Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fall fishing is HOT!

I have only fished a couple times in the last two weeks, but each time have been rewarded with about 6 fish per hour. The water is low and clear and the wading is as easy as it gets on this river. The algae is starting to die off but you will still hook some when you are on the bottom. Caught the pictured brown yesterday afternoon and the coloration and condition of this fish makes me think it may be a "wild" brown. Just a gorgeous fish with white on it's fins and some of the reddest spots I have seen. This fish jumped and fought like a rainbow, and until I got it to me I thought it was just a dark colored bow. Been catching most of my fish on a size 8 rubberlegs type fly that I tie with peacock herl at the head, and a little something special added to the chenille. Olive has been best for the rainbows, while the orangish brown has been best for the browns. Yellow has caught both. I started by dropping a hare's ear from it and caught a few bows on it, but didn't seem to help me catch more fish so took it off to lessen the algae catch. With no rain in the forecast looks like conditions will be like this for a while. Great time to come give it a try as wading conditions are a little easier than many times of the year. The fish are fighting really hard and jumping often with the cooler water, and the leaves should begin to change in the next couple weeks adding a little more incentive to come give it a try.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Enjoying the Bounty of Nature

With the popularity of all of the survival shows on the Discovery Channel it has many of us thinking how we might do if we were stranded in the wilderness and had to survive on our own. If I were stuck anywhere I think along an Ozark stream this time of year would be my best chance for survival. With fish biting, young dumb squirrels gathering nuts for winter, and many edible fruits and fungi ripening I think I could live for quite some time right now armed with a flyrod and a .22 rifle. A few days ago Amy found several different kinds of edible mushrooms growing as well as many paw paws ripening on the trees. In addition walnuts and hickory nuts are also falling adding another enjoyable edible seed to the mix. The mushrooms found their way into a pasta dish last night, and today we hope to find some more so we can add them to the deep fryer when we fry the suckers we hope to gig this evening. What a great time to be a hillbilly!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Good summer at Sunburst Ranch

As the season winds down we are once again able to take a deep breath here in Southern Missouri. Both kids are now in school with Eli turning 7 on Sunday and Molly 5 years old and in Kindergarden. The summer was hot and fairly dry with very few rainy weekends, what rain we did have on weekends was relatively quick and then gone. Weekday buisness was steady and our new rental RV's went over well, being full every weekend and quite a bit during the week. The hot weather really helped cabin rentals during the week as people did not want to sleep outside with lows in the 80's. Campers were very well behaved for the most part, we had a few noise complaints but were not called in the middle of the night at all this year (that's a first). We continue to have more and more repeat customers which allows us to weed out the bad eggs and send them elsewhere. As we look toward off season projects our major renovation will be to expand the campstore. Amy is looking forward to having a bigger (air conditioned) space to show off here wares, and I am looking forward to having an area designated for fishing supplies. Each year we are getting more and more fishermen which helps extend our season later into the year, and starts it off earlier in the spring. Another project will be to put a deck on the back of the riverhouse which overlooks the river, and that paired with last years riverhouse renovations will make it a really great rental house every month of the year. I have added a wood stove in the great room which really heats up a space that before always stayed cold in the winter. With the fireplace and propane heater in the other living room the riverhouse now stays toasty warm even on the coldest nights. We are kicking around the idea of renting the riverhouse like a trout lodge in the winter allowing people to rent it per person, with several groups being able to rent it at the same time. The whole place can still be rented for $150 per night, but also offering it by the person if it is not yet rented might keep it full more in the winter. Let me know what you think about this idea, with 2 bedrooms and 2 living rooms I think there would be plenty of space for like minded trout fisherman to coexist.

