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Stream of Consciousness

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Published on: Jun. 2, 1998

Last revision: Oct. 28, 2010

let me see the secrets of the pools. Sunfish are suspended, motionless, some of fair size. Most are green sunfish, but there is the occasional longear, spattered with more color than an artist's palette. A hog sucker ambles over the bottom, and gray-colored shad dart willy-nilly. Squadrons of bass cruise deliberately, not feeding, but ready if something irresistible comes along.

I search my fly box for something irresistible. A yellow popping bug is as good as any bass lure. I tie it on, squinting farsightedly and jabbing at the tiny hook eye with the thick leader end. Finally it is secure, and I false cast for distance. The gravel bars are so wide you can throw a long loop with no fear of snagging a back cast. It's sad to think that once all this gravel was fishable water. If there are bunches of bass now, compressed into small pools, what must it have been like when there was a broad, deep stream?

The bass bug doesn't want to turn over and settle delicately. My leader is out of balance and collapses on itself, and the cast flops into the water with the gracelessness of a dying heron.

Bass scatter like soldiers under air attack. The pool, one second ripe with fish, is empty as the ripples subside from my dreadful cast. The bug floats nose up, and I tease it just enough to give it motion, a forlorn afterthought. No real point in fishing this pool for a while. Bass aren't bright in the cosmic scheme, but they're bright enough to recognize danger for a while.

I get the hang of casting the heavy bug with my awful leader and begin to drop it where I want it-next to root wads and alongside downed tree trunks. I can't do anything about the dark shadow of the falling line, which must look like the "Angel of Death Descending" to the bass.

One who fly fishes on a brilliant sunny day when the water is low and clear shouldn't expect much. The bass are a tantalizing promise. Ozarkers almost to a person would vote them the state fish (up north, though, channel catfish are viewed with affection and salivation).

The Conservation Department is studying smallmouth bass to see what can be done to improve fishing. One idea involves a 15-inch minimum length limit on three Ozark rivers: Big Piney, Meramec and Big River.

Another Conservation Department idea is

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