2012 is now behind us; I’m an optimistic person and can’t wait to see what the new year will bring…that being said, I spent the last 4 days of 2012 waist deep in moving water and it was exactly what the doctor ordered. I met Frank and my dad at 5am on Friday the 28th, along with my oldest son Harrison, we set out through a fresh 12 inches of snow towards Bennett Spring in Missouri…our goal was to catch some fish and have a great time.
The drive to Lebanon, Missouri is one that I am very familiar with and the 400 miles seemed to pass quickly as the four of us talked about fishing, politics, family and several other topics and before I knew it we took exit 130 off of I-44 and headed west on MO 64; 11 miles west we cruised into the duplex that we would call home for the next 4 days. Bennett Spring has several different ways to spend a night…ranging from the lodge to cabins to a few duplexes that are located within a hundred feet of the head of Bennett Spring itself. At $135 dollars per unit per night the duplex is a bargain as you can comfortably sleep 6 and the duplex also has a furnished kitchen and living room…all in all, it is a great place to enjoy nature and fish all you want!
My goal was to fish for half a day on Friday and I hit the stream a few minutes ahead of 12 noon (catch and release hours are 8am to 4pm). One of the tricks to trout fishing is figuring out what mood they are in each time you hit the water and within a few minutes I switched to a wooly bugger that was a combination of olive and brown tied on a size 6 hook…the next few hours were a blast as I landed 30 nice trout and did so amidst an amazing setting of water, birds and beauty that only the Ozarks can provide. When the 4 pm whistle went off signaling the end to our day of travel and fishing…we walked the half mile back along the stream to our duplex where a big pot of homemade soup (another Vickie special) was waiting for us. The next couple hours were spent tying a few more olive woolies as well as a great game of euchre…and I must add that Frank and I teamed up to whip Harrison and dad!
Saturday found the 4 of us up early with anticipation of yet another day of fishing…it would be a day of dowsing the fly rod as the temps had fallen to about 22 degrees and the eyelets of our fly rods would quickly freeze, as would the reel, the only way to relieve the problem was to dip the entire package into the 56 degree spring water…and then start all over again. Seldom does it all come together but this was one of those days, the stream was basically wide open and the trout were eager to please; by noon I had landed another 30 fish and made my way back upstream to check in on the others. After a sandwich, chips and a fresh cupcake, dad and I drove down to the confluence of the spring and the Niangua River. I swapped out my 6 weight for my 3 weight smallmouth rig and started making casts downstream, jigging my yellow shiner back upstream in search of a Missouri bronzeback. On my third cast I let my fly sink several feet and started slowly jigging it back towards me when I felt a jab on the other end, a quick strip set and a few seconds later I lipped a healthy 15 inch smallmouth that really made the day.
The only way to describe Sunday morning was….gorgeous, awesome, outrageous; the cold morning temps combined with warm 56 degree spring water left a layer of frost that covered every square inch. As I walked the half mile to zone 2, I marveled at the beauty that surrounded me…and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better I heard the chirping of one of the local Bald Eagles and looked up to see our national symbol soaring right up the stream in search of its breakfast.
Monday came way to soon and knowing we had to leave I was up early getting a few things packed when I looked outside to see a fresh coating of snow that made our few hours of morning fishing even more special; casting through snowflakes into water that is crystal clear and catching rainbow trout is a sensory overload and one we all greatly enjoyed.
Our four days, placed at the end of the year were spectacular. We had caught lots of fish, shared many great moments, played lots of cards, had some great food…and for just a while relaxed with friends and family, but for me it was a time to marvel in nature and all that it has to offer. As I look ahead to 2013 I hope that your year is one filled with great times and I hope we all can get outside and Enjoy the Great Outdoors.