Trout fishing has been outstanding the last few weeks, I've been out at least once a week for the last 3 weeks and have been catching several fish per hour every time out. Last night caught 3 rainbows and 1 brown in an hour, and a few weeks ago landed a 21 3/4 " brown on Eli's 4 wt (see picture). That evening was my first time out in months and with my leaders in shambles I decided to use Eli's rod which had good leader and tippet. I hooked this fish right in front of the house and was quickly taken down to my backing. In typical brown trout style he dug deep and bulldogged around doing as he pleased. With no net I was finally able to follow him into shallow water where I could scoop him out, get a few quick pictures and send him on his merry way, one of my biggest fish ever on the smallest rod I have.

We've still been putting a few people out almost every day with Saturdays being 20-30 canoes, but the river has been very quiet and most days I have been seeing less that 5 canoes go by. Great time to get out on the river if you are looking for a nature fix. Hopefully with the rain we have been having it will lead to a colorful fall and not wash the colors out, it has sure been good for the river.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wonderful Memorial Day Weekend!

Hope everyone who was here for the weekend had a good time. The weather was as good as possible for the weekend with highs in the mid 80's and only a little shower around McKee Bridge on Sunday. The campground was very mellow for the holiday weekend and we kept away trouble makers by charging $14 to camp if you were not renting canoes. People ask why we do this and it is primarily to keep the campground from filling up with people that come here when they see that the free campgrounds are full. This makes for a better experience for those of you who pay us good money to camp and canoe for the entire weekend. This is also the reason that if you bring your own canoes and don't pay us to shuttle you pay the higher camping rate. If you are willing to pay that rate we are more than happy to accomodate you, but generally we come close to filling the campground with people who are renting canoes, and with only about 14 busy weekends we have to make hay while the sun shines. The river was rather laid back as well with water patrol saying they had no major problems all weekend. For those looking for a good weekend to camp I think Memorial Day (at least on the North Fork) is one of the best. One of the next best is 4th of July. Our biggest weekends are the weekend before and after the holiday weekend, with the 4th usually being our slowest of the summer. I think everyone avoids the holiday thinking it will be packed, and it ends up being pretty slow. The three day weekends usually have a few groups that stay all weekend, with many people from nearby staying Friday and Saturday, and those from farther away coming Saturday and staying until Monday. This spreads out the same number of boats we would normally do on a Saturday over 3 days which makes the river seem relatively empty. Looks like we have a nice weather weekend coming up again with a few tent and RV spots left. Weekend after that is full, and it should stay just about as busy through July. Hope to see everyone soon. Oh yeah, fishing was good all weekend even with the boat traffic!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Where the EFF is Greg?

Things here are picking up trying to get ready for the upcoming holiday weekend. I have included a link to a blog from a camper writing about his adventure last weekend here on the North Fork. I was going to write a blog on it myself, but he did such a good job, and had more details to share, so I will let him tell you the story. Please take the time to go and read this, just another story from the river, and this time it is not because of drugs or alcohol that things went awry. Hope you enjoy the story, I sure did! Why a picture of one of our lambs, cause it's so cute, that's why (He'll sure be tasty this fall)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Great Fishing!

Here is the latest report from our friend Chris. This came from last weekend.

It seems like every time I go down to the North Fork of the White the fishing gets better and better. The fish god's have shined on me on recent trips. Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking my friends Melvin and Deborah from Jefferson City. Each year I donate a trip in my drift boat for the Capital City Fly fishers Banquet. This is the Mid Missouri FFF chapter. It's my opportunity to play guide for a day with some good friends and raise money for a good cause. Thanks to the generosity and hospitality of Sunburst Ranch, this trip went off without a hitch. I was debating on floating the upper or lower and decided on the lower to get away from crowds. Turned out to be a good choice. We put in at Patrick 9:00 AM and floated until about 6:00 to James Bridge. Overcast skies and flows were around 750 CFS. The day started off great on Pat's Rubberlegs and didn't stop all day. Pat's were the MVP and quite a few on Shop Vac and RU Experienced Caddis Pupa patterns. We nymphed all day and caught more fish than I have ever boated before on the NFOW! The fishing was unreal, it seemed like every likely spot was holding at least one fish that wanted to eat. Melvin and Deborah had multiple doubles throughout the day. One of the lessons from the day was that on lower flows which I would classify 750 as beginning to be "lower" fishing can still be great but overcast skies are the key factor. At the end of the day when the fishing was over, I told Melvin and Deborah that the good news was that we had an Epic Day but the bad news was that it may not happen again for quite some time. Tight Lines,Chris Gates

