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Outside The Parks

ozark trout fisher

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This is just a little article I wrote awhile back that I feel like posting.

What do you do if you drive to Bennett, Montauk, or one of the other trout parks (or Taneycomo for that matter), and you can see fisherman from horizon to horizon? That sight is all too familiar in Missouri. As the numbers of trout fisherman rise, and the number of miles in our trout parks stay the same, crowds keep getting bigger and bigger, and the experience becomes poorer. Some disgusted anglers are giving up the sport of trout fishing altogether, in favor of other species where they can find waters with more solitude.

But there's another way. There are 150 miles of managed trout water in Missouri, only eight of which are contained in trout parks. So that tells you right off the bat that there is upwards of 140 miles of trout water in Missouri outside the parks. None of these streams are anywhere near as crowded as the trout parks, and they all offer some kind of quality trout angling. These "outside the park" streams are the answer for trout fisherman looking for a little solitude.

One thing that keeps many fisherman inside the parks is the concern that they are somehow incapable of catching fish elsewhere. That is untrue in almost all cases. You probably will have to adjust your techniques somewhat, but if you can catch them in the parks, with a little bit of flexibility and maybe a bit of work, any trout park fisherman can make the transition.

One difference between park waters and non-park waters is the level of spookiness in the fish. Trout park fish are used to people;indeed, the fresh hatchery fish actually associate humans with food. Stream-wise fish on the other hand, consider human beings predators, and if they know you're there, they will often get lock-jaw. But you don't need to be all that sneaky except on the very touchiest of streams. I have caught many perfectly wild trout in Missouri from within 15 feet of my boots, but I also make an effort not to crunch gravel excessively or position myself directly over the fish. This isn't rocket science;you just don't want to make yourself dreadfully obvious to the fish.

Also, you'll need to get in the habit of presenting "natural" flies of lures. Matching the hatch can be helpful, but that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm just saying that you need to use a lure or fly that is at least somewhat representative of what the fish eat on a regular basis. Since trout eat a wide variety of foods, naturally a wide variety of flies can be effective. During the warm months outside of the parks, I wouldn't be without some Hare's Ear Nymphs, Pheasant Tail Nymphs, Stonefly Nymphs, and Scud patterns in a variety of sizes. For dries, Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, and Wullf-type attractor dries are all very useful. I rely a lot on egg patterns during the winter. But one specific pattern is not usually the key to success. You just have to be fishing a reasonable fly in a natural manner most of the time, although the fish do have their moments when they are exceedingly picky.

So next time you go trout fishing, give the water outside the parks a try. I'd suggest starting with the Blue Ribbon stretch of the Current River in South-central Missouri, the Niangua in southwestern Missouri, and the Red Ribbon portion of the Meramec in eastern Missouri. All three of these rivers offer relatively easy fishing that is fairly similar to trout park angling without the ridiculous crowds. Why not give them a try?

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Great post. All too often, we get one day to fish and we choose a park just because we feel like we can catch more fish. Thanks for reminding us of all of the other areas in Missouri.

Wooly Bugger Fly Co.


Then Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men." (Mark 1:17)

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  • 8 months later...

Ditch the treble hooks power bait corn salmon eggs and try the sport like a real man. On second thought stay in the parks because we don't need your additional litter out in the woods.

"In golf as in life it is the follow through that makes the difference."-unknown

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