A Layman's Guide To: Bennett Springs State Park, Lebanon, Missouri
"Hey baby, have you ever heard of a place called Bennett Springs?" my lovely wife asked last week. I had and responded that I had desired to go there for years but it was always a bit farther than I wanted to travel for a day trip fishing for trout. Roaring River was closer and I had been to it any number of times throughout my life. Bennett Springs tugged at my thoughts occasionally and I always thought "Someday". Well, with our recent move it cut the distance at least in half so at only a bit over an hour, no reason not to visit anymore.
So away we go!
We loaded the car up with our fishing gear, some extra clothes, a cooler for food and drink and one for our catch (expectations were high). We made the trip to Lebanon, Missouri and exited I-44 onto Highway 5 and then onto 64. A stop to get some additional fishing tackle (one can never have too much fishing tackle), some additional snacks and we were a go for the short trip on to Bennett Springs.
The country is slightly rolling hills, with trout guide services, fly fishing tackle shops complete with hand tied flies, and canoe services for the nearby Niangua River popping up every few hundred yards the closer we got. The park itself is a quiet, wooded area along the waterway which is created by Bennett Springs.
The spring delivers 100,000,000 gallons per day. That number did not hit home to me until we arrived at the water's edge. It's running far faster then I was used to while fishing at Roaring River; like, five times faster! Roaring River delivers about 20,000,000 gallons per day and against Bennett Springs I came to realize just how different the fishing would be. With that large a flow rate Bennett Springs would be more difficult to fish.
As I had invited my wife and youngest son along I had decided that we were going to spend the first part of the day hitting the lower section of the park. Below Whistle Bridge anglers are to use live or natural baits only. I thought that this would be the ideal location to try our hand and give my wife and son their best bet at landing a trout or two. But reality does not always coincide with thoughts and dreams and plans. This was more difficult than I imagined; neither she nor he had any luck at all. I had a bit, but nothing to write home about. I had two hits, and hooked none.
The problem was the flow; it was so quick that it was difficult to hold the bait in position long enough to attract a trout. Your bait flew through the chutes between the aquatic vegetation and rocks, often passing waiting trout by with nary a glance. Again, the difference between the two trout parks was quite apparent.
After a while we decided to call a halt and drove around a bit to explore. We found a nice spot with a picnic table and decided a lunch was in order. It was nice, cool and shaded with only one teensy weensy little problem: midges. A midge hatch was underway and as we tried to eat our sandwiches they swarmed around us in large clusters. It was the most leisurely hurried lunch I ever had.
We loaded up the car and continued to explore, moving upstream and down the full extent of the park. Another difference showed itself between the old and the new. Roaring River is fishable the entire length of the park, with grass banks along one side or the other the full stretch of the river before it leaves the park and continues on to Table Rock Lake; not so Bennett Springs. Much of its banks are tree lined and brush filled with only certain areas cleared for bank fishing. Much of it is only available to those who desire to wade in its chilly waters. Now I have no issue with this but my family, not so much. Wading knee deep a certain distance from the bank is one thing; wading waist deep for hundreds of yards in order to cover the water is another.
Eventually we arrived at the spring itself and found a few hardy souls fishing there. The upper area is Fly Fishing only and silly me, I thought that meant using a fly rod. Most were but there were some who were using an ultra light spinning rod and reel, casting small 1/64 oz. jigs into the crystalline blue waters of the deep hole the spring forged forth from. However there were some fly rod anglers who could easily cover close to a quarter of an acre of water by standing in the center of the water and casting all around them. I could imagine them in a Western river like the Bighorn or the Yellowstone casting forth to those trout surrounded by the majestic Rocky Mountains.
I unlimbered my newly purchased fly rod, one I had wanted for years and only recently purchased. I have been a small stream fisherman for most of my life, catching Green Sunfish, Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass and such and always wanted a short fly rod to add that extra sense of adventure. Well, now I have one. At 5' 6" it is short but with only a few moments of practice I was able to get it out to 35 to 40 feet fairly easily. I have to be sure and not be too quick with my movements, keeping that four count rhythm Norman Mclean spoke of in A River Runs Through It. I gave it a shot, casting one of my hand tied crawdad patterns into the deep blue waters, stripping the line and causing it to move past shadowy figures beneath the water's surface.
But to no avail. So, we head home skunked; fishless. But we always do our best to turn the day into a positive one if possible.
Enter The World's Largest Gift Store! Situated off of I-44 at exit 118. There is also a Redmon's Candy Store onsite as well and we visited both of them. First, we visited the Candy Store where we walked among the aisles looking at this and that. Baskets full of individually wrapped candies such as taffy and miniature candy bars and licorice and old fashioned types of candy all available for the same low price. Grab a bag and fill it up! Of course, we displayed considerable strength of character in not filling a bag for ourselves, only allowing our youngest to purchase Pop Rocks.
Then we headed over to the World's Largest Gift Store. It is huge, to say the least. Several aisles loaded to the gills with a wide variety of items. Tee shirts, Route 66 paraphernalia, science kits, stuffed animals, even an I Love Lucy 1940 car straight from the set. One booth was set up with various large puzzle pieces you could buy and create your own wall decoration. Each piece had some words of wisdom on it relating to family, joy, lie and combined would be a family treasure. You could easily spend several hours wandering around poking here and there in this nicely set up shop. Prices are reasonable and one could easily spend more than they should here. We settled on a little sign that says something to the effect that a home isn't a home without a Pug. My son loves Pugs so of course he HAD to have it.
Then we hit the road for home, with he and momma sampling the Pop Rocks while I cautioned them against drinking any cola while any remained in their mouths as legend has it this combination will blow you teeth clean out of your mouth.
And so ends another Weekend Adventure in our new home area. There are so many things to enjoy here and we will enjoy discovering them and then sharing them with you. Take care and have a Blessed day.