A month from now, the Niangua River will be swarming with paddlers enjoying fun and scenic floats. This mean fisherman have just a few weeks left to enjoy one of Missouri’s greatest river fisheries with few interruptions from flotillas. Beat the crowd. Take a trip to the Niangua now and experience an incredible day of trout fishing.
The Niangua flows through a beautiful landscape of looming forest and unique rock features, and offers some of the best trout and smallmouth bass fishing in the state. You can wade fish from many access points, or you can launch a craft and float fish. If you don’t have your own, rent a canoe or kayak from one of many local liveries.
On a recent trip, Scott Gerlt of Mid-Missouri Trout Unlimited and I floated a roughly five-mile stretch of the river. In about six hours of strictly fly fishing, we must have landed 40 trout. This isn’t a “fish story,” that’s truly a conservative estimate trout brough to net that day.
We were floating in my raft, so we had to use two vehicles to shuttle ourselves. We paid a small, fair amount of money to launch at the private Riverside Campground and also to take out at the private NRO campground. This stretch of river took us through prime trout water.
The first mile or so of this stretch of river put us above Bennett Spring. A lot of trout must leave the spring branch and head up river, because the fishing was outstanding. Scott manned the front of the raft for most of the trip, and cleaned my clock catching at least twice as many fish as I while floating. I made up for it by beaching the raft and wading the hotspots, which included pools above and below riffles, and in the heart of the riffles themselves.
We fished nymphs until we reached the spring. Hare’s Ears, Prince Nymphs, and Copper Johns were all effective. We fished sizes 12-18. It didn’t seem to really make much of a difference. We set the nymphs a couple of feet under strike indicators and it wouldn’t take long before they’d disappear under the weight of another trout.
By the time we reached where Bennett Spring dumps into the river, the day had warmed considerably. Caddis and mayflies began to emerge. Scott and I were unable to resist the temptation of dry fly fishing, so we both switched rigs and began taking trout on top. In the short stretch of river from the spring to the Highway 64 Bridge we hammered rainbows on dry flies. The action was as fast and intense as one could hope to find on any given western trout water.
Once we were past the MDC Bennett Spring Access just below the bridge, the fishing began to slow. By the time we reached NRO, we were both worn out from landing so many trout and rowing my giant raft down the river while a headwind continuously tried to blow us backwards.
Bennett Spring is one of the most popular State Parks in Missouri, with visitors coming from all across the Midwest each year to fish, camp, picnic and more. The spring from which the park derives its name is the third largest in the state, producing an average of 100,000,000 gallons of water a day that pour into the Niangua River. During the season, trout are stocked in the spring each day. Some of these make their way to the Niangua River This makes for prime trout fishing. Camping in the park or staying in one of the cabins is a great experience.
Many of the local private campgrounds and cabin facilities are also exceptional. On this trip Scott and I stayed in a great little cabin at Weaver’s Tackle and Campground. I also highly recommend One-Eyed Willy’s for a cabin or Hidden Valley Outfitters for camping. For me, no trip to the Niangua is complete with stopping in to Reading’s Fly Shop to catch with Charlie. He’s one of the most knowledgable fly fishermen I know, and an all around interesting fellow. His shop rivals the best I’ve been in, and boasts the greatest selection of fly fishing book I’ve found anywhere.
See you down the trail…