Targeting Trophy Trout

During my stint in the Army, I fished in the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and the South China Sea, but before I went to the North Fork of the White River in Ozark County, the largest fish I ever caught weighed 256 pounds.

Ok, that record still stands.

I did go to the North Fork in search of a trophy, however. Defining a trophy on that river requires no relativistic value judgments. A portion of the river is one of four of the Conservation Department's Trophy Trout Management areas. Therefore, a trophy can clearly be construed as a trout exceeding 15 inches, the legal minimum size limit.

A 14 3/4 inch trout is not a trophy and a 15 1/4 fish is. Would that all things in life were so logical and straightforward!

Trout fishing in general is pretty simple and uncluttered. Essentially, all you need is a rod, line, hook, sinker and a bit of savvy. Trout fishing luxuries include a net, boots and a vest with a bunch of pockets. You can also take a canoe, but you'll use it mostly as a pack horse. Wading is the only productive way to fish most trout rivers.

If you've not yet visited the free-flowing portion of the North Fork of the White River, you have at least one love affair left in your life. Few anglers can help but be enamored of this beautiful, spring-f ed waterway that cavorts through wild and rugged forest land.

Let's face facts, though. Beauty won't bend a fishing rod, nor can you bake scenic vistas with lemon and butter, so let's return to the subject of trout.

Catching trout on the river is easy, once you understand this simple little fact about wild river trout: they stubbornly refuse to go through a cafeteria line.

Trout normally feed by taking up strategic positions in the river and letting the current wash food to them. If you anchor a bait to the bottom you might have to wait a long time for a trout to find it. However, if you let your bait become part of the natural drift of food materials, your chances of linking up with a trout are much increased.

That simple lesson applies to both artificial and natural baits and has few exceptions.

By the way, I use live bait most of the time and make no apology for it. I don't try to fool trout, I try to catch them,