The only way to have days like this is to get out and try. When you come down please listen to my advice, not that I am a pro, but if you are not experienced on this river you will struggle (like I did when I first started) if you don't do things a certain way! I will share anything I can with you so please ask.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

2.06 Inches of Fish per Minute

Remember that you heard it here first. The new Sunburst System for reporting fishing success. I have come up with this system which takes fish size as well as the number of fish caught and puts them in an easy to understand format for determining fishing success, expressed as inches of fish per minute. This system won't get me rich or famous but should soon be taught in schools along with the Dewey Decimal system, and New York's public transportation system. You may ask how this system came into existence, keep reading and you'll find out.

It all started yesterday at about 15:45. My mowing was done, Amy and Molly were in town and I found myself with 45 free minutes before the school bus was due to arrive with Eli. I could either relax and catch the last half of Dr. Phil or sneak down for a little fishing in front of the house. Fishing it was! I quickly donned my waders, grabbed my rod and camera and headed to slippery riffle for a few minutes of chucking and ducking. I entered the water at around 15:55 and on my third drift hooked and landed a 12" brown. At this point it was 15:58 and I was off to a blistering pace of 4" fpm. After a quick release I continued nymphing down this quick run and several minutes later was brought to attention by an explosive take. Now I have caught hundreds of trout a few over 20", but this fish hit like no other I can remember. It took the fly with such force that I immediately looked down to make sure I didn't have my fly line wrapped around anything and as I did so I heard a thunderous splash. With fly line cleared I looked up to see a tsunami headed my way. Granted, this was not a large tsunami, but anytime a fish throws a wave like this when it jumps you must have something good. Wishing I would have seen the creature jump, my mind was racing wondering what was on the other end of my line. Lime green fly line tore off my Galvan reel as my quarry once again showed itself. Shooting out of the water like Shamu at Sea world was the biggest brown trout I had ever seen hooked to my fly. As the fish entered the water it once again took off peeling line as it went. In typical brown trout style this fish settled in the deepest swiftest current and bulldogged it's way around slowly taking back line that I had worked so hard to gain. After a few minutes I fought the fish onto the shallow shelf where I was standing. She quickly showed that this was not where she wanted to be, once again taking off like a bonefish on the flats, again shooting out of the water in an attempt to free herself. This tug of war would go on for what seemed like an hour, and with no net several attempts at grabbing the fish were met with disappointment. Eventually this athlete tired, as did the fish and I was able to bring her to hand. I luckily had a tape measure and camera in my waders and quickly snapped a picture and took a measurement. My worthy opponent, a beautiful female brown trout, measured right at 23" and while I didn't get a girth measurement she was fat, looking like a rugby ball each time she lept from the river. My fishing officially ended at 14:12 only 17 minutes after the trip had started, half of this time spent fighting the biggest trout of my life. Catching 2 fish while waiting for the bus didn't seem that impressive to me, but catching 35 inches of fish in 17 minutes did. While I don't plan on getting a patent for the Sunburst System I hope this blog will make it's way to the history books in the near future as the story that popularized a new way of measuring fishing success.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Big Stones = Lots of Fish!

