Saturday, August 22, 2015

Trip Summary - Montauk State Park, August 2015

Early last week, sitting at my cubicle, I realized that I had an event-free weekend coming up for the first time in a long time. I decided to reserve a campsite for Montauk and do a quick overnight trip. My wife, Emily, decided she didn't feel like going, and I couldn't talk any of my friends into joining me either, so it turned into my first solo camping/fishing trip. My buddy Mike Hoffmann had given me his old 2-person tent and sleeping pad, so I only had a small load to bring down with me. Fair warning, when I originally wrote this post in my fishing journal, illuminated by my Coleman lamp, I was about three sheets to the wind. But the sentiment was true. To be honest, it was bit boring and lonely sitting there by myself. Everyone around me seemed to be having a great time with friends and family, and I was there by myself writing in a notebook like a crazy person at the library. My phone battery was at 68%, in airplane mode, and the alarm was set for 6:00 the following morning. My goal was to have enough time to make coffee in the morning and tear down my meager camp before the bell rang.

On the way down to Montauk, I stopped in St. James and bought a six-pack of Rod's Cream Ale by Public House Brewing Company out of St. James. It was an incredibly hard decision, as the gas station just south of town has a surprisingly tremendous beer selection. Rod's Cream Ale is an incredibly delicious beer. I thought the temperature outside was going to be too hot, and make a cream beer somewhat nauseating, but it was perfect. It has the flavor of a heavier cream stout, but without the weight. Really just top notch stuff. Another reason to love St. James, in addition to their competing flag stores. So if you read this post and opine that it goes way off the rails emotionally, blame the Cream Ale.

Rod's Cream Ale, Public House Brewing Co., St. James, Missouri
Rod's Cream Ale, Public House Brewing Co., St. James, Missouri

Sitting alone at the campsite that night, with the under-cooked camp steaks I had made over the bonfire, and five of my six Cream Ales rolling around in my stomach, I felt a strong feeling of regret that Emily hadn't come, or more accurately, that I had ditched her at home. Both she and I are having some stresses at work, some negative and some positive, and I feel like I left her hanging to go fishing. This Montauk trip was somewhat (i.e., very) impromptu on my part, and it didn't help that this was my first solo excursion. So I sat there worrying about her, knowing she was at home with the dog worrying about me and my inevitable drowning.

There was a surprisingly level of guilt that I truly was not anticipating. Granted, it's not like I was out camping with some young blonde number (like that would happen anyway), but I honestly just didn't like being apart from her. And I f***ing hated not having cell phone service, Sprint. Emily and I had to communicate through twitter direct messages using the lodge's wifi. It's not just the various job stresses, or the lack of cell phone service. I love Emily, and she's been my best friend for years. Lately, I've felt like our marriage has really been coming into its own and strengthening. (Geez, isn't this a fishing blog?) We're inching closer and closer to starting our own family and having kids, and maybe that's what' freaking me out so much. Actually, yes, I can tell you for a fact that is what's freaking me out so much. Turns out that when you first get married and make a five-year plan, and then have three anniversaries, you find yourself towards the tail-end of that plan, which concludes with having children. It really sneaks up on you. I'm excited to have kids, but god damn to babies still scare the crap out of me. I'm only 27 years old for god's sake. Get off my back.

So basically, I was sitting by myself outside of Salem f***ing Missouri. I missed my wife and felt guilty about leaving her alone at home to come out here by myself. I was alone with my thoughts and god help me, I was foolish enough to actually write these crazy ass thoughts down. I really wish Emily had been there to make fun of the jackass two campsites over molesting an acoustic guitar. That would have made the trip perfect. Anyway, that was a lot more intimate than I was anticipating (god damn Cream Ale). So how was the fishing?

Flooding damage at Montauk, Missouri
A fallen tree, blocking the dam at Montauk
To be perfectly honest, Montauk is kind of a mess right now. All of the heavy rains and flooding this summer really did a number to the river. It looks like the place went through a hurricane. There were tons of trees strewn about the place, blocking paths and clogging certain outlets. The water was high and murky, which isn't the end of the world, but on my first day, I think I only saw one trout in the water. I arrived at about 2:00 in the afternoon, and bounced around from the low-water bridge to the lodge until about 7:00. Then I packed it in, set up camp, and apparently got shitfaced and emotional. It happens.

