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.

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