Nature Is Calling Me

Camp

Why do I love nature so much? I am going to do my best to put into words why. I wish I was a better writer so you could maybe experience the passion I have for nature. Well here we go. The following is about a night on the river back in September.

I arrived at the river just as the sun peeked over the eastern ridge shedding its light on the colorful hues of autumn. The leaves glistened with the reflection of the sun’s light upon the orange, red and yellow hues scattered around the hillside. A beautiful sight to behold. It gave my heart joy to see Mother Nature’s paintings before my eyes.

I busy myself preparing my kayak for my river excursion. As I slid my yak into the water I caught a glimpse of movement to my right. I turned my full attention to what had captured my eye. It was a momma racoon with 4 of her offspring. One in particular had taken a deep interest in what I was doing. Slowly it began to inch its way in my direction to get a closer look. As it inched closer momma became agitated and positioned herself between me and her offspring. She began chattering loudly as if she were scolding the young one. After a couple of minutes she began steering her clan away from me. They moved down the bank of the river then disappeared over the rise.

I began my trek up river to the place I would make camp for the night. I had camped here many times before. It had a clear western view where I could watch the sun set. The area was well protected from any artificial light pollution giving me a clear view of the night sky.

Beaver pic from a another day on the river

As I rounded a bend in the river I noticed a beaver standing in the river near the bank watching me with great curiosity. Suddenly it disappeared under the water. It surfaced about 20 yards from me and slapped its tail on the surface of the water warning the others that there was an intruder in their territory.

It was a beautiful day to be on the river. It was a week day so I pretty much had the river to myself. Temps were in the 60s with a slight southerly wind. Movement ahead of me. About 50 yards up river 4 deer were making their way across a shallow part of the river. They were moving with purpose and soon disappeared into the woods on the other side.

Smallmouth bass

I was making good time so I decided to do a little fishing. For about an hour and a half the fish bit good and all of a sudden they seemed to get lockjaw. Fortunately I had enough action to be able to relive the battles sitting in front of the campfire.

Hawk

I made it to my campsite around 4:30 p.m. As I pulled my yak up on the gravel bar a hawk soared overhead. I went to work setting up camp and gathered some firewood for the night. With camp set I threw a couple of lines into the water in hopes that I would catch supper. Unfortunately it didn’t happen but I had brought along some Mountain House freeze dried beef stew. I filtered some water from the river then got the fire started. I brought the water to a rolling boil for about 4 minutes then poured it into the stew pouch. In ten minutes supper would be served. For a MRE it was quite tasty.

This is my favorite part of camping. Sitting in front of the fire watching the flames dancing within the fire is so relaxing. In the background I can hear the music of the insects and Mother Nature’s night creatures. It is so peaceful sitting there alone listening to the river critters going about their business searching for food. A star falls from the sky. Then another and another. Then it ends as abruptly as it began. Now I am ready for sleep.

It’s hard for me to put into words the peace I feel within me. My friend Gary Fultz I am sure knows the feeling I am talking about. He too has a great respect for Nature and Mother Earth. My spirit seems to float to the heavens. I feel no sadness or anxiety. My soul is cleansed by the tranquility surrounding me. I feel so alive and all my senses are intensified causing me to be more appreciable of my surroundings and what is in my heart. Reading back I am disappointed. I didn’t do a very good job of putting what I feel into words. The best way for you to understand is to just go camping.

Big River

Recreational Fishing

Smallmouth Bass

“If Fishing is a religion, fly fishing is high church.” – Tom Brokaw

Recreational fishing is the nation’s second most popular outdoor activity after jogging. Each year nearly 1 in 7 Americans grab their rods and reels and head to the water giving chase to different species of fish.

From 2011 to 2019, freshwater fishing population grew 11%. Anglers 16 or older spent $48 billion a year on equipment, licenses, trips and other fishing related items. This in turn supported 828,000 jobs in this country. Recreational fishing in some rural areas helped support entire communities. In 2010 $1.45 billion was generated by anglers for fisheries conservation efforts. Fishing is also responsible for putting smiles on the faces of children. That is something you can’t put a price tag on.