For this trip, I had read in a fishing report online that Primrose and Pearl Midges were doing well, so I decided to try tying some of those. They ended up being incredibly easy to tie, and pretty effective on the stream. I settled on size #14. I used a scud/pupa hook, 1x strong, 1x short (Dai-Riki #135 Size 14). After sliding on a 7/64" brass tying bead, I put on a white thread base. Behind the bead-head, a tied in a strand of copper wire, and three strands of the root beer flashbou that I had bought for those emergers I had tied for the Bennett Spring trip back in May. The instructions I read have you tie in the copper and flashbou at the bead, and double back, beginning the wraps at the bend. I feel like you could just as easily secure the materials at the bend and skip a step, but perhaps tying them on at the head makes them more secure. I wound tight wraps of the flashbou from the bend up to the head and secured it there. Then I do opposite direction wraps of the copper wire back to the head as well, securing it there, and finishing the fly off with a whip finish. The bead head keeps the eye from crowding, and the copper wire does a good job of trapping everything in place. I was able to make 3-4 flies off of each three stands of flashbou. It's a small, compact, sturdy, and flashy little fly. I really like it.

Primrose and Pearl Midge
Primrose & Pearl Midge, Size #14
I fished downstream from the low-water bridge to start off my first day. Within the first few minutes, I did land a tiny, baby rainbow about the size of a hot dog. Unfortunately, that would be the most action I saw that day. I was unsuccessful with my P&P midges, and eventually decided to switch things up. Around 6:00 in the evening, the sun was just at the edge of the tree line and trout were beginning to, though not frequently, take flies from the surface. I tied on a Royal Wulff, and tried dead-drifting it was as well as I could. Fishing dries brought an incredible sense of calm I had been seeking all day. Earlier, I was struggling with midges and nymphs. I had run out of split-shot foam indicators, and was using a half-deflated Thingamabobber. I have really come to hate these things. Not only do they kink your leader when you tie one on, but I find that they rip off of the water harshly, with a lot of drag, and land with the subtlety of a dropped bowling ball. Switching to dries cut out the middle-man. Even though I still wasn't having any luck landing anything, my fishing itself improved in the evening when I was no longer relying on crappy, clumsy indicators. That said, I did make a point to buy some more split-shot indicators for the morning.

At this point in my fishing journal notes, I made some terrible analogy between fishing dry flies and doing yoga. I'll spare you all the awful details of that paragraph. Suffice to say, it was getting late in the evening when I wrote that, and eventually I crawled off to my tent to sleep off the beers. The night wasn't too long, and I slept decently. I don't think it got below 80 degrees all night, so it was fairly comfortable camping weather. I woke up Sunday morning less hungover than I would have expected. I tore down camp and made some thick, black, camp coffee. I ate some knock-off Pop Tarts and headed to the river.

A foggy Montauk morning
A beautiful foggy morning on the Current River, Montauk State Park
Sunday morning was absolutely gorgeous. There was a light fog on the river, and the water had cleared up slightly. Around 8:00 a.m., I was fishing the narrow rocky area behind the lodge, dead-drifting dry flies, and still not having much luck. After a few hours and a coffee and trail mix break, I waded in above the dam near the water intake. Above the dam is always a popular spot, but it was surprisingly empty that morning. I tied one of my P&P midges and one of my new indicators, setting the depth at about five feet, give or take. After a few changes in depth, I was finally beginning to see some action and get some strikes. Eventually, I was able to land a couple rainbow trout. Though not huge, it was incredibly satisfying not only to finally break the cold streak for that trip, but to do so on the flies I had specifically tied for that outing.

Beautiful Rainbow Trout

The drive home was easy and quick. I met up with Emily at her parents' place in Pacific. There were a ton of young nieces and nephews running about the place, and they all wanted to see the frozen rainbow trout I had stashed in grandma's freezer. It was good to see Emily again, and I think she was equally happy to see me as well. Having a have dozen toddlers running around certainly didn't help the baby-fever hitting our marriage, but hey, maybe eventually I'll at least get somebody to go camping with out of this. I guess I'm not as terrified of babies as I thought.

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