I drove to a little creek near home in search of smallmouth bass this evening. The lower stretch of this little creek gets stocked with trout a couple times in the spring, but it gets ridiculously warm in the summer and has no thermal refuge to speak of. But it's a nice creek for little smallmouth bass and sunfish this time of the year, and I was really looking forward to an quiet afternoon chilling out and catching a couple bass on dry flies. But when I got to the only public pull-out on that stretch of the creek, there was only 1 parking place left. As I was walking down the path to the creek, I passed a guy with a 4 trout limit in one hand and a jar of Powerbait and a Zebco in the other. I got to the creek and saw three fisherman.
Based on my short conversation with the guy, it turns out that the creek had just recieved a fall stocking of rainbow trout. This stream doesn't usually get fall fish, so it was kind of surprising. Honestly though, I was a little disapointed by the result. There were fisherman everywhere, pounding the normally quiet creek. I found one pool to myself, and sure enough there was a pod of fresh stockers laying there. A little disgustedly, I tied on an Olive Woolly Bugger and cast it out, stripping it right back in. Of course one of the fish immediately broke from the rest of the pod and ate it. I landed that fish, and immediately lost interest in the fresh stockers and the crowded stream.
I got back in the car and starting driving up the valley. This creek makes one of Missouri's most beautiful valleys, a little patchwork of woodlands of and agriculture, surrounded by hills and low mountains on all sides. The fall colors are near their peak in Missouri, so it was even prettier than usual. I made my way further upstream, into the stretch that is managed for wild trout, and doesn't receive any stockings. I didn't have time to go all the way up to the really good water- but this stretch would do. The stream's banks are pretty heavily pounded by cattle, and it has also suffered badly from gravel mining in the past. The result is a relatively marginal stretch of water, but the habitat is just good enough to sustain about 100 little wild trout per mile. And even a couple 2 and 3 pounders, although they don't come easy. The fishing isn't great, but it's plenty good enough for a quick afternoon fix.
The flow was very low, maybe 30 cubic feet per second. But it was nice and cold, and if I got down low and snuck up on the fish, a bunch of possibilities opened up. First I crawled over a little gravel bar to fish a mostly shallow run with one little slot on the outside bend that was about 2 feet deep. I dropped a little hopper pattern over there, and the 6" rainbow that lived there came up immediately and ate it. The fish had still had par marks, and sported one of the most brilliant pink stripes I've ever seen. It just couldn't have been a more perfect specimen of a small trout. I managed to catch a couple more just like him before I had to go home. What a great day on a nice little creek.
"I don't know what fly fishing teaches us, but I think it's something we need to know."-John Gierach