Current River

Frequently Asked Questions

Posted by Phil Lilley on January 3rd, 2012
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When is the BEST time of year to fish?

Quantity-

Late Spring and early Summer are usually the best months to catch several fish a day. There are lots of bugs on the water and plenty of those little stockers to keep you entertained in between the larger fish.

Big-

If you’re looking for big fish early Spring, late March and April can produce some of the biggest fish of the year. The fall is also a good time to find big fish, but they usually have something else on there minds and it can be difficult to get them to eat your fly.

Quality-

Late summer and early fall can produce some excellent days. When the hexes start to hatch and the hoppers start falling in the river on windy days. We also get some very large Cinnamon colored Caddis, (Tawny Sedge) a size 8. Big bugs attract big fish, but it is also the time of year when we can get some very hot weather. Night fishing can be very productive this time of year.

How do I fly fish when the water is real high?

When the river is up, streamers, especially in dark colors are the most productive. Use lots of weight, because getting them to the bottom is the way to go. Just be aware of the possibility of the river being closed by the National Park Department. Flash floods do occur on the Current River.

How do I spin fish when the water is real high?

I am not a spin fisherman, but I would probably go with big dark baits that get down to the fish. Dark colors are easier for the fish to find when the river is high.

What fly works the best under these conditions, and how do I fish it?

Large streamers in dark colors like wooly buggers, leeches crayfish and sculpins produce fish when the river is high. OR large nymphs, (#10, #8, #6) like black stoneflies and hellgrammites drifted along the bottom and large san juan worms can produce fish in high water. Increasing the size of your fly allows the fish to find your fly easier in high, dark water.

Can a personal pontoon work on these waters?

I have seen fishermen using tubes and pontoons, but the Current River is easy to wade throughout the Blue Ribbon water, except for a couple of stretches. There are lots of shallow areas that will require the fisherman to walk his pontoon or tube.

What do I look out for?

There are a few log jams with fast water and some narrow chutes with fallen trees… that can be very dangerous. Fallen trees and log jams are always more dangerous than rocks. When in doubt, take the time to walk around.

Where can I use it?

You can use a pontoon or tube the entire length of the blue ribbon section of the Current River, but be prepared to do some walking, especially late summer. Shuttles will usually cost about the same as renting a canoe. $25 and up.

When is the spawning season for your type of fish?

Rainbow – December

Brown October – November

Smallmouth bass – May

Bluegill – Late April-May

Goggleye – April

What’s your opinion when it comes to fishing for spawning fish?

I do not try to catch browns or rainbows, when they are spawning. There is some natural rainbow reproduction on the Current River and I would like to see more stream-born rainbows in the river. The browns do not reproduce in the Current River, but they go through the ritual non the less. A trout expels a lot of energy creating and maintaining a spawning bed. If they are at a very low energy level when they are caught it could stress them enough to kill them, so I do not fish for trout when they are on spawning beds.

Fly Fishing

Tell me about tippet applications for your fishery… are your fish leader-shy?

A 3X tippet will be fine for most of the fishing in the Current River. However there are times when a fisherman will have to drop down to a 5X or even a 6 or 7X depending on the fly that is being fished and the water conditions. On a very shallow flat, late in the summer when the water is gin clear, an extra long leader and smaller tippet will be necessary to keep from spooking the fish. I would not recommend using a 3X tippet with a #20 fly, even if you could get the line through the eye of the hook, especially when they are keying in on small flies like Tricos, Midges, Tiny Olives and micro Caddis.

When would I think about using sink-tip leaders?

There are some holes on the Current River where I use a sink-tip leader, when I am throwing streamers, especially during high water. For most of the river a sink tip isn’t necessary, but I carry them with me all the time.

Do you ever use dry flies? What flies and when?

The Current River is an excellent dry fly stream. We catch fish on dry flies, almost the year around. The stream almost always has some type of caddis hatch so Elk Hair Caddis in various sizes and colors is highly recommended. CDC Caddis for the more experienced fly fishermen. Light Cahills in the spring and early summer work well. Hoppers are the dry fly of choice from July to October. Tricos all summer and BWOs in the spring and fall will catch fish. Late summer brings on some Hexagenia action in the evenings.

Where are the best places to wade?

The entire stream can be waded except for a few long deep holes.

In these wading areas, what do I look for… what can I expect?

The stream has a moderate current flow with a few places that may require a wading staff. I just find a good solid beaver stick.

What size fly rod is best for various conditions on your water?

3WT to 5WT rods from 7 to 8 foot work well. Longer rods will have a tendency to get you into the trees. The trees along the river have eaten a ton of flies over the years. There isn’t a lot of back casting room on most sections unless of course you are casting up or down stream. Except for a few gravel bars, trees line both sides of the stream in the Blue Ribbon section.

Spin fishing

What kind of line should I use? Test. Color.

For the most part, streams in Missouri can be fished with light to medium action spin rods and four-pound line. Clear or green are best colors.

What baits work best and how do I use them?

