My not-so-recent past includes no small amount of trout fishing.
Back in my days as a resident of the northwest, some friends and I enjoyed hiking to pristine streams and lakes at remote locations high in the Washington Cascades to do some fly fishing and catch native cutthroats and rainbows. I’m pretty sure my aging body wouldn’t be nearly as receptive to rambling five miles and covering 2,500 vertical feet up a steep mountain trail to reach a good fishing spot at the 6,500-foot level, so I’m glad opportunities exist in southern Missouri to catch trout within a couple of hundred yards of where your truck is parked.
Last Sunday, I got my first taste of trout fishing in the Jillikins, and I must say I was not disappointed. A friend and I went to Dent County’s Montauk State Park with hopes of taking advantage of the team effort of the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Department of Conservation (MDC) to raise thousands of rainbows and a smaller number of browns and stock them in the cold, spring-fed headwaters of the Current (one of only a handful of rivers in United States to flow as far as it does without being dammed that in turn sports a significant stretch protected by the National Park Service).
My friend is no stranger to catching trout in Missouri, and has more than 30 years of experience pulling rainbows out of the Current River. He even makes his own bait from a secret recipe involving cheese and other ingredients, and trout apparently love the stuff, because I fed a lot of it to many of them swimming in the stretch of the Current we fished.
Just like a particularly humorous car salesman I know likes to say about himself, trout are wily individuals. Rather than inhale and swim away with the attractive tidbit at the end of a fisherman’s line, they tend to “bump” it and are pretty good at bumping bait right off a treble hook (and probably snicker as they munch it down).
But wily or not, I didn’t miss all of them. I actually caught nine, including two big ones (one of which was 16 inches long, the same as the big city-grown cucumber a lady recently brought to the Herald office). I truly enjoyed releasing them back into their home, realizing that while they may not be native, they’re 100-percent wild once they’re in that river.
My friend aptly describes trout fishing as an activity requiring “finesse,” and using a technique effectively honed over the decades, he deftly landed about twice as many as me, and kept his limit of four.
My impression of the whole deal was nothing by positive.
Any time I can get outside, be surrounded by forest, have my ears full of the sound of flowing water and stand near bluffs consisting of some of the most ancient exposed rock on the continent, I’m doing pretty well. Add to that some fishing (highly successful fishing at that), and there’s your basic good day.
And the fact that the cost of a daily trout “tag” is only $3 doesn’t hurt, either. In fact, I know of few ways to enjoy such quality entertainment for three bones (sure, you also need to have a regular yearly fishing permit which runs about $12, and I rented a set of hip waders for six bucks, but the price of a tag is still great).
I didn’t even mind when I managed to hook my left index finger – barb and all. The hooks we were using were small, and I just laughed at myself and yanked it out after determining I wasn’t going to be able to “work” it out (it only bled a little and the small puncture wound seemed all but heeled the next day).
Anyway, trout may not be native to Missouri, but they sure as heck thrive in the waters of many of its rivers. And I’m thankful to the DNR (which runs the state parks system) and MDC (which runs the trout hatcheries at several state parks that have cold-running rivers) for a well-executed combined effort that maximizes that fact.
For some really cool education about trout fishing in Missouri, log onto http://mdc.mo.gov/fishing/fishing-how-tos/trout-fishing.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: email@example.com.