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Early this summer I posted about fishing a stretch of one of my favorite small creeks. I usually only fish a given stretch of this creek once a summer, since I hate to really pound it (even though I know other anglers fish it as well). Today I decided to fish a different stretch, farther upstream.

From where you park, the creek is tiny, with little pools no bigger than an average bedroom, maybe 18 inches deep at most. Bedrock bottom, scattered rocks. Usually not many fish in those little pools. When I made a cast to the first one, I wasn't expecting anything, but when the homemade WTD topwater hit the water there was a double wake coming from a beach ball size rock ten feet away. The lead fish slashed at the lure, and as usual when I'm first starting the day and the first fish hits, especially if I see it coming, I set the hooks prematurely. Another cast, another wake, another strike, and this time I hooked the 11 incher.

Next pool, pretty much the same thing.

Next pool is slightly bigger, but no deeper. It produced a 14 incher, along with about five more strikes and misses.

The water was very clear, and these pools all have bedrock bottoms and very little cover, only those scattered rocks. The riffles this time of year are mostly narrow enough that a decent athlete can jump across them with a two step start, and the rest of us can wade across them in a three steps without getting the tops of our tennies wet. In that third pool, I watched a group of smallies including the 14 incher I'd just released swim ahead of me until they gathered at a rock in about a foot of water...and then they all swam underneath the rock and disappeared. I don't know how they even all fit underneath that three foot wide rock.

As I progressed downstream, each pool produced fish, including a few I either didn't hook or that didn't stay hooked that were amazingly large for this tiny water, 16-17 inchers. Most of the water was shallow enough that I just casted into the middle of the little pools and watched the wakes come toward the lure. Some of the fish were out in the open middles of the pools, but many came off the banks, where there would be a rock, a little log, or just some overhanging bushes. The habitat, in fact, had deteriorated from last year in many places, partly because one of the landowners had decided to play in the creek with a bulldozer and straighten it, for some stupid reason.

But perhaps even more than catching those fish (I have to admit, it was kinda like fishing in a barrel) I was enjoying just seeing where they were hiding.

There was one little pool, maybe 30 feet long, no more than a foot deep, no cover except for an overhanging bush up against the bank. When the lure hit two feet away from that bush, two 16 inch smallies came charging out to whack it.

I waded about 2 miles down the creek fishing the topwater. Caught one that was pushing 18 inches in one of the "larger" pools, maybe 50 yards long and two feet deep. Caught another that was only about 16 inches but was almost as fat as it was long. Caught several more in the 15 inch class. Then I switched to a buzzbait and caught some nice ones on it. Then I realized that I was now about three miles down the creek, only a mile or so from the next access, and I was wishing I had my car down there. Since I didn't, I decided to give the closest thing to a Ned Rig that I'd brought, a half Senko on a football jig head, a try. I started wading back up the little pool I'd just fished and pulled a 14 incher out of with the buzzbait, not fishing since I'd just waded down it. Then I thought to check my cell phone reception, and sure enough I had a couple bars, so I called Mary and she agreed to pick me up at the lower access. So back down the same little pool I went.

I'd caught the 14 incher next to another of those 3 foot diameter rocks, and I cast the jury rigged "Ned Rig" next to the rock. Out from under it came about ten smallies, a spotted bass, and a dozen goggle-eye. A big goggle-eye got to the rig first. I reeled it in and cast again...10 inch smallie. Next cast, 11 incher. Next cast, smaller goggle-eye. Next cast, 8 inch smallie. Next cast, a 10 inch largemouth that came from downstream to see what all the commotion was about.

I fished the Ned Rig thing for the next few pools. I'll say one thing for it, it catches little fish like crazy. But it sure wasn't producing anything of any size, even when I came to a pool that I knew held some very good fish. So I took it back off and put back on the buzzbait, and promptly caught a 17 incher.

I had to hurry through that last mile or so, so I didn't fish it well, and caught a few more decent fish, but not like what I'd been catching upstream. I think that if I'd really fished it carefully, I could have ended up with close to 100 bass for the day. As it was, I caught more than 70.

One other really nice thing to see...lots and lots of smallmouth fingerlings. The habitat changes were dismaying, though. But I just got a kick out of seeing those fish utilizing all the little hidey holes.