Rainbow Trout

Speaking from my own experience, fishing is therapeutic and cheaper than a psychiatrist. The peace and joy I get while fishing is priceless. It recharges the spirit and calms the soul.

I fly fish, tight line fish and fish with limb lines. I enjoy them all but fly fishing, I think, is the most rewarding.

I enjoy catching all the species of fish but trout and bass fishing are my favorite. Even if you get skunked and catch nothing it isn’t a wasted day. The solitude you find from fishing is a reward in itself.

Pumpkinseed

If you have never got to experience fishing I encourage you to do so. Most state’s conservation departments have programs that teach the basics and help beginners to get started. For the seasoned angler I encourage you to take a child and introduce them to the world of recreational fishing.

Gone Fishing!!!!

Silly Me

Well how do I say this? We had night time temperatures of 10 and highs of 30. Now if someone would stop and use the gray matter between their ears they would think, Damn the lake has to be froze over. 

Everyone but me that is. Oh no. I spent Saturday installing a new mirror on the passenger side of my truck. Well when I finally finished I decided I was going to reward myself with a little trout fishing.

Now if you look closely at the lake pictures you can see an area of disturbance from the wind and the smooth areas are ice covered. When I first pulled up my heart sank then I saw that spot of unfrozen water in the Northeast corner of the lake. 

Luck was with me. No one was there. I guess others had used the gray matter between their ears. I felt better when two more anglers showed up. 

Little did I know that the ice wouldn’t be my only obstacle. The wind was blowing 10 to 15 mph with 25 mph gusts. Fly fishing was out so I broke out the ole spin cast. Now what you have to understand is that there is a Disc Golf course around this lake. 

Here I am sitting there minding my own business trying to catch a trout when “swoosh” right above my head. Incoming! Hit the deck! Well the frisbee managed to land on the ice and not in the water. It slid all the way to the bank and they were able to retrieve it. They apologized, blamed it on the wind and moved on. I saw 3 more hit the ice.

I was able to catch 4 trout. My foot I had surgery on was beginning to really hurt so it was time to go. Do you know what it does to a fisherman when they have to leave and the fish are biting? I can tell you this much, it ain’t “purty”.

A Cold Day of Trout Fishing

Rainbow Trout caught at Giessing Lake

Fishing provides that connection with the whole living world. It gives you the opportunity of being totally immersed, turning back into yourself in a good way. A form of meditation, some form of communion with levels of yourself that are deeper than the ordinary self.” – Ted Hughes

My childhood friend David Tripp drove in from Texas for a visit. Now that only meant one thing; fishing trip. We decided to invade Engler Park in Farmington, MO and try our luck at fishing for trout in Giessing Lake.

Temp was supposed to be near 50. It would have been nice if someone would have told Mother Nature. David opted for a fly rod and I grabbed my spin cast. I tied a yellow Glo-ball/bait with a quarter ounce split shod and a bobber about 2 feet above the Glo-ball.

It started out really slow with no bites. I had been sitting there for what seemed like 3 months and couldn’t capture the interest of not one trout. Wow! I have never been skunked on this lake before. My reputation is at stake! After about 20 minutes of sitting there freezing my arse off, BAM! Trout on. The fight was on. This fish was having no part of this. I finally landed him.

First trout of the day.

I released him back into the lake, and cast my line back out. I had got my hands wet while freeing the trout back into the water. Yeah I know not real smart. It wasn’t long until I couldn’t feel my fingers and kept checking to make sure they hadn’t fell off. BAM! Number 2 was now on the end of the line and about 40 minutes later I landed number 3.

Second of the day!

