Paradise Found: a Missouri World-class Trout Spot

Southwest Missouri is a premier world-class trout destination area, and upon arriving at Bennett Springs State Park, it was obvious by the number of anglers on the stream that I would not be disappointed.

In addition to Missouri’s four trout parks and Lake Taneycomo, three different management areas exist in cold-water streams that contain “suitable habitat for trout,” according to Nature Connections, which is published by the Missouri Department of Conservation. They continue on saying areas are “managed as Blue, Red, and White Ribbon Trout Areas.”

The Blue Ribbon Trout areas are noted for their excellent habitat and smaller streams that produce naturally reproducing adult rainbow trout. Catch and release fishing provides the opportunity to land a trophy. Red Ribbon Trout areas are also recognized for high-quality habitat and nice-sized trout. The White Ribbon Trout locations produce trout year ‘round and are also cold-water habitat.

Fly fishermen were lost in a moment on the streams as the tempo of the fly rod matched a conductor directing an orchestra. The line was stripped from the reel and extended into a fantasyland that anglers dream of experiencing. The subtle plop of the fly on the water was frozen in time, and anticipation led to the moment when the dance with a rainbow begins. The fishing action was steady, and I watched sportsmen and women experiencing success.

In addition to purchasing a fishing license, a $3 tag is required in order to fish within the park each day. The daily limit is four trout, and brown trout less than 15 inches must be released.

I began fishing from a rocky shoreline before moving to the bridge where the rushing water flowed. Nightcrawlers wrapped around a number 8 hook produced results as I watched anglers on both sides of me hooking and landing respectable-sized trout.

It’s got be my turn pretty soon, I thought.

Suddenly, my rod bent as a brown trout was hooked; line stripped from the reel as I tightened the drag a bit. It was not tight enough, as line continued to strip from the reel and the drag was tightened until I could reel the fish in. The persistence of the trout continued as it made a number of runs to recapture its freedom.

I saw the fish for the first time as it jumped out of the water violently shaking its head to rid itself of the hook. The moment was repeated several times, but did not create a photograph in my mind, but rather a permanent memory.

The fish was landed, and assistance from another angler was required to remove the hook from the trout’s throat. Three more fish and my limit for the day would be accomplished—perhaps it was only a fantasy.

My wife Shirley announced it was time to leave.

“Just one more cast and then we’ll leave!” I begged.

Slowly and reluctantly I reeled the line in and put my gear away before cleaning the trout on the 3-inch cement ledge on the side of the bridge. The head was removed, and an unexpected instant occurred as the trout slipped from the ledge and fell into the water.

“No!” I screamed in disbelief.

I wished I had released the trout back into the rushing water—I felt remorse.

“I fish because I love to, and thus I escape. Trout do not lie or cheat, and cannot be bought or bribed, or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude, humility and endless patience,” according to an excerpt from Robert Traver’s book, Trout Madness.

I would return to Bennett Springs State Park another day.