This will be a bit of a bland report, and regrettably, without pictures. I forgot the camera.
Wednesday (6-18) I was able to make it to what I'll call an interesting stretch of the Meramec River. The Meramec, as a whole, is a smallmouth bass stream, and a good one too. It's right up there with the Jacks Fork, Gasconade, other ozark streams on the smallie fishing pantheon.
But about 30 miles downstream from its headwaters, Maramec Spring Branch dumps in. The spring branch is awfully pretty, but as a trout fishery, is not a place you want to find yourself. It's stocked heavily, put and take, more crowds than you can handle and still come away sane. You might fish there in the winter, but in the summer crowds, for my sake it might as well be a nuclear fallout zone.
But it creates an interesting fishery on the Meramec River (yes, the spelling of the spring branch and the river are different, for some reason unknown to anyone I've ever asked.) Just above the spring, it's a lazy, meandering smallmouth stream, warm and comfortable to wet-wade in at this time of the year. The spring branch changes its character. It more than doubles the size and it picks up pace. You're now fishing deep pools and quick riffles for brown and rainbow trout, at least for a few miles.
I got to the river a little too late for my liking (about 9 AM.) I parked along Maramec Spring Branch, and walked its 3/4 mile length until it joined the river. It was full of trout, but equally full of anglers. I never felt the slightest temptation to stop off and fish.
Finally, I made it to the junction pool with the main river. Naturally, this is where you're faced with a decision. Upstream for smallmouth bass, or downstream for trout? I decided to start by moving upstream. The water just upstream from the junction is classic "frog water", not worth your time unless you like spotted bass and gar (and in the clear water, I made out plenty of both as I walked past.) Soon I came to one of my favorite smallmouth runs. A slab where an old bridge used to be created some rocky pocket water, with some nice eddies that always hold fish. Just below, it tailed out into a quick run, and finally, an aqua-marine colored pool.
In the pocket water, I took my first few fish with ease. Not smallmouth though. These were longear sunfish, the beautiful "brook trout of the Ozarks" as I call them. Really, those were the only fish I caught all day that I wish I could have posted some pictures of, even though they were the smallest by far.
Soon, I made my way to where the choppy water went over a ledge, brown gravel color fading to blue as it quickly gained depth. I took a down and across cast, and was rewarded with my first good catch of the day, a hefty 14 inch smallmouth bass. As I worked my way further down into the pool, it was more of the same, with a couple largemouth and spotted bass mixing in where it finally tailed out and got downright slow.
I truly love smallmouth fishing, but the itch to hook into a few trout eventually took over. I made my way down to the junction pool, and immediately took a nice brown. Not big, mind you, a 12-13 incher that fought just like the smallmouth upstream. But the trout fishing has been a bit of a basket case on this river the past few years, so any holdover brown that had clearly been in the river a year or two is a victory.
I don't really have much more to say. It was downhill from there, a few small browns hooked below, before the fishing dropped off where a warm tributary dumped in its turbid flows a ways downstream. It was far from a spectacular day of angling, but sometimes a little bit of variety is all you can ask for. Whatever else we have, the Ozarks have plenty of that.
"I don't know what fly fishing teaches us, but I think it's something we need to know."-John Gierach