CURRENT RIVER TROUT FISHING
The Current River isn't like any other trout stream in the state. The extremely high quality of fishing, combined with excellent access, and beautiful scenery sets this stream apart. And the river itself is simply stunning. It looks like a small western river, complete with rocky pocket water, and deep, aqua-marine colored pools. It has the best hatches in the state,and there are times of the year when dry fly fishing is good from sun-up to sundown. Add on to that the fact that the Current River stays cool enough for good fishing year-round,and you have something truly special.
The Current River rises in springs in Montauk State Park. This stretch of river is a state managed managed trout park, and is covered in great detail on our Montauk State Park Trout Fishing page. Two miles below the headwaters, the Current River flows out of Montauk State Park and into the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. For the next eight miles downstream to Cedar Grove low-water bridge, it is managed as a Blue Ribbon trout area. Brown trout are stocked in this stretch every spring, and large numbers of rainbows migrate downstream from Montauk State Park. There is also a healthy population of wild rainbows in the Blue Ribbon area. Below Cedar Grove Bridge downstream nine miles to the Akers Ferry Access, the river is managed as a White Ribbon trout area. In the White Ribbon portion, rainbow trout are stocked about once a month. Trout populations are not as high in the White Ribbon portion, but the fishing opportunities are still excellent, especially for those looking to use bait and keep fish.
The coverage area of this article begins right at the lower end of Montauk State Park. Where Montauk State Park ends and the the Blue Ribbon water begins, there is a cable across the river and a sign announcing the change in regulations. In the Blue Ribbon trout area, the daily limit is one trout, and the minimum length limit is 18" as of this writing. Only artificial lures and flies are allowed. To get to the Blue Ribbon water, enter Montauk Park, and take the gravel road down along the campground stretch of the river. Soon you will see the sign where the Blue Ribbon area begins. At this point, there is a small easement where a cabin is located, so there is no direct access. If you want to fish this water, park in the lower loop of the campground in Montauk Park, and walk downstream until you get to the cable. The water from the cable downstream a mile to Tan Vat is very productive. Most of this is fast, bouldery pocket water, with a few deep pools thrown in too add character. This water is full of eager browns and rainbows, and probably has the easiest fishing anywhere in the Blue Ribbon area. Furthermore, this stretch has some fantastic hatches that can provide dry fly fishing.
The next access is at Tan Vat. To get to Tan Vat, follow the same gravel road previously mentioned, until you get to the point where there is a partially washed out gravel road that turns right-if you look you can see the river. Turn right here, and you'll find yourself in a parking lot marked "Tan Vat." This is probably the most popular access point in the Blue Ribbon section, and it is apt to be crowded anytime during the summer or on weekends, even during the cooler months. Right at the access there is a deep pool formed by a small rock dam, and many good sized browns and rainbows are taken here. Just below the dam, there is some pocket water, which gradually gives way to a more gentle riffle-pool-run character. For a mile downstream to the Baptist Camp access, this continues. The stretch between Tan Vat and Baptist has a little more slow, unproductive water than other parts of the Blue Ribbon area, but it still has plenty of good riffles and pools that provide good fishing.
To get to the next access, Baptist Camp, continue following the previously mentioned gravel road (it's not named). Soon you will come to a road that turns right (CR 653), and there will be a sign pointing to the Baptist Camp Access. Baptist Camp has a luxurious, deep pool right in front of the parking lot. There plenty of fish in this pool, (just watch all the fish rise during a good caddis hatch), but as you may expect with a pool right in front of a sometimes crowded access, the fish have PHDs in fly identification, and can be pretty close to impossible to fool. You'll do better to fish the pocket water downstream of the access, where the water is faster and more broken, giving the fish less time to inspect your fly. Finally, you'll come to a long series of deep, seemingly bottomless pools. These pools hold some of the largest trout in the river, but it isn't easy to get your fly down to the bottom, even during low water. Heavy stonefly nymphs and egg patterns have worked best for me in these deep pools, although some veterans swear by huge streamers-these guys don't catch many fish, but every one they do catch is a real hog.
Baptist Camp is also the first good place on the river to put in a boat. Above Baptist Camp, the river is too narrow, shallow, and rocky to be good for float fishing. But downstream from this point, the river is deeper, more open, and less rocky, so a canoe, small jon-boat, or drift-boat becomes a good way to fish the river. The first good float on the river is from Baptist Camp to Cedar Grove (6.5 miles). The river is still relatively small in this stretch, and float fisherman will do best to get out and wade often, so it's best not to try to cover more than about seven miles in a day if you plan to fish hard.
