A Hour With A Master…….

This past week the weather has been brutal, more so for fishermen who tend to stand in one place with cool spring water slipping by them as they attempt to fool a fish that gets little respect in our part of the country. Of course I am talking about trout in one of our beautiful trout fisheries, Bennet Spring, where your legs are refreshingly cool while your upper body is baking in a brutal late summer day. Missouri is home to a plethora of fish native to our waters sporting colorful monikers like goggle eye, linesides, and calicos. While trout are not native, they thrive well in our cold big lake tailwaters and many spring branches around the southern part of our state. They are also wary, finicky, in a funny sort of way, and fun to mess with. We eat them, but I would not go so far as to say they are in a class with a mess of walleye or crappie out of hot peanut oil. Remember, some people also eat snails.

Trout, unfortunately, can be caught on just about anything. Their gastronomic preferences are probably the result of mostly being raised in concrete runs and fed a diet of fish food. You can catch them on a variety of natural baits, but also on stuff like power bait (a brightly colored concoction out of a jar with the eerie consistency of silly putty) dough bait and cheese. Not even an old channel cat, known for eating soap and disgusting, dead smelling stuff out of a jar (that must never be opened inside) eats as broad a variety of stuff as a trout. Thankfully, they also eat a variety of bugs and “normal” stuff like minnows and worms. So now, armed with what they eat, let’s talk about how to get them on a hook.

Why fool with trout in a rich fishery where you can tie into a mean large mouth bass or a string of delicious crappie instead? It is because when on the hook, a trout goes berserk. All fish resist being caught to varying degrees, but a trout goes all Beth Dutton when he feels the steel. This is especially true when you are using a fly rod and a 2# tippet or tapered leader and tossing a bug imitation the size of an overweight mosquito. Fly fishing is the stuff of legendary fishermen and purists who scoff at our heavy handed tactics involving native fish. You see, Ozarkians fish so they may enjoy a cooker filled with suckers or crappie, corn bread and a few taters to balance the plate. Trout fishermen, especially the purists, fish so they can end the day with a snifter of brandy or aged scotch while talking about baits such as “crackle backs” or “blue duns”. Ozarkians don’t spend a lot of time talking about bait and we tend to end the day drinking beer around the back of a pickup truck.

An experienced amateur teaching an inexperienced amateur

The truth is I am a fisherman who occasionally uses a fly rod as opposed to a true fly fisherman, with the latest Orvis or G. Loomis rod adorning the little gizmos on the hood of their truck designed to showcase their thousand dollar rods. That being said, I love to fly fish. I readily accept the disdain from the purists who likely share stories every evening about the hillbilly with the fly rod who was down the creek obviously better suited to a trot-line or crappie rod, than fly rod. Enter my son-in-law, Tom, who asked me to teach him to fly fish. I put on my best game face, grabbed a couple of fly rods and got him started with a two basic casts and a few of the nuances of fly fishing . I also took him to the lair of one of the best fly fishermen in the world, Charlie Reading, of Reading’s Fly Shop near Bennet Spring who has been fooling trout, literally, all over the world with the smoothness of a practiced surgeon. Charlie is a master of all things involving the manipulation of a fly rod. Seriously, he is the Tiger Woods of fly fishing and an hour with him still leaves me in awe. This was a risky move on my part, as Tom has only me to compare with the great Charlie Reading. Reading isn’t one dimensional…..he is also a salesman. Tom left with a great basic outlay for this pastime. Sorry Tom, I made the introduction……the rest is on you.

The master, Charlie Reading, at work.

You have to be at least 70 and lived in the sometimes violent world of Law Enforcement to appreciate the serenity that is a part of fly fishing, hooking up with a trout and turning the exhausted fish back to fight another day. If it brings a fraction of the peace this has provided me over the years to Tom, I will have added years to Tom’s life. To top it off, he has been coached by one of the best in the world……..and a duffer who made the introduction.

Have a great week.


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