Friday, November 20, 2009


At some point today, I'm supposed to leave for a few days on the North Fork of the White River in southern Missouri. However, I feel extremely unmotivated, even though it's a gorgeous, sunny day here. The car's clean, now I just need to tie some Elk Hair Caddis and Cracklebacks, pack up clothes and camping gear, and run and get food, leaders, and beer. Not necessarily in that order. We'll see.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Deer Hunting: Day 2.

I got up at 5 and headed out the door, setting up in the same block of woods I had been in the day before. This time I was in the southern part, hoping to see one or both of the does I'd seen last night. There's a draw which begins in that block of the woods and then runs up into the alfalfa field, I figured they used it to gain access to the field, and set up there.

The weather had changed considerably- it was about fifteen degrees cooler, overcast, and the wind had shifted from the south to the northeast. A turkey was yammering about 120 yards northwest of me, and I listened to that for about an hour and fifteen minutes before he moveed off onto the next property. I was amused- how often do you hear turkeys in November, particularly after having only seen one turkey the entire month before?

I waited it out till about 8:30 and saw no deer, then shifted back to where I had sat the day before. All day I only saw one deer- a little 4 point buck moving through some brush at about 90 yards, but had no desire to shoot him. Instead I just watched and enjoyed knowing he had no clue of my presence.

That may well be all the deer hunting I'm able to do this fall, until December, when the antlerless season begins. Maybe then I'll have more success...

Opening Weekend of Firearms Deer Season

I've been pretty lazy about deer season this year. Honestly, I haven't really thought about it. I'd done a little bit of half-hearted scouting during fall firearms turkey season, and again two weeks ago while I was out squirrel hunting, noting a few trails and watching five does mull around for a few minutes on the farm. I had also seen one substantial buck rub, but other than that, nothing really concrete.

I hadn't even sighted in my rifle up until Saturday afternoon, when I got to the farm around 1:30. Once that was done, I wandered over and checked out a spot I'd been thinking of over the past couple weeks...

I found a scrape first, then two or three of these, running along an old logging road in the woodlot. It made me fairly confident I at least had a clue what was going on, and I set up under a big white oak. It's a spot that would be ideal for hunting from a treestand- the ridges open and grassy, with an overstory of white oak, hickory, black walnut and maple, and the draws thick with blackberry, multiflora rose, and gooseberry. Unfortunately, I'm deathly afraid of heights. I've tried hunting from a deer stand, and it just gives me the willies. I've even tried shooting deer from them, but I'm so confident I'll shoot and fall out of the stand- even with one of those harnesses on- that I'm shaking too much to confidently pull the trigger. So I tend to find an adequately comfortable tree and just hunt from the ground.

As I was scraping away the leaves around the tree with my foot, I heard two grunts about 150 yards away, near the fence line. Either it was an exceptionally dumb deer, I figured, or the landowner across the way was hunting there, too. I finished up, hunkered down, and waited.

I was out till about five, without seeing anything. I heard movement to my left, down in one of the brushy draws, and figured it may be deer moving- either that or some turkeys scratching for acorns. But I didn't glimpse any deer until I walked back to the car, and two does were out feeding in the middle of an alfalfa field, about 300 yards away from me. I had no desire to shoot that far in the impending darkness and hope I hit it, and had absolutely no confidence in my shooting that distance, even with my arm resting on a fencepost. So I just watched them until it became too dark. They were momentarily intrigued by my presence, but soon went back to loafing and feeding in the field. It was a fun thing to see. Perhaps tomorrow...

Veteran's Day Duck Hunt

Jake, Paul, Jesse and I wound up going down to Eagle Bluffs at four in the morning on Veteran's Day to try our hand at drawing in for a duck hunt.

I'm not a big duck hunter. I've only done it twice, and it's fun, but it seems one of those things that's a huge leap of faith-waking up well before dawn and hoping you draw a high number in the first place, then wondering where to hunt, whether ducks will be there, whether ducks will be migrating, whether ducks will move at all that day. But I still enjoy it, even the slow days.

