Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Return to the Current Part 2

Before continuing with day two of our trip, I must defend myself in light of the "lies" told about me in the previous post. What appeared to be me retiring to the tent, due to activities from the previous evening, while the other members of the group went fishing, was simply a ploy. I had to do something to get them to leave in order to make a hasty dash to the "secret" spot I had picked out from the previous year!!! Ahhhh hell, who am I kidding? Too many PBR's and staying up until the wee hours of the morning will make a man crave sleep something awful.

Well now that we have that cleared up, lets get to the important stuff. On the second morning of our Ozark get away, we once again found ourselves waking to the sound of thunder chickens doing their best to impress the opposite sex (for those of you who don't speak redneck, the term "Thunder Chickens" refers to wild turkeys). After wiping the sleep from our eyes and bundling up before stepping out into the crisp spring air, the morning rituals of stoking the fire, setting up the Coleman cookstove, and brewing coffee began. After a while, the smell of breakfast filled the still air, and the mauling of breakfast burritos commenced. After fueling up, we began the familiar dance of trying to coax our waders onto our tired bodies, worn out from a long night spent sleeping with rocks in our backs (with the exception of Chance who was smart enough to bring a convenient little sleeping pad). Then it was on to the rebuilding of leaders, checking gear, packing water, re-checking gear, discussing what the fish might possibly be interested in eating that morning, re-checking gear yet again, then packing our cheeks with some of the big spit (which is redneck speak for chewing tobacco), it was finally time to fish.

Upon reaching the river, our group began working a stretch of faster water just upstream from the Tan Vat access. Chance was the first to score this morning on a red San Juan worm. It was evident from the monkey like whoops and hollers coming from his direction, that he had hooked into a pretty good fish. I arrived by his side just in time to reach out with the net and scoop up the beauty you see below.

I have never seen a more beautiful brown trout with such vibrant colors before in my life. Truly an awesome specimen.

After that first fish confirmed San Juan worms seemed appetizing, it was game on. In no time Chance had hooked several more fish, with Derek following close behind. The San Juan didn't claim all the glory that morning though, with wooly buggers, caddis emergers, and some sort of wooly bugger/spinner/buzzbait contraption that Derek was throwing at one point claiming their fair share of fish.

As for Chris and myself, our morning was a little different from Chance and D's. I for one couldn't seem to find anything in my fly box that the fish liked. I don't know if the caddis emergers I was throwing were just too different from those thrown by the other members of the group, or if my presentation was key player in my lack of fish catching ability (I would wager that the second part of my previous statement was most likely the culprit). Needless to say, the remainder of the morning continued in a similar pattern, with many fish falling to the skills of Chancie and Little D.

After a while, our party began to disperse before finally rejoining at the head of a beautiful pool where our group (minus myself) had started their day of fishing the previous morning. As we walked up, you could see the fish stacked in the current, hiding behind rocks, and stalking the seams for anything that looked appetizing and was unfortunate enough to drift by. Our group immediately began hammering the hole with a varied arsenal of flies. Chance was the first to hook up, with Chris and Derek following in short order. The few fish that were brought to hand, didn't come easy, but the challenge was well worth it.

"Holy Crap, that fish is (expletive) huge!" were the words muttered by Chance as he caught a glimpse of a giant brown trout chasing minnows in the current. That was all it took, and I could tell Chance was on a mission. Cast after cast was made, but no presentation seemed to fool the big brown into taking. It wasn't until after we watched that fish, and several other nice trout, selectively pluck bugs from the water's surface that we decided to break out the 7X tippet and see if once of us could raise the ghost. Chance threw on a CDC caddis, as I followed suit with an orange stimulator. For the next hour we pounded that little stretch of water relentlessly with Chance bringing some nice browns to hand, and me coaxing a rainbow into biting. Unfortunately though, the big brown was never brought to hand.

