Trout Park Fishing (Bennett Spring version)

Never have I been surrounded by so many trout. An 18-inch rainbow is lounging in the current, close enough to poke with my rod tip. A couple of fat 12-inchers are close enough to kick, if I could move my feet fast enough to hit them in the thigh-deep water. Others are splashing and wallowing near the surface.

Unfortunately, they have very little interest in what I’m throwing at them. I have caught two in about two hours – not a great average. After rifling through my fly box and changing flies the way a politician changes opinions I finally caught a fish on a #22 zebra nymph; a reminder that I need to strengthen my bifocals.

I’m fishing the Zone 1 water (flies only) but I doubt that action is swifter in Zone 2 (flies and artificial lures) or Zone 3 (soft plastic or natural baits only).

In my defense I’ve also missed a couple  of strikes and no one around me – and there are a couple dozen fishermen within sight – is apparently having any more success. And there is nothing more noticeable to a fisherman that what other fishermen are not catching.

 I’m at Bennett Spring State Park, a pretty 3,100-acre spot about 10 miles from Lebanon, Mo., and 80 miles northeast of Springfield. The source of all the fishing excitement is a spring that pumps about 100,000,000 gallons of cold water daily. This, naturally, forms a stream that winds for a mile or so before emptying into the Niangua River.

Bennett Spring is one of Missouri’s four “trout parks.” Trout have been stocked here since 1900. The state took over in 1924.

You would think the trout would be somewhat gullible. They are stocked nightly from a hatchery on the park grounds. But I don’t know why the Missouri DOC bothers. No one that I’ve seen is making much a dent in the trout population.

I plan to try again later.

Find out about the fishing and more at Bennett Spring State Park at (417) 532-4618 or go to