Ask an angler about rainbow trout, and you’ll see a dreamy, wistful look cross their eyes. They may even drool a little. Perhaps it’s because trout taste yummy. Or maybe because they’re so beautiful— sleek and silver, freckled with spots, a pink blush streaking their sides. More likely, it’s because trout swim in only the cleanest, clearest, spring-fed streams, so fishing for them always involves stunning scenery. Or, maybe—just maybe—that dreamy look happens because trout are so fun to catch.
If you’ve never fished for rainbows, Missouri’s four trout parks offer a perfect place to hone your skills. The main fishing season at the parks runs from March 1 through October 31. Every night during that time, hatchery workers stock each park with hundreds of trout. The next morning, the newly released fish are hungry—and gullible.
Before casting a line, learn the rules. Certain sections of the parks may allow only catch-andrelease fishing or forbid certain lures. Ask for details when you buy your trout tag.
Remember: Early birds catch more trout. Newly released fish have never felt a hook and will strike at lures with gusto. Once they’ve been hooked a few times, trout quickly get lockjaw. You can catch plenty from the bank, but wading lets you cast to lunker holes unreachable from shore. Some rocks are slippery and the current can be swift, so watch your step and have an adult nearby. Whether you wear waders or shoes, make sure their soles are made of a solid material. Footwear with felt or spongy soles isn’t allowed.
Be courteous to other anglers. Keep quiet and don’t throw rocks. Walking in front of other anglers is rude, but watch out for backcasts when you walk behind them. Line from fly fishers can unfurl backwards an astounding distance, and trout lures make ugly—and painful—earrings!
Trout eat tiny insects, small fish and everything in between. Your lure should look like prey or smell yummy (at least to a fish).
For dough bait, slip a bobber on your line, cast upstream and let the bait drift with the current. Trout bite lightly, so keep your line tight. Reel in slack as your lure flows downstream or you’ll miss lots of nibbles. Fish a jig the same way, but jerk the rod every so often to twitch the jig in a trout-tempting way.
If you get bored watching bobbers drift, try a spinner. Cast out and reel in just fast enough to make the spinner spin. Every few seconds, stop and give the lure a little jerk. To a hungry trout, this looks like a struggling minnow.
Trout can act more finicky than your 2-yearold sister at supper. If you’re getting skunked, ask another angler for tips. Sometimes just changing the color of your lure will turn your stringer from fishless to fishfull.
If you feel a trout sip up your lure, wait a split second then give a medium tug on the rod. Trout are dainty diners, and if you tug too hard, you’ll pull the hook right out of its mouth. Bring the fish to your net quickly. That way, if you decide to release the trout, it won’t be too tired to swim. Keep it in the water while you gently remove the hook. To revive a spent trout, hold it with its head pointing upstream until it swims out of your hand.
Should you decide to keep your catch, remember that once you slip your fourth trout on the stringer, you must quit fishing. After that, the only thing to hold you over until the next day will be wistful dreams of chasing rainbows.
Nichole LeClair Terrill