I probably would have been fine spending the next 15 years of my life fishing that hole perched atop one of the many boulders scattered throughout the stream. But, the sun had already reached its height in the sky, and was beginning to make its downward journey to the West. With all of our gear waiting to be packed up, and a long drive ahead of us, we called it a day and headed for camp.

In all, the time spent on the water those couple of days is priceless even though, for reasons unknown to myself and Chris, the fish did not want to cooperate as much as we would have liked. Nevertheless, the memories made with great friends on such a magical river, in one of the most beautiful settings I've been in, means so much more than tons of fish brought to hand. In fact, I am kind of grateful for my 3 fish weekend. As the saying goes, if it were easy it would be call "catching" and not "fishing".

So, until next time......remember to use sunscreen & tight lines.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Return to the Current...

A year ago, some friends and I planned a 4 day fishing expedition to cover several different waters in Missouri. The plan was to fish the Current, Little Piney River, Mill Creek, and Crane Creek. Well we made it to the Current and never left. The fishing was epic to the say the least even though the weather wasn't. The caddis hatch that came off was out of this world and the fish couldn't resist a #16 Elk Hair Caddis. It was awesome...

We returned to the Current this year on the same weekend that we came last year in hopes of encountering the same fishing conditions. The plan was to leave Tulsa on Friday evening, drive up, then fish saturday, and sunday. The weather forecast showed scattered showers for friday night so we had to stow all our gear under a tarp in the back of my truck. We crossed our fingers and prayed the tarp would keep our gear dry over the extent of the 5 hour drive.

We drove through the rain almost the entire trip but after a few quickstops at Wal-Mart for licenses (and some people watching) and Wendys for a healthy dinner, we arrived at Eagles Park Campground where the rain finally tapered off. There was a huge sigh of relief as we un-packed the gear and found all of it to be dry as a bone. We set up the canopy, tent, got a fire started, and broke out some adult beverages to celebrate our arrival to the fabled waters of the Current. We walked down to Tan Vat with flashlights and saw that the river was in great shape which got us pumped up for the next day.

For this trip, we had added another member to the crew, a newb to the sport of fly fishing. Chris was excited to come along after hearing all the great fishing stories from last years trip. Well, along 2:00 am on friday night, we came to the conclusion that Chris needed to be initiated into the group. I'm not exactly sure who came up with the idea but the next thing I know we're all walking back down to Tan Vat because it was decided that Chris had to walk across the river buck-naked to complete his initiation. I really didn't think he'd do it but he was a trooper. After a few more big drinks of liquid courage, he had stripped down to his boxers and began his trek across the Current River. With flashlights ablaze to light his way and his naked ass, he crossed all the way over to the opposite bank and then came back. I don't think I've lauhed that hard in a long time, I was laying on the streambank...crying because I was laughing so hard. He made his way back to the bank and quickly got back into his clothes before the early signs of hypothermia set in. We hiked back to camp to settle around the fire before we finally went to bad...which was about 3:30 AM. Not our smartest choice....

The next morning we awoke to the sound of gobbling turkeys off in the distance...not a bad way to start the morning. We were all slow to get out of our sleeping bags with only a few hours of sleep but the thought of rising trout and the smell of Dereks campfire breakfast burritos was enough motivation to get us going. Derek is the designated camp chef (or "cookie" as he's called) for all of our trips, his campfire food is the stuff of legend to say the least. After the normal routine of eating breakfast, drinking SEVERAL cups of coffee, gearing up and rigging up rods...we made our way down to Tan Vat.

(On a side note, we started the day without Cole because he had retired back to the tent due to reasons related to the consumption of adult beverages.)

I decided to make the long walk upstream of Tan Vat to fish the area from just below the state park down to below the area known as the "Rock Garden". This area is an awesome stretch of water...full of nice runs, seams, big boulders, and lots of pocket water. Its also full of trout as well! I started the day out with a #12 san juan worm with a #16 caddis emerger as a dropper as there wasn't any bugs coming off just yet. Chris and Derek were fishing similiar rigs but with different lead flies just to change things up. It didn't take long and we were all hooked up with some nice Current River trout...

