We’ve wanted to fish for smallmouth in the Ozarks for a long time, but it’s always been just out of the way to make it happen. So, when we got the call from Simms to head there for a photo shoot, we were ecstatic. We were going to be fishing mainly for trout (during the Simms shoot) but after we wrapped that up, we planned to have a few days to target smallmouth for ourselves.
With the smallmouth tingles running through our bodies, we booked flights and arrangements to get there. Things were arranged nicely and we had plans to shoot a video while we were there. We wanted to use this video to announce where we are going for our upcoming Short Bus Diaries trip, this summer. We planned to shoot some BTS footage of the photoshoot and then film a few days of fishing on our own, afterward.
Fast forward to a week out from our trip and sure enough, the weather took a turn for the worst. The spring weather in the south can be unpredictable and sure enough, an inland monsoon was scheduled to hit the day our smallmouth filming would start. We made some backup plans but had our fingers crossed that the weather would make a turn in our favor. Thankfully, we were gonna be with the crew from Simms who would have us covered if a monsoon were to hit.
Because the Ozarks are not near any major airports, Scottie and I flew into Huntsville, Alabama (where Bryant & I are from) to pick up a raft. Rental car and rental boat logistics were complicated, in the Ozarks, so we opted to take a little 7-hour road trip from Alabama to Missouri. We stayed in some neat cabins on the North Fork of the White in Southern Missouri with plans to head into Arkansas once the shoot wrapped up.
We quickly found out that the North Fork of the White is immensely pretty but all but baron of fish. Come to learn a massive flood in 2017 ruined the fishing for a variety of reasons. We also heard, from locals, a dam downstream had been taken out years ago allowing Stripers to access the upper regions of the river. A variety of these factors had all contributed to a fish kill/pushing fish out of the North Fork of the White. It was unfortunate that the fishing was so slow, but we are looking forward to going back once it has recovered.
It was the last day of fishing with Simms and we were headed to chase smallies the next day. A quick weather check proved that the inland monsoon was going to hit the next day. We had our fingers crossed that the weather was going to break or that the forecast was wrong. It wasn’t. Shout out to whoever makes the forecast for that area because they were spot on. We had scouted some big-name rivers and some other spots ourselves that we were planning to fish in the Ozarks but after checking the forecasts we realized there was no way we were going to be fishing there.
The forecast for North AL/Southern TN was looking enticing. The monsoon was going to wear itself out between the Ozarks and the foothills of the Appalachians leaving us with a little bit of rain and more importantly, clear rivers. We were sad to miss the opportunity at Ozark smallies but we’ll be back. We headed back for AL.
We’ve been targeting smallies on flies in AL since the 1990s, so we were pretty confident in our ability to find fish back home. A cooler than usual spring had delayed the Smallmouth moving up the rivers and into the summer holding spots, that they would normally be in by that time.
It took us a while to figure out where the fish were, but when we found them, it was on. We found that the fish were fish holding in deeper water as opposed to up in the faster current. This is typical from smallmouth, during the late winter/early spring months but not what we expected. Nonetheless, thanks to some red beers and a few new R&D patterns, we managed to have 2 solid days of fishing.
We had a few of our BlueLine Flies R&D patterns, the most important being a new crawfish designed off an idea provided by Bryant. This new craw pattern, named the Tickle Monster, proved to be one of the best flies of the trip. We also had another R&D pattern that passed its exams that we dubbed the Conjuror. After many hours behind the vice–working on new patterns–it’s always rewarding to see them fish the way you hoped. Although no pattern is perfect, we took some notes away from this trip on what worked and what we can improve on with our new line of flies coming out later this year. Both will be released soon on BlueLineFlies.com.
Overall it was a successful trip, we caught some fish and got to see a new river in Missouri. Ozark smallmouth…We’re coming for you…We just have to figure out when.