“The river has great wisdom and whispers its secrets to the hearts of men.”Mark Twain
The St. Francis River is 426 miles long and is located in southeastern Missouri and northeastern Arkansas. It is only floatable in spring or after heavy rains. It passes through Wappapello Lake that was a result of a dam that was constructed in 1941. Anglers can fish for largemouth and smallmouth bass. There are also catfish, bluegill, sunfish, and crappie. The St. Francis is the most diverse Ozark stream.
The Hubb’s, golden and spothanded crayfish make the St. Francis their home and can only be found in the Ozarks of Missouri and northern Arkansas. The St. Francis crayfish is only found here and nowhere else in the world. Six mussel species are also found here.
Two state parks that the St. Francis River meanders through are Silver Mines Recreation Area and Sam A Baker state park and both have camping available. Sam A Baker has a separate equestrian campground. They also have hiking trails and picnic areas. Baker also has equestrian and bicycle trails.
I have many fond memories of the river as an adult and as a child. I don’t know how many pounds of catfish we caught. We used to pay a farmer to cross his field to the St. Francis and we would set up camp. He had an old wooden boat he would also rent us. One night around 11 pm we were tight line fishing for catfish. Our camp was below Wappapello dam and too far away to hear the siren indicating they opened the dam gates. My mom stands up and said here comes a boat. Yep, you guessed it. Sure enough, our boat. We had pulled it up on the sand bar around the bend. The water had come up and set the boat free. We started trying to hook it and my dad finally hooked it and reeled it in.
Do You See What I See
“To me photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place…I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”Elliott Erwitt
Elliott Erwitt was famous for his uncanny ability to capture on film the humor and irony of everyday life.
Fortunately, we are all different. The world would be a boring place if we all liked the same things. Ten people can look at the same picture and see it fourteen different ways. As a photographer I want the viewer to see what I see. When I see something that excites me, I immediately begin analyzing the shot trying to figure out how to shoot the picture for the viewer to understand what I see. In this particular picture I would have to ask which came first? The rocks or the tree.
This shot was taken on a ridge that paralleled the St. Francis River inside the Silver Mines Recreation Area near Fredericktown, MO. It is along a trail that runs parallel with the river along the ridge and just to the right a trail takes off up the ridge. My thinking is the rocks were put there many years ago to mark the trail when the tree was small.
More pictures of the trail that runs along the west ridge overlooking the river.
They were calling for rain this afternoon so I decided to take advantage of the dry time. I loaded up and headed to Lakeview Lake in Bonne Terre, MO.
Temp was in the 50s with an 8 mph wind. I assembled the fly rod and reel and tied on a brass head black fly. I looked over the lake and decided I would start at a point where the wind was behind me.
I fished for a good hour before I finally caught a small largemouth. I released it into the lake. I walked down the bank about 50 yards and began fishing. After about 20 minutes I caught a small perch.
By now the wind changed direction and was blowing into my face so I moved to the other side. About the third cast I caught another small perch.
I began easing my way around the lake fishing as I went and I soon caught a largemouth snd this one was bigger.
I fished another 45 minutes and managed to catch another small perch and finally a pretty nice one.
All in all it was a good day and I enjoyed the time on the lake. Planning another trip real soon.
Dillard Mill State Historic Site
Saturday, February 5, I journeyed to the Dillard Mill State Site located in Davisville, MO. The area was snow covered and the roads going to the mill weren’t in very good shape. There were a couple of times I got a little nervous.
The mill is located along the banks of the Huzzah Creek and is one of the state’s best-preserved gristmills. The mill was completed in 1908 and most of the machinery is still in intact and original to the building. The 132-acre site, even though privately owned, has been operated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and was listed on the National Register of Historic places in 2015. The park is under a lease agreement with the L-A-D Foundation.
The first mill was built in 1853 and was known as the Wisdom Mill but unfortunately was destroyed by fire in 1895. A new mill was constructed in 1908 and was named the Mische Mill. The owners altered the course of the stream and used an underwater turbine in place of an old waterwheel. It operated until 1956. Then in 1975, when the state took over management of the site and it was given the name Dillard Mill. Restoration wasn’t completed until 1980.
The site offers its visitors opportunities to fish, hike, picnic or to revisit the past.
If you would like to purchase a print contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I offer prints as well as framed and matted.
The Changing of the Leaves
“I hope I can be the autumn leaf, who looked to the sky and lived. And when it was time to leave, gracefully it knew life was a gift.” – Dodinsky
The temp today was supposed to be in the 60s today and if it wasn’t it was close. I was to meet a high school friend and we were going to kick back and enjoy an autumn day. We met up around 10 a.m. both of us needing a “do nothing” day. Silver Mines is the kind of place where one can do that. It offers so much in the way of nature that it is impossible for someone who loves nature to leave without their spirit fully charged.
We had just camped here the week before. We got a lot of rain Sunday night and the river level had came up. The water is usually very clear but today it was stained. The leaves were starting to change to their autumn colors. By this weekend I think they are going to be in their full autumn colors.
There are so many things you can do. Kayaking, fishing, hiking and camping. Daily picnic sites are available. The trails on both sides of the river are rocky and rough. I would rate them as hard. You can make a loop but you have to cross the damn to do so. It can get pretty crowded on the weekends so I limit my visits to the week days where you are pretty much by yourself. Flash floods can be a problem in the spring.
We headed home around 3:30. On the way out I saw the camp ground hosts. They told me the powers that may be notified them that they were going to close the gates November 7 for winter. They have already turned the water off so if you camp in this last week be sure to bring some water with you.
Beauty of Nature
It was another hot day in Southeast Missouri. I had the evening off so I decided to head out to the Bismark Conservation area.