Took a float in Steve's drift boat with Amy and the kids on Good Friday, and absolutely wore the fish out. I think I even commented to Amy that the fishing was "off the hook" whatever that means. Doesn't seem to be a good phrase to be used when fishing. We put in at Patrick Bridge at about 1200 cfs and Amy had two fish by the time we reached the big island above Riverside. Stopping there for lunch I grabbed a rod and immediately brought in a 13" brown. Two drifts later a beautiful par marked "wild brown" was landed, and within another 10 minutes I had caught a total of 4 more browns up to 15", with several others spitting the hook. The fishing slowed and I decided to eat a sandwich. As I played in the river with the kids we started flipping rocks to see what bugs might be around and under the first rock was a large stone fly larvae. I showed it to Amy and the kids, and we commented on how this must be why the fish were so turned on to the large stonefly imitation we were using. I put the fly back in the water and soon was wishing I would have taken a picture. Not long after, Eli asked me to come over because he had found a "crawdad or something". It was another big stonefly and this time we took the opportunity to get it on film. After an hour or so of playing on the island we set off amidst a flotilla of canoes. Wondering if the canoers would spook the fish we soon had our answer as Amy caught several nice browns drifting in front of Riverside. Battling 20+ mph gusts I worked to row and Amy worked to cast, but every 10 minutes or so our efforts were rewarded with fish after fish falling victim to the fly. By the time we reached James Bridge Amy had boated at least a dozen browns and two rainbows, with many others coming unbuttoned before we could net them. The kids had fun netting a few fish and Amy had fun catching fish after fish. Overall a wonderful day on the river with the family, who knows how many fish we could have caught if fishing had been the number one priority.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bryant Creek White Bass

A couple weeks ago my father-in-law found a barely used "white river" boat on the side of the road for sale. Because my brother and sister-in-law had recently purchased a house in Norfork he correctly decided this boat would be perfect for fishing the tailwaters of the Norfork and the White rivers which converge in the small village. Yesterday Danny's motor arrived and after having it installed we decided a shake down run up on the lake was in order. It just so happens that the white bass have started to run, which worked out quite well. We put in under the 160 Bridge at Tecumseh and headed down into the lake. The boat performed wonderfully behind the power of a 15 HP Nissan fourstroke. This quiet motor pushed the 20' longboat along wonderfully and we quickly arrived at what appeared to be the honey hole. Ten boats were gathered in a 100 yard stretch of lake so we figured this must be where the fish were. After an hour of fishing we had each caught one nice white bass, and not seeing others catching fish decided to try a different spot. Being a river rat, I convinced Danny that we needed to run up to the confluence of the North Fork and Bryant and see if the fish had moved up there. After a few nervous moments navigating a rocky shoal we arrived at the confluence to find a dozen bank fishermen pounding the water with live bait. We decided to head up Bryant Creek to the first riffle and start there. As we drifted through the last hole on Bryant Creek I quickly hooked a decent male white bass that joined two others in the live well. We drifted down to the confluence with no more hits and decided to try it once more. The fishing was slow but Danny picked up a nice male just as we were about to call it quits. Great afternoon on the water, and while the fishing wasn't great it was good enough to keep us interested, and we even took home enough fish for a good meal!
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fishing the First Day of Spring

Spring has sprung, with rain and snow for some folks. We have had several groups of fishermen here for over a week with mixed results. Those new to this river have struggled some, but most have caught fish. Then we bring in the old veterans who have been fishing this river for several years. Each time they fish they undoubtedly learn more, and continue to prove that while North Fork trout can be tough to catch, there are plenty of fish around if you can figure out a way to fool them. Chris Gates has been sending me his reports following numerous trips this winter, and he confessed that after struggling on this river years ago he, like most who consistently catch fish on this river, took advice from other successful North Fork fishermen and put this knowledge to use to become a fisherman who can consistently catch fish on this challenging river. If you are new to this river and float here I will give you any and all information I can on how I catch fish on the NFoW. I also will hook you up with a few flies that are proven to work consistently on both browns and rainbows from 5" to 25". The fishing here is much different from most other rivers and streams in this state, and if you put to use the methods that other successful anglers use, you will eventually get a feel for it and start to catch fish. This weekend we had a young lady who is a senior at Mizzou fish the river for the first time. After getting some advise from Chris and myself she went out and caught several fish including a brown that was reported to be over 16". (Pictures are supposed to be on the way) One thing you must do on the NFoW is forget everything you know about fly fishing, listen to those who fish here often, take that advice and use it. Before purchasing Sunburst Ranch I was a pond fly fisherman, and a saltwater fly fisherman while living in Florida. The only trout I had caught on fly were in trout parks and I fished the NFoW for a month before catching a fish on fly. I then started watching and listening to what successful fly fishermen were doing on this river, and slowly over the years have learned the ins and outs of catching fish on this river. Here is a report from Chris after fishing this weekend, the pictures included show you why we fish and love the North Fork.

