Much of Missouri's fly fishing tradition began right here, at a spring creek in the Northern Ozarks called Bennett Spring Branch. This was the first Trout Park in Missouri, and it is still, bar none, the most popular. The reason for this is an equal mix of the world class trout fishing the park provides, and the deep rooted tradition it embodies in the sport of fly-fishing.
The park is really quite similar to the other Trout Parks in the State. Its two mile long length is divided into several zones in order to accommodate all types of fisherman. It is also stocked with rainbows, and open to catch and keep fishing every day from March 1 through October 31. During the wintertime it is open to catch and release fishing on the weekends with flies.
Zone 1 is a fly only area even during the catch and keep season. This area allows spin fisherman to legally use single hooked rooster tail spinners and marabou jigs, while allowing fly fisherman to pursue trout as well. This section mostly is put and take, but there is a short catch and release area that is known to produce fifty trout days, as well as the occasional ten pound brown.
Zone 2 allows all artificial lures and flies, with single or treble hooks, as long as no soft plastics are used. Spin fisherman do well here on marabou jigs and small spinners, and fly fisherman do well on San Juan Worms, egg patterns, and woolly buggers. There are a few big trout in this section, but the vast majority are stocking size rainbows.
Zone 3 is quite possibly the section of stream in Missouri that is managed in the oddest way. Natural baits, prepared baits, and softplastics only are allowed. Artificial lures or flies are not legal. Again, most of the fish present are stocking size rainbow trout, but the occasional lunker brown trout will swim up from the Niangua River's trophy brown trout area, and zone 3 also has an excellent population of smallmouth bass.
In all, Bennett Spring State Park is a place that all true trout fishermen in the Ozarks should visit. Before the bottom drop dams in the White River System created trout rich tailwaters, it was the undisputed trout capital of the Ozark Mountains. It may not be the best anymore, but it is a stream certainly worth visiting.
Always verify fishing regulations at the park and/or at the MDC website.
Camping at Bennett Spring State Park:
Campground 1 is open year-round with water available April 15 through Oct. 15. Campgrounds 2 and 3 are open from April 15 through Oct. 31 (with water available) Campgrounds 4 and 5 are open Feb. 25 through Oct. 31 (with water available).
Reservations for Campgrounds 1 and 4 can be made for stays during the on-season (Feb. 25 through Oct. 31). Reservations for Campgrounds 2 and 3 can be made for stays between April 15 and Oct. 31. Campground 5 offers first-come, first-served sites only.