Eleven Point Rainbows
September 30, 2010
Our local experts will tell you just how to take advantage of the ample opportunities for catching rainbows that this river offers. (June 2007)
Heavy trout also fall to spinning tactics. RoosterTails and crayfish imitators that get down deep will do the trick.
Photo by Billie R. Cooper.
A part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System, the Eleven Point River traverses some of the most picturesque wild country in the Show-Me State. Three hours southwest of St. Louis, this national gem grows from a small stream near Thomasville to a sizeable river as it flows southward. Breathtaking springs tumbling from dolomite bluffs or rising up from a vast network of underground passages provide a continuous source of cold, clear water that make the Eleven Point one of the finest haunts in the Ozarks for hefty rainbow trout.
The Missouri Department of Conservation oversees the management of the trout fishery along the Eleven Point. The five-and-a-half-mile section from the Greer Spring junction to Turner Mill is a Blue Ribbon Area where only one trout of at least 18 inches may be kept. Artificial lures and flies only may be used in this area. The 14.2-mile stretch of river below Turner Mill is managed as a White Ribbon area. Here anglers may keep four trout of any length. Use of flies, lures, live and manufactured baits is allowed.
The Eleven Point River is a big, deep river appearing much like Ozark Rivers did before logging, burning, and hardscrabble farming techniques caused gravel to wash down from the hills and into the streams. Legend says that government surveyors gave the river its name when they were forced to change their compass points 11 times in a mile because the river was so crooked.
The Eleven Point's spring-fed character is unique among Missouri's larger trout rivers. Algae and mosses grow on the bottom, submerged logs and rocks. Overhanging trees shade the river, creating a canopy overhead. The banks are all but impenetrable in the summer creating a closed-in effect once you get away from the access points.
Because of its inherent wild nature, the Eleven Point can be difficult to fish for the first-time visitor. However, local guide and outfitter Brian Sloss, of Alton, has introduced dozens of anglers to the joys of trout fishing the Eleven Point over the last decade.
The 39-year-old guide began fly-fishing 20 years ago. After fishing the main trout streams that the Ozarks had to offer, Brian found himself returning to the Eleven Point on a regular basis as both fisherman and guide. When the opportunity presented itself, Brian and partner Ryan Griffin bought the Eleven Point Canoe Rental in Alton. They added a guide service for both smallmouth and trout fishermen.
"I settled on the Eleven Point because of its wild, remote character," Sloss began. "This is a beautiful trout stream that is protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers System administered by the U.S. Forest Service. Unlike most Ozark streams, the Eleven Point has not seen the same ill effects of man's intrusions. This is a wild stream that will be protected for future generations to enjoy."
"Because of its very nature, the Eleven Point appears to be difficult to fish," Sloss statted. "The stream consists of long pools, rapid, rocky shoals, and deep pools. The river runs deeper than most Ozark streams. As a result, there is a lot of food available to trout deep in the water column. If you are not losing the occasional fly or lure from snagging on the bottom, you are not fishing deep enough. I see very little surface activity from trout on the Eleven Point. The fish that rise to the surface to sip an insect are usually small. Dry-fly fishing is not a good option on this river."
Trout fishermen may use either fly-fishing or spinning gear when fishing the Eleven Point. "It's a matter of personal choice," Sloss said. "That's the first question I ask people who want to come down to fish. I can accommodate either style."
Sloss recommends that anglers hit the river at sunup during the summer months. "The best fishing opportunities exist before the air temperature heats up and before direct sunlight strikes the water," he explained. "The same is true in the afternoon. That last hour or so as the sun begins slipping behind the ridges is a magical time to be on the river fishing."
Anglers visiting the Eleven Point have the opportunity to catch wild, stream-bred rainbows in the Blue Ribbon section of the stream from Greer Spring down to Turner Mill.
"These fish present the best challenge available on the River," Sloss indicated. "And there are some big fish there."
Interpreting what the best fly or lure to use on a particular stream can eat up a lot of fishing time for most fishermen as they utilize the trial and error method. Sloss saves valuable time for his clients, time that can be enjoyed while catching fish rather than sorting through fly boxes.
"Early in the morning I start out fishing a standard heavily weighted stonefly nymph, usually a size 6. The big fly looks meaty. A trout sees it as a bulky meal full of protein and nourishment. Black and brown are my two favorite colors for the summer months."
Every fishing guide has his personal bag of tricks, and Sloss is no different. "I like to fish a two-fly rig," he instructed. "My main fly is a big one, which I use to get the rig down to the bottom. It is a fly that represents a substantial meal and trout will move to eat it. The second fly is a dropper. I tie 12 to 15 inches of tippet material to the shank of the first hook and attach the second fly to that. My favorite fly for this purpose is Don's Crawdad in size 12 or 14. The river contains lots of crayfish, and the dropper imitator is very effective."
The natural food supply in the Eleven Point is amazing, according to Sloss. "All you have to do to check out the food sources for trout is to roll a few rocks around. Big nymphs are plentiful as are crayfish. Then there are minnows and terrestrial insects that wind up in the water. The food source is the reason the fish here grow big and colorful."
Sloss recommends using a 9-foot 5- or 6-weight rod. His personal favorite is a Winston, but he also uses a Bass Pro 270, and rods made by Temple Creek Outfitters, which are designed by Lefty Kreh.
The Eleven Point is a big river with strong currents and deep holes. A good pair of waders with a belt that can be securely tightened is recommended. The tight belt will keep water from quickly filling waders in the case of a fall into the water. Felt-soled wading shoes are a must because of the algae covered rocks. In some areas, the river bottom is solid bedrock and very slick. A quality wading
staff is another good investment. It will help you stay on your feet and allow you to get to the tough spots that often hold good fish.
Every fisherman wants to know about the best spots to fish, and Sloss has the answers.
"I key on a few factors," he pointed out. "One of my favorite features to fish is at the end of a shoal with lots of current. There will usually be a deep hole at the ends of these shoals. I like to drift my flies along the break where the water really begins to deepen at the edge of the hole. Tout often hang close to these seams. The current is weaker there and fish will often travel a good distance to pick up food drifting by."
Boulders and other structure provide excellent trout lairs as well, as Sloss explained.
"Any object in the water breaks the force of the current. Calm water exists behind the structure providing the perfect hiding and resting place for a fish. Trout can easily dart from these hides to snatch a fly drifting by in the current. They conserve energy by feeding in this manner. However, structure like rocks and logs should read like a neon sign to fishermen -- FISH HERE!"
Spinning tackle is effective as well. Sloss recommends light tackle rigged with 6- to 10-pound test line. RoosterTails and Rebel Crawdads are his favorites, but he recommends placing a small split shot above the lures to get them down.
The White Ribbon Area of the Eleven Point runs 14 miles below Turner Mill. Sloss recommends this area for anglers interested in catching numbers of fish or those who want to take home a meal.
"A lot of the water further down river looks like prime smallmouth water, and it is. However, anglers should fish this area just like the upper river. Trout hang in the deeper water, but also feed in some of the slack-water areas. Minnows are a popular live bait that work very well. Use of other live baits and prepared baits like PowerBait are also effective.
The Eleven Point River offers a different approach to rainbow fishing in the Ozarks. If the idea of hooking a plump trout in the wilds of the deep Ozarks appeals to you, head south. Brian Sloss thrives on introducing new anglers to his favorite river. He can be reached at (417) 778-6497 or www.11pointcanoe.com.