Friday, April 10, 2020

Practicing Social Distancing on Blue Spring Creek

It's April 2020, and COVID-19 is spreading across planet Earth, killing tens of thousands of people and disrupting the global economy. People are stuck inside and cannot risk going to school, church, work, or even the grocery store for fear of infection. I had been working from home full-time for the past three weeks. Cabin fever was setting in with a vengeance. It was the perfect time to leave society, go into the woods, and do some fly-fishing.

At the end of March, the Missouri Department of Conservation announced they were waiving fishing license and daily tag requirements for game fishing. This gave me the motivation I needed to take off work and do some fly-fishing. But where to go? I only had a few hours to fish, and didn't want to waste the whole day driving. Emily would be at home with both kids on a weekday, so an extended two- or three-day camping trip was out of the question. Plus, the state had closed the public campsites due to the coronavirus. Maramec Spring was shut down, and Bennett and Montauk weren't stocking their streams during the pandemic. I'd have to think outside the box.

The CDC recommends people keep a minimum of six feet of distance between individuals not living together. Blue Springs Creek lies five miles outside of Bourbon, Missouri, which only has a population of about 1,200 people. It doesn't get much more socially distant than that.

I left the house before the sun came up and headed west on Interstate 44. Unsurprisingly, there was no traffic at 5:00 AM when the state had a stay-at-home order. Between the lack of traffic and being distracted by the audiobook I was listening to, I didn't realize how slow I was driving. Looking down at the speedometer, I realized I was barely going over 60 MPH. It would take me all damn morning to get there going that slow. I put the pedal to the metal and got to Bourbon around 6:30. My Prius was the only car in the small, gravel, river access lot. I geared up and walked the few yards down to the creek.

I found Blue Springs Creek very shallow, narrow, and silent, with the only noise being trucks driving past on the nearby Highway N. The weather was beautiful, with mid-70 temps and overcast clouds. The water was low and clear, which made the already nervous fish even more skittish. For Blue Springs Creek, a good "hole" was a dip in the creek bottom that would maybe get two feet deep. The deepest water I had to wade the entire day barely got over my knees.

I wanted to fish some small nymphs on an indicator, but the low water-levels made this impossible. Instead, I switched to small dry flies - Adams and Royal Wulffs. A fun fact about me is that I'm terrible at casting dry flies. I spent a large portion of the morning untangling my tippet that somehow got tangled up with the rest of my fly line and various tree branches and shrubs. This was through no fault of my own, I assure you.

I walked upstream from the Blue Springs Ranch entrance bridge, hitting each little hole along the way. On top of the wind picking up, and my own general slopping dry fly casting, I kept having small minnows hit my dry flies as soon as I set a cast on the surface of the water. These small fish would drag my fly under, soaking it, leaving me to have to false cast a while longer to dry off the fly. This inevitably led to more tangles. After untangling my line for the umpteenth time, I did manage to pull out a few small fish from the creek - mostly Bleeding Shiners, but also one decent sized Creek Chub.

After a few hours, I headed back to the Prius and scouted out some other spots along the creek. To my surprise, a few other cars had shown up later in the morning. This wouldn't do. Not only was there a risk of contracting COVID-19, but also Blue Springs Creek simply couldn't handle more than one or two anglers at a time. It was time to wrap things up. It was a short trip and I was back in the city and the real world, pandemic and all, for lunch time. Upon arriving home, my two-year-old let me know that he wasn't happy I went fishing without him. So we hopped on the bike and headed to Carondelet Park to fish with his new Paw Patrol rod in the pond there. We got skunked, and that's okay.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

New Rod, Old Stream - Fishing Meramec Spring with My Fenwick 6-Weight

Since my last blog post (which my friend Brian conveniently reminded me was about six months ago), there have been two new exciting additions in my life. First, my daughter, Mary-Louise, was born. She joined the Voss family and human race back around Thanksgiving last year. What she lacks in a regular sleep schedule, she makes up for in cuteness, and Emily and I couldn't be more excited to have her around. Older brother Willie is also very, very excited about his baby.

