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3-28-04 - It rained from about 7:30 AM until things started tapering off between 1:00 and 2:00 PM.

180 degree Panoramic of a nice stretch in Zone #1.

You can also view this image in the 3D viewer (about 6 MB).

After working the middle stretch of Zone 1, I headed up to see the spring and watch fish snub my offerings repeatedly.
If this doesn't tell you what the fishin' is like....
Back down to the middle stretch of zone #1.
THIS is what I keep heading back to Missouri for. Look at the bronze, gold, copper, red, pink, lavender and purple in this fish!
#3 in the creel for the day; this one fell for the soft-hackle right below the surface. Where's #2? It was rather deformed so no picture taken (was really ugly).
Plucked #4 from the riffles by skating a blue winged olive right over his head. Got to see the whole take and man, it was fun.
This was a fun little stretch of zone #2.
Look at this freeky rainbow! Almost not a spot on the fish, erie yellow gold tinge...perhaps a semi-xanthic rainbow trout?
The dam is what divides section #1 from section #2. Best I can tell, no fish can pass this dam.

3-28-04 - Day Two of the Missouri Trout Trip!

Waters Fished: Bennett Spring
Fish Caught: 7/14 or so
Outing Date: 3-28-04
Weather: Rain until around 2:00 PM
Air Temp: 60's dropping to probably low 50's.
Water Temp: forgot to take it.
Water Level: ? Normal?
Water Color: pretty clear, visibility several feet although some runoff put a slight tinge in the river towards afternoon.
Fish Species: Rainbow Trout
Pattern Fished: Successful patterns included Olive and Orange SLF scuds, a small tan softhackle, Blue Winged Olive dry and a peach globug.
Pattern Color: see above.
Fishing Quality: challenging, plenty of fish to be had if you can unlock the secrets.

BACK AT BENNETT! All last night Wenk and I had been a slight bit giddy; we both really enjoyed our prior 2 days last fall in Bennett; it's roughly 1 hour away from Dan's place in Springfield, MO, so he's actually been back a third time...in other words folks, this is WENKER's home river for at least the next year or two. Man, I'd be thrilled to call Bennett Spring my home river.

We got up early; it'd be a 2 hour+ drive from St. Louis to Bennet Spring. On the road after 7:00 AM, and with gas stops and such we got to Bennett Spring shortly before 10:00 AM. A quick stop into the Park Store for tags and we were ready to go. Well, I was. The drive started out gorgeous, sunny, but 30 minutes in it was dark. 60 minutes in, it was raining pretty thoroughly, and by the time we were ready to fish, the rain had still not abated. I had my raingear with. Wenk had left his at home!

From 10:30 to 12:00 we pounded the middle stretch of fly only zone (#1). Not a single bite as long as the water was being churned by the rain, but I did manage 2 fair fish, one on a #20 olive SLF scud, the other on a bright flame orange SLF scud. Both fish came with breaks in the rain, both went without photos and were quickly released.

Wenker was having problems. First, he was definitely soaked. It was probaby lower 60's...not exactly freezing but still not comfortable to be wet all day (see 3-24). Additionally, he has new contacts that are driving him batty. Try threading #20 hooks on 2 lb. flourocarbon in the RAIN. If you had bad eyes you'd give up and go home, which is basically what Wenk did.

I was up in the air once Wenker left (he did stop at several fly shops to try magnifiers, but he felt for the $50 they wanted and the minimal benefit he got it wasn't worth it). It was just after noon...the rain was still coming down. My buddy had gone home, so here I was all alone in a big state park left to fish for myself, 8 hours or more from home.

Well I drove around a bit, warmed up, and decided I should at least take more pictures before I left. I put in some casting practice for a while, perfecting my single-handed spey (the fish weren't biting, why not practice on big water?!) Well I can now say that I can put a speycast bank to bank in the middle of Zone #1...aka. one HUGE roll cast baby! Only takes a 9' 4wt St. Croix IV.

