Oklahoma's winter trout fishing areas are now open, and the crown jewel of the bunch is Blue River.
If you have never been to the Blue River near Tishomingo in Johnston County, do yourself a favor and go.
Even if you don't like to fish, the Blue River is an outdoors destination worthy of packing a picnic basket and hanging out for an afternoon.
A state fishing or hunting license gets you access to the Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area, managed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
If you don't hunt or fish but want to visit the Blue River, you can to buy a Wildlife Conservation Passport from the agency, which allows you to visit all of the Wildlife Department owned areas in the state for one year. But a state fishing license is $1 cheaper.
Blue River is open for hunting during the appropriate seasons and fishing year-round, but the trout fishing from November through March is the major draw.
The Blue River is reminiscent of a mountain stream in the Ozarks or the Rockies, and it's a closer drive from Oklahoma City than Oklahoma's other beautiful trout stream, the Lower Mountain Fork River near Broken Bow.
Giving birth to the Blue is the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer, a giant underground water source. The Blue River is its most scenic along the 6¼-mile stretch through the Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area.
Along those 6-plus miles, the river transforms from a sluggish, meandering stream into cascading water, which forks through granite and limestone formations.
Waterfalls, fast-moving riffles and deep, slow-moving pools are created by the water rushing over and around the rocks.
It's below these waterfalls and riffles where rainbow trout lurk and the fishing is the best.
Salmon eggs and garlic Power bait are baits of choice for many anglers, but there also is a catch-and-release-only section of the river on the northern part of the fishing area where only barbless hooks, lures and artificial flies are allowed.
At least that's the case through February. In March, the last month of the winter trout season, the special regulations do not apply.
On the opening day of trout season last month, the crowd included fly fishing friends and Blue River regulars Donny Carter of Stratford, Clif Sikes of Earlsboro and Jamie Webster of Pauls Valley.
The trio fish together often, and a lot more than their wives probably care for, Donny said.
Everyone fishing the Blue that day appeared to be getting in on the action, including Donny, Clif and Jamie. They caught trout after trout on nymphs, buggers and midges.
Donny's fishing flies of choice were Hare's Ears, jig flies and olive woolly buggers. They all produced.
Clif was using jig flies and the “Kramer” as he calls it, his version of the Crackleback which he named for the popular Seinfeld character.
“Most people fish it under an indicator, like a nymph,” Clif said. “Donny and I fish it dry. ... It skates across the water at the end of a drift, and reminded me of Kramer's gliding entry (into Jerry's apartment).”
Other anglers on the river just shake their heads when the fly fishermen tell them they are catching trout on the Kramer.
“The fly just sort of jumps in on you like Kramer did on the show,” Donny said. “The fly doesn't really represent any particular fly, but for whatever reason, the browns and bows love it.”
There was a heavy hatch of small mayflies that morning, which produced several rising trout on the river.
“A great way to bring in the new trout season on the Blue,” Donny said. “Don't think we could have ordered better fishing, weather or scenery. I think it's going to be a great season.”
If you go
The Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area is in Johnston County, 4 miles east of Tishomingo on SH 78 and 6 miles north.
Camping facilities are available at the Blue River Campground, with special access for persons confined to wheelchairs. For more information, call (580) 443-5728.
Scotty's Blue River One Stop is near the entrance of the Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area and is a good source for supplies and fishing, hiking, hunting and camping information.