We continued our trek downstream from the state park boundary, fishing every bit of the quality water that the Current had to offer. We were picking up fish mostly on the caddis emergers and pupae but I was also plucking a few fish from the river on a dark brown sowbug pattern that I actually tie for Taneycomo but after kicking over some rocks to find lots of sowbugs I figured it was a good choice. The dry fly action never really took off for us throughout the morning, although, there was hoards of caddis and mayflies coming off. This happened to me a few weeks earlier on my "scouting trip" to the Current as well, not really sure why the fish weren't keying in on all the bugs on the surface. We were able to hook up with a handful of fish on a size 16 CDC Caddis by targeting specific rising fish. This was very fun because the fish weren't holding a consistent rise pattern so it was quite the challenge, but we were able to succeed!

We finally arrived at the tail-end of the Rock Garden area and the fishing had began to taper off with the sun finally reaching its mid-day position. We decided to call it quits there and make the trek back to camp to get some lunch and to see if Cole was alive. We'd all caught our fair share of trout and were more than content with the mornings fishing. The upper stretches of the Tan Vat area is some awesome fishing and the scenery isn't too bad either. Its one of my favorite stretches of water to fish in the whole state of Missouri, with only the upper section of Crane Creek edging it out. Can't beat this river!!

We hiked back to camp and found Cole fishing just above the Tan Vat access point, casting a dry to a couple rising fish. He'd tangled with a few trout in his short time on the water due to his mid-morning nap. We pulled him out of the river and headed for the campsite. After some time in the camp kitchen, Derek had whipped us up some pulled pork sandwiches with baked beans from a wild feral hog he had trapped back home. It was delicious to put it lightly, everyone felt better to have some grub in the ol' belly. After lunch, we made a run up to the state park store to pick up a few flies, tippet, and some ice for the ice chests to keep the food and the adult beverages cold. Upon arrival, we all crashed out in the tent to get a short nap in before driving down to fish the area below the Baptist access point...the nap was freaking awesome.

We got up from our nap an hour later, geared up, jumped in the truck, and headed towards the Baptist access point to get in a few hours of fishing before darkness set in throughout the valley. We got down to the water and the caddis were, once again, coming off like crazy! Just hoards of them flying up the river! But, once again, there wasn't a fish rising anywhere on the river! So it was back to drifting the emerger pattern under an indicator, searching for big trout. The bite was pretty slow throughout the evening. I caught a few fish on my sowbug pattern and Cole actually caught a few fish on an elk hair caddis...but that was the highlight of the evening. I did do some scouting and walked downstream to check out how the river looked further down. I must say, there is some sweeeeettttt water downstream of Baptist. Big deep holes and some nice riffles everywhere. Bet there is some big browns hanging out down there...just got to find 'em! I will be back to test my theory...

We packed up and went back to camp so we could check on the pork shoulder that Derek had wrapped up and slow cooked on the coals of our fire. Luckily saturday night was pretty un-eventful. We ate like kings with pulled pork, baked beans, and potatoes all cooked over the open flame of our campfire. Shortly afterwards, we all retired to our sleeping bags to get a full nights sleep after spending the day doing what we love....chasing the dream!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fly Fishing 201, Crane frustration, stinkbait, and Missouri pyromaniacs…

You can probably call me the “ultimate” newb in the group. Chance seems to have been born with a fly rod in his hand. Cole gave an account of his history with the passion last week. Donny bought his first fly outfit a little under a year ago. I, on the other hand, have just only recently dove head-first into the great obsession that is fly fishing. In the last three months I have evolved from talking about wanting to get a rod and give it a try - to owning a full set-up of gear, having fly fishing catalogs from Cabela’s, Orvis, and L.L. Bean scattered across my apartment, and collecting scrap pieces of tippet between my toes as I walk barefoot across my living room. As I type this there are three internet windows minimized up on my computer that contain information on gear reviews, fishing tactics, and water generation schedules. Yeah, I’ve got it bad.

