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My Stay at Rainbow Springs Lodge

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Rainbow Springs Lodge is located next to the outlet of Double Springs (a.k.a. Rainbow Springs) and is the third largest in the state of Missouri and the largest privately owned spring in Missouri.  Besides me being an avid fly fisherman and our understanding of the significance of the spring on the property as the primary source of cold water for the North Fork River trout fishery, I have a family connection to the property.  My Great Great Great Grandfather on my Mother’s side, John Wesley Gunter, Homesteaded the property the Spring is on in 1861.  My Great Great Grandfather “Bud” Gunter sold the Spring to developers in the early 1900’s.  My Grandparents lived just down river of the place at Kelly Ford in the 1930’s when my mother was born. 

When Myron McKee of River of Life Farm started managing the property and making the lodge on the place available to the public I was anxious to see the spring and grounds once again before it possibly fell into the hands of the government or developers.  I was able to convince enough of my siblings and Gunter cousins to stay at the place last fall and we had a very enjoyable October weekend visiting there and we had fantastic weather.  It was great to revisit some of the old family cemeteries, homesteads, and rehash some of the old family stories and legends during this mini-family reunion.

Regrettably, I wasn’t able to spend nearly enough time fly-fishing on Rainbow Springs as I would have liked to but I did manage to catch a few trout and hooked one enormous rainbow.  Many of my cousins showed an interest in learning how to fly fish and I spent the bulk of my time assisting them.  Only my wife and I had waders so the places where my cousins could successfully cast a fly rod were very limited but we managed to catch a few rainbows and even one small brown trout.  The southern branch is much longer, has more flow and is much more accessible to the fly fisher than the northern branch.  Downstream of the vehicle bridge on the southern branch is the best looking trout water but I had very little time to sample it. 

I hope to get back there and fish the spring branch if Myron is still allowing guided fishing on the place.  The spring branch is difficult fishing and a lot of the folks that I talked to were disappointed in the fishing there so I doubt that the guides have been spending much time on the water of the spring branch.  However, because of my family connection with the property I’m interested in fishing the property once again while it is still available to the public.  If anyone else has fished The Rainbow Springs spring branch recently I would like to hear of your experiences.

Does anyone know if Rainbow Springs Lodge sustained much damage during the recent floods on the North Fork River?  I noticed that River of Life Farm as the reservations blocked out on the place until April.  I would be very surprised if the lodge wasn’t partially flooded but hopefully the damage wasn’t too substantial.

--Brian Ellis

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Brian, don't know about any flood damage to the lodge, but you may be interested in this; my son is a guide on the river and some time ago he guided Missouri governor Jay Nixon on the springs, before Myron took them over. Nixon is a good fly fisherman and caught 5 trout totaling 100 inches. He also gave Rusty an original 56er tied by his uncle, Tom Nixon, who invented the pattern. Rusty says he is a very nice guy.

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That is interesting; I never knew Governor Nixon and Tom Nixon were related.  Tom used to attend the FFF Southern Council Conclave in Mountain Home years ago.   I think I was communications chairman of the FFF SOC when I heard of Tom’s Passing.

If Rusty says Governor Nixon is a good fly fisherman, I believe him.  One thing is for certain, one can’t get to that level of politics without being extremely smooooth when there is a need for it.  I envy guides that have the opportunity to spend the day and fish with some famous people.  However, when I bring up the subject with fly fishing guides they seem to always tell me without fail that they’d much rather have a client that could cast and fish than one that can’t but is famous. 

The story of Governor Nixon fishing there reminds me of a distant relative (Clarence Gunter) working as the caretaker on the Rainbow Springs Property when I was a child.  My uncles would chuckle when they told stories that Clarence had to “salt” the creek with some Rockbridge fish because some VIPs were coming to fish.  However, the fish in the spring branch now seem to be wild fish.  Shelby Nold, the caretaker last fall, (is he still there???) told me that the big fish that cleaned my clock was named Fred.  He looked and acted like a wild fish to me?  With the current wild trout regs on that section of the North Fork River now, I’m not sure if the state would allow the current owners to stock the spring branch if they wanted to, but I’m not certain about that.

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I'm sure water was several feet deep in the lodge, but haven't talked to Myron about damage.  To my knowledge the spring hasn't been stocked in years, Myron would be the one to talk to as he now has a hand in management.  I know the previous manager and was allowed to fish the property in the past, but due to difficult access and heavy vegetation in the spring branch I never bothered fishing the spring itself.  It is a beautiful spring and property with some good fishing in the main river.

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