We made it out to the Loutre River at Graham Cave State Park yesterday. They have a nice paved road leading down to a concrete boat ramp that was really steep and hard for one person to load unload and load the canoe. It's only about 5 minutes off of Hwy 70 about half way between Saint Louis and Columbia.
The River is about 40' wide at it's widest point and gets narrow to about 12' across at it's narrow points. It's a muddy river visibility was about 3' into the water definitely catfish territory.
We put in around 4:00pm and headed north at a snails pace enjoying the beautiful scenery. The conditions were a very slow current hardly noticeable except at the shallow points as the river was pretty low. There were several downed trees that made good cover area to fish. I was with my son so we weren't fishing too hard; he was more interested in collecting frogs and tadpoles on the banks than any serious fishing.
My first cast of the day was hit hard by a two pound channel cat who then proceeded to peel of line and put up a great fight with my new Ugly-Styk Ultra Lyte. I caught him on a 1/8 oz white Mepps in line spinner. As we moved up river and against the meandering current it wasn't long before we could see our first shallow crossing. We rowed up and had to get out and drag the canoe across. While we were crossing my boy took the opportunity to look around and found a huge fresh water clam about 5 inches across. At about the same time I noticed a good sized doe moving silently across the river just ahead of us.
We moved along through the next section which was wide and shallow about 2 to 3 feet with some deeper holes. I shucked the clam and we used it to tie up 3 limb lines as we moved along. My boy got a huge thrill as we noticed a giant gar about 5 to 6 feet long curiously swimming around the canoe to see who was invading his territory.
Past that section we noticed a distinct bend in the river with a 30 foot mini bluff like rock at the rivers bend that had been carved underneath from years of the currents erosion creating a small over hang that I drove Isaac into. It was a really pretty area, we decided to stop and have dinner. This area produced a few pan fish.
I decided it was time to turn around and head back as the sun was getting pretty low. We headed back down stream to check our limb lines as the day started to calm down. The sun was going down and we could see the fish swirling around on top of the glass like surface of the water. The limb lines did not produce, but something had feasted on our clam guts... they were gone.
The boy decided it was his turn to try his hand at rowing. He was insistent on using a small stick he had picked up earlier that was lying among his collection of artifacts he had gathered throughout the day. Surprisingly he guided us around pretty well with his primitive oar.
As my navigator got us down stream I decided it was time to do a little more fishing in the area we had noticed all of the activity. After a few casts my line was again stretched tight with another hard fighting channel cat this one nicer than the last and again caught on an in-line spinner! After a few more cast I hooked into something big I couldn't tell what it was at first. It wasn't putting up much of a fight though the strain on the ultra light made me wonder if it would snap at any moment. As the creature surfaced with a sizable wake I could make out it's long girthy body about five foot long and new for sure it was that gar we had seen earlier. He was more like pulling in a small log at first and as he got closer we finally saw it's 2 foot long saw toothed mouth with my spinner hooked in about half way. The gar was now at the surface and as his eye just peeked out of the water it was like he was starring right at me and with that look he just barley jerked his head and with a snap the monster was free.
That was about the highlight and provided a thrill for the 7 year old that will hopefully stick with him for a while. With that it was time to head back and get loaded up just as the sun set. The dusk sky provided the perfect peaceful back drop for the end of our day.
Interpretive area historic cave; Paved access to river
Hwy 70 to Graham Cave State Park