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7-18-04 - This whole Trout Bum thing gets pretty exhausting...
(Copyright 2004 Matt Tucker)

Matt T. proclaims these to be the "World's Best Biscuits and Gravy"...they lifted Ron and Rich right out of their morning stupor...or was that Rich's "Fog Buster" espresso?

Team Ozark Chronicles and the friendly folks at Gooseneck Island Restaurant. Lemme tell ya now, PHENOMENAL BREAKFEAST*

*that's NOT a typo

Finally, we do what we came to do...put FAT's driftboat in on the Spring River. Tucker thinks it might be the first time the Upper Spring River has ever seen a driftboat.

We motored up and parked it below some nice riffles...time to find the fish.
(Copyright 2004 Matt Tucker)

MP's first fish of the day...not a trout.

Tucker and FAT running around the riffles looking for fish.

Matt, I thought you said the water up there was too deep to wade?

Tucker breaks in Fat's driftboat with it's first ever Driftboat Trout!

NICE FISH Tucker!

Ringer McClane. 'Nuff said.

Ron Caimi came around and snapped this AWESOME shot... three of us in a boat.
(Copyright 2004 Ron Caimi)

Tucker worked the pool stripping streamers.

Talk about some interesting water..tons of huge boulders (like CAR SIZED) strewn about mostly below the surface.

Ringer McClane brings in, no contest the most colorful fish of the trip - an Ozark's Longear Sunfish.

Met up with FAT again after shooting the break in the old dam.

Time to get out again..

McClane has hooked something...

YEEEEEE HAAAAA!

Ringer McClane and a much larger than average Spring River Rainbow Trout.

NICE fish Brent!

I don't think Brent moved more than 20 feet from this spot. A nice view of the riffles we portaged upstream is in the background.

Finally, FAT takes control of the driftboat and races downstream.

This was like the third rainbow for me...if you drop them here it's not like you can pick them back up and take another shot!

Matt is feelin' it in Cutthroat territory while FAT gives him a private drift.

I admit this brown trout was a pleasant surprise!

FAT and Matt T. Hop out of the Fat's Hyde again and wade the shallows.

Um, you guys left this boat anchored here like a 1/4 mile upstream???

We covered a lot of big water....it's all weed lanes and channels.

Tucker makes one more attempt tight on the shore for a Cutthroat.

This came out of Cutthroat territory...but was a bow!

I can't say that anyone else got to see the water BELOW the trout section...it was a 1.6 mile float down to the next OPEN boat launch.

Had the water not been 65F more trout may been here.

Looking back up you can see where the riffles end and the slack water beings. I smell BIG BROWNS.

I kicked in the trolling motor...1.6 miles of rowing was getting to be less and less fun as I moved through the "swampy" stretches.

Back upstream one of the kids tossing bait got a Spring River Sculpin.

Tommy and Wanda Garner join Team OC for the photo-op.

The Stateline Chili Burger. HOLY SMOKES WHERE's THE BURGER?!

7-18-04 - "Drift Boat on the spring river. HOLY SHIT. That is something I would wet myself over." - Matt Tucker, May 25th, 2004 - via email ;)

Waters Fished: Spring River
Fish Caught: 5
Outing Date: 7-18-04
Weather: SUNNY & HOT
Air Temp: around 90F
Water Temp: 65F
Water Level: slightly high due to recent rains
Water Color: Blue for the most part, visibility a good 2 feet.
Fish Species: Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat Trout?, Longear Sunfish
Pattern Fished: Third day in a row, again I threw the box but still the Tucker got ALL the fish AGAIN! OK the Chicago Leech got a few too ;)
Pattern Color: Tucker per pattern, Chicago Leech in Olive
Fishing Quality: Tough for everyone but one Mr. Ringer McClane

Ya probably won't read about this anywhere else, but Tucker and I had a rough night. Honestly we couldn't figure out what it was we ate (or more likely we just had more than our fair share) since everyone had eaten basically the same thing! But both of us visited the porcelain goddess...I spared her my offering but Tucker was more eager to worship. Pass on the pickled green tomatoes next time...something about them just ain't right! (heck just thinking about them NOW is making me ill!)

