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Spring flyfishing
in Hillbilly Country

A Norwegian salmon fisherman goes brown trouting in the Missouri Ozarks

Thanks to the Internet it is now very easy to get connected to new fishing buddies everywhere.

This is how a business trip early in March 2004 to Chicago ended up in spring flyfishing for brown trout in the Missouri Ozarks, better known as the hillbilly home land of rock legends "ZZ Top". (* see note in bottom of this page)

Flyfishing guide and lifelong trouter Norm Crisp fishing in the beautiful
Current River, Missouri. Photo: Jan Gunnar Furuly.

Early March 2004 I was fortunate to travel on a grant from the newspaper where I work as a journalist, to Chicago, USA. My aim was to study how two newspapers, Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, are working to attract younger readers.

Normally when I go somewhere I try to scan all possibilities to do some serious flyfishing, but going to the Windy City this time a year, I expected rather icy and cold conditions.

As the Norwegian Kroner was rather high against the US Dollar, I sticked to warm up my black belt in shopping. So in the middle of February I dropped a couple of lines on the European flyfishing-list (eur-flyfish@shconnect.de) to get some adresses to good flyfishing shops in the Chicago area.

Only one and a half hour later I received an generous e-mail invitation from Norm Crisp in www.streamsideadventures.com to come and flyfish with him for brown trout in the Missouri Ozarks.

-Don't you have winter over there now? I asked, somewhat surprised over the sudden opportunity.

Back in Norway it was dark most of the day, we had one solid metre of snow and a temperature of -15 Celsius. To me flyfishing sounded just like pure science fiction at the time.

It turned out that Norm had been fishing all year around in the rivers in the area, and only days earlier he and a friend had caught several dozens of nice browns on elk hair caddis flies in the Current River, in the southern part of Missouri.

A quick check at the Internet showed that the flight ticket from Chicago to Kansas City and return was amazingly cheap, less than 100 USD. I immediately booked the flight, asked a friend to tie up a bunch of light tan elk hair caddises and prepared for early spring trout fishing.

When I arrived in Chicago Thursday 4th March, it was raining cats and dogs. A quick call to Norm in Kansas City showed that the weather was just as bad there.

After my meetings at the Chicago Sun-Times during Friday; the weather report was more cheerful: The sun was shining again, but the most-of-the-time crystal clear Current River was still growing in size and had turned into a very muddy state.

We crossed our fingers for great improvement by the next day, I jumped on the plane Friday evening and to put it almost like in the lyrics from ZZ Top's famous "Tres Hombres" album:

"Furuly just left Chicago, and he's bound for Kansas City".

Or was it The Ozarks? ;-)

Montauk State Park offers crowdy fishing close to it's hatchery.
Photo: Jan Gunnar Furuly.

After a four hour drive from Kansas City Saturday morning down to Montauk State Park we met Norm's fishing buddy, Preston, who lives in St. Louis.

The parking lot, cafeteria, camp site and the river stretches near the centre of the National Park was heavily crowded.

We were experimenting a gigantic human hatch, with loads of frenetic waving flyfishers, who apparently just woke up from a long winter sleep.

The river had risen dramatically after the heavy rainfall, but was now dropping and clearing up. But instead of dry flyfishing with elk hair caddis', we had to change plans: The low visibility in the water, meant streamer fishing.

After a short stop at the cafeteria to buy fishing licences, we headed out of the "amusement park".

Just a few miles away we actually were lucky enough to have the river mostly for ourselves. Strange, beautiful world.

"Trout Interstate 1": Extremely social fishing in "the amusement park" close to the camping ground at Montauk State Park. You can see smoke from the gigantic barbeque at right. Photo: Jan Gunnar Furuly.

I use 90 percent of my fishing time in Norwegian salmon rivers chasing Atlantic salmon with mostly huge salmon flies, casting shooting heads with a 15,1 feet two-hand Sage rod. Wading in this tiny little river, with a light #4 one-hand rod, it was a pleasure to learn American trouting techniques from Norm and Preston.

In the start I had a hard time to adjust my casts under and between the low hanging trees, that hung over the river everywhere.

Quite a few flies was taken by the "Bush Administration" - never to be seen again. It was comfort to see that I was not alone. Also Norm and Preston had to climb trees now and then.

Norm Crisp (left) with an unknown flyfisher (thanks for the cold beer,
man!) we met by the river. Photo: Jan Gunnar Furuly.

The sun was shining, and the temperature was surprisingly high - around 13-14 degrees Celsius. Just about Mid Summer temperatures near the rivers where I normally fish, in Northern Norway.

A lot of caddis flies was hatching, but due to the coloured water, we only saw a handful fish rise to take the insects. So we kept on bombing the waters with Woolly Buggers, different Leech's and Cone Head Muddlers.

Norm and Preston got several nice brown trouts, I had a lot of fish after my flies, but for a long time I struggled to hook them up, to be able to reel them in.

Not until the end of the fishing trip I finally got one nice trout, around 35 cm's - which took a Cone Head Muddler Preston gave me.

The dark was starting to set in, when we waded close to the parking lot where we had our car. Norm had given up fishing, he was already packing his gear into the car. I was walking down the river 30 metres after Preston.

The last pool. I was wading in the middle of the river, with water up to my waist. And as always, I thought: "Just a couple more casts, before I go".

I dropped the fly close to the shore, and started to retrieve the line with both my hands, giving the fly extra speed over the most promising trout area.

"Bang!"

A huge trout had taken the fly, now it was splashing the surface, before it rushed down, deep in the river.

"Keep it away from those threes in the water", Preston adviced and pointed at a beaver nest looking mess 40 metres below. I steered the fish away from what would have meant big trouble and started to reel it upwards.

After a nerve-racking fight the beauty finally was reeled in close to my wader boots, where we could measure it and take some photo's before it was safely released. The brown trout was little over 19 inches long, about 49 cm's. and with it's fat and well built appearance, probably between 1.5 and 2 kilo's.

Happy fisherman: Jan Gunnar Furuly with a nice brown trout on 49 cm's.
Photo: J. Preston Larimer.

What a good way to end a wonderful spring day along a great trout river! And thanks to Norm and Preston for sharing their knowledge and secret trout spots!

Note:

* ZZ Top is a hillbilly blues band originating from Austin, Texas. It is said that most of today's hillbillies lives in the Missouri Ozarks. ;-)

Extra material:

Jesus Just Left Chicago - Lyrics

Jesus just left Chicago and he's bound for New Orleans.
Well now, Jesus just left Chicago and he's bound for New Orleans.
Yeah, yeah.
Workin' from one end to the other and all points in between.

Took a jump through Mississippi, well, muddy water turned to wine.
Took a jump through Mississippi, muddy water turned to wine.
Yeah, yeah.
Then out to California through the forests and the pines.
Ah, take me with you, Jesus.

You might not see him in person but he'll see you just the same.
You might not see him in person but he'll see you just the same.
Yeah, yeah.
You don't have to worry 'cause takin' care of business is his name.

- Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill & Frank Beard

 

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Last update 28th March 2004.
Copyright 1996-2004 Jan Gunnar Furuly