Monday, January 4, 2016

January 2016: Missouri State Parks

Roaring River State Park
Recent damage from the flood waters last week
January 3, 2016 Monday: The weekend after New Years, I invited my 5 year old grandson to fish on the following Monday. Des has fished with me before and the weather was unseasonably warm. 

His mother, Jenn over heard the conversation and she wanted to go. So, we tried to figure out what to do for Fiona, Jenn’s second child and my second grandchild. Jenn thought it would be a great idea to take Fiona along; bundle her up and let her experience a day at Roaring River State Park. 

The day was forecast to be cooler than we thought, with the high to be near forty degrees. Jenn and I decided to give it a try and made the decision if it was too cold, we would make a short day of it. 

Desmond fishing the upper section at Roaring River State Park
We arrived before noon and parked near the hatchery. The water was high with some chalkiness to the water clarity. Jenn had Fiona bundled up and place her in a child carrier on the front, so Fiona would not miss anything. Des had his waders on and was busy collecting rocks and getting his boots wet. He did fish with me for a period of time and demonstrated his roll cast. We managed to hook a few and he was more than happy to bring them to shore. 

We took a hike through the hatchery. Fiona had a good time watching the trout with Des throwing fish food to them. The cave was flooded due to recent rains with the walk to the cave under eight inches of water. We released four trout everyone getting into the action. 

We packed to leave at 3 PM, the sun was reaching for the western horizon and it was cooling off. Before we left the park, we drove down to zone three below the camping area. There were a number of down trees and many of them in the camping area. There was a crew on hand with a dump truck starting the cleanup operation. The handicap access ramp was spared but the trees just below were taken out by the last high water. I am sure they will shore up the banks and have the park back in shape in short order.

It was good to get out with Fiona and her first fishing trip. Des had a good time and it was fun watching him explore and develop his skills. Jenn enjoyed the day, just to get out. Fun for all

Roaring River State Park

January 9, 2016 Saturday: Bob Randall, the new MTFA Springfield chapter president; one of his suggestions; to have a monthly outing with members. The first outing was to meet at Roaring River State Park for a day of winter catch and release fishing. The winter had been mild up to this weekend. On this day, the temperatures dropped to freezing, snow fell and I did find ice in my guides at the end of the day.

I met Fred Brown, a new member at 7 AM in the Springfield Nature Center parking lot. Fred drove and we met Bob Randall and John Bush in Monett. Another member, Cody Lowery was to drive from Branson and he was to meet us at the park. For most of the drive to Roaring River, snow fell as we trek along Hwy 60. There was a forecast of snow with some areas getting up to five inches. It was after 8:30 AM, when we arrived. We started near the hatchery fishing near and below the low water bridge. The trout were active with cruising trout near the surface; I tried soft hackle, dry flies and small jig patterns. The fishing was challenging, trying different presentations, dead drift, quick strips. My ability to hook fish came in the afternoon farther down stream from the hatchery with the elk hair caddis taking trout off the surface. There were periods of heavy snowfall, and one must wonder when it’s time to quit for the day. But the snow flurry was brief and I continued down stream. There were several large trout in the waters in zone 2, in the flowing waters from dry Hollow Creek.  This area has changed with more gravel and large stones placed at the in flow to Roaring River. The trout were lined up in the fast moving water. I did not hook up with a large trout, but I am rethinking what would work.

Fred Brown fishing below the bridge at Roaring River State Park
It was after 3 PM, the others had packed it in calling it a day. They were bitten by the cold and had enough. Bob walked over to me, and I reeled in line for the day. We took a few photos and called it a day.

From left to right: Kim Schultz, John Bush, Bob Randall and Fred Brown.
Not pictured Cody Lowery
The snow did not continue with along Hwy 60 with the roads back to Springfield clear and dry. Thanks to Fred for driving and hope we have another opportunity to fish together.

Bennett Spring State Park

Photo by Bob Randall: Bennett Spring State Park
January 15, 2016 Friday: There were rumors, that many of the trout from the Bennett Spring Hatchery washed into the spring creek two weeks ago; as a result of the epic rains (8-10 inches) and flooding that occurred at the state park. There were several MTFA members calling Bob Randall reporting last weekend, fishermen were reporting 100+ trout caught for a day of fishing.

Washed debris below the stone bridge
Bob and I meet at Harry Morgan home at 7 AM and we rode together to Bennett Spring State Park. We started fishing after 8 AM below and near the hatchery outlet in zone 2. We fished below three other fellows standing in the outlet flow. The three of us started catching fish from the moment we put a fly in the water. Harry and Bob started with a jig; I used a #18 brown and black soft hackle. We all caught fishing in rapid succession. I did not bother counting caught trout, too many to bother. After an hour and a half and with the sun on the water, I moved up stream. I put on a caddis dry fly and caught a few more trout. I fished my way up to a couple of anglers near the loop access and took to the path to the hatchery.

Harry Morgan fishing below the outlet water in zone 2 photo by Bob Randall
It was 11 AM, I decided to find and talk with Ben Haven, the new Bennett Spring Hatchery manager. I found Ben in his office, he told me about the flood, the on going clean up operation and the current condition of the trout. Ben is knowable and has agreed to speak with MTFA members at the March meeting. The floodwaters were about two feet below the all time high with a watermark on pavilion B near the roofline. The waters from above the dam and Niangua River filled the spring creek and submerge the hatchery raceways; some of trout were able to escape to the river. Ben said he had a count of the trout before the flood and they are now sorting and recount the number of fish in the hatchery waters. So, he will have an idea to the number of trout in the spring creek.