Prior to this weekend I had only been fly fishing for trout twice on the Lower Illinois, which is a great place for a beginner to learn. But with a weekend trip to the Current River rapidly approaching, The Bum decided it was time to put us on some more technical water. So Chance, Cole, Donny, and I left Broken Arrow around 6 a.m. on Sunday morning loaded down with about three gallons of coffee, some EXCELLENT chocolate chip muffins courtesy of Chance’s wonderful wife (I hope she reads this so we can have some for the next trip), and bellies full of my more questionable homemade breakfast burritos. Our destination was Roaring River, with the lesson plan covering the skills of mending, proper weight usage, and fishing elbow-to-elbow with the rest of the crowd.

About two and a half hours later we pulled up to the park store to get our fishing licenses and trout stamps, along with a few last minute flies, then we geared up and headed down to a stretch of the catch and release area. There were a few cars in the parking lot, so we were pleased to see only one other fisherman in view. This water was like looking through glass compared to the Lower Illinois and definitely had more flow than we were used to, at least for me and The Don. Chance and Cole waded straight in and put lines on the water, while Donny and I worked our way up stream a ways. Within a couple hundred yards we found a couple pools with about a dozen fish stacked up like dominoes and we set to it.

We threw everything but our hats at them and couldn’t get ONE bite. We were trying everything. Mending, changing presentation, changing flies… it didn’t matter, nothing worked. The fish wouldn’t even move, not one look. I could hear Donny laugh in frustration as fish jumped five feet away, and I watched as a fish almost ran between my feet. Cole was still fishing around the same stretch he had started on, while Chance had moved around the bend and out of sight. Finally I heard Donny set the hook. ‘Ata boys were being proclaimed and hopes were rising while he landed the fish… a perch. Hmm… Well a fish landed is a fish landed in my book, and something was biting so I got back to fishing. I tied on an orange beadhead wooly bugger and got a couple of good fish to follow it, but they still weren’t biting. It was starting to warm up, and after another half hour had passed Chance walked back up to where we were. We decided to head to the truck and shed a layer.

After refueling ourselves on coffee and muffins we headed downstream. Chance said they had been biting around the bend, and had caught some ridiculous number of fish (like seventeen) on some magical little fly he had tied and only had a couple on him. So we tied on whatever we could find that looked similar and waded in. This is where mending school really began and within a couple of casts Chance had me on the fish. I caught one right off on a beadhead BWO emerger, but after a bit switched to eggs and they really started biting. These fish were good and fat, and seemed content on eating whatever color egg I threw at them. I must have been on the prime spot because Donny and Cole weren’t having much luck. After a while the fish quit biting and it had become a little crowded in our area, so we decided to pack it in and move down river a bit.

We headed down to the no wading area of zone two and spread out along the bank. This place was definitely a popular spot and had plenty of people moving around trying to find the fish. I got lucky and staked out a nice area where the water stepped down and the fish were feeding. I hooked a couple on eggs before I noticed the fish were feeding off the top of the water, so I tied on a blue winged olive and set my sights on the fish that seemed to be feeding the most. My heart would rise and fall as I would watch fish after fish come toward my fly… only to eat the bug next to it or shy away at the last moment. Finally, after this happened ten or thirty times, one took the BWO and I landed my first catch with a dry fly!

The rest of the guys had all moved up to where the trout had stacked up in a big pool next to a dock for the handicapped, and there were some real pigs in there. You could watch as a couple of 20+” monsters worked their way around the pool, and Chance got one to hook up and fight for a bit before it shook him off. Other than that not many fish were biting here, and space on the dock began to get scarce so we pointed the truck toward Crane.