So come morning, well, the pictures kinda say it all. I had a huge $0.79 Coke with my $1.39 Biscuits and Gravy...and that actually turned the day around for me! Gooseneck Island - talk about the best darn place for breakfast in Mammoth Spring!

Now it was about that time...launch the driftboat. McClane went back to the hotel to check out and refuel while FAT, Tucker and I found the uppermost boat launch on the Spring River. We all kinda waited around...after launching I "guarded the boat" while the rest were off learning their way around the area. Turns out the next launch down at their regular access point was closed.

Well, eventually Tucker, McClane and I got in the driftboat and motored upstream...I guess there was some deep water they wanted to fish and well, this was the perfect opportunity. We beached upstream on the shore and started to wade the shallow water.

I was arguably the first to pick up a fish...a shiner or chub...back at the launch. McClane got his shiner too...and then another one for me. Um...we drove all this way to catch bait?!

I stayed around by the driftboat and kept rethinking what I was offering...tons of small minnows, maybe 1" long, were schooling in an eddie below me. So on went a streamer. Under the streamer, a Tucker Nymph.

While I was trying the likely spots close by, Tucker and McClane had fanned out. About 2/3 across the stream, Ringer McClane finally picked up a rainbow..nothing but but a trout and that's what we came for! Tucker was intent on finding a way up to the deep water immediately below the dam, and about then FAT showed up!

Turns out he had come back upstream to fish a bit and found an access point off one of the main roads that lead him right to it. He got in, lost a couple, and then got on shore...in turn Tucker got up and lost a couple too.

Brent came back over and confided that personally, this wasn't his favorite stretch of water on the Spring River; he just hasn't done well here. I was kinda starting to feel the same way, so with the two of us now ready to go, all we had to do was scream and shout for Tucker to come back down and get in the boat! But not before I got some really cool pics of him in front of the waterfall (dam).

Back in the driftboat, we shoved off and into the deeper water. I turned on the depthfinder...about 3-5 feet in most spots. Brent stayed hard core with his indie-rigged scuds, while Tucker said this was Streamer water.

I guess Tucker was right....we picked up the anchor a couple times trying to get a fair amount of time in the deep water and wouldn't you know it, after a couple changes in position Tucker hooked up!

The current was strong, the fish was downstream, so the fight was really nice! Unfortunately all I could really see from my position was Tucker's back. Matt brought a nice rainbow to the boat - Fat's boat now has the stink of trout in it!

We continued to try this deep spot, moving once in a while towards this shore or that dropoff. I don't know who saw it first for sure (I think I did, being oarsman I had time to look around), but upstream in the riffles a LARGE fish was thrashing about. I mean BIG! We all turned and instantly the Ozark Chronicles were on one single-minded mission....GET THAT FISH!

While pulling up the anchor and dropping the trolling motor, we all speculated on what it was and what it was doing. The optimists in the boat felt it was a big brown trout, chowing down on the burgeoning scud population, tailing in the shallow water. The pessimists offered up more rational ideas...perhaps a big sucker...or a carp!

Well as we motored up we saw it flash again...definitely a trout! And before ya know it, it was just upstream from us, whirling about in a mad daze. What the heck?!

McClane, being the biologist in the boat, yells at me. "Take MY PACK!" He's standing, arms already pointed backwards...I grab the center back compartment and he pulls his arms through....man he moved so fast I thought his arms would swing forward and he'd swan dive right off the driftboat.

However, Ringer was a little more restrained.....he kinda just jumped in....and he's now shouting again "GIVE ME THE NET!".

All I can see is a cloud of debris coming up off the bottom, the silver flashes of an obviously messed up trout shining through the water like a disco ball, and McClane up to his waste, fumbling around with a net on the bottom.

