Friday, June 19, 2015

Road Trip 2015

School is out.  Ball season is over (for my kids).  And my awesome family agreed to keep the girls for 2 weeks while they were at art camp in Little Rock....yes, I know I'm one lucky person.  2515 miles later and I can say, the road trip was out of this world great!  I caught trout in 3 states (IA, MO, AR).  Including an unscripted stop in AR for largemouth and smallmouth bass.  Here's how it went down.

1st stop

 So...what to do and where to do it.  If you've been checking this blog out, then you know I'm going to be fishing.  I keep it pretty plan is usually how I plan my trips.  Sunday, I was checking out the weather in SELA, Ozarks (AR/MO), East Tennessee, NM, CO, IA...basically anything with in driving range.  Driving range being 14-16 hours for me (an over night stay and a wake up to fishing).  The weather was how I eventually decided...I needed 4-5 days of good weather and I found it in Iowa.

It was settled, I told my wife how much I loved her (even asked if she wanted to her typical response, "are you fishing"..."no".), packed up the kids and all of our stuff, and started driving to Little Rock.  2.5 hours later, I was getting them settled in at their Nana's.

Most of the time I'm feel welcomed everywhere I go (I think so anyway).  But on Sunday, I got the feeling it would be ok if I departed sooner than later.

This was how I figured it out.  Early conversations, Nana,"where are you going".  Me, "Iowa".  Nana, "Wow that's a long way away.  What time does camp start every morning".  Me, "the driftless is all small stream trout fishing and hopefully I won't see many people".  Nana, "Ok.  Hey, what do they want for lunch".  Me, "I'm planning to fish as many of them as I can in 7 days".  Nana, "That's a long time.  Who has the girls next"?  Me, "Here's a folder with all the paper work for camp.  Do you care if I leave now and start driving"?  Nana, "Nope, check in often, that's a long way away.  I love you and have a good trip"!  My family gets me!!    

First deviation from the schedule, start driving Sunday.  Plan to drive as long as I can keep my eyes open.  Then grab a cheap hotel or nap in the truck.  Wake up early Monday morning and finish the drive.  Fish the rest of the day on Monday.

Brought the yak (planned on a IA SMB float) but never got to use it

The drive went like this...just kidding.  Short story, I was way to excited to stop.  I pushed through MO and made it to IA before 2 am.  Stopped for coffee, red bull, and breakfast.  Only a couple hours until my chance I'm stopping.

Since I hadn't planned on arriving Monday morning, I didn't have a clue where to start fishing or how to get to where I had planned on staying for 5 nights.  Not an issue, there was plenty of water near the camp.  What I wasn't aware of was the sudden drop in cell phone coverage.  Just as I arrived and started to descend into the valley I lost reception.  Without a map I was driving blind and there were a lot of back roads to get lost on.

Found a small spot with reception and grabbed a screen shot of the area and had a map to the camp and 1st stream.  Game on!

Putting the experience into context.  I have zero experience with small streams.  Only tailwaters in AR.  First challenge...wear waders or not.  Started out with them on, went and took a closer look at the stream and access to the water.  Changed my mind...took them off.  2nd guessed myself again.  Put them back on.  I wasn't sure of the water conditions and access further than I could see...better to have them, and not need them, than not have them, and need them (my thoughts after being awake 24hrs).  It was a mistake (lack of sleep probably had an impact on my judgment).  It was hot, the water was skinny, was really hot (90F).  Only wore them 1 day.  Wet waded every other stream (at times that was a mistake-explained later).

2nd challenge, presentation.  Fish were rising every where.  I got really excited and made my way to the stream anticipating an epic morning.  The bank was lined with brush at least as tall as the average person.  The first few presentations never found the water.  Instead, I had to reacquire my fly from the meadow behind me.  Didn't take long for me to figure out, after 700 miles, if you want to catch a fish, better put the fly in the water.

Made a few adjustments and voila, fly landed in the water.  After about 30 minutes I had my first fish.  Yep, they were indeed in the water.

It wasn't a smooth transition from tailwater fishing to small stream fishing.  I had to down size my indicator many times before I could bring fish to hand regularly.  When not nymphing soft hackles were very effective and I switched back in forth depending on the water depth.  

Eventually, the excitement of watching trout rise all day got to me and I decided to fish drys.  It's not something I do very often...I could count on 1 hand, how many times I've done it.  I was lacking in the selection department, if they wouldn't eat EHC, Adams, or BWO's, I wasn't going to be fishing drys long.  Fortunately, the area was ripe with insect activity.  The fish might have responded better to a local favorite...but I was happy catching the 30-40 fish each day on what I had in my box.  I did make a stop at the local general store to fill the ever growing empty spots in my box and picked up some local flies also.

I caught so many fish it was silly.  Big brookies, wild browns, and rainbows all came to hand over the next 2.5 days as I explored 5 different streams (at lunch I would move to a new creek).  Each with it's own personality and challenge.  The area was like the Disney World of fly want fast shallow runs, visit X stream.  Want long deep pools where you can sight fish big wild browns, visit Y stream.  Want wild browns, wild bows, grab a map b/c it's all there and accessible.  Truly, it's an area for every one.

A 2 week road trip needs to be broken up into a few posts so I'm gonna end here and pick it back up later.

To be continued....

RT 2015 - Truly wild (part 2):
Truly wild (part 2)

RT 2015 - AR Ozarks SMB (part 3):
SMB float 

RT 2015 - AR tailwaters (part 4):
AR tailwaters (part 4)


  1. Nice! I've always wanted to visit the driftless, spring creeks just attract me.

    1. It was very cool. I could see getting back there again real soon. All that water, not many people on it, and willing fish...everything I was looking for on a trip.