Apparently people in southeastern Oklahoma are in some kind of time warp. Mullets are still in style and harvesters of 8″ trout can still be found easily there. Kids running out of their family pickup into the local McDonalds that answer to “Chigger” and “Mutt” just add to the local flavor. Oh Broken Bow, I still love you.
I will spare you the banjo jokes and jump right into the trip part. I took off on Friday before I realized that Monday is Labor Day and there will be an unusually large number of vacationers hitting the water at Beavers Bend park. I would arrive late on Thursday night and be out on the water at first sunlight on Friday. Everything was going as planned initially. 5:15pm on Thursday I raced out of the office for the 6 hr drive up thru Dallas to the closest real trout stream (sorry Guadalupe, I love you too but not the same way as LMF) to Austin. I arrived right on time, about 11:15p in the town of Idabel, OK where I was staying at a Quality Inn. One of my goals for the trip was to prove that I could go for two nights and spend less than $200 for the whole trip. With that in mind, the rooms were $69 a night and I packed up sandwiches and snacks from home. It was a valiant effort but failed due to some unforeseen complications that came later in the trip. Going cheap was all part of my plan to increase the number of trips to the Lower Mountain Fork by proving that it was cheaper than a trip to the grocery store. My one requirement though is a clean hotel. I have a real hard time sleeping in gross places. After checking out my room, it got a check. No issues at all though I doubt it would have passed a black light test.
The next morning, I was up and ready to hit the water. I pulled into a campsite and parked. There wasn’t a single person camping and nobody on the water. What a great start for the day. I pulled on my new Simms Vibram soled boots I got from Ned at Breckenridge Outfitters and headed to the river. I was very curious to try out the boots as I just added some studs to them to see how they handled slimy rocks. I quickly was able to form an opinion as I soon felt nervous taking any steps in the river. I was used to felt soles where you could walk up the side of a slimy rock. Not so with Vibram soles. I slipped multiple times though I never fell. I got more used to them as the day went on but always had to stay aware of what I was stepping on and how slippery it might be.
I picked up a selection of flies from Sportsman’s Finest a couple of days before. My plan to tie all the flies didn’t pan out as I was always one ingredient short of a complete material for each fly that the Orvis application recommended. I bought some size 8 and 10 Buggers (of course), some Stimulators, and some BWO nymphs. None were exact matches to the recommendations but they were close.
I fished my way upstream until for no obvious reason, my beloved Ross Cimmaron reel decided to no longer provide drag. I thought I could get around this, but pulling line out caused the spool to spin out of control and resulted in all sorts of line tangling problems. That wouldn’t work so I headed to Beavers Bend Fly Shop just a few minutes away.
I met Sid there and immediately liked the guy. No pressure, just friendly conversation and lots of advice when asked. I had to replace my reel but didn’t want to spend much. I asked for something like a Ross or Orvis price range and he brought out some Galvan reels. They were very nice but commanded mid 200s so that was a bit out of my emergency equipment purchase budget. Next, he brought out an Echo and an Okuma reel. The Echo was way large for a 5 wt so I went with the Okuma. I’ve heard good thing about them and it’s hard to beat $55. After putting on a new Rio line, he recommended some flies and a location to go next. His advice was to fish areas where there was shade for the fish to hide. So, after buying a DVD by Fish N Feathers about the Lower Mountain Fork river, I made my way over to Spillway Creek. There were only 2 other people I could see there and one was camped out on the bank right by the road.
I walked downstream fishing as I went but didn’t have any luck. I came back upstream and tried out Lost Creek which is a tiny little stream very reminiscent of many streams I fished when starting out in Georgia.
I caught a nice little 12″ Rainbow right by the bridge. He was fooled by a tiny size 12 gray Wooly Bugger.