Now we had all heard and read about Chance’s adventures on Crane Creek in the past and the challenges it presented, but none of us had ever been there. Just listening to a description of the place and the methods required to be successful were enough to plant the seeds of doubt in my mind… but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to give it a try. Our 9’ 5 wt. rods weren’t going to be much use here so we rigged up a couple of Chance’s short rods and tramped down to the water. Fully intending to play guide for a while, Chance didn’t carry a rod, and was tossing last minute tips and strategies over his shoulder as we made our way downstream. The plan was to take turns fishing our way back toward the bridge, and I was “volunteered” as first at bat. Well, I spent my time at the first hole learning how to cast a 6’ 3 wt. from my knees. No luck. We started working our way upstream, leap-frogging from bend to bend. Donny’s 9’ rod put him at a severe disadvantage here, but he did find some neat fossils on the riverbank before finding a deep pool that he could jig his fly through. I skipped up stream a ways and found a long, straight stretch of the creek that I could cast down the middle. Or so I thought, as I quickly found myself a tree-fish that kept half of the leader as a trophy. I decided I better give Chance his rod back before I broke it. Cole was finding tree-fish too, so we fired our guide and told him to go fishing. After all, we wanted to see a McCloud first-hand and daylight was rapidly fading. Not one to let his buddies down, Chance hooked up on his second cast!

And again not ten minutes later!

By this time I was content just watching and learning, but Cole on the other hand had declared a vengeance against Crane Creek and its McCloud rainbows. As daylight slipped away and we found ourselves walking back to the truck, Cole was still fishing his way upstream. It wasn’t until we had all of our gear packed away that he came walking out of the woods, vowing to come back and conquer the Crane on another day.

Often when you’re traveling you get to experience new things, sights and smells that you don’t encounter everyday in your neck of the woods… like the sun rising over a snow capped mountain top, or the smell of a turkey farm alongside the road. We weren’t ten minutes on the road to home when a smell overcame the truck that sent us all to gagging and the windows down. We couldn’t get away from it! It smelled as if some gremlin had lined the a/c vents with Danny King’s stinkbait. I’m telling you this smell was vile, and we could not find where it was coming from! When the light-headedness finally passed another smell greeted us… smoke. I was starting to wonder if the eye watering-lung burning-stomach turning-gag a maggot-stinkbait odor had fried my sense of smell when Donny spotted a burning brush pile. And another, and not a mile down the road another! The more we got to thinking about it we realized we had seen something burning nearly everywhere we went in Missouri that day. By the time we crossed back into Oklahoma, we had counted over a dozen burn piles. After we got home I looked around on the internet to see if Sunday had been Missouri’s “burn stuff in your yard” day or if we had unknowingly run over Bigfoot and carried his stench home with us- but couldn’t find a thing. I guess we’ll have to do some investigating on our next trip into The Show Me State…


Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Passion of the Fly

Like many of you out there who enjoy the sport, I grew up with fishing as a part of life. I can't tell you when my first experience with fishing occurred, nor can I tell you when I caught my first fish. I do, however, vividly recall the first fish I caught that left a lasting imprint on my young mind. It was a three pound largemouth bass taken on a windless, balmy summer evening by a black and green beetle spin, just off the edge of the moss line in our family farm pond. I remember the wake the fish made as it chased down my lure and the feeling of extreme anticipation (and maybe even a little fear) as I watched the fish take. I remember feeling the strain of the fish as I set the hook on my fiberglass rod topped with the always faithful Zebco 33. I remember marveling at the size of his huge mouth as I hoisted him from the water. To anyone else in the world it was just another bass, but compared to the tiny bluegills I was accustomed to catching, this fish was a "monster"!!

