The Current River is not only one of the finest trout streams in the country, it is also
among the most beautiful and pristine floating rivers around. That's a good thing, because
the river is only accessible by road every few miles. So, to reach some of the finest fishing
waters, it's a good idea to float it. During your trip down the Current, a part of the
Ozark National Scenic Riverways
system, you'll float past all manner of wildlife, including river otter. You'll see springs
and caves and breathtaking bluffs, and there are plenty of gravel and sandbars to stop and
take in the sights. But, of course, this website is all about trout fishing, and this river
has three distinctly different fishing opportunities.
The headwaters of the Current are found inside Montauk State Park,
which many say is the finest of the four Missouri Trout Parks. It certainly is less crowded
than the others on most days, and there are areas where you can actually fish quality water
alone. Below the park, you'll find 9-mile Blue Ribbon area. Just below that stretch, you'll
find the 8-mile White Ribbon area. If you include the river within the state park boundaries,
that's almost 20 miles of continuous productive trout stream -- more than just a little
impressive, wouldn't you say?
Current River Blue Ribbon Trout Area
From the Montauk State Park boundary
downstream 9 miles to Cedar Grove Bridge, including all tributaries. Only flies and
artificial lures may be used, specifically excluding soft plastics. Daily limit is 1
trout at least 18" long.
This portion of the river holds a very nice brown trout population, as well as rainbows,
a few of which are stream-bred. This portion of the river also gives you a real good
chance to catch a 2-foot long fish, as recent surveys indicate that 15% of the fish are
of keeper size (18 inches or longer). There are five primary access points from which
you can wade into some great fishing. You can enter from Montauk
State Park by entering the campground area and parking at the furthest lot, closest
to where the river leaves the park. There are well-used trails that will lead you on foot,
and a prominent wooden sign is posted at the river's edge to show where the park ends
and the blue ribbon area begins. There are some great pools and a few sets of riffles
just below the park that routinely give up quality fish.
The second access point is at Tan Vat. Exit the park out the back door and you'll find
yourself on a narrow dirt road. When you see Eagles Park on the left, get ready to turn
right onto the gravel road to Tan Vat Access. Upstream from Tan Vat you'll find some
good holes that often give up big fish, especially to spin fishermen casting mini-crankbaits
and marabou jigs. Immediately downstream there is a stretch that works well for lures or
flies. Below the riffles 100 yards downstream, however, the river quickly turns into a
textbook trout stream, with plenty of riffles alternating with pools and only the
occasional silty run.
Massive morning Trico hatch, but no trout feeding on them!! What gives?
By following the county roads, you'll find Baptist Camp Access, Parker Access, and Cedar
Grove Access further downstream. In some spots, you may have to wade a while to find some
water that holds good fish, but when you find a good set of riffles or a deep pool, you'll
generally also find a good number of fish. With rivers such as this, you may think it
would be fun to commit yourself to a hard-core day trip, starting before dawn at one
access point and hiking and fishing upstream to the next before nightfall. However,
many portions of this river are too deep to wade (even in August) and have impassable
banks that butt against bluffs on one side and are overgrown with serious brush on the
other. So, we suggest you float a stretch before you decide to hike it. If you don't take
that advice, at least plan for a possible extended stay (i.e. matches, flashlight,
dinner, etc.). At the very least, touch base with a Ranger to let him know your plans
before you strike out.
Now, there is one notable oddity about this portion of the river. There does not appear
to be any dominant aquatic insect food source that the trout tend to rely on. If you seine
the stream, you'll find a few caddis, the occasional little stone, and a good teeny mayfly
population, but that's about it. This is likely the reason that purist fly fishermen have
been known to struggle here. They come equipped with traditional Western fly patterns and
are often blown away when they see people outfishing them on orange glo-bugs and white
mini-jigs. The trout here have been known to hit well on such flies as Zug Bugs, Mohair
Leeches, and other attractor patterns. You can often bring a trout up to the surface to
grab a variety of dries, including Elk Hair Caddis and generic mayfly imitations. Prince
Nymphs and Copper Johns are also productive at times. In August and September, there are
massive Trico hatches which can occur daily, but, often, you'll fish Trico dries, spinners
and emergers right through the best part of the hatch without getting a single hit and
without so much as seeing a single trout rise. Now, there are other times with the fish
will hit readily on Trico patterns, tiny Adams, Griffith's Gnats, etc. during the hatch,
so be sure to stock these flies as well, just in case. Bottom line is this: without that
dominant food item to key in on, these trout have learned to feed opportunistically. That
means that they'll often hit almost anything that is noticable and looks like it might be
food. You still have to be able to present it correctly and provide a clean drag-free drift.
This 15-inch brownie came up to a #22 Adams during a morning Trico hatch.
And, as is the case in all streams with limited aquatic insect populations, be sure to
bring your terrestrial patterns -- ants, hoppers and such -- for summertime fishing.
Big streamers will often work well in the deeper holes below good riffles, especially early
in the season. And spin fishermen have been known to tear them up on jigs and itty bitty
crankbaits, as mentioned earlier. But, above all else, if you want to catch fish here,
you absolutely must not forget to bring glo-bugs. When nothing else is working, glo-bugs
will work and will often work extremely well -- even on big bruiser resident fish.
It may be hard for the purist fly fisherman to accept, but if you want to catch fish
here, you'll have to resign yourself to using what works.
Current River White Ribbon Trout Area
All water downstream from the Cedar Grove
Bridge. No bait restrictions. Daily limit is 4 trout, of which only 1 may be
a brown trout 15 inches or longer.
This stretch of water is also quite productive, with many more rainbows than browns. In fact,
this White Ribbon area is one reason why the river as a whole is such a solid trout stream.
During migratory seasons, the blue ribbon area trout move toward the park, and the white
ribbon area trout move toward the blue ribbon. This would naturally leave the lower stretches
empty of trout, but their number are replenished by periodic stocking every few weeks. When
The migration is over and the fish drift back downstream, the downstream populations swell,
and the upstream populations are replenished with daily stockings in Montauk and the annual
brown trout stocking in the blue ribbon section. In other words, fishermen can fish any
section of the river and generally find fish. Perhaps we can convince MDC to add a white
ribbon section downstream from all of the states red & blue ribbons waters (???).
There are only three riverside access points in this portion of the river -- Cedar Grove,
Welch Spring and Akers Ferry -- and since the 5-mile distance between Cedar Grove and Welch
Spring is not entirely wadable, you will need to float down to reach much of the finest
fishing. If you don't have access to a canoe or raft, the Welch Spring Access boasts
consistent fishing results downstream from the Spring for quite a long distance.
Bait fishermen will see success drifting worms and salmon eggs under a bobber while wading
to cover more water, and spin fisherman always do fine here with most anything. Flyfishermen
will find that the aquatic insect population is much higher in this stretch, so traditional
flies work better than they do upstream. In fact, a recent insect survey conducted by
Missouri Trout Hunter found a surprisingly large number of aquatic insects in a notably
wide variety, including many mayflies, caddis and stoneflies (sizes 12-18), hellgramites
(size 10), and scud (12-14). We even discovered several jet-black stoneflies similar
to those found on the North Fork, albeit smaller
The primary challenge for fishermen will be dodging canoes throughout the summer. As is
the case with all popular float rivers, you can avoid most of the canoe traffic by fishing
the lowest reaches of trout waters early in the day when the floaters are still upstream.
When the water begins to get crowded with boats, load back into the car and head upstream to
fish the upper stretches.