I won’t claim to be the most experienced Missouri Trout Park fly-guy…but over the last decade I have fished all four, many times and thus want to give you DIY fly fishermen some advice and tips to make your time more enjoyable.
From east to west, the four trout parks are; Merrimac Springs, Montauk, Bennet Spring and Roaring River. As I said, I have fished all the parks…however I have fished Bennet the most, followed by Montauk, then Merrimac and lastly Roaring River. Now just because I have fished RR the least…doesn’t necessarily mean it is last on my list, just the furthest away from my home base in southern Indiana.
Let’s start with my favorite…Bennett. Why you might ask…I love the zones; in particular I spend most of my time in zone 1 (flies only) and like to fish the area above the dam to just below the first falls. In this little area of probably ¼ mile, there is a wide diversity of cover to be fished. It is no secret that I am a streamer person and in fact will swing some type of streamer about 95% of my time on any water…and this holds true for Bennet.
There are some do’s and dont’s…do fish early and late. Like all trout, they are photophobic and will be more active and move towards the surface early and late. For me, the first hour on any day that I am at Bennet is usually the best. Case in point…just this past Friday (March 25th) I caught 10 nice fish in the first half hour from 7:30 to 8am. The rest of the day, probably about two more hours, I landed 12 additional fish. I also find that while it may be busy…most folks just aren’t up, organized and on the water during that first 30 to 60 minutes.
Do be willing to change. If you don’t get much of a response in the first ten casts…then be prepared to try another color. I like to go from extremes; I might be using a cream trout candy at first, and will usually go to a black wooly or trout candy as the sun starts to move over and gives a shadow. Browns and olives are also two other colors that seem to work the best for me. One major do…as the sun moves over head, start to slow your presentation down. Allow your fly to sink and get deeper. Either add weight or cast a bit further upstream, add an upstream mend…which will allow your fly to sink. I love the upstream casts…I allow my fly to sink and find that fish love to chase and attack as the fly starts to move down and past cover where they are hanging out and conserving energy.
One major don’t…don’t get impatient and quit. If things aren’t going well (believe me there are going to be times when the trout just won’t cooperate) take a minute, go use the bathroom, grab a cold drink…then get back after it. I have found that at some point during each day, the fish will turn on. I like to look for a hatch to come off. No, I am not fishing dry or on top…but I am certain that the fish become way more active. One of my favorite things to do during a hatch is to go to an unweighted wooly and watch for rises…you may think it crazy, but you will be pleasantly surprised to see how often you can get a fish to load up on a wooly; here is the trick, be ready as soon as the fly hits the water. This is some very exciting fishing because often you can see the fish coming prior to its attack or explosion upon the fly. I find that a cast perpendicular to the opposite shore with a quick upstream mend is often all it takes…as the fly stalls out, expect an attack.
One last caveat for fishing at Bennet…don’t be afraid to pull up stakes and move to the river. I love to go about a half mile below the confluence of the spring and The Niangua River. Take an immediate left onto highway 64, cross the bridge and take an immediate right…park at the outhouse facility, walk directly to the stream and fish the riffles, etc.….down to the boat ramp. You will be surprised how many fish are lurking in the riffles, pools and eddies along the way. Landing a fish in the spring is one thing….landing one in the river is much more competitive. One note, to keep a fish in the river you will need a trout stamp (not that I am advocating keeping fish…but don’t want you to get ticketed).
The river itself is an awesome fishery; I love to put in directly below the confluence of the spring and river and float/fish my way down to Barclay’s takeout. I have had some superb days fishing for trout…and my favorite, smallies. The trip will take you about three hours if you just float…but plan on 4 or 5 hours if you want to fish along the way. Lastly, don’t float the river on a weekend in summer…and if you do, plan to be off the water by 9 at the latest as droves of canoers, kayakers and tubers will take to the river!
Check out my short video of my casting and landing a few nice rainbows within Bennet (see above)… and check back with me in the next couple weeks as I move to Montauk, Maramec Spring and Roaring River.