Posted by Jeff House on February 28th, 2011
GutBuster Trip 2011…..I know it sounds like a competitive eating club gathering at Lambert’s but it’s actually a tradition started over 30 years ago by my father and some of his friends. It started out as a few guys heading down to BSSP for a couple days of fishing and hanging out on opening day and gradually morphed into a full fledged 5 day annual trip that we all look forward to.
The participants have changed some over the years due to the usual life changes that prohibit us from doing the things we love , you know… wives , kids , jobs and all of the other day to day B.S. we have to deal with. The group now have all been going for at least 20 years, with only occasional absences when they’re inevitable. We stay in the same 4-plex in the park every year and the place has basically become a home away from home between Feb. 28th and March 4th every year.
My dad started taking me to Bennett when I was still in middle school and it’s where I caught my first trout and also where I caught my first fly rod fish. I quit going for a while during my high school years when I was confused and thought that there were other things in life more important than fishing, namely girls , but I’ve since gotten my priorities straight. Apart from those few times I can’t imagine being anywhere else come March 1st. I know that a lot of folks (some that I fish with personally) dislike Missouri’s trout parks and saying that you participated in the opening day festivities is on par with admitting you got drunk and did the fat girl over the weekend. I myself have evolved over the years from being a hardware guy to strictly a flyrod fisherman and I admit that the park fishing scene doesn’t hold the same attraction for me that it once did. I travel frequently to much better fishing destinations and as with most fly fishermen have come to appreciate my solitude out on the river. I guess at this point I’d have to relate our annual pilgramage to the likes of a deer camp on opening day , just a bunch of guys getting together to eat to much..drink too much and basically do those things your wife wouldn’t let you get away with at home.
When I get to the point that I can’t enjoy that anymore then I figure I’m taking myself way too seriously as a fly fisherman , after all isn’t having fun the bottom line?
I left Kimberling City early Monday morning and headed back North towards Bennett Springs State Park. The usual routine would be to unpack all the groceries and supplies for the week and then for Rob and I to hit the Niangua River for the rest of the day.
Unfortunately the less than stellar water conditions on Monday (the river was too high and muddy for much of anything) left us with limited options. After some discussion we decided to kick back and take it easy for the day instead of driving at least an hour and a half to another stream for only a few hours of fishing. We made a trip up to Reading’s and killed at least an hour wandering around the shop searching through his vast array of merchandise. I ended up buying several hackles and some other fly tying supplies that I probably didn’t really need as well as a good book to occupy my time in the evenings.
The book was “Trout Country” by Bob Saille , my first time reading this author. I finished the book before the week was over and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good read. I spent part of the afternoon tying flies and the remainder was spent catching up with the guys and doing what we do every year…eating and drinking too much , thus the name of our little get together. Tomorrow morning was opening day and the parade of people that would be standing shoulder to shoulder for the event had begun to assemble throughout the park…another year had gone by and it was good to be back with old friends again.
Tuesday morning most of our group headed down to the Whistle Bridge well before dawn to secure their spots, they always start the season fishing Zone 2 in front of the bridge and it usually provides good action for them with their spinning gear. Rob and myself on the other hand slept until 6:30 and then made our way up to the Spring where we hoped to find a little room to play with. The water was still high and off-color even in the spring branch so the fishing was going to be tough to say the least. I sat down on a bench and just watched for a while until a few people started clearing out, it didn’t take long between the cold fingers and lack of fishing success. I grabbed an open spot and in about 5 casts caught two small rainbows , that was all I had time for this morning as breakfast was at 8:30 and Rob and I were the cooks.
For about the last 5 years Rob and I’ve taken at least one day and hit another river somewhere during our stay , usually Taneycomo when the generation permits. This year we’d decided that opening day would be a good time to get away , let the water come down a little and the crowds thin out some while we caught fish elsewhere.
Generation was predicted to be off by 9:00 am so we figured the water would be dropped out by the time we could make it down after breakfast. After the day I had on Sunday I was pretty anxious to get back down there anyway. We pulled into the parking lot below the dam about 10:45 and found low water and only a very few people fishing being midweek.
I knew where I was headed and quickly rigged up a midge setup and headed down below the Big Hole. I was smiling before I even made it to the waters edge…I could see fish midging everywhere up and downstream , even more fish than Sunday with fewer fishermen.
All I can say is WOW! , the midge fishing was as good as I’ve had on a tailwater in a long time , maybe ever.
The calm conditions allowed me to sight fish up and down the river in the shallow flats where the fish were voraciously feasting on the multitudes of midges. I again caught fish on drys , soft hackles and zebra midges with the hot fly for me being a size #22 miracle midge about 18 inches under a half palsa.
By far the best midge fishing I’ve ever encountered and personally I can’t imagine it being much better on any tailwater anywhere. Nothing huge was caught but several fish pushing 18 inches came to hand and the numbers of fish caught would have been considered a great day on any river in the country.
Rob chose to nymph fish the area up around re-bar hole and he had a great day as well , catching fish almost at will on a g-bug and scud rig. About 5:30 that all too familiar sound that I’ve grown to despise began resonating from the dam, two units were being cranked up , but it was too late to ruin our day. I made one last cast and as if on cue hooked into another quality bow….just how I like to end the day.
By Wednesday morning the water at Bennett Springs had come down and cleared up enough to put the fish back in a feeding mood , but best of all it appeared that a lot of the opening day fishermen had packed it in and headed home as the stream wasn’t crowded at all.
We fished all of our favorite holes and caught good numbers of freshly stocked bows that still had the battle scars to prove they had come from a concrete raceway only days before. Missouri must be hurting for money because I think they’ve been starving some of those poor fish. I have to say the majority were some of the smallest fish I’ve caught out of there in years. Even at that I wasn’t about to complain, the weather was beautiful for once and I had the afternoon to fish a few of my favorite spots in comparitive solitude for a trout park.
We saw some pretty large hatches of BWO’s and even some small size #18 mothers day caddis later in the day. The water was still too off color for the fish to have much interest but I always enjoy watching the bugs come off anyway. Thursday was a carbon copy of the day before with even fewer people fishing in the park and lots of willing fish in most of the holes we fished. The only photogenic fish we caught out of the park was a nice little brown that Rob landed Thursday afternoon out of the High Bank hole.
There was a time when we’d catch a half dozen browns out of the park in a weekend but nowadays you seem lucky to catch just one. Those damn commitments in life sent me back home Thursday evening , one day earlier than the rest of the group. I couldn’t get Friday off work so my trip was over for this year. Once again a great time was had by all , fish were caught , memories of past trips were relived..and maybe most importantly plans were made for next years trip , I wonder if I’m the only one who’s already looking forward to it.
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