Saturday, April 16, 2011
Thursday morning I received a call from friend and guide Brian Wise wondering if I had time to go chase some White Bass over on Bryant Creek that afternoon. We have been trying to put together a trip like this for years so I said sure and hopped on the mower to quickly finish up the remainder of this weeks mowing. A 1:00 rendezvous brought me to Tecumseh where Brian met me, leaving his truck and trailer at the ramp and hopping in for the ride back up to his boat. We arrived at Cook's Landing and after loading the boat and drinking a beer we warmed up our casting arms briefly before setting off for more productive waters. A drift through the mill pond rewarded us with a few carp and walleye sightings but no takers. We eventually floated down through a hole or two and after switching up streamers Brian found the one they had been looking for. Naturally it was one of a kind, and the only one we had so I proceeded to watch him catch several keeper whites and a nice largemouth before we jumped back in the boat and headed downstream. Being the gentleman Brian is he lent me his rod as we drifted through the next hole and I was finally able to get the skunk off with the smallest white of the day. Proceeding downstream we witnessed groups of whites spawning in the shoals but those fish were interested in only one thing and it wasn't eating. Below the spawning shoal we found the fish that were willing to bite staging up in a short run and Brian pulled several fish out while I managed one on a white zonker and one on a prototype streamer that may end up in production later in the year. With a nice stringer of fish in the boat we set out toward the forks as the sun sank towards the horizon. We rounded the bend toward Tecumseh and saw fish breaking the surface near the bank. I masterfully delivered the perfect cast (not hard with splashing white bass all around) and was rewarded with a nice sow to end the day. This was the first time I had pursued whites without my spinning gear along as a crutch and I must say it was much more rewarding than throwing swimming minnows at them. Thanks mainly to Brian I ended up taking home ten nice fly rod whites some of which were fried last night with fresh morels, and a few which made a wonderful fish sandwich for today's lunch.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Within the crystal clear waters flowing in front of Sunburst Ranch lurks a monster that only a few have been fortunate enough to see. Prior to April this fish had only been seen lurking amongst the shadows preying on unsuspecting baitfish and crawdads. Occasionally fishermen might see a flash and feel a quick tug only to be disappointed by a missed hookset or sudden breakoff. Last Friday this denizen of the deep would meet his match as gladiator of the fly fishing world Chris Conant would be treading on his territory. Armed with only a fly rod Chris would hook, and eventually bring to hand this legendary trout. A glorious trout wearing a suit of gold adorned with brown jewels and white accents had finally been conquered. My sharp ears were able to pick up the sounds of a skirmish occurring on this field of battle, and I arrived in time to witness the culmination of a vicious fight. I congratulated Chris on his victory and watched as the ousted king returned to his lair. Following this release Chris announced that his week long campaign would end now as no further battles were needed.
Fast forward five days and welcome the arrival of a new gladiator from the other side of Missouri. Kevin Keens had been on a successful week long quest throughout the state of Missouri in search of legendary trout. While a successful campaign had taken place, Kevin decided to go looking for one final battle prior to heading home. Several nice fish had been brought to hand that morning when a jarring strike reinvigorated our weary warrior. An epic battle ensued ending in a well earned victory for Kevin, albeit at least 100 yards downstream from the front lines. I was once again summoned to the river so record of this monumental battle could be burnt in film for further generations to enjoy. As this 23 1/2 " monster was released Kevin raised his fly rod in victory announcing this too would be the final battle of his campaign. As the only one to witness both defeated opponents I am left wondering if this could possibly be the same fish. One would think a king such as this would not fall prey twice in the same week, but the size of the fish and location thereof lead me to believe this could be the case. We will never know for sure if this is the same fish or not but we do know both were released unharmed and continue to prowl the run in front of Sunburst Ranch. Hopefully the next few weeks will provide more battles in his home waters adding to the lore of the fish we now call "Happy Ending".
As I sit here this morning with sore buttocks and shins the memories of a warm wonderful Sunday will hopefully remain fresh in my mind even as a cold Spring breeze blows everything else away. Somehow until yesterday I had not managed to teach my 7 year old son to ride a bike without training wheels. It seems like we took the training wheels off years ago, but a few quick lessons had gone unfinished. As I watched him play his DS yesterday morning something made me decide that today was the day. I asked Eli if he wanted to learn to ride his bike today to which he unenthusiastically replied sure, and off we went. Part of the reason I have been reluctant to teach him to ride is our lack of a good smooth surface on which to learn. This day we started on the gravel road in front of the campground and then progressed to the slight downward grade in front of the log cabin. This spot is on packed grass and is quite bumpy, but provided a soft landing for crashes, while the downhill start provided increased speed for easier balancing. Amazingly, within 10-15 minutes of me helping him to balance he was off and riding. We continued to walk to the base of the hill for easier starts, and within and hour or so he was taking off on his own, and swirving up and down the campground running into the fence twice, the truck once, and the four wheeler several times. The art of breaking still has not been mastered, but I have witnessed good form when bailing off the back of the bike just before big downhill crashes were to occur. Surprisingly I think I feel more beat up today than Eli does from bending over to help him balance and running along side him on those first solo flights. Looks like he may be more coordinated than his old man, seems like I remember more blood, tears, and frustration when I was discovering my freedom.