As I sat on my stool the wind was showing no mercy. I had begun shivering and they could hear my teeth chattering three counties away. Earthquake! False alarm. It was just the ground moving from my shivering body. Reminded me of that song “I feel the earth move under my feet….”. My dad always said I didn’t have the sense God gave a turnip and at this point I was beginning to think he was right. Finally after what seemed like an eternity I was able to land number four.

Third one of the day!

My friend David caught three and got them to the bank where they managed to slip the hook. Good for him he didn’t have to get his hands wet releasing them.

All in all, even though I felt like I was a popsicle, it was a good day. I love to watch David work a fly rod. As I sat there in the cold my Mom’s words from when I was a young un came back to haunt me, “Now make sure you dress warm.” Why didn’t I think of that?

Chasing the Elusive Trout

The Missouri Department of Conservation just launched their 2020 winter trout program in Southeast Missouri lakes located in Farmington, Jackson and Perryville. They along with Perry County Sportsman Club and the MDC purchase the trout that are used to stock these lakes.

Farmington stocks Giessing Lake located in Engler Park. Giessing was stocked with approximately 1200 trout and several lunkers were added in the mix to make it interesting. Catch and release is implemented until February 1 at which time an angler can keep 4 a day.

December 6, I finally was afforded an opportunity to try my luck at hooking a few of these beauties. I was chomping at the bit to try my new fly rod and reel out.

It is only a 2 acre lake but there is plenty of action for the trout angler. I started the day with my fly rod and reel. I found that my walking boot really interfered with my casting. I was definitely not on my game but then again I had just got off my crutches 2 days before. I threw everything I could think of at them and just watched them swim by the fly showing no interest at all. I worked until the wind made it impossible to cast and decided to go to plan B.

I opted for my spin cast and a yellow glo-ball. On my very first cast I hooked one. The fight was on. If you have never hooked into one you are missing the fight of your life. I ended up catching four. It was windy and cold but still a good day to be at the lake.

Camping In Missouri

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach of us more than we can learn from books.” – John Lubbock

Camping has become very popular for many Missourians. Camping venues, state and private, fill up rapidly on the weekends and some places are booked weeks in advance. They bring everything from RVs loaded with all the conveniences of home to the simple tent. Whatever makes them happy.

At the age of 66 I still prefer tent camping. I have been known to just roll out a pad and sleep on it. The simpler the better. I have a one man tent and a 3 man. I use the one man for one nighters and the 3 man for extended nights in one place.

3 man tent
Food taste better when cooked at camp.

There are so many choices for campers in Missouri. There are 41 state parks with over 3600 campsites. From lakes, rivers to trout parks there is a campsite waiting for you. Fun for the whole family. mdc.mo.gov

You can also find an abundance of privately owned parks throughout the state. Campers have so much to choose from in the state of Missouri.

Kayaking on Bismark Lake

One Of Those Days

Spotted Bass (24 inches)

The above pic is a spotted bass that I caught on the St. Francois River. It was a tad over 24 inches. Using the App Fishing Scale it put the fish at 8.5 pounds. I returned it to the water only to find out later that the state record is 7 pounds 8 ounces. Yep it was one of those days. Now on to my day on the Big River.

It was just another glorious day on the Big River in Missouri. Bright blue sky with a touch of those puffy white clouds and temp in the mid 70s. I was floating a stretch of Big River that I love to fish. I put in at the Mammoth access and float to Merrill Horse access. It is a beautiful stretch of river with great smallmouth fishing. It has areas of shallow fast moving water followed by slow moving deep water and limestone bluffs. I usually see deer and there are a pair of Bald Eagles that I usually see around the bluffs. The fishing has always been pretty decent and plenty of spotted bass, largemouth bass and smallies.