Growing up in Western Oklahoma, a guy like me would be the last one you would have expected to pick up a fly rod. Granted the species I chased as a youngster in the local farm ponds differed somewhat from those traditionally pursued by fly fishermen of the time, but the experience for me was still the same. I remember being told that a fly rod was used mainly by well dressed, well spoken anglers for trout who resided in far off lands of clear blue skies, with no wind, and misty mornings. So, why the Hell are we going to use one in Oklahoma, I wondered in my teenage mind? After a little practice in the yard and the reassurance of "you'll get the hang of it," my Dad whisked me away to our local haunt to show me just what could be done with this new found instrument. To say the least, that first time on the water was a little awkward as I am sure all beginning fly fishermen would agree (with the exception of Chance who I think was born with a rod in his hand!). But, I knew a few things for sure after that day......when you actually managed to get the line out on the water without it looking like a bomb went off, bluegill would absolutely murder a small popper twitched ever so slightly over their nesting grounds, a bass would explode seemingly out of nowhere on a hair bug, and both fought more (at least in my mind) on a fly rod in the hand than the 'ol spincast outfit. It seemed as though every fish caught felt like the legendary "monster" bass I caught all those years ago.

So, that is how the "Passion of the Fly" began. The more I fished with the rod, the more I began to understand fishing as a "sport" instead of a means to make a meal. I began to build a respect for the fly rod and the connection it seemed to make between fisherman and fish. But, little did I know that my love affair with the new found method of fishing would be cut short. I'll admit that there was a darker time in my past, mostly due to being a teenager and Western Oklahoma winds that no living creature should ever have to endure, where the fly rod was laid down in favor of the quicker and "easier" baitcaster!! But, throughout that "experimental" stage of my youth when plastic worms, spinner baits, and hula poppers were the norm, the faithful fly rod always loomed in the back of my mind. Sadly, it was quickly dismissed as too much "work" for a kid interested only in catching and keeping as many fish as he could, in the least amount of time possible. And so the neglect of the fly rod continued for many years as high school came and went, free time in college was spent performing other "necessary" extracurricular activities, and slowly my life ahead began to take shape.

It wasn't until I had settled on Broken Arrow, OK as the location for my official transplant, and my second year of marriage had nearly been put in the books that I received a call from an old college buddy, Mr. Chance Maxville. The plan was to spend a four day weekend on the Current River in MO chasing trout with fly rods. Fly rods? Trout? Are you serious? I hadn't cast a fly rod in dang near a decade, not to mention I had NEVER fished for trout in my life! Reluctantly I agreed to the whole madness, on the condition that I could bring a spinning rod with an assortment of essential "trout lures" that all the Internet articles said I needed as a back up for my fly rod.

Needless to say, the spinning rod never saw the light of the day after our arrival in MO. I was "convinced" by the other members of our party that the fly rod would be a much better choice. After an afternoon of frustration of not having cast the damn thing (even thinking about it now gets me frustrated!!) for so long, and managing to catch only tree trout & bush bass, I finally hooked my first trout ever on a dry fly. It was a beautiful little brown like nothing I had ever seen. And, to sweeten the deal, it was taken on a dry fly tied by none other than Mr. Derek Matz, one of my best friends and fellow sufferer of all things fly fishing. Upon landing that fish, the Rolodex of memories in my head began to spin taking me back all those years to the farm ponds of Western Oklahoma where I chased bluegill and bass on the fly. It wasn't until later while sitting around the glow of the campfire that I realized what had occurred. No longer was I the kid that cared only about catching as many fish as I could, as fast as I could. With that one trout brought to hand by a fly rod, all the frustrations of the afternoon had melted away and I realized that fishing could be about so much more. The stars must have aligned just right that night, & the fish gods must have smiled, because the following day of our trip was amazing and one we still talk about to this day. There is nothing like catching trout with dry flies on a scenic river to bring a new meaning and kindle the spirit for the sport. To this day I thank Chance & Derek for convincing me to go on that trip, and for steering me towards fishing with my fly rod once again.

