It's only June but it feels like August. The air is heavy with humidity - the heat index hovers around 102 degrees F, mudflats, sloughs and previously flooded creek bottoms are nurseries for flying, biting, stinging, and bloodsucking insects of all manner in huge numbers. The waters are thick, sluggish, murky, and resemble chocolate milk. Summer in the backwaters of southern Illinois, tightlines and jugs for catfish, arrows for carp and gar.
As I flung yet another carp into the pile yesterday and wiped sweat and blood from the small buffalo gnat bites from my face I began to seriously long for cool, clean, clear running water, the sparkle and flash of a beautiful trout on the end of fly rod in the mornings first light. I wanted to stand in the clear rushing water and feel that zen like experience that trout fishing once brought me.
It's hard to believe that just this time last year I had my first trout fishing experience. Over the years I'd always thought of trout fishing as an almost elitist type of angling. I'm a backwater river rat, scruffy boats, bows, always a ragged looking retriever along to fetch things up and out of the mud and muck that can suck your boots off. I'm an ace when it comes to catfish, carp, gar and bowfins; trash fish to so many, food on the table for river rats. Trout fishing always seemed at the completely other end of the spectrum in the fishing hierarchy after all, how many serious trout anglers do you know that can also excel at noodling or hogging (pulling catfish and turtles from holes by hand underwater)?
Trout fishing with the fancy accoutrements, the expensive rods, vest, waders, flies it all just seemed comepletely out of reach to the wild woman from the back waters whose waders were camoflauged and used in duck blinds and swamps. Fortunately I was offered a chance to fish one of Missouris favorite trout waters at Bennett Spring along with a group of other midwest outdoor writers and photographers. The now infamous Girls Gone Trout trip.
Our hosts at Bennett Spring, Jim and Carmen Rogers, the concessionaires made sure that those of new the experience were successful. From Jim's great lessons in fly tying, to his hands on teaching in cool clear water he opened my eyes to world of angling previously unknown to me.
Most importantly I learned that trout fishing is for every angler - it is not any more of an elitist type of fishing than any other. I learned that I could trout fish. I learned that I loved trout fishing, I loved cool clear running water when the trout thrived. I loved the zenlike quality of a good trout river that one finds after hiking back to a secret spot.
I began visiting the Trout Unlimited site after that fateful trip the clear cool running water at Bennett Spring, I had our local ibrarian order books about trout fishing and destinations, I began to dream of the quiet, the beauty, the excitement of trout fishing in blue ribbon trout waters. I added trout fishing in some of the last best trout waters in our nation to my bucket list.
I also sighed a lot after I returned home as I slapped at mosquitoes, kicked at watersnakes, and drug in turtles and catfish for the larder. After that fateful first trout trip to one of the nations finest midwest trout areas my river rat backwater lifestyle just didn't offer what those days of the my first trout experience did.
The more I read the more I wondered, how long will the great coldwater fisheries in the west last? Would they still be there when I finally crossed that item off my bucket list? Thankfully Trout Unlimited works tirelessly to promote the conservation of these waters so that someday, with my bag full of books, notes and dog eared copies of the Trout Unlimited magazine, laptop, and cameras in tow I will one day be able to wade out into the beautiful waters of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho to enjoy the sparkle of a trout on the end of the line as it jumps and bounces and fights. Whether it be in the western states or closer (and more available to me) Missouri Ozark streams, I know now that trout fishing is indeed for everyone and will continue to be available for us all thanks to so many current conservation efforts.
That thought makes these hot sultry days with the catfish and the carp bearable. I'm still slapping bugs, and kicking water snakes in sweat soaked clothes,stained tea colored by the murky brown water, but soon, very soon I tell myself, I'll return to cool, clear running water to heal my heart and my head in a way that only trout fishing can.