Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March: Fly Fishing the Ozarks then on to Michigan

New handicap access addition to Bennett Spring SP

March 7, 2013: Sean and I made plans to fish a long weekend. I met Sean at Bennett Spring State Park a little after 10 AM. We stayed with the dry fly working the waters above the dam in zone 1. The water was up a little with a slight chalky color. The day was sunny with a light breeze blowing downstream. The fishermen were spaced throughout zone 1, with fewer fishermen seen than late winter catch and release days in February. I found a few cooperative trout before noon but found the trout to be finicky, refusing my fly many times. I could get their attention and they would move to the fly only to nose it and turn away. Actually, it was fun watching them size up the fly; I wish to know what it was that turn them off to it. We saw more stone flies and took a photo opportunity. 

The stone fly hatch continues for another week
Sean did much better catching, releasing nine trout to my three with his dry flies. We finished the day below the stone bridge with Sean taking a few out of the discharge flow. We finished at 4 PM; I had return to Springfield for a MTFA meeting that evening with Craig Fuller (MDC) providing the program.

March 8, 2013: We had lunch at Pizza House in Springfield. After lunch, Sean and I drove south and took a look at Beaver Creek below fisherman’s nose and down past the maiden hole. We were checking water levels and watching for signs of shad. There were a few other fishermen downstream close to the state park. After an hour, we released one blue-gill. We retreated to look at Barker Hole and again fished above Swan Creek without a bite. We covered 100 yards of beach and decided to try water farther upstream. There we found a walleye, 21-inch female about an hour before sunset.

21-inch walleye taken out of Bull Shoals
 We covered this water and decided since night fall was near to fish the pot hole on the east side. There was no flow from the power house the time we fished with the lake level 649 ft. Sean picked up a line-bass and I released two rainbow trout for our night fishing. We called it a night of fishing at 9 PM.

March 9, 2013: There was a state MTFA meeting at Bennett Spring SP. The meeting was to start at noon. Sean and I left Springfield at 10 AM. Sean decided to fish zone 1 and had success with the dry fly taking trout when a cloud passed in front of the sun, diminishing the light on the water and allowing the trout to see the fly. The meeting lasted until 1:30 PM, I found Sean still stalking the waters above the dam. We decided to drive to Rolla and fish the blue ribbon waters of the Little Piney River at Lane Spring Federal camp grounds.

Little Piney River - blue ribbon water
The Little Piney is a small stream with gravel bars, eroded banks and down trees to provide cover for wild trout. It is one of three blue ribbons streams in the area: Mill Creek, Spring Creek and Little Piney.
Sean and I split up, Sean started to fish as soon as seeing the stream. I took a walk up stream looking for promising water. It was near sunset, and a few small trout came to the top and were taken with dry flies. I saw one other person up stream of me and soon he retreated and went out of sight. The small streams are places many come to find solitude and we respect other’s space on the water.
Sean walked upstream to find me. Since this was our first trip to this area, we figured it was best to leave before dark. We drove back to Rolla for a meal at Bandana’s BBQ. After dinner, Sean returned to St. Louis and I drove back to Springfield. I did hit rain at Lebanon and it continued to rain to Springfield. I plan to return to the Little Piney again, a fine blue water stream.

March 10, 2013: This was my final day to fish for a long weekend. It rained most of the night with 1.5 inches measured in Springfield. It was after 2 PM when I left for the Pot Hole, the rain had stopped but the forecast was windy and colder into the night. As I was getting ready to fish, a 35 mpr wind blew through followed by dark clouds. There was some generation through the powerhouse with the lake level 650.5 ft. Since there was a current, I decided to fish the pot hole hard. I covered the area above the three trees and worked my way down stream. It was near sunset when I hooked a 23-inch male walleye. Just before that I had decided to try farther down, but that changed with this fine catch. I stayed until 9 PM, without another bite. So it goes… needless to say I was very satisfied with the single fish.

23-inch walleye taken out of Bull Shoals 
My next time to fish will be later this week. I checked the lake levels and Bull Shoals continues to be and is at 650 ft. As the water warms, the shad will move up with white bass and walleye to follow. Good fishing to come.

