Thar’s Gold in Them
Neatly tucked away in the southern Missouri Ozarks is a stream that contains a precious natural resource made world famous in California. Many are attracted here in anticipation of enriching themselves, but most leave subdued by the challenge.
What I am talking about is not a precious metal. This resource is much more valuable than that. It is perhaps the only pure strain in existence—the world famous McCloud River California Rainbow trout, and the stream is an otherwise unremarkable creek flowing through the City of Crane, Missouri.
The accident that introduced the McCloud rainbow in the 1880's was a rather fortunate breakdown of a train heading East with a load of trout fry for stocking. The railroad ran next to the Crane Creek, so when the train stalled there, somebody had the presence of mind to put the trout into the creek.
Was this somebody getting rid of fish that were expected to die, or was this person a true naturalist who recognized the potential of the little creek? I suspect the stocking was quickly forgotten, but from this lucky coincidence a naturalized population was established. Think of all the trials that these fish had to endure: heat, drought, farming practices, intensive harvest.
Yet they survived and thrived. Their genome is not corrupted by years of hatchery management that produces semi-domesticated rainbows suitable for living in crowded raceways. Theirs contains the full hardiness, vitality, and vigor of a truly wild trout. I doubt whether today’s hatchery trout could survive the challenges of Crane Creek. Now, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources is propagating the genome by harvesting the milt from Crane Creek males and crossing them back with eggs from hatchery females to create a "half-wild" trout that is propagated in their trophy waters.
To fish Crane Creek is a joy and a challenge. The State of Missouri now owns a couple of miles of stream as a wildlife preserve. Access is abundant. A short fly rod suitable for dry flies is almost required because you will be casting under and around trees. Mayflies and caddis flies are abundant, with the feeding frenzies coming early and late. There are crayfish, and in the summer, terrestrials make a good trout meal.
And don’t expect to see much of a crowd. The trout are very spooky and are not easily caught. So Crane Creek really stays isolated much of the time. If you plan a trip, note that the Beaver Tailwaters of the White River is only about 40 miles away. Just across the border in Missouri, Roaring River State Trout Park offers a range of trout fishing opportunities and is only about 30 miles from Crane, Missouri.
Visit the following Web Sites for more information:
http://www.troutunlimited.org/welcome.html (Meramec Basin TU)
http://www.ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/flyflinger/crane.html (Scott Branyon TU Arkansas),
Other nearby attractions include Branson, Missouri; Silver Dollar City and Eureka Springs, Arkansas; and the Springfield home of Bass Pro Shops—plenty of activity for the family and a good excuse for a wonderful experience.