Fly fishing gear

Just a peek when addicted

Trout fisherman Bob Berger sets the bar high as he casts graceful loops of fly fishing line over the swirling, clear stream at Roaring River State Park.

“My goal is to catch 100 trout in one day,” said the fisherman from Monett, Missouri. He and a handful of fishing mates were herded head to toe on a sunny but cold morning on November 19 at the trout fishing park.

“They are slow today. Usually the action is continuous,” said Berger.

The fishery can be on fire or slow as honey in the winter during the trout catch and release season at Roaring River. Missouri State Park south of Cassville, Missouri allows catch-and-release fishing on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The season opens on the second Friday in November and ends on the second Monday in February.

Anglers can catch any trout they can collect on a hook, as long as they let every fish go.

Anglers should only use fishing flies, but the hair jigs commonly used to catch crappie are considered flies under the park’s fishing regulations. Anglers can put their flies in the water with any type of rod and reel. Fly rods are generally used, but some prefer light clothing.

Swimming pools separated by short shoals characterize the spring-fed Roaring River as it winds about 2.5 km through the scenic parkland. Its source is Roaring River Spring which pumps 20 million gallons of water per day into the creek. Its 50-degree water is perfect for cold-water rainbow trout raised by the Missouri Department of Conservation at Roaring River Hatchery. It is located near the spring at the north end of the state park.

Several hundred rainbow trout are stocked in the creek just before the catch and release fishery opens. More trout are stocked periodically as the season progresses.

The number of anglers is usually small enough that anglers have entire ponds and long sections of water filled with trout. It is a far cry from catch and guard season when anglers occasionally fish shoulder to shoulder along the creek. Anglers can keep trout from March 1 to October 1. 31, and the regulations are different.

Discussions with anglers on that cold November morning revealed a menu of favorite fishing flies. Craig McMahon from Republic, Missouri, lobs the fuzzy fluffy flies. Or he lob the San Juan worms that look like little bits of wire. Dark green is a good color in Roaring River, he said. The clear line is the key.

Flies that look like ants work well for McMahon throughout December, he said.

Peace, quiet, and great fishing call Bob Black every fall. He fished at Roaring River most of his life.

“I started coming here with my dad when I was 8 or 9 in the 1950s,” said Black, who is now 74 and lives in Monett. “We were trying to see who could catch five fish in five casts. My dad was a minnow muddler man. A minnow muddler with a spinner was his favorite fly.

“Back then you could catch your trout and take it to the lodge, and they would cook it for you,” Black recalls. The park is remarkably the same today as when he visited it as a child, he noted.

Many of the park’s buildings and trails were constructed in the 1930s by employees of the Civilian Conservation Corps. A visit to the park can be packed with activities even if fishing is not on the program. The hiking trails vary from easy to moderate difficulty. People are welcome to visit the trout hatchery and see Roaring River Spring. There are play areas for young people. It is nice to walk in the park on a cool winter day.

Most anglers don’t have high hopes of a 100 fish day like Berger. Has he already achieved this goal?

“No,” he said. “The closest I’ve come to is 95. It was two years ago, and I’ve been fishing all day.”

Flip Putthoff can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @NWAFlip.

Craig McMahon from Republic, Missouri, lands a trout on November 19, 2021 at Roaring River. (NWA Democrat-Gazette / Flip Putthoff)


The calm water reflects a trout fisherman on November 19, 2021, along the creek. (NWA Democrat-Gazette / Flip Putthoff)


Bob Berger of Monett, Missouri, rigged November 19, 2021 for fly fishing. (NWA Democrat-Gazette / Flip Putthoff)


Abigail Rasico equips herself on November 19, 2021 with a fly that she tied up in an outdoor education class at Bentoville High School. Outdoor students tried their hand at fly fishing in Roaring River with the help of Bella Vista fly tyers. (NWA Democrat-Gazette / Flip Putthoff)


A fisherman releases a trout on November 19, 2021, at Roaring River State Park. It is best to handle trout as little as possible when releasing them. (NWA Democrat-Gazette / Flip Putthoff)

Anglers can catch and release trout at Roaring River State Park from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Friday through Monday through the second Monday in February. Fishing is only done by fly. Hair jigs are considered flies in Roaring River.

A Missouri fishing license and annual Missouri trout license are required for anglers 16 years of age and over.