Smallmouth Bass

That day I was having great success with a Rebel Wee Craw. I caught 6 smallies that were 13 inches and better. I had just went through a pretty narrow swift stretch of water that emptied into a shallow wider area of water but still fast moving. There was a place at the edge of a weed bed that swirled into an eddy. I maneuvered the yak where the bow was pointing upstream. I placed the Wee Craw right on the edge of the weeds when BAM! something hit it hard. I set the hook and the fight was on. I could tell it was a nice fish. It was pulling line but the bad thing was I was floating backwards downstream and couldn’t see what was behind me but on a good note I was still in the center of the river. Things were going good then it went to hell in a hand basket. I had got caught in an eddy that was pulling me into the bank and spinning the bow of the yak down river. By some miracle I got the bow headed back upstream but that was the end of the miracles. I was parallel to the bank in about three feet of water. I got it beside the yak and my heart started beating a hundred miles an hour. Hooked on the Wee Craw was the biggest smallie I had ever hooked. It dwarfed the 24 inch spotted bass I had caught. I completely blew my attempt to lip it. I was better than that. Well down under the yak it went and there in the water on the other side was a tree about 16 feet long with all its limbs. The smalli3 could its way to freedom and without hesitating the smallie began weaving through limbs until the line stopped pulling and after three tugs broke my line and disappeared into the waters of the Big River. I could hear it laughing. All I could do is sit there and slap my rod tip on the water over and over like a five year old child. I was devastated.

The image of that smallie is etched in my mind. It looked like one of those big samllies you see in the Bass Pro Shop tanks. Only if I hadn’t have blown trying to lip it. I made a rookie mistake even though I was a seasoned veteran. I had ran out of miracles. Yeah it was one of those days. One of those days I will never forget.

For those of you unfamiliar with smallmouth bass in Missouri Ozark streams it takes a samllie five years to reach 12 inches, seven years to reach 15 inches and nine to ten years to attain a length of 18 inches. Presently very few live more than seven to eight years. Missouri has a length limit of 15 inches on small mouth.

What would I have done if I had landed it? Put it on the board and took a measurement, took a picture, ok several pictures, then returned it to the water so it could finish living out its life. That’s the way I roll. I may have not landed that smallie that day but I will always cherish the memory.

Much Needed Night On The River

Camp for the night

I finally got a much needed night on the river. I finally took out time for myself. The only one I could blame for not doing it sooner was myself. I knew the river would be busy so I chose the Thursday before Labor Day weekend.

My plan was to set out some limb lines. My bait of choice is chicken livers but for some reason chicken livers are hard to find but through perseverance I finally scored. I also picked up a box of crawlers for tight line fishing. I got a late start but was able to salvage the day. I paddled up river to my favorite spot to set up camp. Once I reached my destination I busied myself setting up camp. I got busy starting a fire. We had a couple days of rain and dry wood was hard to come by. I managed to get a fire started with my magnesium rod and cotton balls impregnated with Vaseline.

Night’s Campfire

When the fire was going good I set out to set my lines. When I got them all out I come back and baited them all with chicken liver. I returned to camp and started preparing supper. After I ate I threw out a tight line baited with a crawler to see what was hungry. I was disappointed that it was relatively quiet. The bullfrogs weren’t even in the mood to entertain the silly human. There was a full moon but the sky was cloud covered.

Around 10 pm I heard a lot of splashing going on in the direction of one of my lines. I jumped in the kayak, shoved off and headed that way. I shined my light on the limb and I could see it dancing. I had a pretty nice fish. I pulled along side of the line and could make out a nice channel catfish. I grabbed the line and got it in the kayak. It was a 24 inch channel, around 5 pounds. I rebaited and headed back to camp.

Channel Catfish

It seemed as if it was going to be a good night or so I thought. Little did I know that would be the only catfish of the night. I had my pole out and baited with a Canadian night crawler. I was sitting there watching my pole when all of a sudden the rod bent signaling a bite. I grabbed the pole and set the hook. The fight was on and I finally landed it. A 22 inch sucker.

