I guess I never really realized what a hick I am for loving to participate in the Missouri trout opener until I read a recent blog post from Hatch Magazine..

I always thought it was a cool thing to do. Bennett Spring was the place to be once March 1 arrived.

But then I read a blog post bearing the headline “The State of Missouri has got to be kidding” with the subhead “There’s fishing and then there’s whatever this is,” a couple days ago and I realized what a hillbilly I must be for loving to fish in a crowd.

What could I be thinking, glamorizing this thoroughly joke of a tradition for all these years?

High in the article, the writer, Chad Shmukler, says “However you like to fish, by and large, that’s how you should fish. I’m a big defender of this simple concept and a staunch advocate against snobbery on the river, lake, pond or wherever. But there’s fishing, and then there’s whatever this is.”

Then Shmuckler goes on for the rest of the article acting like a big snob, continually tossing shade at one of Missouri’s biggest fishing traditions.

He writes about a video put out by the Missouri Department of Conservation promoting the trout opener, describing “fishermen pulling drab, snub-nosed, dog-food fed, Frankenstein-sized rainbows from a river that could never possibly produce such a fish.”

Later, he goes on to say, “This spectacle in which trout seekers are just short of shooting fish in a barrel isn’t just anathema to elite masochists that like to chase native trout in wild places. It contradicts the idea of fishing being a sporting pursuit and it is, most certainly, an offense to the cornerstones of our fishing heritage which demand that the object of the chase be treated with some degree of reverence or measure of respect.”

Wow, I never realized just how disgusting the Missouri trout opener is to the rest of the free world. I guess we’re not really trout fishermen if we don’t don our tweed hats, hike in for a mile or so to some wild stream and match the hatch to come up with a fly that will fool a native trout.

I guess PowerBait is the brew of the devil, and that all of these fishermen who show up for Missouri’s trout opener don’t have any idea how much they are damaging the reputation of trout fishing.

I’m just embarrassed. I get excited about the trout opener every year, if not to participate in the fishing, then to interview fishermen who have been following tradition for years. I guess I’ve been wrong about the camaraderie that the opener provides, the exaggerated fishing opportunities it gives to beginner fishermen, the fillets it provides for the frying pan, the dollars it pumps into economies such as Lebanon, Mo.

What could I have been thinking? This isn’t fishing. This is a circus.

Hatch Magazine and Shmukler tell me so. Though Shmukler makes a token effort to take a “whatever floats your boat” attitude, it is obvious that he is one of those fly-fishing snobs who looks down his nose at those who would dare use PowerBait, fish in tight quarters or cast for stocked trout.

I guess he doesn’t realize that you can find peace and quiet in the Missouri trout parks once the opener has passed.  He makes our trout parks out to be amusement parks. I guess he hasn’t visited them to see how beautiful and unique each one of the parks is.

Hey, I treasure the solitude of fishing in a beautiful place as much as anyone. But I also realize how important events like the Missouri trout opener are to our sport.

These stocked streams give the average fishermen a chance to catch fish, follow tradition and get together with longtime fishing buddies.

I ‘m sorry it doesn’t meet Shmukler’s definition of what true trout fishing is. We hillbillies over here in Missouri just don’t get it.

But you know what? I’m happy with things just the way they are.