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.

Life Is Like A River

“Surrender to the flow of the River of Life, yet do not float down the river like a leaf or log. While neither attempting to resist life nor to hurry it, become the rudder and use your energy to correct your course to avoid the whirlpools and undertow.” – Johnathan Lockwood Huie

I spend as much time as I can exploring the rivers of Missouri. I am mesmerized by their beauty and amazed by how much they are like life itself.

Like life a river is long and winding filled with adventure and obstacles. It ebbs and flows, builds and falls. Like life it can be rough and at other times be calm and peaceful. One minute you can be making your way through a calm pool of water and at the end of it you find yourself thrust into the rapids dodging rocks and trees trying to keep your boat upright.

The river can be calm and pristine flowing within its banks then the spring rains can transform it into a raging torrent of water causing it to surge out of its banks destroying everything in its path.

Life is full of mystery and the unknown and the river is full of the same. As you approach a bend in the river you know not of what lies ahead of you. Like in life you can only hope that you are prepared for anything that the river places before you. Will you fail or will you be victorious?

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

Mother Nature and Respect

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Walden Henry David Thoreau

The definition of nature is the material world, especially as surrounding humankind and existing independently of human activities. It is also defined as the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations. One could say that nature is everything.

There is a saying “Stop and smell the roses.” Relax and take time to enjoy or appreciate the beauty of life. Stop stressing out, overthinking or complaining. My version is “Stop and drink of the beauty of nature.”

As spring draws near camping season comes into view. The weekend warriors who live in the cities and suburbs will begin their assault upon the campgrounds. They appear in the parks pulling their 30 foot campers loaded with all the amenities of home. I don’t think this is what Thoreau had in mind when he advocated that people leave their urban and industrialized areas to explore nature. He felt that “modern life” robbed people of their best selfs and that living in harmony with nature was essential. In today’s society the campgrounds are so overpopulated that they are nothing more than smaller communities of which they were trying to leave behind.

In Missouri the rivers and Ozark streams become heavily congested with weekend floaters occupying rafts, inner tubes, kayaks, and boats. Sadly the amount of litter left behind is mind boggling. Thoreau often wrote about the importance of preserving the wilderness and the importance of living in harmony with nature. His ideas are completely lost on the minds of the majority of weekend revelers. One can see the evidence if they float the rivers on Monday morning. Sandbars and gravel bars are littered with aluminum cans, trash, and an occasional tent. It doesn’t have to be this way. If you pack it in pack it out. It is that simple. My motto is is,”Leave it better than you found it.”

We as a whole need to learn to respect Mother Earth and what she has given us. Preserve the magnificent beauty of Mother Earth so that future generations can enjoy it. We don’t know what we have until it is gone.

“I love nature partly because she is not a man, but a retreat from him. None of his institutions control or pervade her. There a different kind of right prevails. In her midst I can be glad with an entire gladness. If this world were all man, I could not stretch myself, I should lose all hope. He is constraint, she is freedom to me. He makes me wish for another world. She makes me content with this.” – Henry David Thoreau’s Journal