Sucker

I got a few perch after that and they shut down. About two hours went by and I hadn’t got a bite. I went to reel in my line so I could check my bait. I started to reel in line and it felt like I was hung up. Finally it started moving and I began reeling I knew it wasn’t a fish, I finally landed it but to my dismay it was not a fish. It was a softshell turtle probably almost 2 feet across. While I was trying to get it unhooked it broke my line and made a quick return to the river.

Later on while sitting on the river bank I noticed a snake’s head zigzagging in the water headed for shore. What the heck? Now I have had a few encounters with snakes on the river like the time I grabbed a limb to tie a limb line on and found 3 foot water snake wrapped around the limb but nothing like this. All of a sudden it is headed my way. It came out of the water onto the gravel bar like it was on a mission. I hit it on the head with my rod and it couldn’t get out of there quick enough. The rest of the night was pretty quiet.

Sunrise on the River

Sadly my night on the river was coming to a close. I had hoped to catch more fish but it wasn’t meant to be. I couldn’t complain though. The time alone on the river was very much needed. It was so peaceful. For a night I felt like I was the only one on earth. I was able to savor my thoughts without interruption. Life is good.

Bennett Spring State Park

Bennett Spring State Park is located in Lebanon, MO. It is comprised of 3216 acres and the spring pumps out 100,000,000 gallons of water daily. A trout hatchery is located within the park providing the rainbow trout that are stocked each night. The number of trout stocked depends on the number of people fishing the day before. There is a dining lodge that serves delicious meals daily, cabins and there are 5 campgrounds that range from primitive to full RV hookups.

I arrived on the evening of June 28 and spent time familiarizing myself with the park. I did a little fishing but to no avail. They blow the siren at 6:30 a.m. and anglers begin their quest for rainbow trout.

The next morning I was ready to go but found the banks and water filled with anglers. I fished the fly and lure zone. I hung one that got off about 5 feet from me. By the end of the day I was the king of catch and release. I caught them and they released themselves before I could get them on the stringer.

I talked to a gentleman that had limited out in 45 minutes. Daily limit is 4 rainbows. He was using what they call glow balls. So off to the store I went to buy some.

The next morning I was ready for them. I started at 6:45 a.m. and had caught my limit by 8 a.m. The glow ball had worked its magic.

Another popular lure was a rooster tail.

On this particular day the rainbows weren’t fond of the rooster tail. They had Zone 1 where you could only use flies. In Zone 2 you could use flies and lures. Zone 3 was soft plastic and natural bait.

However I did limit out this morning.

Bennett Spring

The park was well kept. The only real complaint I had was that Zone 3 the plastic bait/ natural bait area was 90% shallow fast moving water which made it extremely hard to fish. That area was definitely short changed. Zone 1 flies only was the best of the 3 zones. Ample space for fishermen. Zone 2 is nice but every morning fishermen are parked in the water about every 4 feet.

If you are going to go to Bennett Spring I would recommend that you learn to fly fish and get you a good fly fishing rig. If you want to start fly fishing they rent fly rods and reels and even waders.

Little Red Wagon

“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there would be a shortage of fishing poles.” Doug Larson

For those of you who don’t know me, I live to fish. There is nothing as relaxing as sitting on the bank kicked back waiting to catch the new state record.

I do most of my fishing from my kayak. I can go a lot more places and I can fish water that I can’t get to on foot. However, there is a lake in Bonne Terre City Park they call Lakeview. It has a paved walking track all the way around it. At dusk lights come on to illuminate the track.

Well my dilemma was I had to park a long way from where I fished. I had to come up with some way to make it easy to pack my gear out there. Then it hit me. A little red wagon. I always wanted a wagon when I was a child and never got one. One day at a resale shop in Farmington I spotted one. At the age of 64 I finally got my little red wagon.

I took it home and started thinking what modifications needed to be done on it. Luckily all it needed was 2 rod holders. Once installed I was in business. It had seat belts installed to use on children and they work great to strap my gear down. It worked out great and it makes it a lot easier to pack my gear into my fishing spot.

“Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” – Henry David Thoreau