Thursday, April 30, 2009


Yesterday as Amy was leaving to go pick up Eli from school, she ran up and told me to come quick she needed my help. Being a wonderful husband I quickly ran down to lend assistance for what I thought my be changing a flat tire, or jump starting her car. The problem I faced when I arrived on scene was a frantic robin hopping around between the grill and radiator of Amy's car. She informed me she had hit a bird while coming home from the grocery store, and miraculously it had squeezed through the impossibly small opening in the grill and had become trapped between the radiator and grill, where it traveled 20 miles before arriving at it's new home. There was virtually no opening for the bird to escape, and after pulling on the plastic underside of the bumper, I was able to push the bird out with the handle of a rake thinking this would free the bird and it would fly off to live a happy life. Unfortunately the bird was exhausted and had a broken leg, and after flitting a short distance collapsed in a heap on the ground. I quickly scooped it up and placed it in a pet taxi gave it some water and a few worms. The worms have disappeared so I guess it is eating, and now I suppose I need to devise a splint to see if it's leg can heal. What a waste of time to save a robin you might say, and normally I would agree, but don't pass judgement until one day the miracle robin of spring comes knocking on your grill.

I am a self-proclaimed bird nerd, and here at Sunburst I have catalogued around 80 species of birds on our property alone. Spring is a great time to see migrating warblers (or at least hear them), and marks the return of many birds that raise their young in the Ozarks. Last summer we had a pair of Summer Tanagers, Orchard Orioles, and Bluejays all nesting at the same time in a single white oak tree in our front yard. Some of the common birds of summer we see here at Sunburst that might be of interest include indigo buntings, blue grosbeaks, and eastern kingbirds (these are usually seen at the top of the hill sitting on the fence as you drive in). We occasionally see yellow billed cuckoo's, road runners, and all kinds of woodpeckers including the pileated woodpecker which everyone enjoys seeing. These are but a few of the many birds we see along the river, the next time you are down floating or camping be sure to bring your binoculars, you will be amazed at what you see. For all you other bird nerds out there, if you are interested in a list of all bird species catalogued here at Sunburst drop me a line and I would be glad to send you one.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

This fly is so good a monkey could catch fish on it!!

As a fly fisherman I am always striving to find the perfect fly. The fly that is easy to tie, easy to use and catches every fish that sees it. I think I may have found it. I'm not going to say that it catches every fish that sees it, but I am convinced that it catches more fish than any other fly I have used. What is this fly, and where can I get it you might ask. Be patient my friends. Fortunately for me the only place you can find this fly is in the fly box of yours truly and in the mouth of an 18 inch rainbow trout, that broke off as I was unhooking it last evening. This tie is a modification of a simple rubber legged stonefly imitation that was taught to me by a young gentleman working at Hargrove's fly shop in St. Louis. After tying a dozen of these I decided to pimp them up a little. Then it was off to my laboratory to see if they were in fact an improvement. I have now tested this fly two different times, against several different flies including the original version of the rubber legs. Last night's test session proved to be a raging success as I landed 6 fish in just under two hours all in slippery riffle (the riffle in front of my house). Not only did I land 6 fish, but 4 of these fish were larger than 15 inches. (15 inch bow, 16-17 inch bow, 16-17 inch brown, and a big fat rainbow nearing 18 inches that still has possession of the magic fly). I caught several on the fly I have named the HOT FLASH, then took it off to see how other flies would stack up. After catching no fish on anything else I was stripping in line to switch back to the hot flash, when I caught a small brown, other than that fluke, all other fish were caught on the HOT FLASH. In addition to having a great test session, I managed to keep my footing and returned home as dry as when I had started. Fish Gods-4 Justin - 3 For those of you who camp and fish at Sunburst Ranch be sure to ask me about this fly next time you are down. I would be happy to give you one, and then sell you many more for outrageous prices. Better get here quick though because my time for fly tying is running out, and you better be sure that I'm keeping a few for myself just in case I have a few minutes to fish this summer.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Happy Birthday to me (I think)