March 14, 2013: I made another trip to Bull Shoals Lake to look for walleye and white bass. My first stop was Beaver Creek below maiden hole. A normal level for Beaver Creek is three feet according to the USGS web site and it rose 3.5 feet after last weekend’s rain. It was at 3.5 feet; up 0.5 feet from last Friday. I figured a few fish moved up into the holes. The water was clear with the edges muddy due to the westerly wind blowing up stream against the banks. Again, I saw no shad movement with the water possibility too cold. The bite will probably happen after this weekend with the general warm up and more rain predicted for the first of the week. Some fellow stopped to talk while I was on Beaver Creek and he reported white bass taken last week.
Beaver Creek 
At 4:30 PM, I drove to the Pot Hole; very few people fishing at the time. I made a pass through familiar waters before Rod and Keith pulled in. We chatted for a bit, while they geared up for an evening of fishing. They started where I was fishing and I fished below the three trees. A short time later, Ty Ingram drove in with a friend and we talked for a bit. The sun was about to slip behind the hill and the east side of the pot hole was filling up with fishermen with little room to move in that stretch of water.
It was getting near sun set and I took off for Silver Creek hoping to fish with less people and find better fishing. The water in Bull Shoals at dusk was covered in dimple rings made by trout. I manage to take a few with a streamer. Forty minutes later, all activity stopped. 
Released a trout near Silver Creek
It was 8 PM; I made my way back to the Pot Hole. Most of the people had already left. Rod was fishing in front of the three trees when we crossed paths. He reported catching a 13-inch male white bass and Keith picked up a trout. They said no one else caught a fish. A short time later they left and I stayed to fish another hour. The water through the powerhouse completely shut off and the water went flat. I called it quits at 9:30 PM. I did look for the comet and did not see it, hoping for better results in late November.

On to Michigan to fish the Pere Marquette River

Access to the Pere Marquette River
March 24, 2013: My brother (Kirk), his three sons (Trevor, Trent and Turner), Mike, a friend of Trent and me fished the Pere Marquette River (PM) near Walhalla MI. We fished three days for Steelhead trout moving into the stream from Lake Michigan for their annual spring spawn.

The Pere Marquette River was designated a National Wild and Scenic River in July 1978. This river is the longest river without dams or impoundments in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. The Pere Marquette was the first stream in the United States to acquire German brown trout in 1884. The stream has return from near disaster from logging operations that clear cut most of the Jack Pines at the turn of the twentieth century, which were sent down the river to mills near Ludington with the lumber rebuilding Chicago. Since designated as a national park, the river has returned to a gentle wandering and flowing stream. There are spawn runs of King Salmon in August and September, Coho (Silver Salmon) later in the fall and steelhead trout in March and April.  There is a healthy population of brown trout year round that can be taken with dry flies during the late spring and summer (note there is a season to creel brown trout).

This area near Walhalla has several accesses. We fished the Maple leaf access and worked our way up to Ackerson’s cabin. On the first day of fishing Kirk caught eleven browns and skippers and lost two Steelhead trout. Trevor lost three Steelhead trout, caught seven browns and skippers. Trent released five small trout (skippers), Turner caught two skippers. Mike had one brown and I released a 16-inch rainbow. There is about a foot of snow on the ground. The stream was clear, normal level and cold. The river flow was 880 cfs with visibility to three feet and the level was 2.5 feet. The sun came out late afternoon, which made wading in the river comfortable. We left at 5 PM, to get a cabin and dine at Emerson Lake Inn.

March 25, 2013: We started at 9:30 AM with the air temperature just above freezing. We drove in at the Ackerson access. The area changed by ten years of tree growth (this area was clear cut in the 1980’s). I started my day with a slip and fall on an icy hill and broke the tip of my 10’ 6# fly rod. I fished with it using 3 out of 4 pieces and struggled to get good cast. I called Kirk at 11 AM and we returned to the Alpine Motel to get another rod. Kirk dropped me off at the Ackerson access and he went back to the Maple leave access. The day was overcast with occasional snow seen in the air. I made my way down stream fishing behind gravel runs and along down trees. I finally took a three brown trout near the island, which proved to be good fishing for others in our party. For the day, Kirk released six brown trout, two skippers, and one steelhead trout (25-inches). Trevor released eleven brown trout, three skippers and had two fish that broke-off. Trent released one brown and had two fish that broke off. Turner had one skipper and Mike released five brown trout. Most of the action was after 5 PM and we fished until 7:30 PM.
Turner with 27-inch Steelhead trout
March 26, 2013: The day was overcast with snow flurries throughout the morning. No ice in the guides for the morning of fishing, but it was above freezing with any wind. We made our way to the riverbanks by 8:30 AM. Kirk started at the hangman. Turner and I walked to the Birch tree. I saw a pair of trout on a redd. My approach sent them into deeper water. I went above to the next gravel depression to run the fly through deeper water. An hour later Turner and Kirk, gave it some attention and Turner connected with a 27-inch female Steelhead trout. We finished at 11 AM, packed out of the Alpine Motel and on the road to get back to Battle Creek. For the morning, Kirk released one Steelhead trout and a Brown trout. Trent released a dozen brown trout, one of the brown trout measured nineteen inches. Trevor released four brown trout.

This was a short trip, but it was great to back to the PM. The walking through a foot of snow and trekking the hills wore my knees out; it felt like gravel pellets under the kneecaps. I forgot how strenuous fishing the PM was in years past. I did not hook-up with a Steelhead with a fly rod. The water was cold at 34°F most of the time leaving the trout in deep holes and sluggish. The ideal water temperature is 42-45°F with tea stained water, usually after a rain and slight rise in the river to get these trout active and chasing flies. Hopefully, I will be able to return the waters of the Pere Marquette River in the near future.