Trout season opening day one of the best

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March 8, 2002

Charlie Farmer, Springfield News Leader

Trout season opening day one of the best

After 15 years or more of opening the Missouri trout park seasons, I have never witnessed an opening day like the one my son, Scott, and I took part in last Friday at Roaring River.

When leaving Ozark at 4 a.m. Friday, we were treated to a starry sky that seemed to promise a fair day, contrary to the weather predictions reported throughout Thursday. The drive through Cassville and eventually the winding, downhill leg into the park was nothing out of the ordinary. A Department of Natural Resources ranger patrolling a dangerous spot in the roadway was there as usual.

Scott followed the procession of cars and trucks slowly to the park store where we would purchase our $3 daily tags. Already the banks along the spring branch were teeming with anglers. Some had high beam spotlights or gas lanterns to illuminate the surroundings. Others crowded around propane heaters. All of the appliances contributed to a misty, surreal setting.

How long the anglers had been there, we didn’t know. When Scott and I purchased our tags in a matter of minutes, thanks to efficient store employees, we had 40 minutes before the siren would sound to open the season.

This would give us time to find a parking spot and ready our trout vests and rods.

Everything fell into place. We strolled over to spots on the river that we have fished often. Warm clothing, mainly hunting parkas and Gore-Tex overpants, would ward off the wind. At the same time they would allow us to don trout vests for quick changing of flies and jigs.

More anglers arrived and staked a spot to fish. It was getting close to 6:30. The anticipation of the siren weighs in everybody’s minds. Suddenly, there was a burst of spray that fell heavily on the stream. Seconds later it was lashing out at those hardy folks lining the banks. It sounded like hail.

It was hail. It swept over the stream again, just as the siren sounded.

For me, another surreal moment. In my mind I wasted 30 seconds since the siren. Then I heard a splash. The man to my right had a good trout on. Scott to my left was casting. I finely cast a white jig, a horrible cast but somehow a fish inhaled the jig. The fish was a brown trout. I guessed the fish at a pound, a handsome golden, yellow trout, mottled with tiny black and red dots. This fish had sharper teeth than the rainbow.

The hail mixed with rain turned to snow, a light snow that nobody paid attention too.

In our pocket of anglers, we had two men who connected with lunker fish. One was on the left adjacent to Scott, the other a few feet away on my right. Neither fishermen carried a trout net. As it turned out, my son lent the guy on the left his net. The man netted a fine rainbow and thanked Scott for his help. I lent my net to the neighbor on my right. He had quite a tussle and eventually landed his lunker. He too thanked me for the help.

The fish were biting well. Scott creeled three, one of them a hefty brown trout. White jigs still working. I was astonished to have two browns and one rainbow in the creel. I’ve never caught browns that big in the parks. Thank the Missouri Department of Conservation hatchery managers for that.

The snow turned to rain. The wind whipped the surface of the stream and hid the presence of those flinging flies, jigs, Rooster Tails and assorted homemade winners fresh from the fly-tying desk. We caught and released several rainbows that must have been confused by the hard rain that limited their visibility.

Scott wanted to head downstream to try some new water. And to try a different technique that he and other anglers have success with when flies and jigs fail later in the day. The micro eggs, some made with dubbing or other synthetic materials, can be casted with spin and fly rods.

BB-size split shot, one or two clamped on the line, allows the micro egg to be casted. The egg sinks slowly and fools trout. Two-pound and 4-pound test are best for the presentation. Effective micro colors are orange, pink, and chartreuse.

I fished upstream for an hour and never caught a fish. The rain was coming down harder. If the fish were biting, it wouldn’t matter. I headed downstream to find Scott. His micro eggs were not working as they usually do. We decided to eat sandwiches in the truck and hope the rain would let up.

The warmth of the truck, hot coffee and thick meat sandwiches helped our outlook. We could have taken a nap, but didn’t. Anglers were clearing out, some heading home, others no doubt finding cafes and warmth.

We got a new lease on fishing even though the rain was steady. Scott went downstream. I found a pool loaded with fish. I tried white jigs, micro eggs and tiny yellow, gray, chartreuse and white Rooster Tails without a bite.

