Thursday, March 3, 2016

February on the Current River

My New Year's Resolution for 2016 is to fish at least once every month. I accomplished this in February by the skin of my teeth, making a day trip down to the Current River below Montauk State Park on the 28th of the month. This was also the day before my 2015 Missouri fishing license expired, so I was cutting it close on two fronts.

Baptist Campe Access - Voss Fish
Baptist Camp Access - Current River
These early spring weekends have been surprisingly busy, making it harder to sneak away to the streams. They seem much busier than years' past. This weekend alone I had a fish fry with the in-laws on Friday night, an all-day, five microbrewery pub crawl on Saturday, and finally, the Current River day trip on Sunday. Luckily for me, the pub crawl didn't affect my Sunday morning as much as I was fearing it would. In fact, Sunday morning proved to be one of my easiest commutes to Montauk. For the first time in a long time, I didn't have to drive all the way there by myself. I was joined by my brother-in-law, Alan, and my pal David, whom I used to work with at Express Scripts. Having people to talk to made a world of difference on the 2.5 hour trip. It also helped that the days are already getting longer in Missouri, and unlike when I drove down to Montauk back in January, it wasn't pitch black the entire drive.

Even though opening day was only two days away, the park was surprisingly empty, particularly near the mill and cabins. It wasn't until we drove past the campground that we saw the fleet of RVs and campers that had already staked out their spots for the coming week. Despite these growing crowds in the campground, both the Tan Vat Hole and Baptist Camp Access were sparsely populated. There were only one or two cars parked at each spot, including the massive Ram 2500 truck with the NRA sticker that I parked my Toyota Prius with Hillary for America sticker next to.

Fishing the Current River
Fishing the Current River
The three of us geared up and started working our way upstream from the Tan Vat Hole. I could tell right away that it was not going to be the easiest day of fishing. Even though the sun was out and the temperature was rising, it could be incredibly windy. Luckily, the wind wasn't constant, but would come in long, slow, irregular gusts that could (and did) blow off an angler's hat. If the wind wasn't settled, it simply wasn't possible to effectively cast during these gusts. Maybe it was the wind, or even the changing temperatures, but the fish just did not seem very active. There was hardly any visible movement under the clear water, and hardly any activity on the surface. This was despite an obvious hatch of what looked like size #22 brown mayflies near the banks.

A photo posted by Jacob Voss (@voss_fish) on

We fished the Tan Vat area for the entire morning, and in that time only saw two other fishermen about a half mile up the river. It was when we were making our way back to the car for lunch that I finally caught that day's fish. Earlier in the morning, when I was working my way upstream, I was wading through the shallow center of the river and casting to both banks. There was a good amount of trees and grass overhanging, so it's where I figured the trout would be. However, it was in the center of the stream where I finally noticed some trout rising. The river was fairly wide and shallow in this stretch, maybe 12-18 inches deep, but there was a ledge where the depth dropped to over two feet. The fish were hanging around the lip of this ledge feeding, and I nearly waded directly through them.

I already had a fairly small P&P midge tied on, so I gave that fly a shot, casting slightly upstream and letting the midge sink to the proper depth as it reached the fish. After only a few minutes, I had my first strike of the day and landed a brown trout about the size of my index finger. Full disclosure, I believe I have a pretty big index finger. I did catch a second baby trout almost immediately, but I didn't see any other action from that pool.

We made it back to the car for a lunch of sandwiches and some 4Hands Brewery Single Speed IPAs. We loaded our fly rods into the Prius and headed a few miles down the road to the Baptist Camp Access. This was my first time fishing the B.C.A., and I was surprised by the atmosphere. There were large portions of asphalt and concrete collapsing into the river, and to be honest, the area did not look 100% safe. I'm not sure if this structural damage was the result of the recent winter floods, or if it has been slowly dilapidating for years, but either way it is in need of repair.

Steep Bank - Voss Fish
Steep Bank
This portion of the Current River runs along an incredibly steep bluff and can cause an almost claustrophobic feeling, with the far banks being completely unnavigable. It didn't seem like we spent a lot of time at the B.C.A., and the temperature that afternoon began to drop fairly steadily. We ended up hitting the road at about 3:30, but did make a pit stop on the way out. We stopped on the dam within Montauk to show David that there actually were large rainbow trout within the park. During his prior visit to Montauk back in January, he had only fished near the spring mouth and didn't get to see any of the larger rainbows that hang out near the dam and low-water bridge.

The ride home had a much lower energy level than the ride in. Although the weather was great, and we were all happy to have spent a day on the water, there was no denying that the fishing was somewhat lousy. I had planned on watching the Oscars that night with my wife, but fell asleep early watching Netflix instead. All in all, and even with the lousy fishing, it was an excellent Sunday to end-cap an excellent weekend.

As I write this, it's March 1, and the 2016 Missouri trout season has officially begun. I plan on keeping up with my New Year's Resolution and hitting the stream again as soon as possible, but first, I'm going to need to renew my fishing license.

I've dropped all of the trip photos into the gallery below. Enjoy.

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