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A Good Day On The Bourbeuse


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It has been altogether too long since I have last been on an Ozark river. I don't even want to think about it. But today I got the chance to fix that with a very nice float on the Bourbeuse River. I arrived at the Reikers Ford Access at noon, ready for the eleven mile float down to Mayers Landing. The sky was sunny with just a few puffy clouds, and the temperature was around 80. The river at Reikers Ford was off color, but not muddy. In all things looked pretty good.

I just can't even begin to express how good it felt to push off the access and just start floating down the river. A variety of things have conspired to keep me off the rivers for awhile, and it was so nice to have nothing on my mind more pressing than to just relax on the river and attempt to catch a few fish. The first part of that (the relaxing) was very easy. The second part not so much. I had floated down river a couple miles and had gone through at least five different lures before I finally tied on a Rooster tail spinner. Pretty quickly after that I had my first fish of the day, a longear sunfish. Not a big fish, but it sure was pretty and you have to start somewhere. I ended up sticking with Rooster Tails for the rest of the day, and managed to have a lot of fun with that. Not that I caught a lot of fish or any big ones- I didn't-but the action was pretty steady when you consider all of the longear sunfish. It is easy to dismiss the longears-they are so small, but they are some of the prettiest fish around. Talk about a colorful fish. The largest fish and only bass of the day was a smallmouth of what I will generously call 9 inches. Well I say it was a smallmouth, but that isn't strictly true. It was a hybrid, with more smallmouth than spotted bass in it, but it still it definitely had at least some spotted bass blood. But sometimes the rest of the day can just be so good that you really can get past the fact that the catching is really bad. And fish numbers aside, it was a phenomenal day on the water. It's easy to characterize the Bourbeuse as kind of a marginal river with it's off color water and abundance of long, still pools-I'm guilty of that. It is just 40 minutes from home, and I fish it less than I do some rivers two hours from home (like the Current.) My loss. That river in it's own way is just as beautiful as any deep Ozark stream. It flows through very pretty, wooded, hilly country that isn't remote but seems like it is from the river. I saw all kinds of wildlife, including no less than eight herons. I didn't see any other canoes or anyone else on the river whatsoever in seven hours of floating and eleven miles of river. I wouldn't have been able to say that if I had gone down to the Current or some place like that. That's worth the slow fishing isn't it? I thought so. It was a great day.

I will have pics on my blog probably by tomorrow. I don't even have them loaded on the computer yet and I probably won't get to that tonight. Paddling through all those long, slow pools has a way of making you tired.

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I used to love that stretch. Short, easy shuttle for a long float with good habitat (except for that one two-mile-long pool!) I haven't fished it in a long time because it hurts to see the scads of little spotted bass where there was once good fishing for big smallies.

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The Bourbeuse IS pretty cool. Even with the little spotted bass. Maybe in a few more years, that stretch will have stabilized completely as a spotted bass river with bonus smallies, because it's undeniably perfect spotted bass habitat. It used to be about half smallmouth, half largemouth, but even the largemouth seem to have declined since the spots invaded. Still, Drew, you're right in that the spotted bass haven't changed the character of the riverscape. It's still a relatively little floated, relatively trash-free stream. Back when the dams were being considered in the Meramec Basin, MDC did a study that showed the river bottom habitat along the Bourbeuse was as good or better than any stream in the Ozarks.

I've been planning for years to write a book on the streams in the Meramec River system, because they are so interesting and diverse. The basin has everything, from typical Ozark stream stretches like much of the Meramec, to really typical Ozark gems like Huzzah and Courtois, to huge springs, to "urban" rivers like the lower Meramec and upper Big River, to the nearly unique Bourbeuse, slower and murkier than most Ozark rivers, flowing through different geologic formations. Geologically, the basin drains some of the oldest rock formations in the Ozarks in the headwaters of Big River--the igneous rock of the St. Francois Mountains--some of the youngest formations in the Pennsylvanian sandstones and limestones of much of the Bourbeuse watershed, and everything in between.

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Bourbeuse = too slow, dingy, and too much frogwater. If you like horseflies, solitude, being snagged, paddling and or dragging . . . this is your river. I've only floated it 3 or 4 times in various places, but I much prefer the skinnier water way up by Hwy EE, Tea, and Koenig road the best - better fishing, more smallies, but also a lot of dragging. I do like the solitude of it though.

Roostertails??? Seriously . . . roostertails?? Get some hardware, son.

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It has been altogether too long since I have last been on an Ozark river. I don't even want to think about it. But today I got the chance to fix that with a very nice float on the Bourbeuse River. I arrived at the Reikers Ford Access at noon, ready for the eleven mile float down to Mayers Landing. The sky was sunny with just a few puffy clouds, and the temperature was around 80. The river at Reikers Ford was off color, but not muddy. In all things looked pretty good.

