Thursday, July 2, 2015

Trip Summary - Bennett Spring, June 2015

Keeping with the tradition of this blog, I am writing this out by hand as I sit in on a SLU Law continuing legal education seminar. I’m in downtown St. Louis at the new SLU Law building, and my buddy Pat Eckelkamp, another attorney and fly-fisherman, is sitting next to me, also not paying attention. But hey, we both need the CLE hours to keep our law licenses, and this seminar is free. It’s been raining non-stop in St. Louis for a solid week. Water has been slowly but steadily seeping into my basement bathroom, and all of the streams in Missouri are completely blown out.

When I was fishing down at Bennett Spring back in mid-May, water output was at about 150 cubic meters per second. As I write this, output is over 1550 cubic meters per second. Insane. A few weeks ago, towards the beginning of June, my dad, Al, and I ventured down to Bennett, and although the water was a bit high and a bit fast, it was manageable, about 800 cubic meters per second.

Flooding at Bennett Spring
This pic of the Bennett Spring bridge from mid-June 2015 comes from Weaver's Fishing Report.
So even though conditions in June weren't as good as May's, I'm starting to come to realize that "good fishing conditions" don't necessarily equate good fishing. Conversely, I'm finding that I tend to catch fish in high, fast, murky water fairly regularly. That was the case last week at Bennett Spring. It was my second trip there in three weeks, and instead of traveling with a family who were all expert fly-fishers, I was going with my dad, who swore off fishing at a young age.

Al Voss, the Selfie King
Al Voss, the Selfie King
Friday morning proved to be a rainy one in Lebanon, Missouri. By the time my dad and I rolled into town, the grass was damp and there were large standing puddles all over the place. I would say the water in the park was at least 12 inches higher than when I was there three weeks prior. The stone walkway along the stream downstream from the dam was fully submerged. All of the large rocks rising from the stream back in May were nowhere to be found. The water was very fast, and very murky, making it impossible to see the bottom, and even harder to spot trout. The high water made wading a bit more treacherous than normal. Near one of the hatchery outlets, the bed of the stream drops off very suddenly into a deep channel. I didn't realize this and took a nasty tumble my first time in. Luckily, I one dunked one of my arms, and didn't get completely soaked. The water never even got above my wader line, thank god.

On my May trip to Bennett, the tear along the crotch in my old boot-foot waders came back with a vengeance. When I got back from that trip, I applied a few new layers of Shoe Goo, but it became clear that this wasn’t going to work as a permanent solution. So I splurged a bit, and used some of my summer grass cutting money and bought a new pair of Cabella’s neoprene breathable stocking-foot waders, and a pair of wading boots. The wading boots came with attachable spikes, but I haven’t attached them yet. The neoprene is a true game-changer, compared to the thick rubber boot waders. Not only was my mobility increased, climbing in, out, and through streams, but pealing my waders on and offer was no longer such a chore. They are much lighter and certainly cooler in temperature. In fact, they might be too light and cool. I can imagine the might be a bit chilly come catch and release season this winter. We’ll see. Also, in addition to my new waders, I had some time to kill on a business trip to Boston last month, so I ended up checking out their Orvis outlet store, and found myself a cool new river hat. It has also become my cool new cutting the grass hat as well.

New Waders, New Hat
New Waders. New Hat.
With the new waders and the new hat, I managed to stay dry Friday, and catch a few fish. My dad sat out fishing on Friday, but he did volunteer to take some pictures and videos from the bank. 

As Al mentions in his wonderful color commentary, that was the second fish I caught almost as soon as getting into the water for the first time that trip. We arrived in the park around 4:00 in the afternoon, and with it being June, still had a lot of sunlight left. I was using my go-to white floss jig, and honestly was trying to find my groove. It had been a long car ride and I wasn't completely in fishing-mode yet. It takes me a while. Plus, there was the added pressure of having someone watch me fish for their entertainment. I'm going to be completely honest here: I have no idea how I hooked the first one. I was standing upstream a few yards of the channel I mentioned earlier and my line was near the end of its drift and beginning to drag. Well, that seemed to do the trick --- the fly coming up from the bottom enticed the trout and I was able to get him on(and it hooked almost directly in front of where my dad was sitting). I didn't even realize he was on there, and set the hook when I was pulling my rod up to do another role cast upstream.

