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Blue Ribbon Trout Streams
This page was updated 4/29/09

Daily limit is 1 trout at least 18" long. Artificial
lures and flies only -- soft plastics strictly forbidden.

Don't take our word for it. Click here to read the code for yourself.

The Blue Ribbon trout waters include:
Barren Fork Creek * Blue Springs Creek * Crane Creek
Current River * Eleven Point River * Little Piney Creek
Mill Creek * North Fork of the White River * Spring Creek

If you are one of those few proud hardcore fly-fishermen, then this page is for you. Missouri’s Blue Ribbon Trout Waters are among the most challenging trout waters you will encounter anywhere in the world. All of the Blue Ribbon waters (yes, even the Current River) have a naturally reproducing rainbow trout population, and the strict regulations are designed to protect that population while allowing for a true trophy to be harvested.

The larger rivers in this group are quite different from the small babbling brooks. In the smaller creeks, many believe the fishing is challenging because there aren’t many fish. This is very untrue. It is true, however, that most wild trout do not survive their first year, tending to be eaten by larger fish, turtles, snakes, otters, herons, etc., so by the time they are yearlings (still less than 6” long), they have been very well educated by the school of hard knocks. They are shy of shadows, movement and sound – especially the sound of a fisherman kicking over a rock while wading. Not to mention that they’ve spent their entire life eating natural food – usually aquatic insects. They know what the insects look like and how they flow in the water. If it doesn’t look right, they don’t eat it.

That said, catching a wild trout is fairly simple. Note: “simple” and “easy” are not the same thing. If you can read the water (see Where to Fish for some pointers), if you can cast a half-way decent presentation, and if you’re pretty good at managing how the current effects your fly-line, then you already have the basics in place. Aside from those three qualities, you need a good fly, you need to walk slowly and carefully, and you need to be very observant to recognize the bites. That’s it.

What is a “good fly”, you ask? Well, the general rules are also fairly simple. Make the flies generic enough to represent a variety of natural insects -- Adams, Pheasant Tails, Hares Ears, etc. Also, you should keep the majority of your flies to a size #14 or smaller to best represent what these fish are used to seeing. HOWEVER, once a fish grows to the size that grazing on nymphs and scud will no longer keep his tummy full, they'll start hunting. That's when big streamers, big ugly rubber-legged nymphs, and big meaty dries & terrestrials will get a serious look. Didja notice I said "big" three times in that sentence? You'll usually catch fewer fish on these streams with giant flies, but the average sized fish will be bigger -- especially in the larger waters. On the little tiny creeks, you can fish all day with a giant fly and never get more than a hit or two, but those hits will be from very nice fish. In general, wild trout are not terribly picky regarding what they eat, as long as the other pieces of the puzzle are in place, though: if the fly looks normal, drifts natural, and they don't know you're there, they'll hit it.

Check out the other types of Missouri trout waters
White Ribbon Waters * Red Ribbon Waters
Trout Parks * Urban Trout Areas
Lake Taneycomo

Barren Fork Creek is thought by many to be the most difficult stream in Missouri to fish. If you have a good day there, you have achieved something worth bragging about. Barren Fork is an indirect tributary of the Current River, so if you’re down for a long weekend, it makes a perfect diversion. The trout numbers are a bit low, but the fish are often aggressive feeders.

Blue Springs Creek is the closest trout water to St. Louis. From downtown, it’s only a bit more than an hour away, just South of Bourbon. Access to the river is good, and fishing’s not bad either. It’s a tributary of the Meramec River, so it can also be a good diversion for fishermen heading in that direction.

Crane Creek is a bit more than a half-hour Southwest of Springfield, and it is what a wild trout creek should be. One of only a few remaining homes to the McCloud River redband trout, a stunning fish, this stream is Missouri’s back-up plan, should some mishap destroy our hatchery brood. Crane Creek is strictly protected, because these fish will be used to rebuild that hatchery system, if need be.

Little Piney Creek, Mill Creek and Spring Creek are typically discussed together, because they are so close to each other and the waters of the three creeks all come from the same underground spring system. The springs feeding the three creeks are basically separated by a couple of mountain ridges, and it all ends up in the Big Piney. The creeks are very similar, except that Mill Creek is much smaller, necessitating more walking to find deeper riffles and pools. Otherwise, if you can catch fish on one creek, you can do so on all three. All three creeks can be found South of I-44 roughly between Rolla and Fort Leonard Wood.

The Current River, the Eleven Point River, and the North Fork of the White River will be discussed together, as well, because they are all big rivers in the South-Central part of the state, and they tend to draw the same type of crowd. These rivers are stocked in various locations, all provide outstanding habitat for growing some very big fish, and all have areas remote enough that the fish are now reproducing naturally. What a great weekend getaway it is, renting a canoe for a couple of days of leisurely floating, fishing and camping. It doesn’t get any better.

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