Had a great time down at Sunburst Friday and Saturday. Friday we put in at Kelly and floated all the way down to James Bridge, caught fish all the way down but was bit slower in the middle of the day. We listed to the Tiger's basketball game on the radio in the drift boat, pretty cool. Pat's Rubberlegs and caddis pupa droppers were working well. In the evening it was all Pat's and Red Fox Squirrel Nymphs. The fishing was ok on Friday but sunny skies with lower water around 570 cfs slowed it down. Saturday was a different story, we put in at Sunburst at around 10:00 and floated until about 4:00. Overcast skies. We banged them up all day on Pat's and Red Fox Squirrel Nymphs. Saturday was one of the best days I have had on this river! We caught a ton of fish, just wished we would have gotten on the river earlier and fished later. See you in a few weeks!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Fishing Report Friday March 5

Friday Mar. 5th.

Floated from Kelly to Sunburst, bluebird skies and 680 CFS. High was about 56 today. The day started out real slow as we started at Lamb shoal and fished down. Good drift after good drift wasn’t producing much. I think we had caught 3 fish and had missed 4 or 5 by lunch time. Mostly the Pat’s Rubberlegs. Not what I was looking for after I had been talking up the NFOW to my buddies Steve and Nick the whole way down from Jefferson City. Nick had been on the river once before and Steve had never fished it. After lunch we finally started hooking some rainbows in a swift run where we held the boat steady and drift Shop Vac’s under the Pat’s, there were Mayflies and Midges everywhere, a few caddis. This activity corresponded with the sun going behind the clouds for a while. After this flurry of activity we continued to catch fish on Pat’s Rubberlegs as we floated down to Sunburst.

It was a nice day on the river, weather was great but I think was a bit tough as far as fishing weather goes. It always seems my best days on the NFOW have cloud cover, this one did not. I think we ended up catching close to twenty fish and missing that many more. Thanks for the shuttle and the fisherman cabins rental.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

