Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ozark Fly Fishing Week-End: Current River and the Little Piney

I hadn’t fished the Missouri Ozarks since last Fall. And I hadn’t fished at all since I got back from Patagonia a month ago! This past week-end I took care of both of those problems.

Finally it warmed up. The river levels were good and my friend and associate in STREAM SIDE ADVENTURES, Preston Larimer, had time to join me. We converged on the Current River within minutes of each other at our appointed time of 10 am. The TanVat access had a couple of cars parked at it and as we were deciding if we would start there, two more cars pulled in - that sealed it. Down to Baptist access and a hike down to the first bluff below Ashley Creek.

What could we expect on the first great spring day? A lot of fisherman. As we hiked down the river we passed two other pairs of fly fishers, both were well above Ashley Creek. As we moved down, Preston stripped a streamer through a couple of our favorite spots but I just walked along, watched him and enjoy the day. Just above Ashley I did see a rise. I believe you should never pass up a rise. After a couple of casts a nice rainbow took my size 16 gray caddis.

Down at the ledge, sitting on a log eating our lunch, we noticed a few fish starting to rise. Since I had a fish already, I got to do “play by play” on Preston’s attempt(s). I have the (s) after attempt since he missed the first fish. Fish were only rising sporadically so we decide to head further up stream.

Two fly fishing scientists contemplating why the fishing was slow would be interesting for a non fisher to listen to. Temperatures of spring water, thermal mass, solar radiation, time of travel and a few off the wall speculations were proposed. The consensus was that the water closer to the spring would be warmer and the hatch should be more vigorous. So Baptist to TanVat was the destination.

I’d like to think that we got the science right but even if we didn’t the change in fishing location was. We got into one of those good hatches, enough caddis coming off to have the fish actively feeding and holding in feeding stations but not so many that your caddis got lost in the crowd.

Last year we found fish rising below down trees or other stable habitat. http://www.streamsideadventures.com/features/where-are-the-caddis.html The fish we found rising this year were in the same types of locations. A significant river rise in the late Fall and another in mid-January had moved a lot of the stream bottom, washing away the larval caddis. But as in past years, large woody debris and “chunk rock” had been a safe haven and below those areas were where the trout were.

Sunday was my day to fish the Little Piney. I had made arrangements to float the Little Piney with Brent Frazee, outdoor writer for the Kansas City Star. Brent had written about the Little Piney 20 plus years ago when he had fished it with Tom Shipley of the musical group Brewer and Shipley. Back then the Little Piney was a put and take stream. Now it is managed as wild rainbow fisheries.

It only took a few drifts of a mohair leech http://www.fedflyfishers.org/Default.aspx?tabid=4478 through the first riffle to produce a beautiful 8 inch wild rainbow. At each of the next couple of riffles the leech worked it magic on those 8 inch beauties.

The Little Piney had a winter of fluvial processes affecting its geo-morphology. Stream side trees were down ever where. If they were lying at an angle they had changed the Little Piney’s course, filling in some runs and creating others. And there were root wads. Root wads with some deep scour holes. At more than one – five to be exact – the scour holes gave up colorful fat and sassy 14 to 16 inch fish.

By our best estimates the 4 and half mile float from the US 63 Bridge to the “Vida Slab” produced upward to 20 rainbows touched and near half that many on for a while. Except for our 5 good ones, most were 7 to 9 inches but beautifully colored and in great condition.

As I drove home through Rolla at about 5:00 pm it was close to 70 degrees. We had seen a family having a picnic at the Forest Service area, a mother and her son passed us in their kayaks and about a half a mile above the take out tat the Vida slab we passed a fisherman who had been fishing his way upstream. On the first truly nice day after our long cold winter we had the Little Piney to ourselves. Good fish and no crowds, it is one of the Ozarks hidden trout fishing gems.

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