Due to the demands of life and the pursuit of the "American Dream" the opportunities for me to chase fish on the fly since that trip have been a little sporadic at best. But, because of that, any time I do get the chance to chase fish with a fly rod in my hand, be it bluegill and bass from the neighborhood puddles or trout stocked in the Lower Illinois, is time well spent to feed the need. Sure, I still enjoy chasing fish with conventional tackle and have nothing against those who do. But to me, there is nothing like the calming factor and connection you get when fishing by a method used for hundreds of years by previous generations of anglers.

So, in closing I would like to thank Chance for getting me interested in the sport again, and for allowing me the opportunity to post about it on this blog. I feel fortunate to have a friend who feels so passionate (to the point of being obsessed) about the sport, and who has given his time & advice to make me a better fisherman.

Until next time......keep squinting, and tight lines.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Camping, Rising Trout, Turkeys Gobbling, and the smell of Sasquatch...

The trip had been planned all week. Plan A was to go to the White River and fish the Caddis hatch. If that was a wash due to generation, Plan B was to go to the Current River and fish the Caddis hatch. One way or another we were going to be fishing over rising trout this weekend.

Well, the whole thing was almost a bust when a big storm rolled through the area on top of the snow storm that hit us a week ago. We knew Plan A was out the window because Bull Shoals Dam was generating HEAVY already. So we spent the next 2 days watching the U.S.G.S. StreamFlow website, specifically the stream gauge at the Current River just outside of the state park. The rain caused the river to come up slowly over those 2 days but Thursday night/Friday morning it leveled off at 185cfs. That doesn't sound like much but on a river thats basically blown out at 225cfs, we were worried. Friday at work I spent most of the day watching the stream gauge to make sure it had leveled off and watching the weather forecast because another storm was supposed to move through saturday night/sunday morning in Missouri.

I left work and called Joey to see what he thought.After a little discussion and a phone call to the state park office at Montauk, we said screw it...we're going fishing! I packed all my gear up and set the GPS for the Tan Vat access on the Current River. I picked Joey up in Joplin and pointed the truck towards Springfield. After a quick stop at WalMart to get our trout stamps for the year along with a few odds and ends, we were back on the road and heading for the Current River! We arrived at Eagles Park campground a little after midnight, set up camp, and then crashed out so we could get an early start the next morning.

The next morning, I was awakened by the sound of 3 different turkeys chirpin' and gobblin' back and forth to each other. Can't beat having that as an alarm clock first thing in the morning, it was a good sign of things to come. We geared up and got the rods rigged up, then walked across the access road to the Tan Vat access point to take a look at the river. To our relief, the river looked really good. It was running a touch high, but had a good emerald color to it which meant we could fish heavier tippet and bigger flies like we'd hoped. We decided to hike upstream to just below the state park boundary and fish our way back downstream. If you've never fished this section of the Current River, you're really missing out. Lots of awesome water. Deep runs, swift riffles with nice seam lines, and lots of pocket water too. And trout everywhere!! We worked our way downstream picking up fish on a san juan worm with a caddis emerger dropper, with most of the fish coming on the emerger. Joey caught a very nice brown shortly after we started fishing, probably pushing 18", just a damn nice fish. The fish were all healthy and full of fight, especially in the swift current.

We made our way downriver into the section known as the "Rock Garden". This is an awesome section of the river, but it also gets a ton of fishing pressure too. The fishing can be great or it can be very tough. was tough. We didn't catch a single fish from this section, I didn't even get a single strike although I switched flies several times. We got to the tail-end of this section and noticed some caddis finally beginning to come off. The trout started to rise shortly afterwards but it was very sporadic as far as their feeding goes. I saw 2 fish rising in a seam behind a boulder so I switched to a #14 CDC Elk Hair Caddis which was the killer fly last year during this time. Several casts later I was rewarded with a vicious take and brought a chunky 15" rainbow to the net. Success!! There is just nothing like catching trout on dries....I'll take 10 fish on dries over 30 fish on a nymph rig anyday! I tried for the other fish but missed him which put the fish down so I moved downstream. Found another trout rising in front of a boulder and went to work on him. My heart stopped a few times on this fish as he rose and ate a natural right next to my offering. A few more casts and refusals later, I finally made a perfect drift and the fish ate! This fish was very acrobatic and made a few awesome jumps before coming to the net. Freaking sweet!

