AN EARLY DECEMBER DAY
I'm fully aware that with one or two exceptions Missouri is not an "end destination" for fly fishing for trout. However, we are blessed with several "wild trout" fisheries that provide opportunities for those of us who don't care for the park atmosphere. I'll tell of a day of fishing one of these precious jewels of the Ozarks if I may be indulged to not mention its name. It is a delicate fishery and will suffer from much pressure.
Perhaps a little explanation is in order at this point. I say "wild trout" and by that, here in Missouri, it means trout naturally reproduced in streams that will support trout and their reproduction. Salmonids were never indigenous to Missouri so all trout in the state came from someplace else. Trout waters are divided into "Blue Ribbon", "Red Ribbon" and "White Ribbon" areas. Blue Ribbon means there is no stocking of hatchery trout nor has there been for years. At this point in time any trout in those waters were reproduced there. In those areas it is flies or hard bodied lures only. No soft plastics, worms, corn, Powr Bait, etc., etc. There is a limit of one fish, eighteen inches or greater, per day. Trust me, there aren't many keepers coming from Blue Ribbon waters.
Red Ribbon areas undergo some stocking I believe and I don't know what the restrictions are. The habitat in Red Ribbon areas is suitable for trout but not always for reproduction although some probably takes place.
White Ribbon areas are put and take fisheries. Hatchery trout are stocked several times a year and regarding methods, anything goes.
The advantage to these areas, as I stated earlier, is that one can fish for trout but not be compelled to fish at one of Missouri's trout parks.
Preferring wild trout, solitude and at least the feeling of untrammeled wilderness, (if ones' imagination is vivid enough), about the only trout fishing I do is in Blue Ribbon areas. Neither my wife nor I care for the flavor of trout, and yes, we have tried it so many ways we've lost count. The argument "you've never had it fixed right" will not hold water in our case. Therefore, keeping fish is not a consideration.
Saturday, December 3rd, 2011 a new acquaintance of mine and I made plans to fish one of the several Blue Ribbon areas near my home. Kevin was fairly new to fly fishing, had only caught a few bluegills and was anxious to go after some wild trout. Unbeknownst to me he was also 11 years younger than my youngest son. That presented no problems whatsoever; I just wasn't expecting such a young man, (read a little jealousy on my part regarding his 25 years!).
We visited for a while and enjoyed another early morning cup of coffee while we discussed the weather conditions. The day before a cold front had moved into the area bringing along showers. I was a bit concerned regarding our success on his first trip. As he had driven a couple hours to fish we were going to give it our best shot so we loaded his gear into my pick-up and took off!
We arrived on the creek shortly after 8:00 AM then rigged our rods and changed into our waders. I was fishing a Pocket Water Rod 7', 2/1, 4 wt. bamboo rod rigged with a Terenzio #4 DT silk line and a silk leader tipped with 6X. I never did learn what Kevin was using but it was stored in a toothbrush holder. When he got the rod assembled it was an honest to goodness 9 foot graphite rod. I was impressed!!! He did tell me it was a 5 weight. Since I have been fishing with silk for so many years upon seeing his plastic line it looked huge!
We rigged up with a dry and a dropper about eighteen inches beneath the dry. We both used a #14 Elk Hair Caddis on top. For a dropper I used a weighted #14 Wooly Bugger variant I started tying a couple years ago. It's been successful for me so I continue to use it. Kevin opted for a #16 Pheasant Tail bead head.
At the first run Kevin hooked his first Missouri wild trout, a six incher, after only a few casts. I was quite happy for him but the elation he displayed, to a weathered and grizzled old fisherman like me; you would have thought he had a new world record Rainbow. It was a grand experience to witness his display of enthusiasm upon catching his first Rainbow trout.
We began to work our way upstream and very much to my surprise and relief the bite continued. We both caught a few fish from each run. Nearly all of them were caught on the dropper. No hatch was coming off and there was slim chance there would be any. I did manage to catch two fish on the dry, both of which were the best for the day and they were between twelve and thirteen inches according to the signature wraps on my rod. Most of the fish that we brought to hand were in the six to eight inch range although we did catch many fish from several year classes. From that I deduce that fishing will continue to be good on this creek for at least a few years. That is provided we don't suffer from an extended drought.
During the course of the day neither of us kept count of how many fish we caught. Certainly there was enough to hold our interest and elicit a shout, hoot and holler from Kevin several times. We spent 7 hours wading and fishing this beautiful little creek. By then my knees and feet were about done in. Fortunately for me, the light was also fading down in this narrow valley and we knew the forecast for rain was about to reach fruition. I didn't feel quite so old when Kevin confessed to being a "good and tired" himself.
We hiked back to the pick-up, shed our fishing gear, put the rods away and began the twenty minute drive to my house. On the way home we both had smiles on our faces and several comments were made about particular fish. My young friend stated he had never caught such beautiful fish and that he was surprised at the iridescence of their colors. I had noticed that they seemed a lot brighter than usual, almost as if in breeding colors. Kevin made the observation that God had truly blessed us by providing such a wonderful place to spend the day and such beautiful fish to catch. I couldn't agree more.
Upon arrival at my house we loaded Kevin's gear back into his pick-up. I invited him in for a hot meal and something to drink but evidently the thoughts of a young wife and fourteen month old son at his home were more enticing. I could see his grin glowing as he backed out of my drive and headed for home. As he got his pick-up turned around to leave, he rolled his window down and yelled, "I'll be back!!"
Kevin, you're welcome any time. Please do come back soon.