Homesley to fire Opening Day gun
Cassville native who fishes 300 days a year to open season
If Tim Homesley has anything to say about it, everyone at Roaring River State Park at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday will hear his gun go off.
A Cassville native and avid fisherman since the age of 6, Homesley has fished at Roaring River more times than he can remember, and this year, he was chosen to have the honor of firing the starting gun on Opening Day.
"I had never thought about [firing the gun], but it will be fun," he said. "I was kind of surprised when they asked me, and I'm having some special blank bullets made to use in my Smith and Wesson .38-caliber. I want everyone to be able to hear my gun when it goes off."
Homesley, who owns Tim's Fly Shop just north of the park, has been fishing more than 300 days per year at Roaring River for the past 20 years, and he said Opening Day is always a treat.
"A lot of it is just tradition," he said. "My grandpa worked at the hatchery and our family and neighbors would always go down and camp, any my family from out of town would come camp, too, so it's like a big meeting place. Some people have been coming down here for the past 70-80 years.
"To them, it's kind of a habit to come down every year and spend a week or two camping and fishing."
Homesley said Opening Day is different from any other day on the river, as the banks are shoulder-to-shoulder with anglers looking to reel in the trout.
"You have to come at it with the right attitude," he said. "If you come with a serious fishing attitude and want to just catch the big fish, you're not going to have a good time. A few guys will fish for the big ones, but then some kid will come by with and orange worm and catch what they were going for."
Homesley said Opening Day is also about seeing old friends.
"March 1 is a time to come see everyone you haven't seen in a while," he said. "People I know from St. Louis and Kansas City have always come down for years, and a lot of it is just us being able to get together."
Homesley said although March 1 is more about the camaraderie than the catches, the rest of the year on Roaring River is prime time to catch trout.
"I've just never got burnt out on it, even though I've done it for over 20 years," he said. "This offseason has been great because of the heavy rains in October. Those brought the big fish out from the spring to spawn, and I've seen 10- to 12-pounders come out and then go back into the spring."
Homesley said the best times to fish are in the spring, in April and May, and the fall, in September and October.
"The summertime is also fantastic, and if you fish with a flyrod or a jig and know what to do, you can catch a lot of fish," he said.
In about 6,000 days of fishing in the past 20 years, sometimes for only an hour or two a day, Homesley said he has seen a lot of changes in the park.
"The campgrounds have been reduced to about half of what they used to be when I first started going out there," he said. "They've also made them bigger to accommodate things like the RVs.
"They've changed and moved the baffles about a dozen times, and lot of times that is good, but it can really suck if you were used to something that is changed."
Homesley said the landscape around the river has also changed a lot, especially with the reduction in the number of sycamore trees.
"The sycamore trees they planted back in the 1970s have been mostly taken out by the tornadoes and the floods," he said. "They probably planted about 100 trees and maybe only a dozen of them are left.
"The dam has also fallen in quite a bit over the past 30 years, and the new bridge that goes to the sewer lagoons has taken away a lot of the 12- to 14-pound browns that used to be in there."
Homesley said there is a lot done at Roaring River, and after living upstairs in the old CCC Lodge for nine years, it's easy to see the changes.
"They do a lot of good stuff, but it can be a hassle," he said. "Campers can make a big mess, and those guys work their butts off down there to keep it in shape."
Opening Day at Roaring River kicks off at 6:30 a.m., but anglers may show up to claim their spots on the banks starting at 5 a.m. The Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce will serve free coffee from 5-6:30 a.m., and they will also give away 850 commemorative mugs on a first-come, first-served basis.