31 July 2010

Mountain Home, Arkansas

Cody and I decided we had not had enough of the White River, so Friday, we crossed the border and headed to Mountain Home, Arkansas to fish the Middle White River running below Bull Shoals.  Reaching Cotter and setting up at the Denton Ferry RV park and then heading to the Blue Ribbon Fly Shop to buy our licenses put us back too late to fish the Cotter Access.  We tried to follow the directions to Rim Shoals, but we never could find Baxter County Rd. 3, even with Cody's three GPSes.  Evidently, Cody really wanted to get to Rim Shoals, because he let me talk him into stopping at the grocery store in Gassville to ask for directions.  Now, I asked and Cody sat in the car, until he thought it was taking too long, and he came in to find out what was happening.  What was happening was that I got lucky and was introduced to Wanda, Gassville City Secretary!  Wanda gave and drew perfect directions, and off to Rim Shoals we were.
Being the weekend, the White River is crowded.  When we arrived, it was not shoulder-to-shoulder, but many a fisherman lined along the shoals (small rapids or water riffles).  Cody and I staked a claim and commenced fishing.  I pulled in two fish--two very small fish, approximately two inches in length.  They were colored beautifully, which means they were healthy.  Cody was fishing an extremely lightweight tippet, so he kept breaking off as fish took his flies.  The water levels began to rise at Rim Shoals, so we left and went to the Cotter Access and fished Big Spring.  Just up from the confluence of Big Spring and the White River, some of the largest Brown Trout swim.  Educated, these 25 - 35 inch monsters leisurely swam out of the way of everything we tossed to them.  Even when we fished topwaters, the smaller, younger trout hit in front, behind, and to the sides of our flies.  Oh well, dream on.

Saturday, we put the Mitzi (which called Mountain Home and Blue Ribbon Fly Shop home for many weeks prior to the 2005 Southern Council Conclave when Cody won her in a raffle) in at Wildcat Shoals, motored upriver about 2 miles and floated down.  Cody dominated the White, today.  I caught one fish; Cody caught a dozen.  I tried nymphing, but Olive Wooly Buggers were the fly of the day.  Cody even called several of his fish.  Me, I had one poor idiot Rainbow try to eat my small, pink Thing-a-ma-Bobber, completely ignoring my copper midge and hot pink San Juan Worm. 

The Middle White River shares similarities with the Upper White River at Lake Taneycomo.  Bull Shoals Dam generates differently than Table Rock Dam, but the river sections still support large numbers of Rainbow and Brown Trout.  Branson's elevation runs about 1200 ft. above sea level, while Mountain Home's elevation is half that, running a little above 600 ft.  With the different elevations there is not much effect on the water temperatures, because Mountain Home's temps are about 57 degrees.  Wider than Lake Taneycomo, the Middle White's limestone and pebble bottom is more visible and possesses more gravel beds.  The numbers of fish are about equal, but we did catch larger and brighter colored fish at Lake Taneycomo.  Both sections are heavily fished, but the trout seem to handle the pressure.  The humidity is still high and fog rolls on the river easily; it just doesn't start as early or stay as late in Mountain Home.  The high canyon-esque walls are not present in Arkansas, but the Arkansas Ozarks offer pretty vistas, too.

Tomorrow, after talking with Larry Babin at Blue Ribbon Fly Shop, we are going to wet wade for Smallmouth Bass on Crooked Creek.  I am excited, because while we are in the trout capitol, I love bass fishing!  Hopefully, it is Fish On! tomorrow with lots of pictures!

29 July 2010

Fish for Four and Four for Fish

Fine fishing business on the water, today!

Beginning our day a little earlier, we met up with the Fords on their pontoon boat, picked up Bradley, and headed upstream to the Trophy Area.  Bradley talked about a gravel island he'd fished before with another Texas buddy, so we set off in that direction.  However, the abundance of fish along the way hearkened our names, so we fished.  Bradley and Cody nymphed and I fished the CodyBugger, and not long after wetting our lines, Bradley and I hooked up for a double.  Ahh, those Rainbow Trout sure are pretty, spots and blended colors of teal, turquoise, pink, and white. 