Welcome, Mary-Louise.
The second new addition is my brand new Fenwick World Class 6-weight, 9-foot, 6-piece fly rod. A few days before my Maramec Spring trip, I attended the 2020 Ozark Fly Fishers Annual Banquet and Auction. After browsing all the silent auction items and consuming a couple of Bud Selects, I was talked into buying a playing card in the 52 Card Pick Up raffle. I looked for the Queen of Hearts, couldn't find her, and settled on the King of Diamonds. Lucky for me, that's the card that was called and I came home the big winner. To say I was excited is an understatement. It is by far the nicest piece of fly-fishing tackle I now own, and the six-piece design makes in incredibly compact and perfect to throw in a bag for a hike. I won the rod on a Saturday, and by that Monday I was already testing it out on the stream.

Welcome, Fenwick.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Fly-Fishing for Wild Rainbow Trout on Mill Creek, Missouri - August, 2019

It has been a busy weekend, and maybe an even busier summer. On Friday, the family and I celebrated my son, Willie, turning two. We hosted a tremendous Batman-theme birthday party complete with cardboard masks, a Batmobile cake, and Pin the Bat on the Signal, which was a game I last played at my own fifth birthday party a quarter of a century ago. Ooph. On top of Willie turning two, my wife is also expecting our second child, a daughter. The new Baby VossFish will be joining the fun this Thanksgiving, so you can imagine there's plenty to do around the house, with fishing taking its rightful spot on the back-burner. However, that doesn't mean I'm doing zero fishing. Friday night was for birthday cake and chimichangas and more Bud Selects than I probably should have, because Saturday morning was for waking up early, carting Willie off to his grandparents' house, and hightailing it in the Prius out to Rolla, Missouri to do some wild trout fishing.

Mill Creek flows north through the Mark Twain National Forest south of Rolla. From Wilkins Spring to the creek's mouth at the Little Piney River, the entire stretch of the creek within the Bohigian Conservation Area is a Blue Ribbon Trout Area. Obviously, there are no native trout species in the state of Missouri, however, the Rainbow Trout population in Mill Creek is self-sustaining, and naturally reproduce in the spring-fed creek waters that maintain a temperature of approximately 57 degrees year round.

Mill Creek

Friday, April 5, 2019

Five (More) Fly-Fishing Gift Ideas for the Special Angler in Your Life

I've gotten some nice stats on my first article about "The Top Five Gift Ideas for a Fly-Fisherman (That My Wife Has Already Gotten Me)" so I figured I might as well write the sequel before Mother's Day and Father's Day this year. Thanks again to my wife Emily whose brilliant freelance marketing mind came up with the idea in the first place. So, without further adieu, here's Five (More) Fly-Fishing Gift Ideas for the Special Angler in Your Life.

5. Retractable Lanyard

This is by no means a large gift, but damned if it isn't one of the more useful little gadgets on my vest and has saved me countless times from dropping my nail-knot tool into a river. You might think I'm exaggerating, but I am not. I am currently on my third nail-knot tool, with my first two lying on the bottom of Maramec Spring and the Current River, respectively.

A retractable lanyard simply keeps a tool clipped to your vest and prevents it from plunging into the depths below. Some are better than others, depending on if the string is made from fiber or metal wire, and I have had some break and the spring fail, but these are not expensive and hardly meant to last forever. Perfect gift to include with a card or a stocking-stuffer if you're closer to Christmas.

Available at: T. Hargrove's, Feather-Craft, Your Local Fly Shop

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Tying the Smoke Jumper Midge with Special Guest Tier, Willie Voss

JV: Welcome. Today on VossFish, we've got a special treat. My 21-month-old son Willie will be demonstrating how to tie the Smoke Jumper Midge, the latest in my subscription from PostFly. Take it away, Willie.

WV: Thanks Dad. Alright folks, welcome and I hope you enjoy this pattern. It's not too complex, but you will have to be careful not to overcrowd the eye of the hook. But that's true with most patterns. It's a midge pattern and meant to imitate an underwater insect hatching from the stream bed and making its way to the surface of the water. I think with a good amount of motion in some clear moving water, this fly has the potential to catch a large number of fish. You'll notice below that it is not a weighted fly, and I believe that's due to the fact that you don't necessarily want to fish this on the bottom, or even near the bottom of the water column. Rather, you want it to have vertical motion to attract trout.

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