Its been a long winter to say the least. I spent most of it shooting ducks with my college buddies out in Western Oklahoma. Duck hunting is the only thing in the world that will keep me from a trout stream for an extended period of time. I love it almost as much as fishing...almost!! We had a very successful season though, lots of birds came south this year for us to shoot. I also introduced a friend of mine into duck hunting and it basically took over his life, completely ate up with it now. Here are a few pictures from this season...
It was a good year for waterfowl but season ended, it was time to put the shotgun away and dig out the fly rod. It had been a few months since I had fished and I was missing being out on the river. I've been fortunate enough to make 2 trips in the last month to chase trout. The 1st trip back to fish with the long rod was on the Lower Illinois and then just last weekend, I made an excursion east to fish for the wild McClouds on Crane Creek.
The weather finally cleared up enough that there was no generation on the Lower Illinois so I made a day trip over to Gore, Oklahoma several weeks ago. It was a cold and wet morning to be out. The wind was coming out of the north and sweeping right down the river...a touch on the miserable side but I didnt care, I was on the water! I pulled into the parking lot at the Watts area around 8 in the morning and geared up for a chilly morning. I walked downstream of the parking lot to the little chute below the tailout of the big hole in front of the parking lot. This is one of my favorite little holes...always has lots of fish. I started out fishing a pink san juan worm below an indicator and started making my way down the run. I picked up a few rainbows pretty quick and had a few LDRs...the morning was looking good and then the fish just shut off. The wind picked up and really started to blow. I called it quits and headed upstream to get some bloodflow going.
I walked up to the head of the run above the parking lot and started fishing my way back downstream. I tried several different flies that are usually deadly on the Lower Illinois but just had a couple of strikes. I was starting to scratch my head and get really frustrated when I noticed some fishing rising in a little back-eddy behind the a gravel bar at the tailout of the run. I hadn't actually ever seen trout eating bugs on the surface down there before, I walked over to the gravel bar and just watched the fish for a minute. Couldn't identify what bug they were eating but I tossed a few different dries with no luck, not even a half-hearted rise. I went back to the fly box once again and started pondering what to do. The light finally went off upstairs and I recalled a trip to Taney over the summer where the fish were doing the exact same thing but wouldnt eat a dry. The fish were midging but I slayed them on soft hackles.
I flipped open my front pack pocket and picked out a soft hackle. It was lights out for the next hour and a half. It was basically stupid fishing, completely stupid. I was getting a strike almost every case, didn't matter how you fished it. I could swing it or strip it back and the fish would just eat it up! I hooked the same fish 3 times before I finally got a solid hookset to actually land him. It was a ton of fun to say the least, a great way to get my fishing bearing back. The action finally stopped when the sun came out...it was literally like a light switch. I packed it up after that and headed home. It was a great morning...
A few weeks later, I loaded up and headed to Missouri to fish Crane Creek for some wild McClouds. I absolutely love this little creek...its such an awesome place to fish. I met Joey at the city park with plans to walk downstream to the dairy farm and then fish our way back upstream. We peaked into the creek at the city park right in front of where we parked and was astonished to see 3 trout all over 16" with one of them being 18" easily. We made a few casts to them but they spooked immediately and ran for the big overhanging bluff. Sooo...downstream we went!
This section of Crane has some really good looking water. It has lots of deep holes...really deep holes especially for such a small creek. We scouted out several holes that had some nice fish and made our way downstream. We were nearing the conservation area boundary and our worst nightmare became a reality...we stumbled upon another fisherman who had just started fishing his way upstream. It was a big let down. After some idle chit-chat with the guy, we walked on downstream to the boundary. We were able to put a little distance and un-touched water between us so we started fishing.
I picked up a few little McClouds in a small hole behind a log jam with a red tungsten san juan worm. As we were passing over the log jam, we peaked through the log jam and was astonished to see LOTS of trout stacked up under the log jam. Big trout too! There was a few fish in the 20" range along with lots of fish in the 12" to 15" range...it was sickening but also good to see that there is a healthy population of nice fish in this creek. I can only imagine what you would find if you were able to throw on the scuba gear and look under all the log jams along this creek. I bet there are some real toads in this creek that nobody has probably ever seen.
We continued our trek upstream, catching a few fish here and there. Joey spotted a nice McCloud tucked up underneath a rootball and bombed his egg pattern above it to get a drift in. The fish inhaled the egg and the fight was on! The fish ran straight at Joey and ducked into a rootball just below him. After a few minutes of trying to knock the fish out with his net, it finally came out and was netted. It was an awesome fish...solid 18" with tons of color. He always catches the big fish...
We kept fishing our way upstream and we finally got into the water that the guy had already fished. It was dead the rest of the way up the creek till we got to the city park. We switched flies, change depth, added more weight...and couldn't buy a strike. You definitely can't fish behind someone in this little creek. It sucked...and we saw several BIG fish too but they were all lockjawed or spooked.
We got back to the city park and made a few casts to the fish we'd seen earlier. We were a little more stealthy this time and got down on our hands and knees for the approach. I bombed a cast up over the biggest fish and got a perfect drift down to him. He sipped the bug up and I set the hook...only to have my tippet break where my weight was pinched on. Big let down to end a sub-par day on Crane...but it still was a lot of fun fishing this little creek.
I'm glad to be back out on the water. Its going to be a great year for fishing if we don't get flooded out with all this rainfall we're supposed to get this spring. I'm looking forward to chasing stripers with the new spey rod, catching smallmouth in Arkansas, chasing carp in western Oklahoma, and, of course, catching trout all summer long!!
So much fishing to do....so little time!!