When a city whistle blows, it's often a severe weather test or an actual alarm that rough weather is on the way. But in Bennett Spring State Park near Lebanon, Mo., a loud whistle at 7 a.m. meant anglers could start casting for rainbow trout.
Close to the Niangua River, Bennett Spring is a great destination best known for its first-class fishery. Whether you are wading or casting from shore, it is pure fishing fun set beautifully in pristine surroundings.
This was the second act of a Missouri adventure for the four of us South Dakota women, Robin Matushin, Elycia Severson, Janet Coyne and me, as we traded in our turkey guns for fly rods.
The beauty of the landscape is what struck me, Coyne said. People can't imagine how lush the trees were as they hung over the stream. Learning how to trout fish was a first for me, and I really enjoyed it.
More than 100 million gallons of cool, clear water gush from Bennett Spring every day, making trout production a natural fit. The spring flows into the nearby Niangua River, and a state trout hatchery sits on its bank, releasing more than 320,000 pounds of rainbow and brown trout every year.
The daily number of fish that are released depends on the number of anglers purchasing daily trout permits. Permits are totaled at day's end, multiplied by 2.5 and the resulting number is how many trout are released that night into the fishery.
Knowing this, hopes were high for our early morning trout dbut. However, a passing cold front gave the trout another idea. Flies and artificial lures were permitted, and we used small hooks with a tiny white piece of foam rubber. Local guides Vic Eckman and Gary Madole taught us how a flick of the wrist pitched the line out into the crystal clear water. We watched the feisty rainbows snub the bait most of the morning, but luck found us later.
Jim Rogers, Master Instructor of the Federation of Fly Fishers, is the park's exuberant concessionaire and fly-fishing guru. He is to fly fishing what Ben Hogan was to golf. He dubbed us Girls Gone Trout and conducted a fly-tying class where we learned to tie our own flies.
Rogers also demonstrated his superior casting abilities on the classroom lawn, where made any type of cast look amazingly easy.
Watch that leaf over there, Rogers said, pointing. With a flick of his wrist, the fly landed on the very leaf it sought.
I doubt the four of us will ever be that good, but at least we're now ready to tie a fly and fish our lakes and Black Hills trout streams.
Bennett Spring State Park, near Lebanon, Moi, is a rainbow trout mecca and offers cabins, motel rooms, camping, pool and lodge. HYPERLINK "http://www.bennettspringstatepark.com
Bennett Spring State Park, near Lebanon, Mo., is a rainbow trout mecca and offers cabins, motel rooms, camping, pool, lodge and four trout daily.
PHOTO BY BERDETTE ZASTROW
Above Photo by Berdette Zastrow
Janet Coyne, Webster, fly fishes for rainbow trout from shore at Bennett Spring State Park, Lebanon, Missouri, while guide Gary Madole gives tips to Elycia Severson, Minneapolis, as they wade into the spring branch.
Left Photo by Berdette Zastrow