Fishing below the bridge, Bennett Spring
Note the water level on the bridge, compared to the pic above.
But hey, that's all it takes. Suddenly with that trout on, my driving-brain disappeared instantly and I was in full fish-mode. Any anxiety about water conditions and a weekend-long skunk were gone. Sure, the water wasn't very clear, but that didn't seem to matter. The fish were hungry and they were biting. The next fish (seen in the video above) I caught pretty much in the same way, letting the line drag for a short moment before setting the hook.  

Fishing above the dam - Bennett Spring
Above the dam, Bennett Spring
That's how most of the weekend went. In the morning I would fish above the Whistle Bridge and use a John Deere jig, letting it drag just a touch. In the afternoons, I would head back below the dam and keep the white floss jig on. My dad primarily used my brother-in-law, Alan's ultralight, but he did try out fly-fishing on the last day. My patched boot-foot waders did keep him dry too, which was encouraging. Alan didn't have any luck Saturday, but he did manage to catch some fish on Sunday. Overall, it was a very successful weekend. Even the kids had a good time. 

My sister, Laura, had the fun task of not only dealing with two toddlers all weekend, but also dealing with her drunken brother, husband, and father. We all stayed at a suite at the Bennett Spring Inn right outside the park. It was okay . . . just okay. Had I been by myself, or even with a few guys, I wouldn't have a complaint in the world, but with my sister and the kids being there, I did feel somewhat guilty for the motel being a bit cramped. But hey, it's a fishing motel. It's supposed to be like that. There's hooks for your waders and signs begging you not to clean trout in your sink. Hell, they even had good wifi and a pool for the kids. The cleaning ladies accepted frozen trout in the freezer in lieu of cash tips. Best of all, they sell flies in the motel lobbies. Good, cheap flies. In fact, I only caught fish on their flies all weekend. So if you need a spot to stay near Bennett, it's perfect, but if you're traveling with pregnant women and toddlers, maybe opt for somewhere a bit roomier. 

Sizing up the Rainbow Trout

Alan, Laura, and the kids left pretty early Sunday, but my dad and I decided we might as well hit up Maramec Spring on the drive home. He hadn't been there for years, and I was all too eager to make this a multi-spot trip. As I said at the beginning of this post, I'm finding that good water conditions does not equate good fishing. At Maramec, the water was slow and clear, but I'll be damned if I could get a fish on. I caught one small, six-inch trout that promptly rolled over and died once I got the fly out of its mouth. I felt a built guilty about that one. Maramec was somehow even more crowded than Bennett, with the usual showing of the majority of folks using ultra-lights. Looking back, I would have rather stayed at Bennett, so good to know for the future. That said, I really do love the Maramec Iron Works Museum. There's something incredibly calming about their collection of miniatures and dioramas showing how the water table and cave fed springs are formed.

Overall, it was my most successful fishing trip yet. I caught about a dozen fish over the weekend, and was able to stock my freezer full of trout. I even tried grilling trout for the first time, along with some ears of corn for me and my buddy Jud to eat. I stuffed the trout full of spices (onion power, garlic salt, cayenne pepper, sale and pepper), butter, and chopped onions; wrapped it in foil; and kept it over a hot grill (450 degrees) for about 20 minutes, flipping every five minutes. The skin peeled right off and so did the spine and ribs. It was delicious.

Grilled Rainbow Trout

So what's next? Well, I'm finally getting this post up in early July, and it just so happens that I'm leaving for a week in Colorado the day after tomorrow. Emily and I will be camping between Estes Park and Lyons, so I'm going to try and check out the St. Vrain River. It's John Gierach's home water, and who knows, I might bump into him. I'll be sure to take lots of pictures, and maybe even take a few notes so I don't forget everything.

Uncle Jake with the kids

No comments:

Post a Comment

You May Also Enjoy: