointed and the streamer fishing continued to be better than average.
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Between the three of us we missed several opportunities to put fish in the net but still managed to land enough to ensure everyone had a big smile by the time we reached the takeout.
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After loading up the boat and stashing gear we headed back to camp once more. Corey was headed back home for work Monday morning but Chance and I still had another day of fishing to go. We started off the evening with another hearty dinner and then spent the remainder of the night sitting around a campfire staring up at a sky full of stars.
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Monday we woke up to sunny skies and a little bit of frost on the surrounding hills , one of those mornings where you have to talk yourself into crawling out of that warm sleeping bag. We got around and started packing up camp while we waited on our fishing partner to arrive. Just after 8:00 Nathan pulled into camp as planned and after deciding on a float for the day we were headed out again.
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With the bright, sunny conditions we opted to do a little bobber fishing as well as chunking the streamers that had been the order of the previous days.
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The fishing was a little tougher for us but we all still managed to put a few fish in the boat.
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The abundant sunshine and temperatures pushing 80 degrees made up for the small drop off in fishing and we all enjoyed about as nice a day on the water as you can ask for.
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I think it was right around 2:30 when we pulled the boat up onto the gravel bar at the takeout. As we unloaded gear and talked about the last three days of fishing I couldn't help but think to myself that if this was my last streamer trout trip for awhile it was a damn fine way to end the season!
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

First Day on the Local Water for 2015

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Joe and I just had to get out and enjoy some of the nice Spring weather we were blessed with this past weekend by Mother Nature. Unfortunately the same Mother Nature that gave us the sunny , warm weather around here decided to turn on the water faucet and create high water conditions on pretty much every one of my favorite Southern rivers and streams. We weren't about to let that spoil our day though , it just meant that we would have to stay a little closer to home and target a few different species.
We started off the day with a sack lunch in the park right next to the first stream I wanted to check out.
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Nothing special , but pretty much anything tastes good when eaten at a picnic table under the sun with a good buddy.
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The first stream we hit was a tailwater below a local reservoir and I was hoping to find a few carp or drum scrounging for food in some of the deeper holes, maybe even a white bass or two if I got real lucky.
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Unfortunately the water levels were dismal (we could use some of that rain they got down South actually) and other than a few schools of baitfish and a couple of small sunfish we never saw a thing. It was a beautiful day to be traipsing around a creek bottom though and we both enjoyed the hike and even saw an eagle and a couple of turkeys on our walk down the creek.
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These are the kind of trips that make me feel like a little kid again. I don't have to be serious about actually catching anything , I can just enjoy walking through the muddy creek bottom with my best friend at my side. We looked for wildlife , skipped rocks across shallow pools of water and just sat on the bank and stared at the clouds in the sky...enjoying the nice day when that's what we felt like doing.
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After cleaning the mud off of ourselves we hopped in the truck and headed for a couple of small city lakes that I often fish for bass and carp when the weather starts to warm up about now. The first stop I didn't even take a flyrod with me , we just walked the shoreline scouting for tailing fish in the shallow bulrushes. The story was the same here though , no fish to play with. While we've had a couple of warm days strung together I'm guessing that the water temps are still just a little cold to get the fish moving. We scouted out a couple of new spots that I'll have to come back to once things get rolling and then headed back to the truck for one last stop...the bass pond.
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I kind of figured that this might be my best chance at staving off the skunk for the day so I tied on a wooly bugger (catches ANYTHING) and we headed down to the water. The water was clear and still felt damn cold on my sandaled feet when I got a little too close. We worked our way around the pond in short order , fishing the deeper sections and shallow areas close to shore , all with the same results as our previous two stops.
As you've figured out by now if you're still reading , the catching part of the day was a bust. That being said , I havn't enjoyed a day of fishing any more than that in a good long while , sometimes it's enough just to get out and soak up some sun with a good friend.
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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Springtime Dreaming.... Smallmouth Style

This is a short article that I wrote for an on-line flyfishing magazine several weeks ago that has since been published , so some of you might have already seen it. If not , read on for a little piece on Spring smallmouth fishing. If you havn't seen it yet the online mag is So Much Water ( and has some very good reading , if you skip the piece that I submitted that is! Hope you enjoy.....
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Can you feel it?? Surely you can , hell I can even smell it these days when I venture out on one of my favorite Ozark creeks for a day of peace and quiet. And no , I'm not talking about the new sewage treatment plant upstream...I'm talking about one of my favorite times of the year , Spring. Robins parading around the yard looking for their next meal in the newly thawed ground , V-shaped formations of snow geese lined up across the horizon as far as the eye can see heading North and even an early green shoot here or there poking it's way up out of the recently lifeless soil searching for those warm rays of sun soon to come. All things I've witnessed in just the past week and all of them a sure sign that spring is just around the corner (how far down the road that corner lies depends greatly on what part of the country you reside in I guess).
It's usually about this time of year , when we get a day or two of Spring-like weather thrown at us after a long winter , that I start thinking seriously about smallmouth fishing. Don't get me wrong...I'm not saying that I can throw the streamer box and seven weight in the truck and actually go catch smallies this time of year , but every warm day brings it that much closer to reality.
Just three or four years ago I would have been more interested in planning my Spring fishing trips around caddis and mayfly hatches , but since becoming acquainted with some of the bronze bombers residing in a few nearby Ozark streams I've had a definite change of heart.
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By the time the trees start showing off a few green buds I've already got the small nymph boxes and 6x tippet spools on the top shelf of the closet , replaced by streamer boxes filled with baitfish patterns and a spool of 10# test. No more finicky streamer trout that always seem more interested in playing with their food than actually eating it.
Give me a fish that targets my streamer like he hasn't had a good meal in two weeks and can't wait to get my concoction of fur and feathers in his mouth.
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No more names in latin to describe a bug I couldn't see anyway without a 10x more struggling to see the eye on a size #22 midge so you can try and poke a piece of tippet the size of a frog hair through it...and best of all , no more clammy , cold waders to put on and wear every time you hit the water.
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Don't get me wrong , I still love my trout fishing. Especially those cold , fishless days spent in a driftboat chucking big streamers for browns. While I realize that you have to be a little deranged to actually enjoy that kind of punishment , what can I say...if the shoe fits , wear it.
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As I'm sitting on the tailgate slipping my foot into a wet , half frozen wading boot this time of year I can't help but let my mind wander to a warmer place. A place where shorts and a pair of wading sandals are all you need to be comfortable on the water. A place where you actually need a coozy and a cooler full of ice to keep your beer cold.
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That being said , for all of the good things that go along with it , Springtime smallmouth bass fishing can still be tough and isn't necessarily a sure thing in my experiences (fishing and "sure thing" probably shouldn't be used in the same sentence together anyway , unless your skills are much improved over mine). Early Spring fishing always has it's own pitfalls to deal with...high water events , lingering cold-fronts that shut the fish down and last but not least , the part-timers who having just spent all Winter sitting on the couch watching re-runs of American Idol are now ready to get back to communing with nature. Even with these minor nuisances to contend with the mere thought of Springtime smallmouth fishing brings a big smile to my face.
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As good as all of that sounds , I suppose I still have to deal with reality. Which right now means throwing the sand bags back in the bed of the truck for the 3-6 inches of snow predicted for tomorrow and slipping back into that damn winter coat for another day. Still , it sure is nice to do a little Springtime Dreaming...Smallmouth Style!
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