One of many brown caught photo by Harry Morgan
We talked for forty-five minutes, and I went back to fishing. I crossed the stone bridge and went above the dam into zone 1, to see if any hatches were occurring; I saw nothing and figured with the water 10 feet level reach during the flooding, many of the aquatics insects have been washed out for this year. The water was turbid, a white chalky appearance and it remains a few inches high. I made a quick assessment and decided to go below the dam and fish the opposite bank from the hatchery. There were a few fellows dispersed throughout this stretch of water.
Bob Randall fishing zone 2 below the hatchery outlet
I met up with Bob at the stone bridge and I told him about the conditions above the dam. It was 1 PM, we let Harry know where we would be and walked to the waters below the stone bridge. Bob fished rest of the day near the outlet water near the hatchery. I started there and fished my way down stream, eventually crossing the stream and finding fishing to be outstanding. Fishing on nearly every cast, 30% brown trout and 70% rainbow trout. I did finished the day with dry flies, using caddis and #20 BWO. A bald eagle made a pass overhead at 3 PM. We fished until 4 PM, calling it a day.

We had an excellent day of fishing, hope to see you at Bennett Spring S.P. 
We estimated between the three us, hundreds of trout were caught and released. It was an A+ day of catching, I personally have never seen an entire day of frenzy catching with one after another fish being hooked and released with numbers exceeding a hundred. If you have not been to Bennett Spring State Park lately, you better set a date and get there while the catching will be beyond your wildest imagination.

Bennett Spring State Park

Ice formations along the creek bank at Bennett Spring State Park- Photo by Bob Randall
January 18, 2016 Monday: Bob Randall was driving from Billings and stopped by my house to pick me up at 9 AM.  We were off to Bennett Spring State Park for the day trout fishing. The morning temperature was in the single digits with an 8 degrees reading and a bright blue sky, there was an arctic high over the Ozarks. The drive to Bennett Spring going down I-44 provided many deer sightings with many of them standing and feeding in the middle of the fields; it could be due to the cold weather or a winter storm on the way. We saw deer in the fields on the return trip to Springfield and counted 80+ deer in groups from two to a dozen.

There were a few fishermen fishing this day in Bennett Spring SP, maybe 15-20 anglers in the water. There was a fog over the water swirling by the winds and it persisted most of the day. The wind was light and variable; it was predicted to be out of the north. Bob and I dressed in several layers and speaking for myself; I was comfortable most of the day. I did carry knitted wool fingerless mittens, but only wore them went walking the trails. If my hands got cold while fishing and standing in the water, I’d warm them by dipping them the waters of the spring creek.

Zone 2 
We parked the truck and started fishing in zone 2. Bob fished below the outlet waters and I fished above the outlet. I found the trout to be less active then on Friday, I tried moved from one spot to another and it was 1230 PM and had caught/released twenty trout. I walked to Ben Haven’s office to check with him, but he was scheduled off and not in the office. I crossed the stone bridge and walked up above the dam to look at zone 1. I saw no surface activity and only a few trout in the water.

The dam with the photo taken from the stone bridge
I walked back to zone 2 across from the first hatchery outlet on the opposite bank and fished down stream. I used an adult caddis dry fly and skated it from the bank to deeper water searching for trout. It was a blast watching the trout give chase and some of them took the fly, for the next hour took twenty more trout. It was 2 PM, near a dry creek outlet and I switched to soft hackle wet flies. I took 72 trout the next two hours, with a majority of them being brown trout. I threw the fly down stream and varied the strip or movement of the fly. I finished the day with 112 trout.

Walking back to parked truck near the outlet water on zone 2, spotted an eagle perched in the sycamore tree over the hatchery and was able get a few photos. As we left the park, a pair of eagles sat together on the same branch of the tree. 
I did not get a photo of the pair, this was taken 10 minutes before
We spotted a pair of deer on the top of the hill as we left the park and saw many deer in the fields returning to Springfield. There was ice in my guides the entire day and de-iced the rod by dipping the it in the spring water. Again, an outstanding day to fish, few fishermen in sight, plenty of trout to grab a fly and watching nature up close. It does not get much better than this, winter fishing at its best.
Here is Bob loading up and leaving after a day at Bennett Spring SP

Bennett Spring State Park

January 23, 2016 Saturday: I spoke with Rod about the current fishing conditions at Bennett Spring State Park and he wanted to go. So, we met at his office in Springfield, Saturday morning and computed to the state park. Springfield was under a heavy cloud cover with snow on the ground from the last storm. I was looking forward to fishing with my white coat to blend in with the background, but as we drove out of Springfield the snow disappeared with traces of snow on the ground in wooded area without sun. I left the coat in the car and wore my green hood for outerwear while fishing this day.
Rod getting ready to fish near outlet #4
We drove through the park at 11 AM. There were 20-30 fishermen in the stream. We looked at zone 1 from the dam to the spring. Rod agreed the stream was washed out with no visible weeds on the surface or signs of trout on breaking the surface water. There were half dozen fishermen below the stone bridge and a number of fishermen in and below the outlet waters in zone 2 to the whistle bridge. There were orange cone barriers across the whistle bridge, closing the bridge to vehicular traffic. So we parked near the bridge and started our day below the whistle bridge in zone 3.

We fished zone 3 for 1.5 hours and each released about twenty trout each. I suggested to Rod to finish the day at outlet #4 in zone 2 for the rest of the day. There was no one in the area when we started and became more populated late in the afternoon. Rod fished at the outlet and I ventured farther down stream to fish for the brown trout. I caught trout in rapid succession until the horn blew at 4 PM. Rod and both caught near 100 trout this day, actually my count was 95 with the last thirty minutes taking them with a small clouser pattern with a few fibers left on the hook.

On our trip back to Springfield, we saw 50+ deer feeding in the open fields. I will begin a long stretch at work and it will be at least two weeks to get back to fishing. Remember the last weekend to fish the catch and release season is February 8, 2016.