January fishing at the state parks can be challenging. The mayfly hatches have diminished, fishing on the sub-zero days hauling and casting with wool gloves/mittens test your patients. The rod guides will freeze with the best option to de-ice the rod by dipping it into the spring creek. The trout having seen your flies on previous trips are quicker to refuse your offerings. The small dry flies on the water are hard to see, almost impossible at times, due to the formation of fog on the water during the coldest of days. For me, it is a glimpse to the future with possible impaired vision due to cataracts. I will place the fly twenty or thirty feet up stream of me, not able to see it, reacting to a splash, a ring formation or any movement of my line. It can be frustrating, but it is not the number of trout to hand. For me, it is the solitude and serene beauty of fresh snow on the ground with the sounds of silence and heightens senses detecting any movement. One can detect the change of wind moving through bare trees or see a kingfisher’s flight to another perch.
The advantage to winter fishing is a peaceful park with very few people; eagles perched on branches above watching over you, with deer on the opposite bank browsing the ground for scant food. You can take your time fishing, walking up stream at a snails pace looking for feeding trout or finding a trout willing to strike a #20 dry fly.
Jan 2: I drove to Bennett Spring and arrived before 11 AM. Kevin Smith and Jeff House, a friend of Kevin’s were already fishing. Kevin drove up while I was getting ready to fish. The temperature was in the upper teens and predicted to hit twenty for a high. There was a persistent wind blowing upstream. There were six to eight people fishing in the area above the dam with a dozen or more below the dam. Kevin and Jeff had fished other areas with some success. The fishermen in view, wore too many clothes and appeared uncomfortable, not able to move freely using unenthusiastic roll cast with limited lines lengths. I managed to find a place to fish near the dam, hoping to work my way up stream as fishermen left for the day. The trout on the day were larger than previous trips. Many of the fishermen retreated and left the water. I had some time in the afternoon, a found a few trout fooled and taken on the #20 BWO. There were a few white midges on the surface. Kevin left at 2 PM. I talked with him a few days later; he said was cold and at 2 PM decided he had enough for the day.
Jan 8: I drove to Bennett Spring late morning; the temperature was zero in Springfield when I left and warmed to a balmy 8 degrees. The park was covered in snow with ducks and geese in the slough above the dam. There was a thick fog over the water whirling moving in the direction of the variable winds. The fishing was poor, difficult to see the fly due to the heavy fog on the water. Manage to bring a few to hand, and missed many more. A pair of eagles watched over me for several hours from their lofty spot in a sycamore branch on the bluff with deer working the bluff for forty minutes browsing on the ground for enough food to keep warm. I still enjoy winter with the peace and solitude covered in a white blanket of snow.
Jan 16: It is Saturday, I considered going to another park to fish, but decided to return to Bennett spring. It was an overcastted, temperate day with a mild wind. There were nearly 100 fishermen in zones 1 and 2. There was an outstanding hatch of mayflies, black caddis and the white midge. Due to the many fishermen in the water, I took to the waters near the dam. I had planned and did work my way up stream, but only covered a small portion of water. I did not have the correct fly this day with the dry fly taking only a few trout. Later in the day, with a longer line and pulling the dry under the surface found the trout more willing to take a fly. Probably a small soft hackle would have been a better selection.
Since there was a break in the cold, there was abundant wild life in the open fields. I saw sixty turkeys divided in five groups and a dozen deer on my drive home at dusk.
JAN 22: It was overcast, above freezing; I was on my way to Rolla to meet Jenn. There were several groups of deer and turkey in the field during my drive. There was a concern for a poor day of catching due to the high and muddy water in the Gasconade River and Little Piney River. Jenn and I met in the Wal-Mart Parking lot and commuted to Montauk for a day of fishing. We arrived shortly after 11 AM, Jenn purchased her 2010 fishing license and trout stamp at the park store. The proprietor at the store said it had rained 2.5 inches the night before. The stream was up 3-5 inches with some cloudiness but it was fishable. Jenn and I parked in our usual spot, changed into warm clothes and waders. There were a dozen or more cars parked, but there was plenty of room to fish with everyone on this day respecting each others space. We started fishing with jigs and weighted flies with little success. Later in the day, there was some surface activity near the banks
in protected pockets. A #16 fly worked to take a few, with a few mayflies emerging. We fished almost to 4 PM; Jenn finally gave in saying she could not feel her feet. We returned to our vehicle, when the horn went off, sound ing the end of the day to fish. We drove back to Rolla, had a meal together before retuning to St. Louis and Springfield.
JAN 31: I had the weekend off and made plans to fish on Saturday. After my drive home from work Friday night, it was clear that a sixty miles trip to Bennett spring would be fool-hardy. I spent Saturday shoveling snow and hanging around the house. The roads and streets cleared, that evening I decided to make the trip and drive to Bennett on Sunday. Sunday was just above freezing with a clear sky. I drove into the park near 11 AM. It was surprising the number of people and cars in the snow covered park. But, I had no competition in the area I normally fish. The stream level was up a little and the water was cloudy. I was not able to see three feet to the bottom. (I checked the gage after the trip and noted the stream peaked on JAN 24 to 3.75 feet, on JAN 31 descended to 2.6 feet with a normal stream level of 2.5 feet). Most of the fishermen I saw in zone 1 stayed out of the water, allowing me to fish in solitude and work my way up stream to top water
fish along the weed edges. There was some surface action, but the trout were picky and hard to fool. I did manage a half-dozen. There was a modest mayfly hatch, with black caddis and white midges seen on the water. An eagle made his way up stream at 3:30 PM, with many of the fishermen calling it quits for the day. I have one or two more trips left before the end of the winter catch and release season.