A water body paints many colors.  Catching fish is the only way to see her canvas.  We slowly worked our way up to Bradley's island, hooking up with fish along the way.  Unfortunately, when we reached the island, a family with a pontoon loaded with little kids beached before us, and with all the splashing they made, there was no hope of even casting to these easily spooked creatures, so we continued to drift back down the river. 

Last night, Bradley and Cody had tied CodyBuggers, and Bradley wanted to learn to fish streams on a sinking leader, so we gave just a few pointers, and tight-looped casting commenced.  A fish nipped Bradley's fly on one cast, while, after a perfect cast to a gravel bed, Bradley's CodyBugger had a chaser.  Even though the dam gates opened at noon, today, fishing was fine business. 

Just about the time we began our float down river, Stephanie phoned to tell about the unique Rainbow she landed.  The Missouri Department of Conservation heavily stocks Lake Taneycomo, because they swear the fish are not reproducing.  I say some Mizzou grad student needs to come confirm that, because with the weird in-breds we are seeing and catching, MDoC is wrong!  Steph caught a Rainbow, brilliantly colored, but all of its fins were rimmed white--exactly like a Brook Trout.  Another one of the "non-breeding" crazier in-breds we have seen, is this albino carp.  Unable to catch, I'll just describe it.  Looking at it from above, the fish's right side is completely white.  On its left side beginning at its pectoral fin and going back to its tail fin, the fish is completely white.  On its left side from its mouth to its pectoral fin and from its spine to its belly, the fish is purplish-gray!  Weird and ugly; we saw two of them.  MDoC needs to do more than just stock!  

Boys being boys, Bradley and Cody were hungry, so with fast-moving waters, we docked the boat, came off the lake, drove to Branson's Landing, and ate at Bass Pro Shops' White River Fish House.  Everyone's meal was delicious and the sweet tea was outstanding.  This town has excellent sweet tea!  We visited BPS's fly shop, helped Bradley purchase some fly-tying materials, then headed off to two other fly shops to round out his material list.  Buying fly material is always good; yes, it is a little pricey up front, but tying flies for personal use saves $$$ when compared to having to buy the fly time and again.

We all chose to drift with the current this evening before the foggy fog misted upon us, and the Fords netted two and Cody netted two. 

Cody and I pack up camp and head to Mountain Home for some White River fishing in Arkansas.  The single best day of fishing I ever had was on Arkansas' section of the White, so I am hoping for a repeat performance.  I do have my pink rod, pink reel, pink & purple line, and pink San Juan Worm, so Fly Fshr Grl is r-e-a-d-y!  Learning the multi-personalities of Lake Taneycomo has been a great vacation; one Cody and I would do again!

28 July 2010

Learning Curve Mastered

Still beginning the day at 9:30, Cody and I mastered the learning curve, yahoo!  We motored back to the Trophy Spot but headed even farther upstream.  Still using my 4# rod, 150 grain sinking line, and the CodyBugger, I was able to hook up with some nice Rainbows.  Watching those fish give chase and then take the fly is fun business.  I'd buy a ticket to watch it, but that's me.  Cody's CodyBugger wasn't working for him, so he tied on a nyphming rig, which is what most of the fly fishers are doing in the section, and Cody Bell slayed those 'Bows!  We have found a section of the Trophy Spot that looks almost like the Green River in its density of fish.  Today, those fish did not move out of the way of our flies.  It was great fun!!  Tomorrow, we are heading out but earlier, because the fishing is good for about 30-40 minutes after the dam horn sounds signaling open gates, rising water. 

