Catch and Release at Bennett Spring – Winter

As the 8am horn blew I was in the process of putting on my waders. Above and behind me I could hear a chattering from the stream; I knew the sound, it was indeed a pair of Bald Eagles and they were making an abundance of noise. I wasn’t sure what had the pair stirred up but knew that they were hard at work trying to fatten themselves up for the winter…more than likely there would be a trout or two lose its life during the day.

We had been west into Nebraska where we spent a few days’ pheasant hunting and visiting with friends. We had then turned south, down I-29 into Missouri and dead-headed for Branson where I spent the better part of 24 hours trying to catch a big, fall run brown trout…I can’t say that I didn’t catch any fish but I certainly didn’t land one of the fall bruins that I was looking for. On Friday morning very early dad and I turned the truck north, up I-44 towards Lebanon where I would spend a few hours fishing the catch and release season at Bennett Spring.

With my 6-weight rod, sink tip line and a crème colored trout candy tied on the other end I stepped into the clear spring water and was surprised to find the first few inches were ice crusted. I stripped off about 50 foot of line and made a long cast directly across from me; the fly landed softly, I waited a moment or two and began to make small strips when I felt a very familiar tug on the other end. I quickly strip set my green/yellow line and could feel the tension between me and my first trout of the day.
Rainbow Trout caught at Bennet Springs
NOTHING…and I mean nothing is as good for my soul as a quiet day walking within a moving stream. The top of the heap is Bennett because it is so peaceful. There are just a myriad of critters flying overhead, swimming to and fro and the entire scene just makes for a day that allows me to forget all that might be going on in the world. That is what nature does for me…it allows me to drift off for a few hours. To focus on only what it at hand; the fish, the fishing, birds, water, casting, etc…I could go on and might have already bored you but if you haven’t given stream fishing and in particular fly fishing in a locale of this quality…please do so!

As I slipped my hand under this first rainbow I couldn’t help but smile, the colors of this 13 inch fish…well, let’s just say that they are certainly very aptly named because one can’t really just pick out a single color, there are too many. It was 8:15am and the first rays of the morning sun were now shining over my shoulder; the light only helped to illuminate and bring out the blends of color. I removed my fly and eased the fish back into the water and once again had to grin as in a flash it had vanished back into the depths to be caught by the next angler along this beat.

I looked to my right, toward the dam and could only see open water. The next few hundred yards were mine; no one else had yet ventured out on this chilly November morning. It was after all a very important day…it was “Black-Friday” and I knew that most of the world was knee deep in bins and piles of merchandise. My mind couldn’t have been further away as I made three quick double hauls and placed my fly down within inches of the other side of the bank. I quickly tightened up on the line and decided to allow the fly a short drift past a stump that looked like it should have a big trout waiting to ambush my small bait pattern. At the very moment my mind was preparing for a take I felt tension and one more time I was dancing with a trout that this time had a little more backbone to it. Two quick and powerful strips with my left hand…a raise of the rod and I could feel the fish pulsating through line and rod, directly into my heart and soul. I was hooked, both physically and metaphorically. It might be a simple pursuit, standing waist deep in crystal clear water, waiting for a trout to take a fly that I had tied myself…but no amount of money could have improved the morning that I was having.

90 minutes later and I had moved 150 or so yards towards the dam. In that time I had been visited by four eagles; two were of the bald variety and two were Golden Eagles. It had gotten crowded as there was one fisherman about 200 yards above me and one gent fishing the pool directly above the dam. The fishing hadn’t slowed at all…the only change of flies came after one chunky 16 incher spazzed out and took my fly with him back into the water! I had landed a total of twenty rainbows and with a long drive left back home it was time to pull out. As I made my way back along the lane toward my truck I could see dad walking at me from the other direction. We would arrive back at about the same time and our adventure would officially come to a close. My morning amidst the Ozarks would be the icing on an awesome outdoor cake.

If you are interested in Bennett as a place to fish or just a spot to relax, take a hike and enjoy the abundance of nature…call 417-532-4307 and talk to the folks at the park about renting one of their awesome duplexes. It sleeps up to 8 comfortably, has a kitchen to prepare your meals and best of all…is just a hundred yards from the head of the spring that releases over 100 million gallons of cool, 56 degree water each day as it winds and wiggles its way toward the Niangua River about a mile away. You will thank yourself for your decision as your entire group Enjoys the Great Outdoors.

Click here to watch the ten minute video of me landing a number of Ozark trout.

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