The area is made up of 1,188 acres that surrounds the 220 acre lake, DiSalvo. It is the headwaters of the St Francis River. There are good numbers of bass, bluegill, channel catfish and crappie.
This particular day I went chasing channel catfish. It is hot and the humidity was punishing, two ingredients of pop up thunderstorms. It sprinkled on me a couple of times. There was a thunderstorm skirting to the south. Lightning and thunder.
Mother Nature was presenting me with one spectacular show. I watched intently. The wind picked up and I enjoyed feeling it upon my face. So relaxing.
The fish weren’t cooperating. They had very little interest in the bait I was using, shrimp, hotdogs and night crawlers. At dark the bullhead catfish started to show interest in the shrimp. I ended up catching 3 bullheads before I had to give in and call it a night.
It turned out to be a great evening and it was much needed. Mother Nature was spectacular and gave me some great shots and I had it all to myself.
A Good Morning Fly Fishing
I awoke around 4:30 am. I was rrestless. I could hear the local lake calling my name but I had so much to do. I went about preparing my breakfast thinking I would get over it.
NOT! I couldn’t shake the urge to go fishing. So I loaded up and head for Lakeview Lake.
I decided to take 2 spin casts and do some tight line fishing. After catching two turtles I decided to break out the fly rod. The fly fishing bug has bit me so hard I never leave home without my fly fishing gear.
Catching a 4 inch bluegill on a fly rod can be exciting. it can feel like you have Moby Dick on the end of your line. There are a lot of skills involved that you will spend a lot of time trying to master but well worth the time.
I have found that patience is a necessity. You can’t rush your casts. You have to be very aware of your surroundings or you catch more “tree bass” than you do fish and flies aren’t cheap.
I am by no means an expert fly fisherman. I only know from experience what has worked for me. One thing I recommend is spend a lot of time fishing for pan fish in order to hone your skills. You can learn a lot from them. They are a little more forgiving than other species when it comes to fly presentation. I am sure there are those who will disagree with me but it has worked for me.
In closing if you have never tried fly fishing I encourage you to give it a try. It may not be your “cup of tea” but you won’t know until you give it a try. Good luck and good fishing.
Note: Pictures are just a few of the fish I caught that morning. I quit counting at 20.
Morning Spent With a Friend
My childhood friend Mark had contacted me about doing some fishing. His sister-in-law had given us permission to fish her private lake.
We agreed on meeting at 8 a.m.. Unfortunately the weather man was forecasting a very hot day. Believe it or not he actually got it right. The heat forced us to give it up by 11 a.m..
Fortunately in that 3 hours the bass and panfish did a great job of keeping us busy. We opted on our fly fishing gear and it was a good choice I thought. We managed to catch several nice size pan fish and a few small bass.
I chose a yellow popper and Mark chose a popper like fly I believe he called “perch assassin”. The fish liked them both. Now if you have never fly fished before I am here to tell you that even a small fish feels like you hung Moby Dick.
All in all it was a good morning even with the heat. Good company, peace and quiet and a lot of action. We are already planning another fishing adventure. Maybe some all night catfishing.
The Lure of Fly-Fishing
“More than half the intense enjoyment of fly-fishing is derived from the beautiful surroundings, the satisfaction felt from being in the open air, the new lease of life secured thereby, and the many, many pleasant recollections of all one has seen, heard and done.” – Charles F. Orvis
Imagine if you will standing beside a clear, fast moving stream listening to the music of the water dancing over and around the rocks and through shallows as it flows downstream. You scan the water looking for feeding fish and the perfect place to cast your fly in hopes to catch that elusive lunker. You step into the water your eyes drinking in the beauty that surrounds you. The rays of the morning sun feel warm upon your face and a heron floats past you on its journey downstream. The fast moving water rushes past your legs and you deliver your first cast of the morning. Your eyes focus intently upon the brightly colored fly line as it floats downstream, watching for a signal that a fish has taken your fly.
Nature’s presence can be felt all around you and it fills your heart with joy and excitement. The feeling seeps into your inner being and you are overwhelmed with the joy of being alive. It’s at that moment you realize you aren’t there for the fish. You are there for you to become one with Mother Nature and to embrace the healing powers She has to offer. It is always available to us but our minds and heart have to be in the right place to take full advantage of these benefits. Our minds have to be free of societal pollution and we have to believe in our hearts and know in our minds that it is real and attainable. That my friend is why I pursue fly-fishing.
Return to Fly Fishing
“Even a blind hog will find an acorn once in awhile.” – Unknown
I destroyed my right foot over 40 years ago and the doctor put it back together the best he could. When I walked, there was a considerable amount of pain and it steadily got worse. I was forced to abandon fly fishing around 1990 because of the pain.
I bought my first fly fishing set up in 1976. I was hooked, no pun intended. I was devastated when I walked away from it.
In 2020 I met doctor Sloan who said he could fix it and I eagerly agreed on the surgery. I had a chance to pursue fly fishing again.
I bought a new Orvis Encounter combo. As soon as the doctor gave me the green light, because it was winter, I headed to a near by lake. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t land that first fish.
Yesterday I tried another area lake but the fish Gods weren’t in my favor. Since I’m not a quitter I returned today bound and determined to get that first fish.
The day started out a little better. I got some strikes and hung two but didn’t get them in. I guess I wasn’t holding my mouth right.
Then it happened. I had one on. I got it in and got a picture. It was official! I began doing “Snoopy Dog” dances all around the lake, yes even though it was no Moby Dick. I can tell you one thing. A 66 year old fat man doing “Snoopy Dog” dances is not a pretty sight. The word “repulsive” comes to mind.
All in all it was a good day. The “no fish” curse had been broken! I gained confidence and everything was grand in Wayne’s World.