One Fly for a Nice Mill Creek Day
by Norm Crisp, Stream Side Adventures
Some folks are just not as lucky as me when it comes to being able to go fishing, I can go just about any time I please. For others it is more about what Bob Seager said “dead lines and commitments – what to leave in and what to leave out”. Finding time to take a is trip much more difficult. Choices have to be made. Participate in a club “one fly tournament” or fish just one fly pattern on a wild trout stream. Wild trout always win!
My friend and STREAM SIDE ADVENTURES associate Travis Knight and I made the choice and headed for the Rolla, Missouri area for a day and a half of fishing the Little Piney and Mill Creek. The drive down was uneventful thanks to the fact that we were driving parallel to not through a massive thunder storm well off to our south. It appeared obvious that the I-44 corridor was getting another soaking, and it did. By about 6 pm we had our camp set up at Lane Springs Camp ground and I toke a few minutes to follow the path to the Little Piney to see how the rain had affected the river. Just as you would expect, the river was on the rise. Just before bed another check and it indicated the river was still going up and likely going to get a lot higher. The following morning, with a cup of coffee in my hand, I checked again. The river had fallen back to near the 6 pm level but it was still high, so much for fishing the Little Piney this morning.
Plan B. Reverse our fishing plans and fish Mill Creek on Saturday and fish the Little Piney on Sunday morning, a relatively simple decision to make. Mill Creek has a smaller drainage basin so water levels would recede faster. And, we could fish higher up in the watershed, above more of the tributaries and have lower water levels. Now don’t get the wrong idea about water levels. High is not bad - high, just not too high, is good. The water will be a bit off color and there is a lot food available: two things that make wild trout a little foolish.
We started the day near the upper portion of the newly acquired Bohigian Conservation Area. Having been in private hands for many years it has received very little fishing pressure and Dr. Bohigian had done some habitat improvements. Our one fly pattern for the day was a no brainer. If it is high water and wild rainbow trout – or any trout for that matter – the ONLY fly is an olive Kruse Mohair Leech.
On when a leech and off we went fishing. It wasn’t long before we realized we were back on the Mill Creek of years gone by. If there was good habitat there was a good trout to be tricked by the leech. Over the next several hours we touched, as best we can recall, nine fat and healthy wild rainbows. All but two were in the 10 to 12 inch range. The two outliers were a fish about 7 inches and another about 15 inches. We should have been satisfied with our success. But there was still some time left in the afternoon, we didn’t have anything we needed to get done, and there was still the lower section of the Bohigian section to fish.
It turned out to be a great use of our time. Maybe it was the afternoon let down, we didn’t have the intensity of the earlier part of the day or maybe it was the habitat was not quite as good as in the upper area we had fished. For what ever the reason, we cover a bit of water without any success. Our talk turned from the next trout to looking for a good place to get up on the bank and walking back to the car. Thankfully there was no good place to get out. At the first really “primo” run, my leech found the afternoon’s first fish, another 10 incher. It was a “primo” run that I knew should hold at lest one more fish. And it did! When my indicator stopped dead in the water my initial thought was “snagged”. With more force than needed, up went my rod tip to get my leech loose. And then up went the “snag”; three feet out of the water. I was into one of the hardest fighting fish I had hook in some time. A third yard chase downstream and a few fleeting moments of concern nosed a bragging rights Mill Creek prize into the shallows.
This was my first serious fishing trip to Mill Creek in well over 5 years. I stopped going when the prolonged periods of low flow had reduced our typical success from the expectation of one or two 12 inch plus trout and many 6 inch fish a trip down to just catching any trout on a trip. Thankfully brood stock fish like my catch survived the lean years by finding a spot back in some root wad or in a ground water seepage hole. This winter and spring rains hopefully have recharge the groundwater and the 2008 year class will be just the beginning of more years of Mill Creek like we remember.
STREAM SIDE ADVENTURES made contributions toward the purchase price of the Bohigian Conservation Area and provided volunteer labor for the construction of habitat improvement structures. More information about the Bohigian Conservation Area...