We got to Eagle Bluffs, and it wasn't nearly a busy as I thought it would be. Veteran's Day is a state holiday, and usually you'd see a couple parties of MDC folks out. But it wasn't a particularly stellar day to be duck hunting- it was sunny and warm, and the night before had been clear, which apparently means if ducks are migrating, they'll do so in the dark. But it'd be a nice day to spend knee-deep in marsh water, if nothing else. We drew pill six, and chose to hunt pool 12. It hadn't been doing well, but even to me it seemed logical- from the aerial map it looked as though it was wedged between two refuges areas, and there was plenty of corn still left.

We got out to the water and it was a bit of a hike into where we wanted to be. It was a moist-soil area, flooded about knee-deep with water, between two stands of corn. We found a fairly open spot, not ideal, but it'd work, and set out about two dozen decoys and a mojo. After shifting once just before daylight we were set up, waiting to see what came by...

Early on a group of five came in and circled our spread, three breaking off and looking interested. We should've shot, but didn't, and they wound up taking off towards one of the refuges. And that was about it, really. We saw very few ducks the rest of the day, maybe ten or fifteen. We wound up leaving around 10 in the morning, after about an hour of seeing no birds flying, and went back to Jake's apartment and watched movies and crashed. All and all the whole thing was a wash, but I'm excited to try again...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

October 21: Current River Revisited, and My First Trip to Mill Creek.

I woke up around 7:30, in my car, sore and tired from a bad night's sleep. It was cloudier than yesterday, and cooler, and I paid for my campsite and went over to the Lodge to grab breakfast. It was decent, and I bought a couple sets of clippers, since I'd forgotten mine in Columbia and had to use my pocketknife to cut tippet yesterday.

I fished the same stretch, Tan Vat downstream about halfway to Baptist Camp, and had about as poor luck as yesterday. The river was still up, still cloudy, and fish were still in a funk. Occasionally you'd see them flashing for nymphs or darting around for emergers, and every once in a while a true bruiser would rocket up out of the water and flop back down impressively...but the fish were fussy and didn't want to eat my flies. I did manage one 14 inch rainbow on a peacock bodied olive wooly bugger, a size 6 or 8, but otherwise there wasn't much action.

I try not to be dissappointed by fishing, even by poor fishing: I mean, it's not as though the fish or the river really owes you a spectacular day. It was more irritating that I could occasionally see fish, that I could tell they were eating, but I obviously didn't have anything they wanted to partake of. So around 3:00 pm I figured I'd cut my losses before it began to rain, and check out Mill Creek, a small wild trout fishery southwest of Rolla, near Little Piney and Spring Creeks.

Yelton Spring, on Mill Creek

It was a fun little road trip down small gravel county and Forest Service roads, and I first stopped at Yelton Spring. Not much there, just a little gravel pulloff and trail which leads you down to the spring and the foundation of what I assume was once a mill. The stream is pretty and the water deep and blue and fast, but less than ten feet wide in most spots, so I figured I'd keep going downstream and check it out more.

The next spot I found wasn't marked, I just saw a staircase going over a barbed wire fence, and a Forest Service Road. I got out and explored, crossing an overgrown hayfield and trying to access the stream. The riparian corridor was thick with old-growth multiflora rose, blackberry, and greenbrier, and after thrashing around in it for about ten minutes I came to an old barbed-wire fence which thwarted my progress.

I went back to my car and drove about a hundred yards down the road, where I came across the first MDC sign and a grassy two track into the field, drove down it as far as I trusted my Saturn to go, and got out and rigged up. I didn't bother tying on a fly, figuring that'd be one less thing to get tangled in briars. I set out across the field and bushwhacked my way, finally, to the stream, coming out at the head of a deep run sitting tight against a small rock bluff.

I started off just upstream from there, in a small, deep pool with a small sycamore rootwad on my side. I tied on a size 16 chartreuse Copper John, figuring it was as good a choice as any, and dapped the fly and indicator in behind the rootwad. The first tag my little pink float went under, and I pulled up a six inch striped shiner. I was a little dissappointed, in the back of my mind thinking the stream may be a dog. But the next cast produced a gorgeous little four inch, wild, streambred rainbow.