The wildlife along the river provides another scenic venue.  Just as we crossed the Trophy Spot demarcation line, a flock of eight Canada Geese flew over, and then another 20 feet downriver, a brood floated carelessly, as a cat stalked them along the shore dreaming of dinner.  Herons also line the banks and seem to be a good indicator as to where the fish are located, since fish are a huge food staple for them.  We did have an unwanted visitor, today.  I was fishing off the back of the boat towards the shore, so my back was to the main body of the lake.  Cody calmly says, "Look what's coming toward you."  Now, Cody's voice maintained its composed timbre, so I was not expecting the Copperhead that swam from one side of the lake to the other.  The camera rested on the boat's floor, so when I picked it up to snap that snake's photo, the lenses and the lcd fogged immediately (a great tell as to how cold the water is and how hot the air is).  Rather agitated, Cody kept telling me to get the picture, because that snake was swimming in the boat if Cody didn't troll out of its way.  I got two photos and watched as it made shore and slithered up the steep, hilly, and rocky shore.  You know snakes didn't slither until they misbehaved; darn snakes!  

On the first day, Bradley told Cody about a bar-b-que joint that served excellent ribs.  Cody, being the supreme bbq connoisseur that he is, wanted those ribs, so off to the Rib Crib we went.  Excellent fare, I must say.  Cody ate the ribs, of course, and either that was one big pig or they served Cody two racks.  I ate chicken, and of course, southern Missouri is in the South, so the tea was sweet and quenching.

Afterwards, we headed over to the Fords to tie some flies.  Bradley learned to tie the CodyBugger; we cast some fly rods; Stephanie worked on her book, and the river took on its evening personality with the foggy fog descending on the water.  Overall, another excellent day on the water!

27 July 2010

Lake Taneycomo

Today we fished Lake Taneycomo, and since neither Cody nor I have ever fished it before, it was a learning lesson.  The boat only had three fish for the day, so it was a hard learning lesson.  We motored to the tail end of the Trophy Spot, and began casting.  Fish swam everywhere!  I think I could have dipped the net in the water and landed two dozen fish, easily.  They followed the boat; they swam with the boat; the zoomed out of the boat's path.  Finally, fishing from the back and watching at least 15 fish give chase, nudge, and nip my CodyBugger, a beautiful 13.5" Rainbow Trout inhaled my fly and turned to swim off downstream.  It was great fun watching it all happen.  I used my new Sharkskin sinking line on my recently repaired 4 wt. rod, the last rod I completed at Norm's.  Oh, it was great fun!  That fish would run away pulling line out, which Sharkskin line has a nice zinging hum as a fish pulls line off that reel.  Then, he would rest, and I'd reel him in, and he'd catch his second wind and zoom, off he went, again.  This see-saw action lasted for about three or four minutes, before Cody netted that pretty little fish.  Fishing the same way, I caught another Rainbow about 30 minutes later, but this guy was a hair bigger but much fiestier.  He jumped twice, once about three feet wide and the second time about two feet in the air.  Getting this fish to pose for a photo presented a problem, but master photographer Cody Bell got the shot, in spite of my weak attempts to hold the fish.  Cody fished two flies spread along his leader, and nymphing, he landed a "Golden Bonefish" (carp) on a fly he tied.  The carp here do not act like carp elsewhere.  Gorging themselves on scuds, they don't make fast or long runs.  Cody gave this carp a run, though.  Cody teased that fish right off the river/lake bottom, made it take line, and netted that goldie.  Seeing as those carp are super slimy, Cody posed with him in the net, but before Cody put him back in the drink, that fished pooped all over the net and the inside of the boat.  We don't keep our fish, so they shouldn't behave so badly.

We are staying at Cooper's Creek RV park.  Nestled precariously on a caliche precipice in slot 50, we have not been able to level the RV, even with blocks, but we are in the shade.  Great selection of cable channels but poor reception.  Yes, CC has free WiFi, but only at the office area.  Ambient water temp is 90 degrees, so we don't really need to turn the water heater for the showers.