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Glad to hear there are still those kind of creeks that hold decent sized fish in Missouri. I guess the otters and local minnow hurlers haven't ravaged everything.

"Honor is a man's gift to himself" Rob Roy McGregor

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Al, you just can't stay away, can you???? I don't blame you that creek is a true gem and very resilient if you consider how hard it gets pounded and how many fish still remain. I have taken your advice and I have only hit most of those creeks once this year as you said you do......I would be hitting them more often if they were in my back yard like they are to you. It is a shame what has happened on the creek you speak of....it has almost become a public park lake deal now.

I was going to do some underwater camera work on the Nitch Craw for Mitch there....perfect place for it, that's for sure.

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Yeah, it's tempting to hit creeks like that one more often, but the nice thing about where I live is that I've got a number of choices of c reeks to fish, all of them pretty good. There is at least two days of fishing on that one, and within a half hour to 45 minutes driving time, there are at least eight more wading creeks where I could spend at least 16 days and never fish the same water twice. In fact, my brother found a new one this summer that I didn't think held enough good fish to make it worthwhile, but he caught a 19.5 inch largemouth and a 17 inch smallie from it.

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Like you Al, I used to fish that creek once maybe twice a year, but I haven't fished it in 3 years because I know how much pressure it's getting. To be honest I was seeing a steady decline in numbers and size for a good 3 or 4 years straight. This stream has a special place in my heart, because it's where I caught my first really nice smallmouth (17") and my 2nd biggest ever has also come from it (19.5"). It was a killer little stream in it's day. I'm glad to hear there's still some numbers and quality fish in there! I sometimes have access to a section a few miles upstream from the 2nd bridge that gets a lot less pressure because the access is private. My buddy has caught a few nice ones (18+") up there this year. Great report.

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I would be thrilled to find a place to catch some nice smallies. I know what you mean by places getting pounded. Thats the reason I release all my fish. If everyone would do it for just a few years. I wonder how much better our fishing would become. As

it is now I dont give just anyone my 'special' largemouth spots.

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Yeah, that creek used to produce 18-19 inchers consistently. Now it produces 14-15 inchers with the occasional 17 incher. But these creeks go through cycles, which I think are based upon the catch and keep anglers pounding them until the fishing declines, then they go somewhere else and the creek gets some rest for a few years, then they "discover" them again.

I waded a section of another creek the other day which I haven't fished in probably 6 or 7 years. It was dredged for gravel about 25 years ago in a true rape and ruin type of operation where they basically cleaned out trees and everything, leaving the creek as an open sore of a ditch with shallow water over bedrock for the most part. It took about 10 years before enough gravel migrated down from upstream to start actually forming "dams" that began to change it back to a riffle/pool environment, and by that time it was getting thickly grown up with willows as well. Now, if you didn't know its history, you could think it was a reasonably unspoiled creek, but there still aren't many deep pools and there are long walks between fishable waters. The creek has always been as much or more of a largemouth producer as a smallmouth creek, and now, anywhere there is water with any depth at all, there are a few big largemouth there, along with quite a few smallies. I caught a bunch of largemouth in the 15-16 inch class, one 18 incher, and I hooked and lost one that was well over 20 inches. The biggest smallmouth was about 15 inches. I saw some sign that other anglers have been fishing it, but they haven't cleaned it out yet.

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Here's a stupid question, but I have to ask, since I don't know. These creeks that you fish, they obviously have to have year round water and flow to them, right? In other words, no drying up to bedrock in dry times? Just wondering.

and another. Apparently I'm not done. Do these creeks have public access? Not necessarily where you go, but, access to those who venture. If not, please say your smallmouth adventures are not available to the public.

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Like nearly all small streams in the Ozarks, the accesses on this creek are mostly bridge crossings, and if the landowners were so inclined they could keep people from straying far from the bridge crossings. On this one they don't. But access on wading streams is always a fragile thing. Seems like it depends upon how traditional the access is. This creek has apparently been fished for a long time, and there are well-used parking spots at the bridge crossings. That's how I decide whether to fish from a bridge crossing or not, since tracking down landowners to get permission is usually almost impossible. If there's an obvious and well-used parking spot and no posted signs or purple paint it's probably going to be okay. But once I'm away from the bridge, I keep a very low profile and stay well within the high banks at all times.

This creek has permanent flow, of course, though it can be extremely low at times.

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