A couple of weeks ago, I journeyed down to Montauk State Park in search of fly-fishing for trout. It is about a three-hour drive from Columbia. It’s about 2½ hours on U.S. 63 to Licking, passing through several small towns and Rolla, then another half hour on a narrow, twisting road to the park. But it is the closest place to fish for trout in Missouri after March 1.

To be sure, the winter stocking program of the Missouri Department of Conservation at Cosmo-Bethel Lake does partially remedy the “cabin fever” illness beginning Nov. 1, but quite often it is just too danged cold to be out, particularly in January and February. Guess I am just a fair-weather angler.

So, to relieve my long winter season of suffering, I assailed and flailed the waters of the Upper Current River at Montauk State Park. Thanks to a surge of spring water into Pigeon Creek, the temperature of the water doesn’t vary much from a trout-happy 54 degrees. The Conservation Department has taken advantage of this water temperature and long ago established a fish hatchery in cooperation with Missouri State Parks.

While us hardened trout fishermen (there are not many fisherwomen) are OK with not catching much, after a great first day, not a trout rose to feast on my artificial offerings on days 2, 3 and 4. If I had taken a book with me on the Upper Current, I would have thrown that at the waters.

I usually keep a trout or two per day, but because of the eagerness of the trout on the first day, I released all those on the assumption that the next few days would be as successful. I was wrong.

But, hope springs eternal, and as this is published, I will be on the water, hoping for a strike at Roaring River State Park. My contact there assures me that the fishing is “great.” It is, at best, a long trip — about five hours to Cassville, through Jefferson City, a bypass at Lake of the Ozarks, Macks Creek, Buffalo, around Springfield, onto to I-44 to Mt. Vernon, then Monett to Cassville, and another narrow and even more twisty road to the park.

I have made that journey many times, and my vehicle and I know the way all too well.

The biggest difference between Montauk and Roaring River is the number of pools. The “fly fishing only” section at Montauk is essentially one big pool where wading is not only allowed, it is pretty much required. Roaring River State Park has a series of pools where wading is not allowed. I like the series of pools, as my addled brain assures me that if one pool doesn’t produce, another will.

To be sure, I have all sorts of other rigs in addition to several fly-fishing rods and reels. After all, I am a member of a number of fishing organizations, including Trout Unlimited. But those spinning rods and reels — 30 or so — have seen little use in the past few years, when I devoted all of my fishing time to fly-fishing.

When I view them in their rod holder, I feel a bit sad. But then, I consider all those trout at Roaring River State Park, and I am consoled.

Wish me luck, although as I keep telling my friends, luck has little to do with success. It is skill. Maybe some day I will have that.


About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

Ken Midkiff, formerly the director of the Sierra Club Clean Water Campaign, is now chair of the city’s Environment and Energy Commission and serves on the board of directors of the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.

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