Show-Me Smallies

As a fisherman, I love living in the Northeast. In spring, I'm close to great trout fishing. I've got a few favorite largemouth spots for the summer months. And in the fall, I'm minutes away from killer surf fishing for stripers and blues. (As for the winter, well, that's when I replenish my fly boxes.) Still, there's never a season when I don't miss the waters I grew up fishing in Missouri. So earlier this year, when I traveled home for my brother's wedding, I made sure to reserve a day for smallmouth fishing on the Meramec River.
Every angler has his best fishing buddy. For me, it's my pal Andy Lauber. We've been friends since grade school, and many of the best times we've spent together happened on the water. These days, we only get to hang out a couple times a year, and whenever possible we use that time to fish.Colin Kearns
Since Lauber and I usually flyfish for trout, chasing smallies in this section of the Meramec was fairly new to us. Enter our guide, Joe Dmuchovsky. Joe was everything you want in a guide: He was easy to get along with, he knew the river really well, and he had a great sense of humor. (After I made an especially weak cast, Joe said: "I've seen stronger arms on a beanbag chair.") He also happened to pack the best lunch ever. But more on that later.Colin Kearns
When it comes to flyfishing gear, I'm a sucker for flies. Each time I go fishing, I carry probably eight boxes in my chest pack, and each holds around 150 flies. Of course, I never end up using more than six different patterns. Needless to say, I got a kick out of the cool (and BIG) bass patterns that Joe brought along for Lauber and I to fish.Colin Kearns
Lauber and I began the day with fly rods, but after we came up empty on the first few spots, we stashed them and stuck to spinning gear for the rest of the day. But before we did, Joe let me try out his brand-new Sage BASS series fly rod. It was an absolute dream to cast. (If my parents or fiancee is reading this, Christmas is just around the corner…)Colin Kearns
Lauber was the first one to land a fish--a fact he wouldn't let the "editor from Field & Stream" live down.Colin Kearns
As Lauber continued to catch smallies, and now his first largemouth, I'd yet to boat one fish. Needless to say, the "friendly" competition between he and I started to get more spirited.Colin Kearns
At last! Funny how your first fish of the day always seems bigger in your mind than it does in the photo. I swear it was 20 inches…Colin Kearns
I wish I could say that the Meramec provided nothing but stunning scenery for the entire float, but a few bathing heifers spoiled that pipe dream. (Remind me to never swim in this river again.)Colin Kearns
Remember when I mentioned how Joe packed the best lunch ever? Well, here it is: Budweiser (Lauber and I are St. Louis boys, after all) and fried chicken. Wet-wading for smallmouth. A good friend. Cold beer. Fried chicken. Honestly, does it get any better than this?Colin Kearns
On several occasions, fallen timber got our way of reaching the bigger smallies downstream.Colin Kearns
And when that happened, we had to get out and portage around the obstacle. This time, Joe was nice enough to handle the dirty work while Lauber and I made a few casts.Colin Kearns
The Meramec is a gorgeous river, no doubt, but it's not going to win any cleanest-river awards. Here, Joe found a busted radio on the bank and checked to see if he could tune into the Cardinals game. No luck.Colin Kearns
Maybe hall-of-famer Wade Boggs was onto something with his superstition of eating chicken before every baseball game. Not long after we finished lunch, the bite really picked up--and so did the size of the bass. I duped this bass on a white-pearl Zoom Super Fluke.Colin Kearns
My biggest smallie measured about 17 inches, and it started the big-fish mojo for the rest of the day.Colin Kearns
Lauber was the next to get a big strike--also on a white Super Fluke, the hot lure of the day. His fish wasn't quite as big as mine, a fact the "editor from Field & Stream" wouldn't let him live down.Colin Kearns
After watching Lauber and I land two nice fish in less than 10 minutes, Joe couldn't resist rigging a rod and it didn't take long for him to continue the big-fish streak.Colin Kearns
About 100 yards from boat ramp I managed to get one more strike in a patch of Lilly pads. It was my first largemouth of the day, and my last catch of day.Colin Kearns
We timed the trip just right: Once we reached the boat ramp in the early afternoon, the locals had already started belly-flopping into the river to escape the suffocating Midwest humidity, which is just about enough to shut a bite down. But for about five hours, the fishing was steady, and Lauber and I practically owned the river. Just the thought of the day is enough to make me homesick.Colin Kearns

Field & Stream senior editor, Colin Kearns, fished for smallmouth bass in a stretch of the Meramec River, near Steelville, Mo. If you're looking for to rent a canoe or fish with a guide, contact Green's Canoe Rental.