Thursday, September 29, 2011
Ever since I witnessed some of the new video footage out there on fly fishing for musky I've been intrigued with the prospect of chasing these toothy monsters with the long rod. After doing a little research on the prospects here in Missouri it seemed like a concievable goal , although I fully realized the time that one has to put in for these fish outdistances all species I've previously fished for. Anything worth accomplishing shouldn't come too easily anyway , goals attained with a little more time and effort just seem that much sweeter when they come to fruition.
With the idea firmly planted in my head , and not going anywhere until I made good on it , I began searching the interwebs for all of the information I could gather. I have to admit , there's not an overabundance of info available compared to most types of fishing , it seems as though this musky on the fly craze is just getting started. My next step was to try and find a few like-minded individuals that were just as sick as I am and willing to give this quest a shot. After a couple of posts on my favorite local boards I was lucky enough to hook up with another guy from here in KC that had some knowledge about Pomme de Terre lake , one of the top producing muskie lakes in Missouri , and more importantly the same desire I had to catch one on a flyrod. Richard and I traded e-mails several times before finally finding a day that worked for both of us and from there the plan was set in motion.
First step was to see about obtaining a few flies that would be suitable for a fish the size of a muskie. I tie a lot of flies but they mostly resemble small aquatic insects as opposed to the half a chicken on a hook I'd need for these fish. Luckily for me I stumbled onto a great guy from my local fly fishing club that was willing to work up some deer-hair and EP Fiber flies for me before the scheduled trip. This guy does some great work and I have to admit that I couldn't have accomplished these flies myself in the time allotted. I explained to him what I needed and about a week later I got the call that my flies were ready , after seeing them I knew I'd made the right choice!
Sunday morning the alarm went off at 3:30 am , it didn't wake me though , I was already awake. I'd been lying there for I don't know how long with thoughts of the days adventure running through my mind , I honestly couldn't remember the last time I was this excited about a one day fishing trip. I met Richard at a gas station near his house and after the usual pleasantries of a first time meeting we loaded my gear in his jeep and were off. Obviously I couldn't have made this trip happen without Richard , as he's the one with the boat. Needless to say I'm just not sure my little inflatable pontoon is suited to chasing these fish around a large lake . We pulled into the boat ramp at the dam area just as the sun was cresting the surrounding hills.
Nothing like being on the water during that magical time of day , whether it's a lake or river.
It was a short boat ride to our first destination and the thought of finally getting those flies in the water had me sitting on the edge of my seat just itching to make that first cast. Being the gracious host that he was , Richard let me have the front casting deck first (and actually most of the day...thanks Richard!) as he positioned us over the structure with the trolling motor from the back of the boat.
We weren't the only boat on the first shallow flat casting for muskie , there were at least two other boats using gear and chucking big crankbaits. Most times the idea of others fishing on your spot isn't a good one but somehow it was almost re-assuring that there were others around , kind of validated the fact that there were actually some muskie in the lake. Not that I didn't already know this , but what can I say , I've never even seen a muskie in my life so the whole idea almost seemed too far fetched to be true.
We each were rigged with a different fly pattern and assumed the task of dilligently making cast after cast to promising looking areas. We passed the time talking fishing , not just muskie fishing , but anything that came to mind and made good conversation.
We hit some really good looking water and managed to find a few coves full of baitfish , which was one of our main goals when the day started. At one point during the day I was stripping my deerhair diver in as quickly as my tired arms would allow when I got a solid and heavy strike , I practically jumped out of the boat with excitement but to my dismay no hookup followed. Since it wasn't seen we'll just have to wonder what type fish it was , but I'd like to think it was a musky!
By days end our wrists and forearms were aching from throwing those big flies into a brisk wind with a 10 weight , even without a fish to show for our troubles we both left the water that day with a smile on our face.
One thing you can count on , we'll be back again this fall with a better plan and a little more knowledge about what it takes to coax those toothy bastards into eating a fly , neither of us is going to give up without a battle (or a dislocated elbow!).