Somehow he managed to net the fish...we got it up and right away we could tell this fish was literally in his death throws..eyes bulged out (aka. Popeye, caused by fluid or gas pressure behind the eyes). What a monster fish! I guess in the end it really didn't matter that Ringer McClane didn't use tackle to land this fish...by all accounts this was an exceptional brown for the Spring River. I'll tell you now I have two thoughts. #1 this fish *may* have come over the dam. #2 this fish swam up from downstream, trying to escape a bad situation where the water looks trouty and is normally suitable, but today was 65F+ (more on that later). Quite possibly, when water temps rise and oxygen drops, the potential for disease elevates exponentially in any fish population.

Despite this run-in with a big brown, we were still ready to go downstream. Still a newbie drift boat operator, I kinda blew Tucker's "under the bridge" fishin' chances when I couldn't get the right lineup to go through. We ended up passing way too fast...pretty much all Tucker could say is "you just spooked a bunch of nice fish!"

We continued on down towards a promising bend...when we got there the current was just right that maybe a stroke every 10 or 15 seconds upstream was enough to keep us in good position. Another couple hits for both guys and we opted to keep moving.

Around the bend, whoa. The water was flat and slow and the shore became rocky...or rather bouldery! As we slowly drifted, I started to notice that there were HUGE (I mean GIGANTIC) boulders under the water's surface..maybe only 6-12" below us. Didn't hit a one, but man if this wasn't PRIME water.

Tucker continued to work the rocky shore while Ringer just kinda sat and coached me...just keep going a tiny bit slower than the current and we'll have the PERFECT drift. Ringer's indicator sat on the water's surface running parallel with the boat. I think I'm actually getting the hang of this.

We continued past some houses on the bank and Ringer's indicator shot underwater. An easy battle brought a STUNNING Longear Sunfish to the boat. McClane mused on how this was arguably the most beautiful species in the Ozarks, far surpassing ANY trout. I'm kinda inclined to agree!

Shortly thereafter we came to the "end of the line"....an old dam crossed the river and roughly divided it into a left and right flow. As we approached, we all agreed that the RIGHT flow would not be the flow to take...there wasn't a way to get over to it anyway. However, there is a break in the dam with a fast chute of water...after some discussion it was determined that was the only safe place to go over.

Moments before we went over, the announcement was made by your captain to take your seats and hold on...a last minute course adjustment and WHOOSH we went over...wow..that was fast...and fun! But what's up with this shore...why is it getting so close so fast?!

I came back on the oars a few times to slow us down and somehow got us going down the right path. This was all RIFFLE WATER...and at first it looked like it'd just be a fast, fun ride down to the next slow stretch.

WRONG! All those "weed beds"? Those weren't weed beds...they were ROCKS. Basically anytime you saw a patch of weeds (which there were THOUSANDS) there was a rock underneath it. For the first, I don't know maybe 100 feet...it was smooth sailing...challenging to avoid those rocks but we did....until crunch. Um...that's gotta hurt.

Now I know a driftboat is made to take this kind of abuse, but it isn't my driftboat! Tucker got out, pushed us off and hopped back in...smack, bam, crunch and we were stuck again! Tucker decides maybe he'll walk us down....and that works for another 100 feet until we're now beached on another rock. OK, so McClane gets out...and here I am, with the oars in my hands, while the Trout Bums are dragging Fat's driftboat down the riffles.

At some point it dawned on me about 1/2 way down (when we were stuck yet again) that I'd best be gettin' out too. When we finally made it down to the tail end of the Island, there was FAT, landing his 46th chub of the morning!

From there all 3 of us decided we'd go ahead on foot. Driftboat was beached on the tail of the island and down we went. While I got set back up, McClane had already found himself a nice run on the left bank, while Tucker was working pockets downstream from Rich.

So I'm watching while rerigging and Ringer McClane's rod doubles over...he's fishin a San Juan Worm he bummed from me and it looks like his call on fly patterns has paid off! I rushed downstream, snapping a picture then dodging another 10 boulders, snapping another picture etc.

