Bennet Spring: Disappointment

Tuesday, February 07, 2012 , , 0 Comments

A week and a half ago, Bret and I made the trek through the Ozarks to Bennet Spring. Having heard so much about this trout fishery, accompanied with tempting weather, we had to check it out ourselves. 

First we saw the trout hatchery itself, this is impressive to say the least. If you ever visit Bennet be sure to walk up and down the hatchery. I have never seen so many fish in my life. Thousands of trout ranging from a few inches to a few pushing several pounds. 

Yes, those are all trout. 

After seeing the hatchery, Bret and I hit the water, choosing the least populated spot we could find. There were a ton of people, far too many for my standards, and at an estimated 8000 trout per square mile we didn't think we could go too wrong in choosing a location with less people. The spring itself is gorgeous and the surrounding scenery is quite nice as well. 

That said, the fishing was poor. We saw very few bent rods throughout the morning. Trout after trout looked at our flies, only to turn away inches after inspecting them. All seemed most interested in the initial fall of the fly more than the drift, a trait I believe I came to understand earlier. 

After migrating downstream, we saw a group of guys slaying fish on fly rods. Upon closer inspection we learned they were using glo balls--repeatedly hitting the water, creating a splash, then picking it up seconds later to repeat. These guys easily could have been having 100+ fish days. Finding it much to crowded at that spot we went a few yards upstream. Bret put on a glow ball and I a green hares ear. Bret imitated the pattern we observed and immediately hooked in to a trout. I hooked into one on my hares ear, but had to horse it to prevent it from crossing the lines of the 25+ people not far downstream. Not that they didn't mind crossing my line repeatedly and hanging me up.  That said I lost the fish. 

This is when we began to notice something. Pellets--everywhere. Lining the banks on the bottom of the spring were pellets. These fish were gorging themselves just as they were raised in the hatchery, and the repeated splashing of glow balls tricked these fish into a feeding response. 

Finding it too crowded and with me passing borderline angry at the disrespect shown by fellow anglers we headed to our original location. Both Bret and I tied on Chamois pattern onto our lines and were able to hook into a fish each. Even here though we were only able to get fish interested by dragging the fly along the bottom and noticed pellets everywhere--which we hadn't previously noticed. I believe this explained, in part, why the fish were so interested in the initial fall of the fly, they were checking to see if it was a pellet. 

Overall, Bret and I left with a distasteful experience of Bennet. There were too many people for comfort, which was heightened by their lack of courtesy, and the fact that the fish seemed interested only in pellets and that this could provide so productive compared to traditional patterns annoyed me. 

Now I am far from a trout snob, in fact I am a trout newbie all things considering. I have nothing wrong with stocking trout and am not even willing to participate in the wild v. stocked debate. Given the number of anglers on the water, in some fisheries stocking is required, and I do not have a problem with that. My main issue was the pellets lining the stream. On other stocked waters, the trout have to naturalize quickly in order to survive, resorting to insects and fish as sources of food. Here it remained pellets. I view fishing not as a means to put fish on my table or even to see how many fish I can catch. While no one wants to be skunked, the experience is far more important to me, in other words those moments when you don't have a bent rod. Bennet just seemed unsporting.  

Now I know and have talked to anglers who have fished Bennet and had fantastic dry fly action, or great success on other patterns. I know there are several members from the club which frequent Bennet and I am not one to judge others. Perhaps my experience was an anomaly. However, given the drive and my ever expanding list of waters to explore I do not expect nor desire to return anytime soon. 

First fish of the year, Rainbow Trout, Chamois Fly.