I Have A Genuine Duck Dog

If you head to the White River Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas the weekend before Christmas you will likely hear the frantic quacking of numerous ducks as they are frightened by shot after misplaced shot. Each year I accompany my father-in-law and a group of fathers and sons, to the Fowl Play Lodge in DeWitt, Arkansas for a wild weekend of hunting and general debotchery. Normally we come away with a few ducks for the freezer, and a years worth of stories to tell and retell. This year was special for me as I was bringing along my Boykin Spaniel "Finn" for his first Arkansas duck hunt. I have spent countless hours training Finn to be a retrieving machine, and while he does well retrieving dummies, he had only retrieved a few ducks and pheasants in his limited hunting experiences. Finn was one of two dogs we would be taking this year, and not being a fan of other male dogs we knew we would have to keep Finn and Ike (the black lab) apart as much as possible. Neither Finn nor Ike enjoy the presence of other male dogs, and it was not long before they had a confrontation in a van packed with 12 hunters and two dogs. Finn escaped with a minor scratch on his nose, and Ike with another notch on his collar. Unfortunately we didn't learn our lesson, and a second altercation ensued, this time with my brother-in-law's finger getting in the middle of it. Just another hunting trip story resulting in a new nickname, "dog finger". With the bleeding stopped we rolled into the lodge and were greeted by several guides with which we have hunted with for years. The jokes quickly began, and most of these centered around the make and model of my hunting dog which they dubbed the poodle. Not knowing what to expect from Finn's first big trip I kept my mouth shut, and anxiously awaited the next morning's hunt. That evening I was informed that we would be hunting from boat blind, which would make it difficult for the dog to see and retrieve downed ducks. This was fine by me as at least Finn would get to experience the hunt without much pressure to deliver. Finn would be the only dog accompanying us this morning as the guides decided their young labs would not fare well in this hunting situation. Ike would be hunting with his owner at a different location. Four o'clock came with the smell of cooking bacon, and following a quick breakfast we were off on a boat ride weaving in and out of flooded timber along the flood plain of the White River. While we were all feeling a bit groggy from the antics of the night before the cool morning breeze quickly woke us up and as we transferred guns and shells to the boat blind we awaited legal shooting light. Soon after light fell over our decoy spread the first group of ducks came in, it was now time to see what we could do. As the mallards set their wings they were met with a barrage of gunfire, and three green heads fell from the sky. Now it was Finn's turn. I had pulled back a section of blind material from the front of the john boat and postioned Finn on the front of the boat. At the first sound of gunfire Finn quickly jumped into the bottom of the boat and began jumping against the side of the blind as if wanting to get out. I finally wrestled him back into postion but by this time the ducks had begun to drift to our left in the moderate current of the flooded river. I tried to line him up and send him on his way but he was unsure of how to get into the water. The deck of the boat was several feet above the water line so he was going to have to dive in to the water in order to make his retrieve. Unsure of how to do this Finn stood on the front of the boat barking and whining at the water below. Having no other chioce I was forced to aid him in his entry by tossing him into the water. Finn immdiately headed out into the spread of three dozen decoys where the downed ducks once resided, hopefully his training would get us both out of this mess. I quickly blew on the whistle to stop him, a command we had practiced a million times, Finn promptly ignored me and continued on his way. After yelling and blowing I finally got Finn's attention and he began to turn back. Using handsignals that had also been practiced time and time again Finn eventually listened enough to catch sight of one of the ducks as it drifted 50 yards downstream. As Finn made this retrieve the guides retrieved the other two, as we knew Finn (who weighs less than 40 pounds) would need a little break following this debacle. Finn finally returned after a long upstream swim with a beautiful mallard drake clutched in his jaws. I was excited that Finn was finally able to make the retrieve, but I also knew it was going to take a little more precision on his part if he was going to be considered a valuable part of the team. Not knowing if Finn had learned anything or not I again positioned him on the front of the boat as we waited for the next flight of ducks. We didn't have to wait long as another group of mallards and gadwalls were quickly duped by our decoy spread. Again our aim was true, and this time Finn was ready to go. He was focused on the flock as it approached and after watching a gadwall fall he was off the deck as the duck hit the water. Completely submerging, the curly coated Spaniel popped up like a cork and promptly retrieved the duck like he had been doing it his entire life. I hoped this was a sign of things to come, and as flock after flock came to the gun we continued to shoot well, and Finn continued to retrieve like an old pro. By 8:45 that morning the best duck hunt of my life concluded with a limit of 36 ducks and Finn had retrieved every duck that we had sent him after. While Finn was not perfect, he exceeded my expectations and followed up the next morning with another great performance prompting the guides to go from calling him a poodle to asking how much I wanted for my dog. I knew taking an odd breed of retriever to duck camp was opening myself up to ridicule, but I think everyone who hunted with us would agree that watching him work made the hunt a much more rewarding experience.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sunburst Ranch is now on Facebook!

Amy informs me that she has set up a Sunburst Ranch page on facebook. This will be her baby as I know very little about facebook. I'm sure if you are familiar with facebook you know what you can do here, I don't. Enjoy and you can look forward to seeing some things we have been doing around here to get ready for the upcoming season.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Kelly to Sunburst Fishing Report

Chris, Ryan, and Nathan came down this weekend fishing from Chris' drift boat. If you have been on the NFoW you probably recognize McKee Bridge in the picture. Here is a report he sent.

