River Serenity with a Friend

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Wayne White Fishing Big River

The Child is father of the Man;

And I could wish my days to be

Bound each to each by natural piety.

William Wordsworth, “My Heart Leaps Up”

College classes begin for me next week, and as summer winds down, I exalt in the wonders of this year’s experiences. Memories are still awash with the wonders of the Grand Canyon and the Red Rocks of Sedona. “Standin’ on the Corner of Winslow, Arizona” was also a fun moment as were the trips down memory lane, compliments of historic Route 66 across Arizona and New Mexico.

I am currently taking the opportunity of visiting my parents and siblings in the St. Louis vicinity, and spending some quality fishing time with my friend since second grade, Wayne White. Rising early, we met yesterday before daylight in Desloge, Missouri and drove to Bootleg Access in Washington County. Wayne has been an enthusiast of fishing and kayaking Missouri’s Big River, and his experience over the years has really paid off when we’ve fished together. This time would be no different.

Big River was low and the water was clear as crystal. Looking over the easy flowing stream, I was reminded of my youth spent fishing Indian Creek in southeast Missouri long, long ago. As a fly fisherman, I love working gravel-bottomed streams. Not one time throughout the day was I required to clean weeds or algae off my fly as I fished. By the time we worked Big River at Bootleg and Leadwood accesses, followed by the lake at Bonne Terre city park, we had landed nearly sixty fish. The day couldn’t have been more pleasurable.

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Sunfish Caught on Woolly Bugger

My childhood memories were revived by the sight of many sunfish landed. I don’t see this species in the Texas waters I fish. I’ll never cease to be stunned at the brilliance of these colors. Several other varieties of bluegill, perch and warmouth were landed as well. My usual practice is to use nearly every fly pattern in my box, but I only used two throughout this entire day. A green sparkling woolly bugger landed all the perch, bluegill, warmouth and sunfish, as well as a pair of smallmouth bass.

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Smallmouth Bass Caught on Woolly Bugger

Bootleg Access featured shallow waters for easy wading, and the panfish varieties were abundant in the swift current shallows. Moving on to Leadwood Access, we found deeper holes, longer channels and a different sort of excitement. I stalked a pair of smallmouth bass as I worked one of the channels and watched with delight as I cast my woolly bugger a few feet in front and watched each fish dart up and take it. The five-weight fly rod strained under the strength that these feisty fish exerted as they streaked downstream, forcing me to pull them in against the current.

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Largemouth Bass Caught on Clouser Minnow

The real fun began when I found a long swift shallow run with an undercut bank on one side and fallen trees on the other. The water was sparkling with the flash of the silver sides of hundreds of minnows pointed upstream. I cut off my woolly bugger and tied on a clouser minnow colored like a bass fingerling. Tossing it downstream, I stripped the line, jerking the minnow in quick spirts against the current. The water exploded continually as five largemouth bass inhaled the minnow. The fifth bass taken came by surprise–I had to stoop under an overarching tree as I waded downstream, and chose to drift the minnow in the water beside me as I walked rather than reel it in. When I cleared the stream and lifted the rod to pull up my line, bass #5 was on!

We wrapped up our day with a visit to the city park in Bonne Terre. It was late afternoon and the heat was blazing. Finding a bench beneath a large shade tree, we sat there with rod & reels in hand, laughing at ourselves–a pair of old, tired, crotchety men fishing with live bait. And the fish continued to rise. We bagged an additional ten-to-twenty as we sat enjoying the shade.

We have decided to try our luck a second time, later in the week. Already I am anticipating with gladness this precious time with a friend who loves to fish, loves the writings of Emerson and Thoreau, loves to blog, and loves to laugh. I thoroughly enjoy our conversations when we are out exploring the beauty of our natural world. The river calls out to us, and we must answer.

Thanks for reading.

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