I've always heard that muskies are the fish of 10,000 casts....guess I've only got 9000 more to go!!
Sunday, September 25, 2011
This week found me with some vacation time scheduled and no real plans to speak of. I'd given serious thought to making a trip down to the Taneycomo tailwaters and trying my luck at some early season browns but the constant generation of late caused me to rule that idea out. After debating with myself for several days I finally decided to spend a few days down on the Current , between the resident bows and browns and all of the public access available it's almost always a safe bet that you'll find some good fishing on this river.
Tuesday morning I was on the road by 5:30 , a cup of coffee in my hand and my best fishing buddy in the backseat to keep me company (actually he slept most of the ride). I was really looking forward to this trip , there's no better way to unwind than spending a few days camping on the river just you and your dog. We pulled into the campground at about 11:00 after making a quick stop at Reeds Fly shop for a few last minute odds and ends and a couple bags of ice. As usual there wasn't another soul in the campground , the entire reason I choose to stay here because the facilities are definitely lacking , solitude over convenience anyday. Camp was set up and a quick lunch eaten before sitting down to rig up rods and assemble gear. I was rushing around , anxious as always to get on the water, when I looked over and saw Joe laying in the green grass just relaxing with a big ole grin on his face.
First lesson learned , quit rushing around worrying about time , or the lack of it , just find a patch of green grass and soak in some sun...enjoy.
After kicking back around camp for a while we finally decided to head to the river. Our first stop was Tan Vat access , which to my dismay had 5 cars parked in the lot on a Tuesday afternoon?? Oh well , there's plenty of other spots on the river so we turned around and headed for Baptist Access. A short drive and we were pulling into the Baptist parking lot and again we were greeted with at least a half dozen vehicles and several fishermen within eyesight of the road. Obviously this beautiful weather had generated one of the increasingly common hatches in the Ozarks...the Orvis Hatch. It only seems to occur in early fall after the other famous Ozark hatch , the aluminum hatch , is over. Conditions have to be just perfect , 72 degrees and sunshine with a light breeze seem to be key ingredients. These guys won't be around for long so get out there and see it while you can , once the weather gets cooler and the fall winds kick up they'll be home on the couch trying to figure out the placement of that new $50 nano-titanium accessory zinger they just got in the mail and wishing for next Spring when fishing season comes back.
Joe and I were looking for a little more personal space for our adventures so we headed on over to another lesser known access on downstream of Baptist. At the end of a long washed out gravel road we found what we were looking for , nothing. I grabbed a rod and stashed a few snacks in the vest for later and we headed out downriver in search of a few fish. I started off nymphing and was into fish in the first riffle we came to , as usual these Current River bows were right where you'd figure them to be , and hungry as well.
We fished our way downstream catching average size rainbows consistently out of every spot we stopped to fish. Joe was doing his usual thing , wading around by my side and chasing after every fish I hooked , occasionally letting out a bark to let the fish know who's in charge.
Second lesson learned , size of the fish shouldn't dictate amount of fun had , Joe loves chasing the small ones just as much as the bigger ones...take the time to enjoy every fish caught and each moment as it happens.
All the fish chasing and catching had left us hungry again so we took a quick break on a log laying across the river and ate a snack.
It consisted of a package of apple sauce and some peanut butter crackers ...
(Joes favorite). Beautiful day , catching lots of fish and sharing a snack on the river with your best friend enjoying the sights and sounds of the outdoors...Life is Good.
After fishing our way back to the truck , still not seeing another fisherman , we took a little break from fishing and hiked a short path back to a historic homestead on the river.
Pretty interesting and worth the hike if you're in the area. After that we headed back to camp to see about cooking up some dinner early enough to hit the water for the evening bite. I threw a couple burgers on the fire and warmed up some cheesy potatoes I'd brought along from the night before for the meal and washed it all down with a seasonal brew.
