Persistence

St Francis River in Silver Mines Conservation Area near Fredericktowm, MO.

“A river cuts through rock not because of its power but because of its persistence.” – Jim Watkins

Too many times we fall short of what we were trying to achieve in life because we simply gave up. Our life is littered with events that test our fortitude. We have a choice to give up or be like the river. How we face these obstacles determines if we succeed or fail.

Life and the River

St Francis River in Silver Mines Conservation Area near Fredericktown, MO.

“The river is constantly turning and bending and you never know where it’s going to go and where you wind up. Following the bend in the river and staying on your own path means that you are on the right track. Don’t let anyone deter you from that.”-Eartha Kitt

Life is much like the river. Full of turns and bends leaving us to wonder what’s next and where we are going. We are just along for the ride letting it take us where it may go. As long as we maintain control of our vessel things will work out and we will reach the deep calm waters at the end of the rapids.

Camping at Silver Mines

St Francis River, in Silver Mines Conservation Area near Fredericktown, MO

On October 18, a good friend of mine met me at the Silver Mines Conservation Area. This area is named for the abandoned “Einstein Mine” where in 1870 was used to mine silver, tungsten and lead up until 1946 when the mine was closed. The area is known for its Precambrian granite and felsite rocks.

After a brief visit we began setting up camp. I had brought my Bushnell one man tent and Clarry opted for a hammock and tarp. I was amazed with the hammock setup. Clarry had it down to a science. When he was done setting up it looked very inviting. It was only his third time at setting it up. The temps got down into the upper 30s and he discovered some things he would do differently the next time.

After breakfast we decided down the dam on the St Francis river. It was built when they were mining the area. The trail actually goes across the dam to get to the other side of the trail and we thought about trying it but we were going to have to wade to do it and we decided against it.

We talked to another camper who had done it and he told us about two graves on the other side marked by two wooden crosses and the mine entrance was on the other side too but it had been closed off. The trail was pretty rocky and in places you had to climb over big rocks and because of my ankle not being fully healed we didn’t walk the entire trail and headed back to camp. When back at camp we sat around the campfire talking and we had a surprise visitor.

It was a great time. Trees were just starting to color and in another week should be in full color. We pretty much had the place to ourselves. We did meet a gentleman there who came all the way from Chicago to a camp a couple of days. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous. It would be hard not to feel at peace with yourself while you were here. If you are looking for a place to camp where you can enjoy nature I highly recommend Silver Mines. It is located near Fredericktown, MO off highway D. In the spring when the river level is up they have kayak races.

The Lure of Fly-Fishing

My friend since second grade and fishing buddy David Tripp

“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.

Sacred Space

“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again.” – Joseph Campbell

I really never understood my overpowering compassion for the river until one day I came across this quote. I read it and the lightbulb in my head went off.

The river is my sacred space, or safe place, where I am free of societal pollution. Once I am in the presence of the river I am free to think with my mind, heart, body and soul. I have the ability to examine my own own beliefs and thoughts in great depth and to understand why I believe the way I do. I reach an understanding of who I really am and who I want to be. The revelation of what I want to accomplish in life and most importantly why becomes apparent. In this place I find a me that I can respect and love. If we can’t love ourselves what’s the point of loving at all?

With all the animosity in the world it is easy to plunge ourselves into the pit of depression which robs us of peace and happiness.

Seek your sacred space, find it and visit it frequently. The real you will soon become visible.

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!!!!

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

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.

A Night of Solitude on the River

It’s 2 am and I am alone on the river. There is no moon and the night sky is black as ink. I hear the crackle of the campfire and the sound of the river as it makes its way across the rocks in the shallow rapids before finding its way into deeper water. Bam! A beaver slaps its tail on the water warning others that there is an intruder in their domain.

Yip! Yip! Yip! I can hear the coyotes on the other side of the river making their way along the river bank. The lightning bugs illuminate the darkness with their blinking tails. As a child they reminded me of airplanes against the night sky with their blinking lights.

The bull frogs had been eerily quiet tonight but the deep bass croak of a bullfrog begins to resonate throughout the river valley followed by the scream of a screech owl.

With the soothing sound of Mother Nature’s symphony I begin to relax and I let my mind wander. I wonder if there was someone camped on this very spot 250 years ago. Perhaps a Native American or a settler. Were they fishing or just passing through? Were they in search of a place to settle or were they making their way to the mighty Mississippi? How much different it must have been. No litter or tires along it’s banks. How clear the water must have been. Were they as mesmerized by the beauty of the river as I am? Did they enjoy the peace and solitude? Were they alone too?

I am brought back to the present by a ruckus behind me. I turn around and in the darkness I could discern five figures in the darkness. It appears to be a mother raccoon and her offspring. She seems to be scolding one of the youngsters. Maybe it had ventured too close to me and she was worried about its safety. They soon moved on in search of food.

I readied my bedroll and crawled inside it as the desire for sleep won over the marvels of the nighttime. I lay looking into the night sky watching for a shooting star but there would be none tonight. The smells of the river were crisp tonight. The smell of the river and the campfire were the most prominent and complimented each other. I begin drifting off playing the days events back in my mind. At the same time I wondered what tomorrow would bring. Would I catch my personal best smallmouth or would it just be a day of photography? As sleep began to overtake me I was one with the river rooted in my safe place. A place of peace and tranquility. A place to recharge my soul and mind and cleanse my spirit. Life is good. I am on the river.

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.