My family wanted to go to Johnson Shut-In's for the the Fourth of July and since we live in Nixa MO Montauk was on the way. So we decided to spend a couple of days there and it gave me an opportunity to fish a new area.
I have heard a lot of about Montauk being a more natural area and I have to agree. With my main fishing areas being Bennett, Roaring River, Taneycomo and in the winter Crane Creek I was excited about a new place to explore and with the flat campsites and other great features of a MO State Park it was a win win.
In researching about fly fishing Montauk, I truthfully did not find much info about preferred flies or techniques (disappointing really) so I went into Montauk pretty blind.
Day 1 we arrived around 7pm so really it was Ice Cream for the kids in the Park Store which has a feel of a traditional Malt Shop, followed by a little driving around to see where everything was. I decided the next morning to grab my 7'6" 3wt and try above the Dam. First fly to try was an olive crackelback on a #12 hook. Side Note: Ironically I met a family from Nixa MO as well in the parking lot there by the bridge who were avid fly fisherman as well and really cool people. I do hope to see them again sometime on a stream... back to my first morning. I did get to the parking lot before the siren and saw a mix of spin casters, bait fisherman and fly fisherman getting ready to head to their favorite spot. Again, not knowing the layout I just decided to line the 3 wt and a crackleback and see what I could get into. My first spot was just up river of the handicap area near the Dam. I casted a few times with no luck. I noticed the fish (even though that appeared to be a fish stocking area) were really not in abundance (that would change later). So I decided to follow my new found NIXA friends and head upstream about 100-200 yards (right before the first set of ripples). I fished the crackleback a few casts and caught a couple and missed a few more (I tend to miss a lot with my 3wt, anyone else have that issue or any tips how to land more?). Then there was a small TRICO hatch and decided to switch to a small #16 Griffiths Gnat and again, missed a couple more before giving up on it. Still struggling yet watching some guys with spin casters and glow balls tearing it up, I decided to wade back down stream to just above the DAM hole and I decided to tie back on the Olive crackleback and ended up landing a few more as I stripped the fly across the hole and allowing it to sink. The strikes were as the fly was racing across the water right before the swing of the current.
By 9:30am... my family decided to take a bike ride from the Loop 2 campground area and come see how I was doing. By this time I was out of the water and thinking about the 11am Old Mill Tour I wanted my kids to see and I was looking forward to as well (I am a geek for historical tourist sites). So the girls got their feet wet and then we headed back to Camp and packed some snacks and water bottles and headed to the tour and a family bike ride.
If you visit Montauk I do recommend the Mill Tour!
That afternoon, my 8yr old said those magical words... DADDY I WANT TO GO FISHING! So we unloaded her hip waders and I rigged up a small spin caster and added my Maribous to my Patagonia Sling Pack and headed to the park store to grab a kids tag. Again, not knowing the area, we headed to the Dam area for some Daddy daughter time... little did I know, my 11yr old decided to follow us on her bike and give my wife some much needed alone time (Mom's deserve that you know!).
Unfortunately no matter what color Maribou Jig I tied on the Trout just did not bite. However I took my 3wt and tied on a #10 weighted beadless Olive Wooley Bugger and the serious fun began! By now, several of the stocked trout had moved downstream near the Dam and WOW was the fishing good. I must have caught 20-30 Trout in a span of about 2 hours. I tried tying on an Olive Maribou for my Maci but it just did not work as well as the Wooley. So several times I allowed her to reel in the fish on my 3wt TFO. She loved it! Then (don't tell the Park Rangers because we did not buy her a tag) I allowed my 11yr old to do the same. Honestly... I have never had a better day.. it got to the point my girls got bored but not me.. I was loving it!!! My 11 yr old rode back to camp and then my 8 yr old said she was done (even the little Park with swings next to the Dam was not enough to entertain her). My fear was (like a MLB baseball player was doing something to Jinx a hitting streak) leaving the area and the strikes going away. However.... I had to be a Daddy and take her back. I checked in with my wife... she gave me the OK and I headed back to see if my luck could continue!
The time span was about 30 min between leaving and getting back in the water... other than the shadows changing a bit, the crowd was minimal and once I found my rhythm I again began hooking fish to the tune of another 20 or so. It was truly a lucky fly fishing moment in my life. There was a guy next to me who asked what I was using and I gladly gave him one of my flies and told him. I am not sure how he did but he was nice enough to take a pic of me with my biggest catch of the day which was about a 18" Rainbow. I will say most of my trout were 10-15" at most with a few even smaller however it made no difference to me.
As I kept with the 3wt all day, my arm was worn out having to double hall the #10 Wooley all afternoon to get any sort of distance in order to reach the shadowy part of the stream. It seemed the best strikes were when the fly was taught and in the shadows and not in the sunlight. Around 6pm I decided to head back to Camp to help with dinner. After dinner, I normally would head back to the water for some more fishing.. but we decided to head up to the Montauk Springs area for a little family outing.
As we were exploring the area and we walked down the trail to where the spring meets Pigeon Creek and forms the Current River. I noticed some brown trout in the shallow stream and I also thought to myself this is more like a natural trout stream out west or east and might be worth fishing sometime!
Back at camp, that night under the light of a small LED BBQ Grill Clamp Light I tied up some more Beadless, weighted #10 Wooley Buggers thinking that would be the magical fly again the next day. So the next morning I headed back to the Dam area..... but part of me was thinking about the area near the Spring. Being a fan of Crane Creek and the joy of fishing in a more natural habitat this intrigued me. Around 6:15am I decided to head up to the spring area and give this a try. I also decided to opt for the 9' 5wt TFO BVK even though I thought about the Winston 4wt 10'..... my thought was (since my arm was sore from overcasting the 3wt the day before) I would use something more universal for stripping or nyphming depending on the situation.
As I rigged up my 5wt and headed down the mowed path past the Spring, I found someone already positioned near the area where I had saw the Browns the night before. Out of respect for fellow Fly Fisherman I decided to head downstream. Now if you have fished this area before you will now about the big hole just past the first bend in the stream....well there was someone there too. So I opted for the area below the spring outlet and before the deeper hole. I had tied on a #18 Parachute with 7x thinking they might strike top water when the Trico's hatch. After several casts and one light strike I decided to change. The area I was fishing was about 1-3' deep at most as it meandered down stream with several different flows and currents. Even though I did not have any Trout landed, the Parachute did teach me the flow and the varying currents.
I decided to tie on a #16 Olive with a Red head and Silver Tungsten Bead Midge with one of those New Zealand Strike Indicators (which I LOVE!). This was the magic bug. Once I found the right formula for the perfect drift the strikes were on. From 7am-9am I hooked 23 trout ranging from very small to one 18"+. It was so much fun. Again... pure luck!
The drift was the key... if I allowed my fly line to get in front of the strike indicator it was no luck.. if the fly line was in the right spot in the current and the Midge was ahead of the fly line.... it was almost a guaranteed strike. However, I must have missed as many as I caught....
It was another magical morning. I have been out so many times (including Taneycomo the weekend before) and been skunked. But this week ..... I had all the luck. Maybe it was the cold front, maybe it was God blessing me for putting my family first, maybe it was just pure dumb luck, however you spin it... it was a wonderful time at Montauk State Park.
PS: If you have not been to Johnson Shut-In's State Park, you are missing out on the BEST state Park in MO. It is in the middle of nowhere but the Campground itself and the Shut-In's are truly remarkable!