Minnows, night crawlers, crawdads, sculpins to name a few. Run them through the fast riffles into the deep holes below for best results. A minnow under a float (bobber) along the bluff or steep banks will almost always catch fish.

What lures work best and how do I use them?

I use jigs is streams and usually have a blast. Sculpin, brown, olive, black, white in color and the weight depends on what kind of water I’m looking at. Faster water I use a 3/32nd oz and slower water I tie on a 1/32nd oz. And smaller jig under a float works too. Crawfish crank baits like a rebel attract a lot of attention. Rooster tails too- especially in the riffles. Also try a small sluggo in the riffles- you’ll be surprised what hides in that shallow water!

What size/weight rod should I bring?

Mentioned spin rods already- 3 or 4 wt fly rod, 8 feet is plenty. Shorter wouldn’t hurt. Easier casting.

Weather- what would I expect as far as temperatures and weather in-

– winter
Average winter temps are in the 30s. We get occasional snow but usually less than 6 inches.

– spring
Average spring temps are in the 50s. With a range of 30-80

– summer
Average summer temps are in the high 80s With a range of 60-100

– fall
Average fall temps are in the 50s With a range of 30-80

How do fishing guides work?

Most of the guide trips are walk-ins within one half mile or so of the vehicle. I do some remote walk-ins, which can be a mile or more from the vehicle. I also provide guided float trips, and I’m not sure that anyone else does guided float trips in the Blue Ribbon section. Reservations are appreciated with a 50% deposit, especially if there are specific days the fisherman has in mind. If there is no deposit there is no guarantee that the requested day or days will be available. Most trips are full day outings, but half day and short day trips are available. A lunch is provided for full day and short day trips. The fee is for one or two clients except for the float trips. Float trips are only available for one client at a time. It is recommended that clients bring their own gear for these trips, especially their own rod and reel. But all of the fly fishing gear you need including rods, reels, flies, leaders, and tippets can be provided if needed. The only gear I do not provide are waders.

If I brought my own boat, what would I have to be careful of?

Canoes are recommended because of the tight turns, but the old narrow river jons work well also. There are some fallen trees, log jams and some fast chutes that are hazards, especially to those that are unfamiliar with the stream. Wide boats will have a very difficult and dangerous time on this section of the stream.

More Questions and Answers from the forum:

Q. I’m planning a Feb 3-4 fly fishing trip to the Current and I wanted to try some new water. We usually fish the water between Baptist Camp and Cedar Grove. This time I wanted to try the water between Cedar Grove and Akers Ferry, more specifically, the water between Welch Spring and Akers. Does anyone have any fishing experience on this stretch? I’m looking for some pointers on where to fish, what flies might work best in this section, what water conditions in Feb might be like, etc, etc. We’ll be walk/wading only but not afraid to put some miles on our boots.

A. The water below Cedar is bigger than above, especially when you get to Welch. There are longer and deeper pools below Cedar making a canoe ( or john boat ) necessary to cover that much water. I like to use the canoe to really fish the holes the way they should be fished. I always carry a sinking leader and use it a lot more below Cedar than I do above because of the deep water. I suggest that you take a sinking leader, or a spool of sinking line for that section. In addition to the deep pools, there will be plenty of runs and flats for you to wade. There are some BIG trout down in that section, but they are hit pretty hard by local fishermen so the numbers per mile are less than above. ( Unless you hit it after a stocking )

Early February can be pretty cold, so be careful not to get wet. Take extra clothes in a dry bag, and a lighter to start a fire. Streamers, woollies and sculpins work pretty well that time of year, AND if the weather is warm you should get some caddis hatches.

Good luck, it is a beautiful stretch of water and going in February, you should pretty much have it to yourself.

Q. If memory serves correctly there’s no overnight parking at Welch Landing. Anyone know for sure?

Secondly, there’s a road off K that accesses a cleared area (on the east side of the stream, above Medlock Cave.) Is that a public road?

A. No, you cannot park overnight at Welch. This is a river access point with no camping posted. You may however, wander off at least 50 ‘ from the access point to be considered in the national park. What land area can be considered Welch access point is the question. I would consider the trail to the spring, the parking lot, and the road that does just downstream of the access point all part of the no camping area.

When I camp there I put everything in my canoe and drag it upstream to the nice gravel bar.

The roads ( trails ) leading to the Current River toward Ashley Creek cross private property and Public lands. Permission to cross private property is usually not given to anyone except relatives and close friends. There have been some people prosecuted for trespassing so you take your chances. The National Park Rangers and Missouri Conservation Agents will patrol these trails occasionally.

I wouldn’t suggest you drive these trails unless you want to lose a fender or bend a tie rod. The ruts are very deep because of erosion over the years. If you get stuck back in there, you are on your own. I don’t know of any wrecker service in the area that will go down there and pull you out.

Q. Welch Landing – I assume the same is correct for the road off Highway K that accesses the river above Medlock Cave?

A. I just camped for 5 days between Baptist and Parker and had little problem getting through the rapids. And believe me, I was heavier than you’ll ever be.

