Monday, May 22, 2017

Dead Armadillos and Rainbow Trout - Bennett Spring, May 2017

I have never seen a living armadillo. I know they are steadily gaining numbers in Missouri, but I have never seen one of these animals, at least alive. If I told you to guess how many dead armadillos I saw between St. Louis and Lebanon, Missouri and back, how many would you say? Five? Ten? Twenty?

I drove down to Bennett Spring, outside of Lebanon, last Friday after work for a quick overnight camping and fishing trip to celebrate my 29th birthday. Normally, Emily would tag along for these quick trips, but shockingly the idea of being seven months pregnant and sleeping in a tent didn't sound appealing to her. Women. Originally, I was just going to haul ass and try to get down there early Saturday morning, but Emily had the bright idea for me to camp the night before instead. A night alone in the woods with no company except a campfire and a cooler of beer is always a bright idea in my book, so she didn't really need to twist my arm to get me out of the house.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Three Reasons Why: The Early 2017 Fly-Fishing Drought

Riddle me this: How can rain lead to drought? Answer: When it screws up my planned weekend of fly-fishing. The trout season in Missouri has been going on for nearly two months, and I still have not been fishing yet this season. I had planned on going this weekend (destination unknown) but Mother Nature has not been cooperating, and mid-Missouri has been slammed with with rain and thunderstorms. A projected six inches of rain is expected by Sunday, which is when I had planned on escaping to the stream. By then, most river banks will be flooded and the water will resemble something between old Miller Light and chocolate milk. However, I am chomping at the bit to go fishing. I'm told beggars cannot be choosers, so there's still a good chance I might be standing out in the rain on Sunday hoping like hell the trout have x-ray vision and will be able to see my flies through the muck.

The last time I went fly-fishing was back in February, for catch-and-release season, so I am extremely fortunate that I consider a few months without fishing "a drought." To be honest, fly-fishing has not been a priority in my life for the past few months. There's a multitude of reasons why, ranging from spectacular to mundane to plain old shitty, but I will whittle them down to the Big Three (in order from shitty to spectacular).

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Happy 2017 Trout Season Opening Day!

It's March 1st in Missouri, which means only one thing: it is Opening Day in our trout parks for Catch-and-Keep season. As is tradition, I am spending Opening Day as far away from the stream as I can, and watching a bunch of fools trying to fish standing shoulder to shoulder with one another, desperately trying to bag their 4-trout daily limit.

You can watch the crowds at Bennett Spring on the live stream below provided by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

I wish you the best of luck this 2017 season, and hope to see you on the water.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Smallmouths & Rainbows on Maramec Spring

Inevitably, fishing always slows down during the winter months. Not only do most Missouri parks close during the week, and fishing is limited to catch & release, but my own enthusiasm seems to be sapped by the idea of standing out in single digit temperatures until I can't feel my fingers. Usually, I'll hunker down at home, tie flies in my office, and try not gain so much weight that my waders don't fit. (Unsurprisingly, my total miles jogged also seems to drop in the winter, again leading to tighter waders.)

This year, I was able to mitigate the winter fishing drought somewhat. Through the Missouri Conservation Department's Winter Fishing Program, I was able to sneak out of the office during my lunch hour a few times to go fishing at a nearby lake that was stocked by the MDC with Rainbow Trout. Even though I was able to squeeze in a handful of trips throughout the winter months, I never did catch a trout. In fact, I only saw one other angler catch anything the entire time I was out there. The trout seemed stunned to be transported to an urban lake, and honestly, I had no idea how to fish for them in a small, still, mossy pond. I guess it's the thought that counts with the Winter Fishing Program.

The MDC, stocking an urban lake

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Trying Tenkara at Maramec Spring

It was the penultimate day of 2016. I was about a mile from the Maramec Spring park entrance when I realized the flies I had tied up for this trip were still sitting in a little plastic box on my desk at home, about 95 miles away. No fly-fishing trip ever goes off without a hitch in the plan, but this moment seemed to set the tone for the rest of the day, a trip fraught with little equipment problems. As with any trip, I would have to overcome the little hiccups to have a decent year-end day of fishing.

For Christmas this year "my wife" bought me a Tenkara Rod Co. Teton Rod on their Black Friday Sale. (Those quotes were sarcastic air quotes. "Emily" bought me the Tenkara rod just as much as "I" bought her the Macy's winter coat she picked out.) I'd been reading about Tenkara fishing a lot this past year, and salivating at the different packages available on Tenkara Rod Co.'s website. When their Black Friday deals arrived in my inbox, and I found out I could save 25% off their entire store, I just couldn't help myself.

As with many fly-fishermen, I am a sucker for gadgets. While admittedly, none of my gear is even close to being in the high-end range (i.e., cost) of fly-fishing gear, I have invested hundreds of dollars into this hobby and really love when I have a new toy to play with. For those of you reading this who are unfamiliar with Tenkara style rods (Hi Mom and Dad!), it is a style of fly-fishing rod that has its origins in Japan. A Tenkara rod is a very long and very flexible fly-rod without a reel. Rather, there is a set length of line that attached to a short lillian at the rod tip. The rod itself telescopes, and when compacted, measures only 20 inches in length. Extended, my rod, The Teton, is 12 feet in length - much longer than the 8-foot rods I am used to fishing. The line is a thin, braided fly fly, 13-feet in length. The line attached to the rod using a loop that grips the lillian, and at the opposite end has a small ring where you attach a length of tippet.

The rod seems to be extremely fragile, so I need to be careful walking around with it near the stream. It seems like a stray tree branch could easily break the tip. The rod came with a carrying case, the line, a few flies, and a line holder that fits on the rod handle when not in use. In addition to the Tenkara Rod Co. Teton Rod, Emily also bought me a Nice Pack Co. Midge Neck Pack. This actually was a surprise and I had not heard of this company or product before. It basically acts as a miniature fly-fishing vest, giving you a space to store flies, tippet spools, pliers, a nail-knot tool, and a phone in a small pack you hang from your neck. Between the Nice Pack and Tenkara Rod, I could potentially store everything I would need for a fly-fishing trip in a carry-on bag, and not have to worry about an airline destroying or losing any of my gear. Overnight I became a much more mobile fly-fisherman.

Christmas was on a Sunday, and by that Friday, I was already trying out my new gear on the stream.