Somehow I managed to not get too wet and avoided taking a spill (while running downstream through a boulder strewn riffle section that was waist deep all the way)! Got there just in time to take the pictures you see now at your left...McClane landed one DANDY of a Spring River Rainbow Trout! Again everyone reminded us that for the Spring River, that was a BIG fish. Of course, by my trout standards that was a BIG fish anywhere..but then again we don't have the world-record brown trout water up here ;)

Back to the boat to finish rigging, then another, less rushed, walk back downstream and I crowded in Rigger McClane like only a Root River Angler knows how to do ;) Fortunately, there was plenty of room for two of us. I hooked up the first few drifts with the Tucker, landed a fish only to drop it back in before getting the shot!

I didn't stick around for too long, only because I could tell there was a LOT of river to cover. I should probably explain that if you can't tell from the pictures, this is one BIG wide river. Almost never even up to my waist, most of it is thigh deep. Don't get me wrong there, there are clearly spots you could drown in...aka. several feet deep.

As I worked my way down, it was more or less a pocket / weed lane situation...no very distinct places that would congregate all the fish..instead this is the type of place where I'd have to move and pick up a fish here or there...and that's pretty much how it went.

"COMIN' THROUGH!" or something like that....FAT was in the driftboat for the first time; he had it all to himself. Of course he shot the deep slot in the next riffle...and in seconds he was flying downstream along the deeper bank. Tucker had been working downstream this entire time...he was now a good 1/8+ mile downstream from where we last beached the boat.

Below the next riffle break (i.e. another drop off back into the pocket / channel water) I finally managed to land a fish and GET A PICTURE :) Just another rainbow...downstream a bit more I picked up another one...floopped that one in the water too!

Meanwhile Ringer McClane was still back up on his original spot...and man I think every time I looked up there his rod was doubled over with a fish. Rather than go back up and crowd him in again, I figured there simply MUST be another spot this good on the river, so I kept walking downstream.

By the time I got to the regularly pounded water I opted to try up something different...Matt is a die-hard leech pattern man on the Spring River. I had a plethora of Chicago Leeches in the box and I don't think any of them had seen much use...looking around I figured Olive might be good and I tied on.

As the morning was shifting into afternoon, FAT had stopped in the driftboat to pick up Tucker for a 2-man drift down the far bank. Tucker switched up to hoppers and Rich oared. They made a nice slow go of it down the river. At some point way downstream they dropped anchor and huffed it on foot.

So I'm still torn...do I go back up to Ringer or downstream? This much I knew...Tucker had the cutthroat spot and it was NOT back up where McClane was. My quest for a cutthroat in Arkansas still needed to be fulfilled...so downstream would be my destination.

MORE darn weed lane fishing. Currents cut and sliced and mingled all over the place. While taking some pictures of Tucker and FAT my leech was dangling downstream...FISH ON FISH OFF before I could even get the rod back in my hands! Well at least I had picked the right pattern!

With the hot sun beating down on my arms and my lower extremities bathed in cool, comfortable water, wet wading downstream was the ONLY real way to go. I worked every pocket, seam, boulder and lane I could get a cast too...sometimes crossing what seemed like a dozen different currents. Basically my tactic was to get a "dead drift" for however long I could, simply to get the fly down. Sooner than I'd ever like, the currents would start moving the fly resulting in a nice long swing...probably not as deep as I would have liked but at least one time, it got the job done.

Lots of line was out across the water when I got the tug, set the hook, and started fighting a nice smaller fish. It got hung up in those weed stacks, but thankfully I was on 4lb., not 2 lb tippet. As soon as I could I brought the fish up and skated it in. I am glad I got a shot of this fish BEFORE taking the leech out. A nice Arkansas Brown trout...happens to be my first. I can't put my finger on just exactly what I like about this fish, but I think it's the big black spots, not a lot of red. And it had SHOULDERS for such a little fish. I think the best way to describe it might be that it was like the Iowa stocker brown trout (which like to fight deep and hard) both in fight and in looks...the only difference being that this Arkansas Brown did not have the gray/blue stocker coloration, but a NICE natural stream-reared look. It's not a cutthroat. It's not a big brown (in fact for Arkansas it's a TOTAL DINK) but man, it's almost a tough call between this brown and the Rainbow I got the day before...both were great fish in their own way.

