The cypress swamps of southeast Missouri set the stage for my grand entrance into the world of catching behemoth largemouth bass on fly rods stiff enough to use as a pool cue in Ma Tally’s Tavern.
Rainbow trout were touted as a sissy’s fish by bar stool interlopers at Ma Tally’s. I’d never seen a rainbow colored fish, but listened intently to the banter between the crusty old codgers that appeared to be better at guzzling Stag beer than catching fish of any kind.
Sitting downwind of them, however, provided positive proof that they had indeed caught fish, perhaps four days previous.
One of the regulars wore a gold chain around his neck with a bowed up fish on it. In the heat of a discussion one day, he broke out the tarnished trout figurine to educate his cohorts about the finer points of trout fishing.
A wide grin and a far off look overtook the old gentleman’s face as he mentioned names like Yellowstone, Frying Pan, Bighorn, Madison and Gallatin. They meant nothing to me, but the old man told convincing stories about catching dozens of big, colorful fish.
It wasn’t until I saw my first issue of “Outdoor Life” in 1959 that I became truly intrigued with rainbow trout. A handsome man with a broad-rimmed hat and hip boots stood knee-deep in a clear, fast flowing stream. He held a well-bent fly rod an arm’s length behind himself, while he slid a brightly colored ‘bow into his landing net.