We continued working our way downstream, targeting every rising fish we seen and we were able to bring several to hand. The hatch slowly tapered off and I finally broke off my last CDC elk hair on a fish so we decided to head back to camp, get a fire started, and get some lunch before we headed downstream of Tan Vat. The morning bite had been good to us, so we had high hopes for the rest of the day...

After a healthy lunch of campfire grilled brats, summer sausage, cheese, and crackers...we were ready to hit the water again! We decided to hike downstream of the access and then fish our way back upstream. The afternoon turned more into a scouting trip for my Current River trip with some college buddies that is coming up in a few weeks. We would hike a little ways, stop to look at some water, and then keep hiking. Before we knew it, we came upon some people fishing and realized there was a parking lot just below them. We had hiked all the way down to the Baptist access point! I decided to fish below Baptist before we headed back upstream. There is some sweet water below Baptist and I don't think we even touched a fraction of it. Joey pulled a few nice rainbows out of some deep runs and I picked up a 'bow next to a log in some slower moving water beforew we decided to head back upstream. We didn't fish much on the hike back upstream except for the section just above baptist where I pulled out a decent rainbow next to a nice undercut bank and Joey missed a few fish. The clouds were starting to move in so we decided to cover some ground quickly just in case the weather was going south as it was forecasted to.

We did stop at a section of water next to a steep bluff that has a nice undercut rock bank along with a few nice boulders laid out in the stream. While fishing this stretch, the caddis started to come off again...except this time it was VERY heavy! Swarms of bugs were moving up river....but there wasn't but a few trout rising that we could see upstream or downstream. Joey plucked a nice brown from behind a laydown with an Elk Hair caddis but that was it. I didnt even get a look from any of the fish I presented my caddis to. It was weird to see the bugs coming off so heavily but very few fish were taking advantage of it.

The bugs were still coming off really heavy when it started to thunder off to the East so we decided to pack it in, head back to camp, and then drive up to the state park lodge to use their wi-fi to check the weather with my laptop. We hustled our way back to camp hoping and pray the weather wouldn't be too bad so we could stay and fish. Those hopes were dashed quickly as we were walking up to our website, the clash of lightning and thunder rumbled closer. We decided to just pack it in and head for Joeys house in Arkansas instead of trying to ride out the storm in our tents all night. Just as we were getting out of our waders, it began to rain. Shortly after that, it was just a circus act of stowing gear away in the truck, rolling up sleeping bags, and tearing down tents. I didn't even get my tent put back in its bag, instead I just rolled it all up and stashed it in my tool box in my truck. We jumped into the cab of the truck just as the light rain turned into a complete downpour!

Accepting defeat, we pointed the truck back east towards Joeys house in Springdale, Arkansas to ride out the storm. We took the scenic route you could say, stopping by Crane Creek to see if it would be possible to fish it the next morning. We pulled into the city park, ran over to the creek only to find it running high and looking like chocolate milk. The final nail in the coffin for our plans of fishing Sunday was seeing that lil' creek basically blown out.

It was a good day though, caught lots of fish on dries with most of them being browns. Thats one thing I love about the Current River below the state park, the ratio of browns to rainbows caught is usually like 2 to 1 whenever I have fished it. Its probably my favorite place to fish in Missouri with Crane Creek coming in just behind it. I can't wait to get back down there in a few weeks, hopefully the caddis will still be coming off and the trout will be a little more cooperative this time.