The fish were awfully pretty, sparsely spotted, mostly along the back, with pale yellow sides bisected by a deep red stripe and purplish blue parr marks. I've heard that a lack of spots on rainbows is a sign of inbreeding, which would make sense if the population started with only a couple milk cans of fry. Any way you slice it though, they were awfully pretty little fish.

Anyway, I caught about a half dozen on an olive beadhead caddis nymph, then switched to a size 16 parachute Adams and caught a bunch more. They weren't at all picky about flies, and would rocket out of the water to smash dries, just as wild fish should. Hairwing duns, small yellow Humpies, soft hackles swung and stripped subsurface, cracklebacks, hare's ears...they all worked.

It was a lot of fun.

October 21st- Current River

Headed out from Hargrove's around two in the afternoon on Tuesday, after buying the requisite leaders, tippet, and thingamabobbers, for the Current River near Salem, Missouri. I figured I'd get down just in time for some evening caddis action, and perhaps even stay late on the water and try my hand at night-fishing.

I was on the water by four- the river was up and a bit cloudy, and although you could see to the bottom in most places, picking out individual fish was pretty difficult. You'd see them flash as they turned to pick up nymphs or emergers, but that was about it. There were tons of caddis on the bushes, grayish-tan jobs around size 18, but very few were actually flying out over the water. You'd see two or three fluttering upstream most of the time, not enough to get the fish on top. Aside from that were a few size 20 blue-winged olives, and that was about it as far as bugs. I was surprised at the number of big dragonflies out.

I only caught one fish, a 15 inch brown on a beadhead caddis larvae with clear yellow flanks and spots about the size of a pencil's eraser. I took a few photos and let her go, and continued fishing till about 8:30. In the dark I tied on a big black sex dungeon, but got no hits.

I "camped" at Montauk, basically just grabbed a spot and started a fire, and drank a beer. Around 10:30 or so I heard something in the bushes and flicked on my headlamp: nothing. I turned it off, and heard the noise again. The lamp came on, and again, nothing. The third time I flicked on the headlamp I saw it, a big skunk, about twelve feet away from me. Apparently skunks have very poor eyesight, and very poor hearing, or this particular skunk just didn't particularly care about my presence, and my headlamp in its eyes. At its closest it was rummaging on the other side of the fire ring from me, a distance of three or four feet. Eventually though, it sauntered off down the road to the next campground, disaster averted.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Operation Trout-Snatch 2009, Day II: The Gibbon River Adventure

We headed over to the Gibbon River at Virginia Meadows, in the north-central portion of the park, the logic being that the stretch of road between Norris and Madison Junction would soon close for the season, making it best to hit this river first.

The Gibbon is probably my favorite river in the world- big, slow, lazy water curving around in an enormous, scenic meadow. It's a shame it's so close to the road here. But it's also probably the laziest river I've ever fished; I just get lackadaisical and lazy about fishing it. That's probably why I still haven't caught a fish there. I've seen plenty, I've had many rise, I've even hooked a few, but I have yet to bring one in.

I fished upstream from the parking area, about to the culvert where the warm waters of Artist's Paint Pots spill into the river. I hooked a few fish on black foam ants and Elk Hair Caddis, but didn't land anything. I even tried the super-sneak on some little browns I saw feeding along some vegetation, but to no avail.

So I wound up goofing off on the river most of the day, looking at rocks and making lazy casts, watching fish rise and trying to figure out what they were eating. Wound my way back to the car and had a couple beers, goofed off some more before we eventually got hailed on.


It wasn't big hail, though, maybe the size of a pea. But there was a lot of it, and it was coming down hard, but it was fun to sit and drink in it. Winders, Cain, Jo and I wound up sitting under a grove of trees drinking and watching the river and watching a guy from Minnesota scope out the valley looking for a bull elk that's been in the area. It sounded as though his vacation pretty much consisted of driving around Yellowstone looking for bull elk with telephoto lenses and spotting scopes. He'd spent all of the day before driving around the southern loop looking for them, and was now working on the northeast loop. I thought it sounded sort of lame, but then again, he probably though sitting on a river drinking beer in a hailstorm was lame, too.

So yes. Two years fishing on the Gibbon. No fish to hand. But still, I love that river.