OK I gotta stop drooling over this dinker and get back to the rest of the story...anyone seen Caimi?! I figured we'd run into him down here...he was gonna take the next drift boat ride...hmm. Speaking of which...the driftboat isn't that far away. Tucker and FAT though, are like a good 1/8th mile away again!

Time to steal a driftboat and get MOVING down the river. I hoisted myself in, pulled the anchor and was on my way. Something was odd, 'cause it wasn't exactly easy to steer...that's when I noticed one of the oars was 1/2 gone!

Well it only took a minute to get down to Rich and Matt...they were obviously getting worn out when I arrived. Think about it...this is Matt's 10th day of fishin and our 4th. There hasn't been a lot of time to sleep!

So I got filled in, each had a few fish under their belts. Someone broke the oar on that last drift...thinkin' a rock or something. Caimi? Last time anyone saw him he was way downriver...well now WE were way downriver and not too far off, it didn't look like the rest of the river. Tucker was fork tender...that is to say "Stick a fork in me, I'm done." Rich...I think Rich was a bit tired too. I can say I kinda was.

Well we got into the cooler, took in the scenery for a bit, and tried to figure out what next. Personally, although satisfied with my efforts, I had not given up hope on my Arkansas Cutthroat. Tucker had come close...FAT and he both agreed that the fish Tucker lost MUST have been a Cutthroat. Not really because they SAW it and had identified it as a cutthroat, but rather because loosing a cutthroat would just be in line with the rest of the fishing for today (which overall, I put it as slow). But the fish was "golden" in color and from what they DID get to see it wasn't a brown...according to the locals there's a good chance it was indeed a Cutt.

What to do? Hit the Cutthroat water. Turns out that's exactly where we were....Rich and Matt had just given it a good workout. But what to do with the driftboat? The launch here is closed. There is NO WAY I was going to have ANY PART of dragging the driftboat back upstream to begin with, let alone lifting it up and out of the water and onto the bank (which happened to be really mucky).

Some deliberation resulted in the plan; we'd hit the Cutthroat water one more time. Then "MP" would take the driftboat downstream about a mile to the next boat launch. It will be on my left as I'm facing downstream.

I could give you a play-by-play on the cutthroat stretch but it gets pretty boring. FAT started up first, Tucker started at the very end, and I went in-between where some of the more difficult casting was...right under an overhanging tree that had branches skimming the surface. I figured if there was ANY place a willing fish would be holding, tight in along the shore, it must be in the nice protective shade of that tree.

I made every kinda funky side cast skip cast temple cast drift from above effort...NADA. After I was thoroughly satisfied that this tree was NOT going to give up a fish...at least not for the leech, I moved up and worked my way to the head of the stretch. Tucker and FAT packed it up...I went back down and worked over the area that Tucker had pounded.

TAP....whoa there's a fish....not big. Gotta land it....not a cutt either..rainbow! Alrighty, I think someone's trying to tell me something. When I turned around to see what was up...Rich and Tucker had disappeared from sight. End of my time here...I gotta get in the driftboat and head downstream.

"Downstream" wasn't really a stream...immediately below one last riffle the water became glass. Farther downstream is another dam which backs up the Spring River to create a lake and this was the start of said lake.

As I drifted in, it was pretty, the current became weak but still there. I figured what the heck and tossed a few times...nothing. I took a temperature...up until now it hadn't bothered me that my legs weren't stinging with cold..turns out it was a balmy 65F. Continuing to drift, I passed a couple residents on their dock.

"That's a nice boat...I love the bow...is that your boat?"