The next main access point below Baptist Camp is the Cedar Grove Bridge, where CR 650 crosses the river. Cedar Grove Bridge is where the Blue Ribbon trout area ends, and the White Ribbon trout area begins. In the White Ribbon trout area, the daily limit is four trout. There is no length limit on rainbows, and there is a 15" minimum on browns, with no bait restrictions in effect. As previously mentioned, the White Ribbon area is stocked about once a month with pan-sized rainbow trout. Since the regulations are somewhat less restrictive here, the trout numbers are a little lower. But still, there are plenty of fish to keep any angler happy. There are good wade fishing opportunites both above and below the Cedar Grove Bridge. Above the bridge, it is Blue Ribbon water, and the fishing is primarily for brown trout, some of which are very large. This is a popular spot for fisherman who like to use large streamers or minnow crankbaits to target trophy browns in the 5-10 pound range. The water just below the bridge recieves heavy stockings of rainbows, and both bait and fly fisherman can do very well.
Cedar Grove is another good access at which to put in a boat. A good day float is from the Cedar Grove bridge downstream to the Akers Ferry Access, where Highway KK crosses the river. This float takes you right through the entire White Ribbon stretch, with many deep pools and riffles that hold excellent numbers of trout. As an added bonus, there are some smallmouth bass, rock bass, and sunfish available in this part of the river as well. While the Baptist-Cedar float is probably the best trout float on the river, this one is nearly as good, and the scenery is awesome.
The final good wading access for trout fisherman on the Current is at Welch Spring. Welch Spring is among the largest in the state, and instantly doubles the size of the river. The area around the mouth of Welch Spring offers some of the finest fishing on the river, and it lends itself very well to wade-fishing. While most people bait fish in this area, there are still excellent fly fishing opportunities. Deep nymphing with Stonefly Nymphs, Woolly Buggers, and egg patterns seems to work well.
The Current River's trout water ends at the Akers Ferry Access, three miles below Welch Spring. While trout can often be caught right at Akers Ferry, the numbers thin out quickly downstream. But by the time you've sampled all of the water we've talked about so far, you've probably had enough anyway. Now it's time to talk about strategy. First off, don't expect the Current River fish to always eat the flies you should expect. The river has good populations of mayflies, caddis, and stoneflies, but fisherman using Woolly Buggers, Egg Patterns, and marabou jigs often outfish those attempting to match the hatch. First off, you have to bring egg patterns if you are going to fish the Current River. And I mean at any time of the year. I have relied on egg patterns to catch fish on this river any time from January to July. Even when there aren't any natural eggs in the water, it is almost always possible to tempt a few fish to a well presented small orange or peach egg pattern. I have no idea why the fish in this river are so partial to egg patterns, but they are, and there is no point in arguing with success. The second most important fly to have on the Current, based on my experience, is a Hare's Ear Nymph, in sizes #14-18. Hare's Ears imitate all kinds of trout food from mayfly nymphs, to caddis pupae to scud. Other good nymphs to have are brown stoneflies, Pheasant Tails, Scuds, and Caddis Pupae.
Dry fly fishing can also be excellent on the Current. Caddis hatches provide the most and the best surface activity. Caddis can literally come off at any time of the year, in August or in December. Whenever there is a good caddis hatch, there will be trout rising. Caddis usually come in relatively large sizes (#12-16) and they provide real calories for trout. So it is never a good idea to go to the Current with out some Elk Hare Caddis of various sizes in your box. Then there are the mayflies. Blue Winged Olives, Pale Morning Duns, and Tricos are the most prolific species on the Current. Olives can hatch all year long, but the best hatches are on drab, drizzly days in spring and fall. Usually, a #18 or #20 Adams will suffice for this hatch, but sometimes a real Blue Winged Olive imitation is needed. The Pale Morning Duns come off best in May and June, although they can hatch all summer long. A #16 Adams will usually work during this hatch, although once again, it's not a bad idea to have a couple real imitations in the box just in case the fish get picky. The tricos are tiny, #20-#28. Trout will often ignore these tiny bugs, but they will get fish looking up when there is a heavy hatch. Tricos come off mostly in the early mornings during July, August, and September. Personally, I don't bother with the minute flies necessary to fish this hatch, but others do and have good success. Hopper fishing is excellent from July to early October, and trout can be tempted to eat a hopper just about any daylight hour between mid-summer and mid-fall. Ants, beatles, and other terrestrials also work well anytime during the warmer months.
Spin fisherman will do well with Mepps Spinners, Rapalas, Panther Martins, and Rooster Tails in 1/24 or 1/32 ounce for the smaller trout and with Rapalas and larger spinners for the big guys. In the White Ribbon section, bait fisherman do very well with worms, minnows, Powerbait, and canned corn.
As you can see, the Current River is among the best. With an abundant trout population, and nearly 20 miles of good water, the Current provides something that few other rivers in the midwest can.
Current River Missouri Department of Conservation Map
Baptist Camp Access - Winter