This area is climate crazy.  Off the water, the humidity is around 60-70%, and yes, we are in the Ozark Mountains; on the water, sometimes it is non-existent, and then, a pocket appears.  We do not arise early because the foggy fog (Scooby-Doo days) hovers over the water at least 6 feet high.  Fishing really doesn't begin until about 9 a.m., but even then, the fog is present.

The water flows from east to west.  Until around 1 p.m., none of the Table Rock Dam floodgates stay closed, which means at times, we are in 20" deep water or shallower.  Afterwards, the floodgates make the water flow around 6-7 mph.  We used a chain this evening to keep us straight and to slow our float, but at times we were drifting at 5 mph--very difficult fishing.  Areas that were ankle-deep this morning, were 16 feet deep this afternoon.  Also, the fog starts rolling in ever so slightly, but present nonetheless, around 4:30.  The sun shines brightly and heatedly but hit a pocket of misty fog and the temperature easily drops 30 degrees or more.  Move out of the fog pocket, and the temps rise immediately back into the low 90s.  All the while, the water maintains a trout-happy 49 degrees.  Limestone bottomed, the rainbows, browns, and carp are easily visible, so visible that watching the fish move aside to let a fly pass by, then move back in their little niche frustrates fishermen of all types.  The title of lake is a misnomer, because this water body looks like a river, moves like a river, and fishes like a river, never wider than 50-60 yards.

We have really enjoyed meeting up with the Fords, my friends from Corsicana High School teaching days.  This has been their family vacation spot for over 26 years.  They bunk at Lilley's Landing, about four or five boat docks up river from our spot.  The area is beautiful with tree-lined, steep cliffs.  We did not fish, yesterday, because we hooked up the RV, put the boat in the slip, rigged up our rods, and just settled in the area, Mr. Ford took Bradley, Stephanie, Cody, and I down river 7 miles to the smallest Bass Pro Shop and to the Branson Riverfront Mall.  Traveling by boat is much better than traveling by car.  Think of the River Styx; Highway 76 is its equivalent.  Mr. Ford gave us some backroads, yeah!, to drive around, so we could meet them for lunch, and the backroads are the way to travel in this city.  Otherwise, its just one extremely long parking lot.

Fishing the morning hours until early afternoon is going to be the way to catch fish.  Then, being tourists in the afternoon and evening is how we can make the most of our stay.

25 July 2010

Branson's Lake Taneycomo

Cody and I headed for Branson to meet up with the Fords.  We took two cars--Cody is pulling the RV, and I am pulling the boat.  We made it to Fayetteville, Arkansas where we stopped at a rather remote RV park with awesome WiFi connections. 

When we travel with two cars, Cody and I pack the walkie-talkies, so we can communicate rather easily.  Cody provided the entertainment for the day.  Pulling the RV, Cody's car gets about 12 miles per gallon, which equates to about 160 travel miles before needing to gas up.  Our tanks were full when we left Palmer.  Cody gassed in Sherman, Savanna, OK, and totally pushed his luck to get to Fayetteville, and not just any where in Fayetteville, oh, no!  We passed at least two gas stations, and then Cody comes on the walkie-talkie as he is coasting through the yellow-lit intersection, "I think I've pushed my luck.  I think I'm out of gas."  Of course, I got caught at the red light, but I watch the RV coast up the road two blocks to Wal-mart.  Cody couldn't gas anywhere, only at Wal-mart, which was pretty cheap.  After four warnings, he had 0 miles left until he ran out of gas.  Cody is one of the luckiest people I know.

Cody is rigging up my 4 wt. Sharkskin sinking line (thank you TailWaters), and putting a sinking line on my brand new Ross 6 wt. Evolution LT reel (Thank you Travis at TailWaters).  We read the Lilley story Bradley shared on his fb page, and we are excited about catching some trout.  I want some Big Browns, but of course, will be happy to have anything, but carp, on the end of my line.

We make Branson and Cooper's Creek RV park, tomorrow!   
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