I know everything tastes better in the great outdoors but damn that shit was good. With our bellies full Joe and I sat around camp for a little while just relaxing , I figured to hit the water for the last hour of daylight and throw some streamers in hopes of catching a decent brown. A couple of beers later I decided it was now or never so we walked down to the Tan Vat access and headed downstream . There was only one vehicle in the lot so we had the place mostly to ourselves for once. I was excited to start working the water and was probably crossing the river a little too quickly when it happened , I hit a slick rock and down I went , the only thing that stayed dry was my hat. Joe just looked at me as if to say " I told you not to be in such a hurry!!". Oh well , no harm except for a bunch of wet flyboxes that I'd have to dry out later. Then I remembered that I'd left the hatch door to my cameras battery compartment open (long story short , it turns on by itself and runs the battery down if I don't pop the battery out)...shit!
Sure enough I pulled it out of my wader pocket and water just poured out!! For about the fourth time in it's life I had killed this camera it seemed. Stuff happens.. what can you do , so we just went ahead and fished , a little wet but still enjoying the evening. As much as I figured that I'd stick a big brown since I had no camera , it just didn't happen. I managed to catch one brown that I taped at 18 1/2 inches and landed several rainbows on my articulated streamer pattern but nothing like what I was looking for. We walked back to camp just as the last little bit of light vanished from the horizon and spent the rest of the evening sitting around a campfire getting dry and warm (both of us).
Wednesday morning we were lazy (Joes idea) and slept in until the sun was shining in the tent window. So much for throwing streamers this morning in the low light , oh well , this trips about relaxing anyway. We took our time getting around , ate a breakfast sandwich and fiddled with the waterlogged camera for a while. It was decided to set it on the camp table in the sun with the compartments open for the day to see if it could once again be resurrected from the dead. Once we finally make our way to the river we once again found company pretty much everywhere we went , due to the fact that I had Joe with me it made the problem of finding fishing spots even more difficult.
I fully realize that not everyone appreciates an enthusiastic fishing dog like Joe so I do my best to be out of sight from other fishermen when he's along. It even makes getting from one spot to the next more difficult as he hasn't quite mastered the stealthy wading yet , as hard as I've been coaching him. Obviously we have to get out of the river and bust brush anytime we encounter another fisherman which isn't always easy. Even so , I wouldn't trade my time on the water with Joe for the best fishing spot on the river on the best day.
At one point in the day I had just put my rig in the tree behind me not five minutes after re-tying and I wasn't happy about it , as evidenced by the expletives coming from my pie-hole. Joe just looked at me and walked out of the water and laid down on the shore facing away from me , as if to say "If you're gonna act like that I'm just gonna pretend I don't know you!". Third lesson learned , don't take this stuff too seriously...it's just fishing and the whole point is to have a good time , don't let anything get in the way of that .
We did a little more walking and a little less fishing but still caught more than enough trout to keep us both happy. Nothing of any real size was landed , of course I lost a couple of huge ones! Lots of average size bows were caught both nymphing and throwing pine squiurrel streamer patterns.
Some really nicely colored fish I thought , but of course no pictures...no camera. Surprisingly when we got back to camp that evening I put the battery back in and hit the power button and ON it came! The card was still good as well and I hadn't lost any pictures so once again the Olympus TOUGH camera had somehow survived. We ate a great dinner of homemade succotash and a few cold beverages and then settled in around a nice big fire for the last evening of our trip.
Thursday I awoke to the sound of rain on the roof of the tent and thunder in the distance. Of course the weathermen hadn't predicted any precip but then again we all know better than to put any faith in those pretenders. I think I fell back asleep for a short while and when I woke again the rain had slackened enough to get me out of the sleeping bag and starting to pack up camp. Is it just me or is it mandatory that it rains on the day you have to pack up camp? I can't remember the last time I got to pack a dry tent.
