Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, has turned the southwest corner of Missouri into a must-visit outdoor destination.
The flagship Bass Pro store is now home to the Archery Hall of Fame, Wonders of Wildlife Museum, a NRA museum and more displays. Just 30 miles to the south of the store are Big Cedar Lodge, Top of the Rock and Dogwood Canyon.
A visit to the area should include visiting all these properties, but anglers must not miss Dogwood Canyon.
The first time I laid eyes on the manicured, crystal clear spring creek flowing through Dogwood Canyon, I thought to myself, “Yep, if I had the means to build my own trout stream, this is exactly how it would look.”
Dogwood Canyon is a pay to play paradise owned by Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops. It’s located in the heart of the beautiful Ozark Mountains, about 20 miles southwest of Branson, Missouri.
Visitors to Dogwood Canyon often combine the experience with a stay at the world renowned Big Cedar Lodge, also a Bass Pro Shops property.
Little Indian Creek has spent millennia forming the canyon it flows through. Nature did well in creating a beautiful landscape, and in the last couple of decades it has been modified to perfection.
Like a golf course designed for both challenge and aesthetics, Little Indian Creek has been refashioned to represent the finest of fly fishing. It’s all there — deep pools, quick riffles, waterfalls, perfectly placed boulders, frog water, fallen timber.
Casting a fly into the pristine water is to be as much about natural bliss as it about catching fish.
I know this sounds too good to be true, so let’s just go ahead and put our cards on the table. If you’re even a halfway accomplished fly fisherman, then we both know a private waterway manipulated by the hand of man, then stuffed full with trophy-sized trout, is sort of like dunking a basketball off a trampoline. It’s extremely fun, but nothing to brag about.
Fun, though, is the key word.
When you step to the edge of the bank and lock eyes with a lunker effortlessly gliding a roll cast away, your grip gets a little tighter and your heartbeat a little faster. Sure, he may not be wild, but the bend in your rod leading to an acrobatic display of tail dancing is as real as death and taxes.
Now a imagine you’re new to fly fishing, or better yet, a beautiful woman you’re inclined to impress says she’d love to give fly fishing a try. Dogwood Canyon is the place you want to take her. The same could be said for a child in whom you hope to develop an interest for angling.
Encouraging a strike in Indian Creek isn’t difficult. In two trips, I’ve guided two friends to their first fly rod fish, followed quickly thereafter by their fifth, 10th, 12th and so on. Both were using small nymphs floated under an indicator. If you do the same, and simply leave your fly in the water long enough, a trout will swim by and grab it.
That’s not to say, though, that Dogwood Canyon can not pose a challenge to even the most accomplished angler. There are big fish that have been in the creek for years and been caught a number of times. These pigs aren’t so quick to suck in any offering. Locating a true giant, and fishing selectively to it, can be as much of a challenge as you’ll find on any spring creek, public or private.
Dogwood Canyon is much more than a fishing destination. It’s an exquisite nature park with opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, wildlife-viewing tram tours and more.
Before it was ever opened to visitors, Dogwood Canyon was beautiful property, but under the watchful eye of Mr. Morris, the once raw landscape has been polished into a breathtaking gem.
To learn more about Dogwood Canyon, and the many different methods in which you can fish in the park, log onto dogwoodcanyon.com or call the park office at 417-779-5983.
See you down the trail …
Brandon Butler writes a weekly outdoors column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.