The river is low but still floatable, even though it is not what you’re probably used to.

The fishing was awesome. Everyone who fished caught fish and two guys caught fish over 20″. You’ll probably catch some rainbows to eat below Welch but you’ll miss out on some good rising water this next week.

Top 5 Flies on the Current River

Sam Potter – At times the Current River can be tough to fish, especially once you get down stream a mile or so below Montauk park. To list just 5 flies would be difficult because a lot depends on the time of year, hatches and the water conditions. If I gave you 5 flies to use on the Current River and you fished them the wrong time of year or in the wrong water conditions, you might not think I knew what I was talking about. I suggest that you narrow down the situation, but I do agree that if you do not go to the Current River without some caddis flies, you are missing the most important insect the river produces. Adult, larva, and pupa in various sizes and colors should be available to match the food source. Caddis will hatch the year around on the Current River. Even during the winter, if the conditions are conducive.

When in doubt, drift larva or pupa below an indicator, because trout feed below the surface a heck of a lot more than they do on top.

Sam Potter – The following is a list of flies that I use on the Current River
Caddis Dry – CDC #16-20 TMC 100 in brown, black, green, tan
Caddis Emergers #16-20 TMC 2488 in brown, black, green, tan
Caddis Larva #16-20 TMC 2488 in green, cream, brown, black
Trico #28 TMC 518 in black
BWO #18-22 TMC 518 in olive
Brown Drake and Hex in size 8 and 6 TMC 100 in brown, brown/yellow
Ants #19 TMC 102Y in black
Hoppers #8-12 Dai-Riki 280 in tan, brown, green
Yellow Stone #14 Dai-Riki 270 in yellow
Midge #32-30 TMC 518 in tan, black
Sculpins #2-6 TMC 200R or Dai-Riki 899 in brown, tan, olive, olive/blue
Mohair Leech #10 TMC 100 or Dai-Riki 270 in olive, brown, cinnamon, tan, black

I do not fish nymphs very much. I prefer casting a fly, to casting an indicator. If I am using caddis larva, I fish them below a dry fly. There are a ton of fishermen that use nymphs with an indicator and catch a lot of fish with that method, but I enjoy casting too much and the indicator gets in the way. I will use a very small piece of yarn at times for an indicator, but it is not my preferred method of fly fishing. I like the feel of casting a line and fly instead of plopping an indicator. I pride myself on accuracy and presentation. Fly fishing to me ( at this stage of my life ) is more than just catching fish. I have caught thousands over the past 50 years, using just about any method you can think of…. casting a dry fly with the perfect presentation and getting a selective trout to rise and take it, is what I prefer to do. It is the challenge and the reward that I cherish, not the numbers or the size of the fish. I have caught 50+ trout a day on numerous occasions and some huge fish, don’t get me wrong I love to catch a lot of fish and BIG fish, but I enjoy making that perfect drift and catching a 12″ brown just as much if not more. I have spent entire days just trying to catch one huge fish that I have found somewhere on the stream…That is the type of determination that I have. It is the challenge that drives me. I get the same challenge from a 12″ brown that refuses my fly.

The colors of the flies, I described, are for the body of the fly. Were the caddis you observed hatching and flying close to the surface or dropping eggs? It makes a difference. Did you notice any activity below the surface? For every bug they take off the surface they are probably taking 8 below the surface, if there is a hatch on. Excellent opportunity for swinging emergers.

I have witnessed, on several occasions, trout catching flying caddis, not on the surface mind you, flying in mid air. Think about all the information that a trout must calculate to catch a bug flying. Force of the water, speed of the insect, windage and distance from the water surface. I would never have witnessed these instances if I had not been looking at the precise fly taken at the time of the jump. I find myself more observant with insects than I did twenty years ago. I use to just concentrate on fishing and missed out on a ton of information, and enjoyment that makes fishing more than just catching fish.

Catching fish during a hatch can be very rewarding, OR it can be very frustrating, if they are keyed in on a specific size and color and you can not replicate what they are looking for, it can be frustrating.

Al Agnew –

1. Elk hair caddis in several sizes from 12 to 18

2. Tricos, #24

3. Flashback hairs ears, 12-16

4. Scud patterns (these always seem to catch fish for me no matter where I fish)

5. And when I want to do something different and go for a big brown…a simple streamer I make myself by wrapping some crosscut rabbit strips for a bulky “head” and using a red squirrel strip for a “tail”. I’m not even sure what the hook size is, but the whole thing should be about three inches long. Gray and white to imitate minnows, olive and brown to imitate sculpins, or basic black. Doesn’t always work, but once in a while some torpedo of a brown will investigate it, and once in a great while I’ll actually hook one!

Actually, my whole fly selection isn’t all that much bigger…I also use a lot of pheasant tail nymphs, occasionally a Prince nymph, a few small emerger patterns that I originally stocked up on for fishing spring creeks out West, some Woolybuggers…. and the venerable Fetal emerger (egg fly).

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