Then I spied a black Rooster Tail with silver blade stuck in the plastic box with the others. I tied the black one on and cast into a pod of trout. A brown trout bashed the offering without hesitation. Credit the tiny silver blade.

Scott met me a few minutes later. He had caught a rainbow on a white jig that came close to lunker status. We each caught two more fish in that pool before we decided to head home. The rain had changed to sleet and the sky darkened quickly when my watch struck 12. It was time to go. The fish hefty! The browns a bonus! Just maybe the best opener we had in years.

Contact free-lance columnist Charlie Farmer at 1197 East Court, Ozark, MO 65721, or cjoutdoors318365@aol.com

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March 1, 2002

Charlie Farmer

Tent campers are a hardy bunch

I checked the News-Leader weather conditions from Tuesday through Saturday. Thursday is supposed to be partly cloudy, otherwise the rest of the week calls for chances of snow. The week’s low temperatures starting with Tuesday is 10, 18, 29, 25 and 31 for Saturday.

Will the chance of snow and brisk temperatures deter those who sleep in nylon or canvas tents on the ground? It’s doubtful. While others sleep in cabins, lodges and motels during three days of trout park fishing jubilation, so too the campers raise their tents.

In a traditional way, the men, women and children who hammer stakes into cold, hard ground resemble the early beaver trappers who stopped to rendezvous with others of their trade for fellowship and merrymaking. Where there was bare ground tent cities sprang up.

So too, trout park campers stake their claim on level ground complete with picnic table and fire grate. The wind is often a factor at the open field parks when it comes to erecting tents. If this week’s icy wind is still howling upon campers, there will be some dramatic efforts to save the tent fly or tent itself from sailing away into the sky or tree limbs.

I’ve had it happen to me. Thanks to some friends, we recovered the tent without too much damage. To set up a tent in those conditions, it’s best to have help from friends or camping neighbors. It’s also a good idea to have extra tent pegs and guy ropes to stabilize the tent.

Smaller, all-season backpack mountain tents are easier to erect than larger “cabin” tents when the wind is a factor. The low, rounded or hexagon profile wards off wind better. And as far as warmth is concerned, the low-profile tent with full-cover tent fly conserves body heat better than a spacious summer tent.

I have seen a few canvas outfitter tents in some of the trout parks complete with cozy wood fired stove. My son and I have also had the privilege spending some time in an authentic conical teepee that had all the comforts of the living room at home.

There have been trout openers that were spring-like, but the ones that stand out deal in cold and wind. Campers are generally prepared for cold.

Ample supplies of seasoned fire wood from home are loaded in car or truck. As long as the supply of wood is bountiful, all is well at camp.

Trout park stores sell firewood. The hope for campers is that the wood is seasoned and not so green that you never get a hot fire going. Our group has experienced both hot and cold fires.

There are a lot of good things at the parks that are not found in other trouting and camping situations. Getting up in the morning and dressing in the tent can be a shivering experience. But when that’s accomplished and you step outside, the fires blazing along the stream add a festive touch regardless how cold it is.

Park personnel add firewood to 50 gallon drums throughout the park.

Illuminated anglers circle around the warm fire while waiting for daylight and the special spot where they will fish.

Nearby portable toilets are a convenience for anglers. Or they have the option of a short walk to the heated bathrooms.

Park stores at the four trout parks open early today. Logs blazing in the fireplace set a festive mood, even though the store is crowded with anglers buying their daily trout tags. Hot coffee and donuts are the morning special. Some anglers purchase tackle. Others scurry out the door to claim their fishing spot before the siren wails.

Store clerks smile for the most part, even though they are barraged with anxious anglers wanting to be streamside. There’s a good number of kids in the store with their parents. Some, there first time fishing for trout. The tradition is a fine one even though the store is crowded. Generations of kids have cut their teeth at Missouri trout parks. In turn, they too will pass to their children.

How many anglers show up at the trout parks today nobody knows for sure.

Snow or wind will not break the tradition. Campers in their tents are there for the duration. The challenge to beat the elements is foremost in their minds. Warm clothing and good camp food is the key for staying power.

If it gets too cold, there have been times when the camp football comes in handy.

Too cold fishing or at camp? Take a hike. Trout parks have some of the best hiking trails in the state. Rain, sleet, snow or wind will not keep us from catching trout. The challenge is ours.
 

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