Thanks for the lodging and the shuttle. We had a great time floating from Kelly to Sunburst. We put in at Kelly around 9:00 AM and got off the river at 4:00. Shorter day since I had to get home early. We started the day by rowing up to lamb shoal and then floating down. Ryan caught several nice bows and smallies on this stretch. First two casts were fish. We continued to float down and pick up fish as we went, mostly on the Pat’s Rubberlegs and a few on Red Fox Squirrel Nymphs. I kept waiting for the fish to start keying in on Caddis Pupa but it never seemed to happen. We also through streamers, Yuk Bugs and Berrett Stone’s but nothing seemed to work except for the Stonefly nymphs. The sun was bright and probably slowed the fishing a bit but all in all we had a good day, probably boated around 25 and missed at least that many more on quick releases and hook sets. It was great to get out and scratch the Spring Fever itch with the great weather and wild rainbows. Thanks again for your hospitality.


Big Brownies have been the Rule

When the weather and water have been cooperative the fishing has been outstanding this winter. We have really had to pick and choose our days with the cold and the high water. Almost every time I have been out we have caught at least one big fish 18"+. The 20" brown in the picture (judging by the look on my face it was very heavy), was caught on a tan Zonker right out in front of the riverhouse. We have been fishing big streamers on this lower end of the river and on cloudy days have been tearing them up. Our hook rates are pretty low, but watching a fish hit the streamer is fun even when you miss the fish. Friday we floated from Patrick to James and I caught a brown just under 18" again on a zonker, caught a bunch of 10-14 " browns on a Pat's rubberlegs, and lost a 20"+ brown right at the boat also on the zonker. The best part has been not seeing another fisherman on the river the whole time.
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Monday, February 8, 2010

Phenomenal Phishing on the North Phork

I was watching it snow on the river today and after feeding the livestock without freezing to death I decided an afternoon float and fish was in order. I aired up the pontoon and took off with a rod and a cell phone so I could call my wife to pick me up at a location to be determined later. I immediately hooked up with a small rainbow right in front of the house and would hook and lose a big brown just above fantasy island. The water is cranking at about 1500 cfs so all the fishing was done from the boat. Those first two fish took a yellow/brown pat's rubberlegs #6, and the big brown took it in some swift deep water filled with big boulders and snags. I had him on for a minute or so and he rewarded me with a big jump before I finally was forced to pull too hard trying to avoid a downed tree. The hook simply pulled loose and I was bested by yet another big fish. I reached Patrick Bridge without any more action and decided to continue on down to James Bridge about 4 miles downstream. By now I had lost all my yellow Pat's, remember you must get it on the bottom on the NFoW! I now had on a coffee and black Pat's (tied with a little bling)and quickly caught 2 browns in the water leading up to Riverside. Most of the riffles I was flying through out of control so I actually caught more fish in the slower water today. I continued to pick up brown after brown all between 10-15 inches until another big boy ate. As I approached the last riffle above James Bridge I snagged what I thought was the bottom, I set the hook and it flew out of the water and landed in my lap, it just so happened to be a sculpin. Being in red ribbon water I decided to leave the sculpin hooked up and drag it through the riffle (not exactly purist, but all the old timers say sculpin are the best bait). I flipped my rig over a shelf as I floated through and immediately saw a submarine come up and grab my "nymph". I set the hook and after a big tug my line snapped as I palmed the reel a little too hard. That's what I get for bait fishing!! What a wonderful 2 1/2 hours on the water. Nothing big brought to hand but lots of little guys, big clear water, only me the eagles and the deer on the river. If you've never fished in the snow it is an experience like no other, catching fish is just icing on the cake!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Trip to the Florida Keys