My birthday which falls on February 3rd came and went with the promise of a new fly rod and reel from my wife and her family. Naturally I was quite excited as I figured that with several people going in on this present it was bound to be a wonderful set up. Week after week passed with no real mention of the promised present. Finally I was told that several rods would be arriving with the fly fishing group from T. Hargrove's and I would have the opportunity to try them out and choose one. Chris showed up with a nice selection of Sage, Winchester and St. Croix Rods, and I found the 9' 6 wt St Croix Legend Elite to be most to my liking. After fishing with it for a day and catching and losing a dozen or more fish I decided this would be my trusty side kick along the runs and riffles of the North Fork for years to come. A few days later I received my Galvan reel in the mail and promptly put it on my rod where it will stay probably until I break my rod and have to send it in to be repaired. Excited to try out my new birthday present I headed out to my favorite run on the North Fork, which just so happens to be 30 yards or so in front of my house. Unfortunately for me the fish were not biting readily that afternoon and after foul hooking one small rainbow, I saw a little break in the current where the fish had to be stacked in like cord wood. As I slid my way into position to make the perfect cast, my footing gave way and down I went into the chilly water of the North Fork river, water filling my waders quicker than could be imagined (my wading belt helped very little as it hung by the door on my deck). I quickly sloshed to the house, emptied my waders, and warmed up in a hot shower. Fish Gods - 1 Justin - 0. This was far from the first time I had taken a cool weather swim in the river, but little did I know it would be the first of a continuing streak. Several days later everything looked perfect for another shot with my new birthday gift. Down I went to the same riffle, and as I was pulling off fly line preparing for my first cast, a 13" rainbow decided to grab the fly and hook himself, once again showing how skillful a fly fisherman I am. I took this as a good omen, and proceeded to fish for 30 minutes or so to no avail. I decided then that a change of scenery was in order. Amy was just coming outside and gave me a ride to the island at the upper end of the campground where I was sure my luck would change. I decided I would wade out and fish the opposite side of the island, where a few fish over the years have been fooled by my woeful attempts to catch them. As I fished from the top of the island down, I had a few perceived strikes but no hook ups, and grew excited about fishing the tip of the island as it grew closer. As I looked for a good place to cast I saw a little break in the current where the fish had to be stacked in like cord wood. After making several perfect casts to no avail I decided to retreat to the island and make my way back over to the mainland. Unfortunately the river had different ideas. I stood thigh deep in water facing current that would not allow me to move. After attempting to fight this current and having the gravel from my feet slowly washed away, I had a real Mexican standoff on my hands. The unrelenting persistence of my adversary finally won out and I was forced to stare the beast in the eye, and take the plunge. After a short refreshing float downstream, water filling my waders quicker than could be imagined (my wading belt helped very little as it hung by the door on my deck). I finally found footing on the bottom and made my way over to the bank. After breaking off my fly that had become hung on the bottom as I drifted, I emptied my half full waders, and took a long cold walk back to the house, where I once again warmed up in a hot shower. Fish Gods - 2 Justin - 0. Several days later the atmosphere seemed perfect for an evening of hookups along the banks of Sunburst Ranch. Amy and the kids were gone, and it would be just me and the fish all evening long. As I stepped into the river in front of our house I saw a little break in the current where the fish had to be stacked in like cord wood. As I spotted this honey hole, I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my tail bone, and felt a cold liquid filling my waders quicker than could be imagined (my wading belt helped very little as it hung by the door on my deck). I quickly regained my footing, and managed to only take a moderate amount of water into my waders this time. This day, unlike the others was quite warm, and a little slip wasn't going to end my evening of fishing. I quickly regained my composure found a safer area to fish, and proceeded to make a few casts. I noticed quite a few brown caddis that looked to be a size 20 flying around so I quickly put on a pheasant tail nymph expecting to catch fish after fish. While this didn't happen I did fool one small brown, and began to see trout after trout rising to these hatching caddis flies. Naturally I had