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Bennet Springs State Park
by: Rob Piorkowski
Because the weather was too cold in Chicago, we decided we needed a short fishing vacation. After all the planning, the chosen weekend quickly approached and we were heading to the Ozarks to fish for rainbow trout. Our destination for this short weekend trip was Bennett Springs State Park in Missouri. Bennett Springs State Park is 175 miles southwest of St. Louis, and 10 miles northwest of Lebanon, Missouri. Travel time from Chicago with stops was about 7˝ hours. The park is state operated with cabins, campground, RV hookup, tackle shop, restaurant and rainbow trout stocking facility. There are three zones of fishing at the park. Zone # 1 is restricted to single barbed hooks. Zone # 2 is artificial lures, but no bait or plastic, and Zone # 3 is all baits allowed. We had our focus on Zone # 1, and planned to spend as much time as possible fly fishing. We had arranged for this fishing weekend several months back, and the travel day approached quickly.
The weekend arrived and by Friday at 1:00PM we were on Interstate 55 heading south to Missouri! We pulled into the campground about 8:30 PM, set up the camper and planned our fishing strategy for the morning. With all the rods prepped, all we had to do was get up at 6:00AM, buy a trout tag and start fishing. With trout tags displayed, (requirement at the park for anglers) we waded into the river at Zone # 2, and waited for the horn. I planned to start fishing with a weighted red glow-ball, while Steve purposely used a different color. We were both using Sage 9ft -5 weight rods with a 5WF line and a 6x (3lb) tippet. Its best to use different colors when starting out to better determine what will actually work. If one of us starts catching fish the info is quickly passed on. With several minutes left before the horn, I set my float about 4 feet above my fly and stripped off some casting line. Within minutes after the horn, fish were being caught all over. The current was slightly fast, and I missed several strikes. I had too much slack in my drifts, and I was unable to set the hook on light hits. By shortening up the length of line to the fly, catching percentage greatly increased. Sometimes trout were caught with only 10 feet of line drifting. At times it seemed the trout had turned off, but switching colors would start up the action. Our primarily patterns used were salmon eggs and glow-balls in different colors.
After a while my action had completely stopped so I switched to a tan sow bug. On other rivers this was a productive pattern, and It quickly produced at Bennett Springs. We caught a bunch of trout with the largest near 2 pounds, and lost many more. There are certain sections in the stream where the fish are holding, so you can be catching fish on almost every other cast, while your neighbor will be skunked. Your location is very important, If the action slows then move and cover more water. Keep moving until fish are located. Trout can easily hold in depressions as little as 6 inches deep. In flatter sections of the river, this might be their only cover. Proper drifts are also very important. The ability to present a natural fly relies upon mending the flyline so the fly drifts naturally with the current. Flyline caught in fast current will pull the fly out of the strike zone, and give an unnatural appearance. Though, there are situations when this is the exception when fishing emerging flies. As with bait fishing, the idea was to have the baits float with the current, but directly off the bottom. The sow bugs and glow-balls were used in the same manner only using a small pinch weight. The water this trip was very muddy, with visibility less than 1 foot. Usually the water clarity is excellent with visibility down to 5 feet. After a long morning of wading the river, I relaxed for a while on shore and watched a woodpecker search for food. In the mornings you can also hear wild turkeys up in the hills while you are fishing. We did drive 7 hours, but the ozarks has great scenery as well as fishing. For anglers not interested in wading, there is plenty of shore access along the 1˝ mile spring. There is also plenty of room at the bridge at Zone # 3, here anglers can still enjoy quality trout fishing from the convenience of a stable location and not fight the current. On Sunday morning we fished from 6:30 to 10:00AM. We kept several trout, and lost many more. The weekend went very fast, but we had a lot of fun.
I cooked my trout the day after I returned home. We cooked the trout in my secret beer batter and breaded the fish with corn meal. That is my way to keep the trip memories going. The fishing and camping is great at Bennett Springs State Park, and you can enjoy the beauty of the Ozarks. The Park Lodge has great food, and with a good camp spot, you can even walk to the river to spend your day fishing. Give Bennett Spring State Park a try this year for great Ozark trout fishing.
For information regarding Bennett Springs State Park, check out their website at http://www.llion.org/bennettspring/. For information about my hotspots, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can't promise to put you on fish, but I'll lead you in the right direction.
Added: Fri Oct 03 2008
Last Modified: Fri Jul 10 2009
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