Leave it to us to pick the coldest week in the history of the Florida Keys to take a week away from the Ozarks. Amy spent weeks researching where we should go this winter to get away from the cold, finding a nice Key's house that would easily fit a group of nine of us. She found a nice house on Marathon complete with swimming pool, hot tub, and a boat dock if we wished to bring or rent a boat. We left here and headed to Memphis for the flight to Miami, and at 12 degrees when we left we knew anything would feel warm. After going through the excitement and fun of Eli and Molly's first flight we arrived in Miami to a balmy 48 degrees. The next few days would find highs barely above the 50 degree mark, and the wind too strong to bother with renting a boat or going fishing. We tried fishing a little in the canals around our rental house but we were having no luck getting any takers. Finally on the third day the wind subsided and the temperature rose to near 60 degrees so we decided to rent a boat. As we headed out to sea to attempt our first real fishing of the vacation we discovered why no fish had been biting. We passed a commercial lobster boat as they were coming in and one of the crew yelled to us that there were fish floating everywhere offshore. The 10 pound mutton snapper he held up told us that his story might be true. Not fully believing what we had been told we headed offshore to a small patch reef we had seen on our chart. As we approached we began to see fish bellies, and as we continued on we ran into a weed line that held hundreds of cold stunned reef fish. Many different kinds of snappers, groupers, grunts, boxfish, and even queen angelfish floated at the surface either dead or dying. This was quite a sad site to see and as a scuba diver I know what these patch reefs should look like, and how many fish they can actually hold. Naturally we didn't catch any fish as they were either dying or too cold to have an appetite, but we did witness an event that they say happens only about every 40 years. As the week progressed the weather slowly warmed however the fish continued to float up for several more days. The water was a little rough to head out to the main reef so the fishing in the colder shallower waters continued to be relatively pointless. We did catch a few fish, which was refreshing to know they weren't all dead, and we managed to eat fresh fish every night which was a treat. Our last day there we finally awoke to the typical humid ocean breeze, and enjoyed a warm day that might even have broke 70 degrees. Despite the inclimate weather it was fun to get away with Amy's family, and take the kids on their first vacation. We are kind of stuck here in the summer so the kids feel fotunate to miss some school in order to get in some family time. With the snow we endured following New Year's and our vacation the kids were gone from school for a full month. Somehow they didn't seem that eager to get back. Amazingly when we got back the temperatures quickly rose into the 60's feeling as nice as it ever did in the Keys, maybe next year we should go skiing.

Spring approaches, fishing good

We have been here trying to get through a wet, snowy, cold winter. Started renovating the riverhouse, redoing the bathroom and tiling most of the floors, I think it will turn out nice! The phone has started ringing, and cabins are already becoming scarce for many weekends. We are hoping to build two more sleeper cabins before memorial day, hopefully it will dry up enough that we can get that done. I hope to post more blogs in the next week or so, I have been working on a few stories telling what has been going on this winter, I have been lazy with my writing and for that I apologize. I'm sure everyone is on the edge of their seats wondering what has been happening. Look forward to seeing and hearing from everyone soon, we are ready for spring to be here! I have attached an e-mail we recieved from Chris Gates who fished with his dad this week, hope it helps anyone coming down soon to fish. The water is flowing strong, but is clear and gorgeous.

We fished fromPatrick down to James, started about 9:45 and fished until close to dark. In the morning we caught them on Pats Rubberlegs and Red Fox Squirrel nymphs.During the warmest part of the day I saw some splashy caddis rises, we switched the dropper to an RU Experienced Caddis Pupa and started hooking them on that. Actually caught 3 fish where we would see the rise, then setup and fish a pupa to the riser, he would eat. Fun targeting those fishlike that. Finally the fish moved back to the Pats and that's what they atein the late afternoon once no caddis were coming off. We had a fun day with consistent fishing all day, no real slow part. No real big fish, 18 inches was the biggest fish and every fish taken was a brown. Thanks again for your hospitality.