no dry flies with me but decided to go in search of some, after running around and finally locating a few elk hair caddis I made my way back to the river, by this time it seemed quite a bit colder than before. The fish were still rising constantly, although along an eddy across the main channel, and I was convinced I could get one of these fish to bite. After trying to no avail and getting very few drifts I felt good about, I decided that instead of trying to get closer to the eddy I would accept defeat, and head inside for a hot shower. Fish Gods - 3 Justin- 0. I know most of you have seen the movie Rocky, and this is the part of my tale that I hope will begin a big turn around, however only time will tell. Last weekend Kyle Kosovich of Longboat outfitters was back for a guide trip on the North Fork, and asked if I would like to take a short float from Sunburst to Patrick bridge on Saturday evening, to check out his boat and wet a fly. Naturally I was excited to do this, as I had wanted to see his longboat (a 20' wooden johnboat he had built himself) and see how it performed. The boat was more impressive than expected, it floated great, and Kyle handled it beautifully. The fishing was slow, although we did catch several fish, but most importantly my waders for once in a long while stayed dry on the inside. Fish Gods 3 Justin 1. This brings us to this weekend the final chapter in today's tale. David Stineman from Lawrence, Kansas was down for a weekend of fishing, and I decided to join him Friday evening in front of the house for a quick presentation. After about 15 minutes and one lost fish, we slowly made our way downstream and I entered the slick zone. Being extremely careful due to my poor track record of late I prepared to cast to a little break in the current where I knew the fish had to be stacked in like cord wood. As David peered upstream as if to say that looks like a good spot, I quickly lost sight of him and was staring at the clouds, once again feeling cold water enveloping my body. I quickly popped up although was unable to stop on the slick limestone bottom. I quickly shuffled my feet downstream trying to stop my forward momentum, and was once again greeted by the cold hand of the North Fork getting in my pants. I once again regained my footing and eventually came to a stop less than 5 feet from David, where I found him holding my fly firmly in his hand. Once David stopped laughing and I caught my breath, he decided to head upstream to fish where there was better footing, and I was left alone to fish slippery riffle all by myself. It was once again a warm evening, so I decided to fish a little longer, and was rewarded with 2 browns and a rainbow all caught on a modified size 6 Pat's Rubber legs we have decided to name Justin's Hot Flash (as I tie it with some flashabou in place of the rubber legs). For official scoring purposes I feel like this was almost a draw since I caught 3 fish in less than an hour, and only fell twice and slipped and slid 30 yards or further. I think I will reward both myself and the fish Gods a point, if anyone has an opinion on how this should be scored let me know. Fish Gods -4 Justin - 2. Only time will tell how this battle is going to play out, but one thing is for certain. I am sure glad I didn't get that fly rod on my birthday because it is a hell of a lot colder in that river at the beginning of February than it is this time of year.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Trout picture

I'm new to this blogging thing let's see if i can get the picture I promised in my last post to come through in this one.

Trout Fishing Nirvana

This past weekend of March 28, 2 groups of fly fishermen joined us at Sunburst Ranch. Despite the rain and cold everyone caught fish and several fishermen boasted of a career trip. Tom Hargrove of T. Hargrove's fly shop in St. Louis came down with about a dozen of his regulars and they enjoyed a weekend of consistent hookups of both rainbow and brown trout. I had the priviledge of fishing with Steve Farr in his drift boat on Monday, and we each had steady action all day long catching mostly brown trout between Patrick bridge and James bridge. The other group of fishermen were old college buddies from Missouri State that came from an area of Bella Vista, Arkansas to St. Louis to try out the trout fishing. This was their first time to fish the river and while the weather prevented them from floating they had two good days just fishing the water here in front of the campground. I have posted a picture of a 17" brown that Jeff caught right off the island on the upstream end of our property.

The water is flowing great right now and the fish are biting. Everyone stayed warm this weekend in one of our 5 cabins, which are still being rented at off season rates. We would love to have more fishermen down before the weather gets too warm, and the river gets busy. Thanks to everyone who was down for a great weekend and a fantastic fish fry we were invited to at the riverhouse.