Monday, August 11, 2014

August: Eleven Point River

One of many shoals on the Eleven Point River
August 5, 2014 (Tuesday): Bill Taylor and I returned to the Eleven Point River after two years. We planned our trip to be in the middle of the week hoping for solitude and good fishing. I called Andy Turner before our trip. Andy is the biologist with the MDC overseeing the 11 Point River. He reported six thousand trout placed in the blue ribbon area three weeks ago by the MDC. The stream was clear at 3.1 feet with a 525 cfs flow.
Hwy 19 Bridge near Greer Access
Bill and I fished the blue ribbon water section, which is 5.5 miles in length between Greer access and Turner Mill for three days and camp two nights on the gravel bars. The first day was hot and sticky with wet wading very comfortable in the cool waters of the Eleven Point River.  Bill caught the first rainbow trout near the Hwy 19 Bridge as we paddled upstream from Greer access. Several reports from fishermen in passing canoes indicated fishing had been very good with individuals telling us the flow from the spring upstream from the bridge was where the trout were plentiful. We wanted to set camp before dark, so we made our way down stream and made several stops to fish.
The first island below Greer had a distinct trail and Bill and I checked it out. I was told on past trips of an old homestead with a graveyard. There were at least twenty head stones with many of them before the 20th century; a few stones where readable with names and dates and a few head stones eroding away with time and from the elements of rain, wind and floods.

We caught a few more trout and made our way to the third island and decided to make camp. It was very hot getting out of the water and setting up tents, gathering firewood and preparing dinner. The warm uplifting air was forming Cumulonimbus clouds in the north. With a campfire ready for steaks, a thunderstorm moved in. The storm seemed to move around us with several lightning strikes less than one second distance from our camp. It was a bit unnerving as we watch the clouds moved to the south. It did provide a breeze and a light rain. Dinner was not delayed with steak, bake potatoes and fresh green beans prepared over a campfire with my wife’s peach cobbler for dessert. We sat in our chairs watching the river water pass by with thunder heard from a distant cloud as we finished dinner. It was good to be back on the banks of the Eleven Point River.
Fishing just above our first night of camping
That evening we took off to fish water near our camp, the campfire was low and it was smoldering as we fished. The sun was falling behind the hills as long shadows turned to dusk. Bill and I returned to camp an hour later to built the fire and sat in our chairs watching the bats and waiting for night to fall with a chorus of insect and frogs warming up to serenade us until morning sun. The air was dry with a light fog over the cool water of the river. The night was without incident, no critters in the camp, thunderstorm moved far off to the south. The sounds of the river with the rushing water crept into our sleep with soft voices heard in the distance.

August 6, 2014 (Wednesday): We were up and ready at 6:30 AM, the coffee was the first thing to go on the stove. Bacon and eggs placed in a tortilla shell for a breakfast burrito. We broke camp, taking down the tents, repacking gear and placing it in the canoe. Before we left the site, we returned to the waters we fished the night before, finding a few more trout. We made our way down stream fishing favorite spots and enjoying the warm and sunny day. We stopped at the last island for lunch with four women making their way to the next access in their kayaks. We exchanged greetings and wished them well going down stream. We had a few more canoes and kayaks pass through; all were courteous with greetings and left us to fish in quiet waters. 
We continued to move down stream and planned to set camp at the gravel bar below Little Hurricane Creek. Several powerboats made their way up stream from Turner Mill. With the stream level at 3.1 feet, it was surely a test of boating skills to find enough water to keep the boats and props out of the rocks through the shallow shoals. We could hear the motors from the boats for an hour before they returned to Turner access downstream.
2nd night of camping, below Little Hurricane Creek
The gravel bar below Hurricane Creek had been washed out with half of the gravel banks missing. A sycamore tree fell; half submerged in the river and with high water out of Little Hurricane Creek from recent rains directed the rushing waters to the carry gravel down stream. The river is always changing and it is amazing when we find new spots to fish or pitch a tent. There was enough space to set two tents with plenty of shade to get out of the sun. It was late in the afternoon; the tents were set, gear in place and ready to fish before supper. Bill and I worked our way downstream through a shoal with large boulders on river left. We found more trout at the head of the shoal with wading becoming more difficult and catching fewer fish as we made our way farther downstream. Bill gave a shout out from upstream to let me know the time; it was near 6 PM. I retreated through the trees and hiked back to camp taking the Ozark trail a few yards up the nearby hill. The fire was started and we were waiting for the proper heat; hot coals sear a steak. A clap of thunder was heard, it came out of the north. The trees behind us made it difficult to see an approaching storm. Another lightning flash and boom, less than a second apart sounded the alarm. I was convinced a rain was near. Again, the storm made an appearance and in a short times no longer a threat.
A Swallow-tail butterfly resting on my finger
Dinner was a repeat from the previous night, with steak, potatoes and green beans. That evening we sat in our chairs, staring at a struggling fire. Since the wood was very wet, it never did take off and burn. We retired that evening before 9 PM, with the gentle and softer sounds of the river. Great horn Owls could be heard in distant hills. Actually, I slept rather soundly this night.
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Before I left the campsite, a moment was spent to spread Sean's ashes.
Sean and I spent a night here the last trip together fishing
the Eleven Point River 2012