I just can't even begin to express how good it felt to push off the access and just start floating down the river. A variety of things have conspired to keep me off the rivers for awhile, and it was so nice to have nothing on my mind more pressing than to just relax on the river and attempt to catch a few fish. The first part of that (the relaxing) was very easy. The second part not so much. I had floated down river a couple miles and had gone through at least five different lures before I finally tied on a Rooster tail spinner. Pretty quickly after that I had my first fish of the day, a longear sunfish. Not a big fish, but it sure was pretty and you have to start somewhere. I ended up sticking with Rooster Tails for the rest of the day, and managed to have a lot of fun with that. Not that I caught a lot of fish or any big ones- I didn't-but the action was pretty steady when you consider all of the longear sunfish. It is easy to dismiss the longears-they are so small, but they are some of the prettiest fish around. Talk about a colorful fish. The largest fish and only bass of the day was a smallmouth of what I will generously call 9 inches. Well I say it was a smallmouth, but that isn't strictly true. It was a hybrid, with more smallmouth than spotted bass in it, but it still it definitely had at least some spotted bass blood. But sometimes the rest of the day can just be so good that you really can get past the fact that the catching is really bad. And fish numbers aside, it was a phenomenal day on the water. It's easy to characterize the Bourbeuse as kind of a marginal river with it's off color water and abundance of long, still pools-I'm guilty of that. It is just 40 minutes from home, and I fish it less than I do some rivers two hours from home (like the Current.) My loss. That river in it's own way is just as beautiful as any deep Ozark stream. It flows through very pretty, wooded, hilly country that isn't remote but seems like it is from the river. I saw all kinds of wildlife, including no less than eight herons. I didn't see any other canoes or anyone else on the river whatsoever in seven hours of floating and eleven miles of river. I wouldn't have been able to say that if I had gone down to the Current or some place like that. That's worth the slow fishing isn't it? I thought so. It was a great day.

I will have pics on my blog probably by tomorrow. I don't even have them loaded on the computer yet and I probably won't get to that tonight. Paddling through all those long, slow pools has a way of making you tired.

OTF,

I grew up fishing the Bourbeuse. An aunt has a clubhouse downstream of Union. On Saturday I did a little wade fishing at Riekers Ford. I was checking it out to scope out the float to Meyers Landing. I am building a cedar strip canoe that I haven't fouled up yet. Did you have to drag the canoe much? (I just ain't gonna drag this canoe...at least at first) And how long did it take?

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OTF,

I grew up fishing the Bourbeuse. An aunt has a clubhouse downstream of Union. On Saturday I did a little wade fishing at Riekers Ford. I was checking it out to scope out the float to Meyers Landing. I am building a cedar strip canoe that I haven't fouled up yet. Did you have to drag the canoe much? (I just ain't gonna drag this canoe...at least at first) And how long did it take?

If you were at Riekers, the riffle right there at the access is about as rocky and difficult to float as any on that stretch, so if it looked like you could float it without dragging, you probably wouldn't have any problems. If you watch the Union USGS river gauge, if the river is flowing more than about 150 cfs you probably won't have to drag the canoe, though if you want to be really careful you might want to walk it down a few riffles. Right now it's flowing around 300 cfs.
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Bourbeuse = too slow, dingy, and too much frogwater. If you like horseflies, solitude, being snagged, paddling and or dragging . . . this is your river. I've only floated it 3 or 4 times in various places, but I much prefer the skinnier water way up by Hwy EE, Tea, and Koenig road the best - better fishing, more smallies, but also a lot of dragging. I do like the solitude of it though.

Roostertails??? Seriously . . . roostertails?? Get some hardware, son.

Yeah, lots of frog water, but other than a couple of long pools and one VERY long pool, the Reikers to Mayers stretch isn't bad as long as the river is not dead low. When I float the Bourbeuse I take my "other" solo canoe, the fiberglass touring canoe that is a lot faster and easier to keep straight than my usual Vagabond, and just paddle through the big pools. I try not to float anywhere on the Bourbeuse in really low water, because it gets to be so little flow that there just isn't any good moving water--the deeper water is dead and the moving water is only inches deep. But as long as the river is flowing well, it's great to paddle through the long pools and concentrate on the moving water.

I agree on the Roostertails! Sissy lures.

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Bourbeuse = too slow, dingy, and too much frogwater. If you like horseflies, solitude, being snagged, paddling and or dragging . . . this is your river. I've only floated it 3 or 4 times in various places, but I much prefer the skinnier water way up by Hwy EE, Tea, and Koenig road the best - better fishing, more smallies, but also a lot of dragging. I do like the solitude of it though.

Roostertails??? Seriously . . . roostertails?? Get some hardware, son.

If the river isn't good enough you're welcome to fish somewhere more fashionable. B)

As for the Roostertails... Yes, I suppose they are sissy lures. But in my defense I have been doing the fly fishing thing lately, and I have bought much of anything for spin fishing in quite a while now, with the exception of an occasional run to the car repair shop up on the corner that sells crickets when someone asks for a fish fry and I want to be efficient about it. I had to fish with what I had. I did get a kind of sickening feeling at the put in when I realized I didn't even have any Rebel Craws! Maybe they're sissy lures too but I bet I would have caught more fish if I'd had some, or at least that is the excuse I'm going with.

As for the question about the dragging- it wasn't bad. I had to get out in a few riffles but it wasn't much of a problem at all. But I don't know of many stretches of Ozark rivers where there is no dragging whatsoever, and this was definitely no worse than most.

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