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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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