Although it’s great to catch fish on the fly using any fly, I’ve always felt like I was cheating or something using a Wooly Bugger. I mean, it’s just not that different from throwing in a lure with a Zebco reel and reeling it in, it’s just stripping instead of reeling. Regardless, first fish on so I wasn’t going to get skunked. I didn’t have any luck as I want a few hundred feet upstream but I did stop at one hole that had about 16 trout swimming around in it. I tried for 30 minutes to get them to eat one of my flies but I got lots of upturned noses instead. I told myself that I’ll try again tomorrow as I’m pretty sure they were on to me after the 45th drift of my fly line over their snooty little heads.
By this time. I was dying of heat. I forgot my water and drink in the car and was really reminded of this as I spoke to another fisherman on the path and he was headed back to his car in the same situation as me, waterless. I decided to just go back to town and replenish my beverage supply and then try out a new spot.
That’s when I got my big dose of OK culture at the McDonalds. Don’t get me wrong though, every single person I met there was wonderful, from the friendly people taking my order at the McDonalds to the guy in the parking lot at the river who spoke like Boomhauer from King of the Hill. At least he smiled a lot, not sure what he was saying most of the time. I did lots of nodding and laughing. I’m pretty sure he was telling me about another river in the area but I guess I’ll never know.
Back to the river. I returned to Spillway Creek and walked upstream. More seclusion.
I tried a few locations and then hooked into a hog with the Wooly Bugger again.
He fought really hard and I was able to check out the drag on the Okuma. It held up very nicely and I brought him to the net. He doesn’t seem huge in the picture but my net is way oversized so keep that in mind.
I frequently get distracted and end up on quests that I need to conquer. The fish holding in the hole at Lost Creek took 30 minutes or so. My next one was strange. I ran across an albino trout actively feeding subsurface on something. It was so active and well, visible that I wanted to land it very badly. I tried everything in my fly box and briefly considering trying to drag my wooly bugger across it just to hook the damned thing, but obviously, I didn’t do that. So after 30 minutes, I gave up again. I was starting to think that I could only catch fish using a wooly bugger which is very close to throwing on a lure and doing some good old fashioned Zebco spin fishing. Something just doesn’t seem kosher about using wooly buggers.
Next, I tied on a bulky pheasant tail and a very light colored nymph.
I’m not sure what it was but it was close in color to a sporadic hatch. I had been seeing for the last 15 minutes. A couple of casts and I managed somehow to cast the last 3 sections of my fly rod out to the stream with my fly. I did an audible “oh shit” and tried to reach for the rod section so it didn’t somehow get washed downstream and my other beloved piece of fishing equipment started racing downstream on it’s own power. Not only did I catch a fish with the rod projectile shooting straight at the trout, but I did so with nymphs. I no longer felt like a wooly bugger pseudo fly fisherman anymore but this thought would have to wait as I managed to reach out and grasp the 3 sections and fight the fish with one hand on the proper part of the rod and the other mashing the line into the top 3 sections. I landed the rod and fish. My luck had turned a bit.
I caught a few more fish including a fresh rainbow fry and a brown trout and then headed over to the dam to fish in the coldest water part of the river. It was nice seeing a father with a couple of middle school aged kids out in the river learning to cast. They watched me between lessons and I caught a fish within a couple of casts. I made it look easy which is hilarious considering my normal fish per day quotient.
The sun was going down so I decided to end the day. I did go out again the next morning but didn’t have any luck and the snooty group on Lost Creek eluded my flies again. I’ll be back for them in the near future. The expected crowds for Labor Day weekend arrived on Saturday morning. I didn’t feel like spending a lot of time trying to find a place to fish away from people so I called it a day and got back on the road. The trip back was pretty poor as my GPS routed me right into LSU / Oregon game day traffic in Dallas and I crashed into a pothole in Temple causing a flat tire and a bent wheel that has be repaired by a specialist. Regardless of these unexpected issues at the end of my drive, I’ll be back to fool the trout on Lost Creek with something other than a Wooly Bugger. Lower Mountain Fork River has won me over.
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