August 7, 2014 (Thursday): The next morning we were moving after 6:30 AM, coffee on the stove with breakfast served in short order. We broke camp by 8:30 with Bill catching trout below Little Hurricane Creek. 


Bill picking up a trout from a canoe seat
We fished the area to Mary Decker Shoal for the rest of the morning before stopping at Mary Decker for lunch. Bill was fishing this area and broke off at the large boulder on river right. He was convinced a large fish took his fly. I remember Jim Scheve breaking off at the same spot years ago, leaving him to ponder to the size of the fish.


The shoal above the Cave Hole
A group of canoes and kayaks pulled up beside us. The youth wanted to swim and the older gentlemen wanted to fish. Bill and I decided to move on down the stream; I wanted to work the large boulders at Mary Decker shoal.  I fished most of the area to Mary Decker and was able to go river left to fish a pool below the boulders. There in a pool behind a two-foot rock and I caught a 17-inch rainbow; a photo was taken and quickly released.


A trout taken from below Mary Decker shoal
Bill caught up with me and we took the canoe through the boulders and fished the hole before Hurricane Creek and down to the flow of the small creek. In the past, these waters usually provide good fishing but this day, we did not find a trout. 


Dr Bill Taylor examining scat from an unknown animal
Our last stop was the shoal above the cave hole. I took a moment to get a video clip of Sean’s ashes over these waters. I have fond memories of this spot when Sean waded out to the middle of the rapids and caught a number of trout and he realized how wonderful it was to fish the Eleven Point River.

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Richard’s Canoe had my truck parked at Turner Mill Access. It was after 4:30 PM when we pulled the canoe up to the concrete ramp. Within an hour, the truck was packed, the canoe was on the rack and we were driving the back roads to Hwy 19. Bill wanted to stop and hike to Greer Spring; this would be his first visit to the spring. There were thunderheads storms forming to the north, having us to ponder if an hour hike in and out to the spring was a wise decision. 


Greer Spring
We decided to go for it with several vehicles parked and other visitors on the trail. We started to walk the trail and continued to hear thunder. Before we made it to the spring, we met five hikers on their return trip to the parking lot. We made it to the spring without rain, with darkness creeping on us. 




We spent thirty minutes at the spring taking photos and exploring the karst terrain. It was 6:30 PM, when we made it back to the truck. Our next destination was Mountain View to get a dinner before returning to Springfield.



Bill and I caught and released twenty rainbow trout. Even with the near ninety degrees days, the evenings were very pleasant. It seems when I camp and fish the Eleven Point River, thunderstorms seem to find me there. I do not have a problem with rain when I fish, but the lightning streaking overhead can be unnerving, especially with a graphite rod pointing to the sky. The eagles were seen each day flying overhead, well beyond the lens of a camera. There was a number of different species of butterflies sampling nectar from the wild flowers along the river banks. It was good the fish the 11 Point River again, and I hope to return this autumn.