With camp down and the truck loaded I decided to try and fish the area just below the park for an hour or so before we headed out. The weather had definitely minimized the crowds and I didn't see anyone in the stretch of water I wanted to fish for once. The rain was still coming down and Joe had no intentions of getting out in it so I threw on the raincoat and headed downriver. I landed a dozen or so rainbows before meeting up with a gentleman I had spoken with before on the river , Dick. He's a super nice guy who lives in the area for several months out of the year and then he heads South when the cold winter winds begin to blow. We talked fishing for half an hour or so , ignoring the raindrops dripping from the bills of our hats and just enjoying visiting with each other again. I left my fishing hole in good hands and headed back to the truck to see how Joe was doing. With the rain still coming down we left the Current River and started our journey back home. We were headed in the direction of home but we still had one more stop to make before calling it a trip , my favorite little two weight stream.
I figured if I killed a few more hours fishing maybe the rain would lessen up a little , I'd much rather fish in the rain than drive in the rain. It turned out to be a good choice , there wasn't another soul on the stream and the little wild rainbows were starting to show off some of their brilliant fall colors.
They were hungry as usual and a couple of fish were taken out of almost every hole I stopped to fish. This little place is fast becoming one of my favorite places to fish , pretty water..wild fish and solitude all add up to make for a wonderful experience every time I visit.
With one last fish released it was time to officially call it a trip and head for KC , as I walked back to the truck the rain lessened and a peak of sun began trying to peak out from behind the clouds , I love it when a plan comes together!
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
It's finally that time of year when the one hatch that I try to avoid at all cost is wrapping up , the aluminum hatch. With school back in session and the cooler days we've had recently I figured it'd be safe to venture out and float one of our beautiful Ozark rivers this last Monday.
Myself and newfound fishing buddy Brian hit the road at 4:30 headed for the Niangua River to try our luck at catching a few raceway rainbows on a beautiful early fall day. We stopped off at NRO and made arrangements for our vehicle to be shuttled and then headed up to the boat ramp above the spring to get set up and on the water.
It didn't take long to see that the fish were in a very cooperative mood on this day , we had our first fish in the net before we even got past the spring hole.
It was a beautiful day to be on the water , the morning started off cool and clear and warmed up nicely to around 85 degrees before the day was over. It was a very comfortable 85 though, floating down a spring-fed river with your legs dangling in the cool water and a canopy of shade in many places made the temp seem just about perfect.
Seeing as we had a relatively short float back down to NRO we took our time and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the river as we fished our way downstream. Apart from one small group of floaters we didn't encounter another fisherman on the water once we got past the conservation access area , however the remnants of a long summer season were evident by the beer cans and strings of colored beads that littered the stream bottom in many places. It felt good to know that those people wouldn't be back for a good six months , leaving the river to folks who actually appreciate it for the wonderful resource it is instead of raping and pillaging it every weekend (that's my rant for the day!).
The fish definitely didn't disappoint on this day , we caught fish out of pretty much every hole we stopped to fish. If it looked like it should hold fish then it probably did. Fly selection didn't seem to be paramount , Brian and I both used larger beadhead nymphs under an indicator and I threw some pine squirrel sculpin patterns as well and all were catching fish. For the first time in several trips to the Niangua we caught numerous small browns along with the bows.
It's great to see the browns still being stocked in the stream, but without any type of protection through new regulations I'm afraid that the majority of them end up on a stringer enroute to a hot oil bath. A shame really as the Niangua has the potential to be a much better fishery if only the powers that be would treat it as a fishing resource and not just whore it out to canoe outfitters for six months out of the year. That's another whole topic of discussion though so we'll just leave it at that.
We didn't catch any big fish , everything was just average stocker size, but their abundance and willingness to eat made for a great fishing trip.
We spent the entire day out on the river , stopping for a quick streamside lunch about midday and making several pit stops along the way to enjoy a cold adult beverage.
We pulled the boats up onto the gravel bar at NRO around 5:00 that evening , feeling right with the world after a day spent relaxing on the river . We popped the top on a couple more cold ones to toast an awesome day and then loaded up the gear and headed back to KC. On the ride home we found ourselves already discussing our next adventure and where it might take us.
Here's to good friends and great fishing!!