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We Couldn’t stop at just flies. now carrying everything but the fish!

Missouri

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The "Show Me State's" trout streams have something to offer everyone.

Before the late 1800's, there were no trout in the State of Missouri, but in that year, the Missouri Fish Commission, stocked rainbow fry in spring branches along the railroad line between the cities St Louis, Springfield, and Joplin. Some streams stocked included Maramec Spring branch, Spring River, and Crane Creek. By 1882, anglers reported rainbows spawning in Spring River and Crane Creek.

Although the commission had evidence that some spring fed branches could support wild rainbow trout without stocking, they established hatcheries and state fishing areas at Bennett Spring, Roaring River, and Montauk in the early 1900's. There, the state was able to raise and stock trout for many of anglers.

By the early ’60s, this turned into a way bigger deal. By adding a fourth trout park, Maramec Spring Trout Park, the state of Missouri was put on the map for it's great put-and-take trout stocking programs.

Missouri’s modern era trout program includes about 165 miles of coldwater trout streams, and one tailwater at Lake Taneycomo. The trout program also has many put-and-take streams that the MDC stocks several times annually (White Ribbon Areas), streams supporting wild rainbow populations with either no stocking or limited brown trout stocking (Blue Ribbon Areas), and streams into which the department stocks brown trout (Red Ribbon Areas).

Streams designated Blue Ribbon Areas include Missouri’s best and most productive trout streams, all supporting wild rainbow trout populations and, in a few larger streams, some very large brown trout. In these special streams, all trout must be 18 inches or larger before you can take one home, and anglers must use artificial flies and lures only to reduce catch-and-release fishing mortality. These streams all have the potential to grow some very large fish. The restrictive regulations allow this to happen while providing great catch and release trout fishing all year round. In our opinion, two of the best Blue Ribbon waters are the North Fork of the White River, and the Current River.

The North Fork Of The White River is located in Ozark County. This tributary to the famous White River, fishes extremely well between Rainbow or Double Springs, downstream to Dawt Mill Dam. With it's wide reaches, and a variety of different water characteristics, it is considered to be Missouri’s only Western-style trout fishery. The Blue Ribbon Area extends from the spring downstream four miles to Blair Bridge, and the Red Ribbon Area from Blair to Dawt.

The North Fork supports the largest wild rainbow population in the Midwest, with many 14- to 20-inch trout and a few very large brown trout. These fish are stocked downstream in the Red Ribbon Area. Here, Brown trout approaching 20 pounds have been caught from this river. It’s a big, brawling, rolling river on bedrock, furnished with shallow pools and rocky riffles. This type of water makes for ideal fly-fishing, hosting all of the classic insect hatches, like mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies. The water features public accesses for wading anglers, and for launching canoes, boats, or small float-boats about every four miles beginning at Kelly Shoal, just east of the junction of Highway 181 and H, and downstream from Rainbow Springs.

It’s an easy river to float, which makes it both an advantage and a curse for fly anglers. A canoe or small john-boat, allows easy access to the entire trout stream. However, it needs to be noted that the North Fork is one of Missouri’s most popular summer float destinations, with hundreds of recreational floaters and people looking to escape the heat, using the trout water daily. During the summer months, fish early in the morning before the rubber tube hatch reaches the trout water, usually around 10 or 11 a.m., then again late in the evening after the floaters leave the water. This time frame also increases the likelihood of your catching one of the large brown trout that move out of sheltered areas used during the day to more-accessibly open positions to feed.

The Current River Blue Ribbon Area, is smaller, easier to access, and closer to St. Louis, Columbia, Rolla, and Kansas City, making it easier for fly anglers to get a line wet. It does, at times however, receive more angling pressure than the North Fork due to being closer to these big cities.  The Current supports a very good, if not the best, brown trout population in any of Missouri’s trout streams. It is also developing it's own wild rainbow population as well.

The Blue Ribbon Area extends from Montauk State Trout Park boundary, downstream about six miles to the Cedar Grove access. This is all within the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, which is Missouri’s only national park. It is easily accessed by wading anglers, as well as by anglers floating through using a canoe or small johnboat. 

One of the better areas to fish, is on the upper Current River. Tom Shipley, who was part of the singing duo of Brewer and Shipley, named an area called “Million Dollar Mile." It is located just downstream from Montauk State Park near Tan Vat access. The stream here is shallow; making it strictly a wade-fishing situation. It has lots of overhead cover,  big chunks of rock, and undercut banks that extend about a half-mile down, to Baptist Camp Access. It is perfect water for Brown Trout, and chocked full of fish. If you are looking to catch one of the many gigantic Brown Trout that call this area home, try fishing a streamer called a "Name Changer."  It is fully articulated, and swims like no other under the water.