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ozark trout fisher

A Nice Float

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I just got back from a little two day, one night camp on the Bourbeuse River, and as always, it was a really good time. The plan had been to do a twenty mile stretch, but in the end I decided to go the other direction, and went with a float that only required me to go a little over five miles each day. I thought it was going to be too short, but it gave me the chance to fish a lot of the water I normally paddle through, which I thought was really nice.

I pushed off at 7:30 in the morning, wanting to give myself the whole day to fish hard. I noticed that the water was much clearer than usual, visibility as much as 4-5 feet in some areas. Since I was covering such a short distance, the plan was to spend about as much time wade-fishing as floating, so I only made it about a quarter mile down before I stopped to work over a good hole and rigged up my fly-rod. The skunk was off quickly, and I soon got into a pretty decent smallmouth, about 13 inches, followed by several fish in the 10 inch range, before the hole finally stopped giving up fish. I caught most of them on woollies, but got one to rise up and go after a hopper pattern, which was a lot of fun. The problem with that fly though was that you'd be catching 10 longears for every bass.

Then I got back in the boat, and for simplicity's sake went to the spinning rod, rigged with a Rebel Teeny Craw. The fish were after that too. Every pool with good cover and current would give up at least one, and most of the time several smallies. The long slow holes weren't as good, but fish (mostly largemouth and spots, but some smallies too) could be caught around boulders, deadfall, and other structure. The fishing did go pretty well dead for a few hours about from 2-5 PM. But in the evening, having set up camp, I went back in my kayak to do some more fishing as things cooled down. From about 7:30 to 8 PM, the fish were absolutely on, and I think anyone could have caught them pretty easily. I was fishing a deep, slow pool, full of boulders of varying sizes. The smallies were in there thick (and a few largemouths and spots), and in that deep water they were almost all good fish, ranging from 12-15 inches. I lost several larger than that, but enough quality fish were brought to hand to make me very happy by the time it got dark.

Today the fishing was considerably slower, but still not bad. The lower half of this float has a lot more dead water. While those areas hold fish, it's hard to fish them thoroughly, because the water seems uniform and featureless at times. But even though it was occasionally painstaking, it was worth it. Of course the areas with significant current were usually better, but only if there was good cover as well. Many of the fish in the slow water are small spotted bass, but there are also largemouth and a few smallmouth-and almost all of the smallies in these areas are good-sized fish. In all it was a very good couple of days of floating and fishing. This was helped along a great deal by seeing a grand total of four other canoes the whole time.

A couple things I've learned on the Bourbeuse, that just came to mind after this float:

First, when that river is fishing well, you don't get anywhere near the numbers that you would on the Big Piney or Jacks Fork. And the maximum size of what you can expect on a given day isn't much different. But the size of the average smallmouth on the Bourbeuse is as good, if not better than most any other Ozark stream I've fished.

One other thing; everyone talks about how its necessary to focus on areas of good current on the Bourbeuse. That can certainly be important, but I think it's overblown. With the exception of a couple holes that are completely devoid of current, if there's good cover, there will generally be bass. No need always to look for fast, or even steady current. The slow water areas can be worth your time.

Well that's it. I really like this river and hope to get back on it soon.

Here's a couple photos (added 5/25/12)

A bend on the Bourbeuse that was full of smallies and spots

post-8315-0-01945100-1337992590_thumb.jp

Paddling the kayak down one of the river's many deep, slow holes

post-8315-0-71917200-1337992968_thumb.jp

Camp, right on a very good pool

post-8315-0-65535600-1337993386_thumb.jp

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I was able to enlist a friend to go on this one. But when I have to go solo, I just try to pick a stretch where the accesses are pretty close together by road and use a bike to run the shuttle...I stash the canoe somewhere less than obvious, lock it up, and hope for the best. It is a real pain and always a bit nervewracking wondering whether it will be there when I get back. But I haven't come up with a better way yet. The Bourbeuse is a good stream for that though, because the river winds around so much that it will often be only a few road miles from one access to another.

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Nice report...youll lose fewer fish on that wee craw if you upsize those tiny hooks...Take the front hook off and replace the back hook with a #8...add a split shot a couple inches in front of the lure to make it sink or suspend.

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Nice report...youll lose fewer fish on that wee craw if you upsize those tiny hooks...Take the front hook off and replace the back hook with a #8...add a split shot a couple inches in front of the lure to make it sink or suspend.

Thanks, I'll try that. I did lose a few nice fish and that could well have been the reason.

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I put in at Reikers Ford, and took out at Mayers Landing. It's 11 miles. Truthfully, it's not really one of the better smallie floats on that river, and there's considerably more poor habitat on it than many other reaches of the Bourbeuse. That said, it's the one I'm by far the most familiar with, so I can usually catch more fish there than I would on other more productive reaches. I struggled to figure out how to reliably catch smallmouth on that stretch of the river out at first, and it took plenty of time and some pretty unproductive trips finding the good holes where fish tend to concentrate. But they are in there; it's just that the habitat doesn't support the same numbers as some parts of the river further upstream. One benefit of the relatively lower smallmouth densities is that it keeps the fishermen away. You're usually more likely to see someone along the river setting a limb-line for catfish than chasing smallies. There's a reason for that, but still...

Normally this would be a one day float, though sometimes a little bit long if the water is low. But I had a couple days off so I just took it really slow. Both of the accesses just a few miles outside of Union.

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I put in at Reikers Ford, and took out at Mayers Landing. It's 11 miles. Truthfully, it's not really one of the better smallie floats on that river, and there's considerably more poor habitat on it than many other reaches of the Bourbeuse. That said, it's the one I'm by far the most familiar with, so I can usually catch more fish there than I would on other more productive reaches. I struggled to figure out how to reliably catch smallmouth on that stretch of the river out at first, and it took plenty of time and some pretty unproductive trips finding the good holes where fish tend to concentrate. But they are in there; it's just that the habitat doesn't support the same numbers as some parts of the river further upstream. One benefit of the relatively lower smallmouth densities is that it keeps the fishermen away. You're usually more likely to see someone along the river setting a limb-line for catfish than chasing smallies. There's a reason for that, but still...

Normally this would be a one day float, though sometimes a little bit long if the water is low. But I had a couple days off so I just took it really slow. Both of the accesses just a few miles outside of Union.

Sounds like you had a good trip. Another good thing about that float is how simple the Shuttles are, easy bike ride or like a buddy and I used to do just walk it.

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Sounds like a very sweet time to me OTF....very envious.....lets just let people think the Bourb sucks and the smallie population has plumeted to just about nothing.The accesses suck and are far apart, also the landowners are very mean there, so lets just stay away from the olde Bourb....it's nothing more than a dirty, barely moving ditch.If you want some Smallies go to Huzzah Valley and ask for Corey :have-a-nice-day: stay away from the Bourb it's dangerous and dirty and has a ton of Leeches if you like that sort of thang.

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