"Naw...it's my buddies" I replied.

"Been fishin?" he asked.

"Yeah, got a couple. Down here though the water's 65...a bit warm".

"REALLY" he responded, more than a bit surprised. "Usually it's 54!"

Well that pretty much told me that this likely brown heaven wasn't going to be the place today! A few more kind words were explained and I started rowing downstream.

Things went from pretty to pretty swampy. What little current that was pushing me along was now long gone! I continued to row, which is fine....for a while. The time was passing by way too fast for a "1 mile drift" downstream to the launch. Finally I caved and set the trolling motor back up.

I made my way downstream now a bit more relaxed, happy that if I overshot something I wasn't going to be rowing back! Off to my left I saw a wide side channel that cut under the highway....is that the boat launch? Maybe it's on the other side of the highway and that back channel is how you get in...hmm. Matt said I'd see it on the left side though. I opted to keep going downstream.

There, tucked right below the downstream side of a bridge I found the launch. Where is FAT? I waited, and waited some more....no one showed up! I started to get nervous...maybe this was a 2nd launch downstream...maybe that back channel WAS the launch they had told me about? The thought of motoring up and down the lake looking for launches was NOT my idea of a good way to end this trip! Just as I was about to motor up and check out that back channel the FATMOBILE showed up and got me out of the water!

Back upstream Matt and Brent had met up with Tommy Garner and Wanda Garner who had come down to take some pictures and video of Team Ozark Chronicles. While they were off back in the stream doing that, Rich and I got everything prepared for the long drive home!

Another photo-op....first of the Sculpin one of the kids caught. I can't say I've had the opportunity to really examine a sculpin this closely before. What REALLY stood out was the blue and green on the ventral side of this fish...like baby blue and jade green, yet otherwise a drab dark olive-brown. Really a neat looking fish in it's own way.

More photo-ops....Gotta get Tommy and Wanda with Team OC. After wrapping that up, it was decided that we'd go grab some dinner before the drive back. A quick drive around the block and we were in Missouri...no...Arkansas...no...Missouri?

Turns out we were in Missouri...literally FEET over the state line while eating some great dinner at Dorsey and Wanda's State Line Restaurant. Meanwhile the Bronco sat in the parking lot...back in Arkansas! Tucker sucked the pics out of my camera again, Brent got to spend a bit of timing bumming what they could. We all felt at home with all the mounts around us...Turkey, Muskie, Crappies, Whitetails, at least one Mule and another African Deer that I can't remember a name for. I think we all agreed that a Driftboat on the Spring River, while cool (Matt is pretty sure we are the first to have ever floated one there) probably isn't the best craft.

Oh, I didn't mention...Mr. RINGER MCCLANE! Well, you may have noticed that I didn't mention him after leaving him to his spot way way back in the morning...he NEVER LEFT IT. Well, he did leave it, 17 fish later. The three of us COMBINED didn't land that many.

And what about Caimi? Turns out he had stuck around for a while but had to leave early to take care of some things at home in the evening. If I remember his email correctly, 3 rainbows on an Elk Hair Caddis before he came up to take our picture and head off...I didn't realize he was leaving that early!

Well, all good things...you know...and it was time to go home. I can't say it was a "sad" farewell, I think in some respects we were all ready for it (I slept, then Rich slept, then I slept some more etc...). Oh but don't think the pictures end here...look below 'cause we had to get some shots of the FATMAN sink on the way home...

So I'll leave you with this...unless situations change you will be seeing Team Ozark Chronicles in my Rambling Reports at least one more time, likely two or three, before the year is up.

;)

  MP 

My Pork Tenderloin Sandwich had me feeling rather inadequate!

Team OC have bummed yet another meal!

Officially the end of the Team Ozark Chronicles Trout Bum Tournament - all they had to do was drive home!

Hmm....what's this?

OH HO HO HO this is awesome.

I have dubbed this the official FATMAN SINK!

   

Thank you and goodnight!

   
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