Kinda bored now that the casting was down, I went up to the springhead to watch the trout (there are TONS up there). Tried my luck and man, it brings back Paradise Spring. The fish will even congregate at your feet here (for the opportunity to feed on anything you stir up while wading) but they'll turn their noses up at just about anything I offered. I also got to sight some non-trout residents of the spring, including some sort of darter/scuplin and some panfish.

The rain let up and I headed back downstream. Noting my earlier success, I tied on an olive flashback scud and pounded the water. Most of the guys out here were fishing long casts with indicators and glo bugs underneath....they weren't having any luck. Again, I should note that as you walk through the gravel, fish congregate at your feet. It is in fact ILLEGAL to shuffle your feet in the water. But it is legal to wade, and it is legal to MOVE. So while all these guys were fishing the far side, I was fishing the border of vegetation and gravel. Periodically I'd have a dozen fish stacked up at my feet, I"d take 3-4 steps back into considerably shallower water...and now I had a pod of rainbows to sightfish with my miniscule scud. Eventually I picked up the most elegantly colored rainbow of the trip. This is what I was here for.

Well the action remained slow in Zone #1, so I bumped down to Zone #2. Below the damn, there are TONS of larger fish, smart fish, and overall the water isn't that fast. I swung a Tucker Nymph for a bit in a couple of different sizes; I'd get follows from BIG trout up to half way across the pool, but nothing I could offer as far as movement could convince them to bite.

Then the hatch started. Looked like little BWO's or something. Well, actually I should clarify, it was both a hatch and a spinner fall. After rotating through several flies, I found what worked, a #20 soft hackle dubbed in tan, swung right underneat the surface over the heads of actively feeding fish. Nailed 2 and missed several this way.

I then bumped down to below the bridge and switch up to a surface presentation. A couple missed strikes later and I noticed an actively feeding fish right at my feet, no more than 2 feet away, whack anything that floated on the surface. I slowly moved back and hovered my fly right above the water's surface. The trout came upwards and floated in the mid-water column. I touched the surface and could almost see his eyes turn upwards. A couple hops and he was definitely watching. The moment I set the fly on the surface and walked it to form a v he SLAMMED IT!

Now again, I'll note that the action wasn't FAST, these fish see countless offerings year round. Yes, many are stocked (and harvested) but many remain overwinter (afterall this stream does see some natural reproduction...many 3-4" fingerlings were feeding in the shallow water). Zone 2 is definitely unique in that many anglers clean their fish here.....at first I though I was seeing crusty fish swimming around, once I got a close look I realized it was trout with their mouths overflowing with trout flesh. I watched as trout tore at a carcass like a pack of sharks. Instinctively I look for something "flesh" colored in my box...a pink glo bug?!

3 casts in and whack, fish on! At this point I had bagged my limit, and I seem to remember something about the MO Trout Park rules being that once you have your limit you must cease fishing? Wasn't going to go back and check, and heck, it was 4:30 PM, so I stopped. Took a few more pictures and got in the car to make the long drive back, straight all the way to Chicago! Didn't get home until just after 12:30 AM Monday morning. I'm still beat from the drive. Bennett Spring though, definitely worth a trip at least once a year. However, I still know there is MUCH MORE to see and do in Missouri (and Arkansas)...Little Red, Spring River, Taneycomo, and many more unique settings to try for trout!

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this link until I've rebuilt my links pages - www.ozarkchronicles.com - MT (Matt Tucker) runs the site and is an avid Ozark Fly Angler. Great place for info should you be considering a trip to Missouri or Arkansas. Matt had a schedule conflict this time around, but you can bet I'll do my best to put in a day or two on the water with him in 2004! Heck, Matt (Matt P) Tucker (Tucker Nymph)? You know the trout karma says that something interesting is gonna happen when the two of us get out on a river....can you say maybe Cutthroats?

  MP 

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