Stihl Dealer Days

Rural Missouri Magazine

Two Streams Rising

Quint and Cicely Drennan's WindRush and SpringRise resorts offer solitude and a sure catch for Missouri anglers

by Bob McEowen

Jack Cornett of St. Louis fishes at the edge of a large wetlands area near the spring at SpringRise at Westover, the newer of two fishing resorts operated by Quint and Cicely Drennan

With a flick of a wrist Jack Cornett lifts his fly line off the surface of a clear-running creek and repositions a delicate lure upstream. His fly, little more than a wad of hair and feather tied to a tiny hook, drifts lazily toward a wary trout that examines it briefly before letting it pass.

The St. Louis angler normally travels to Montana in late August to fish but this year an injury kept him home. Instead, he spends the day along a small stream at SpringRise at Westover, the newer of two fishing resorts owned and operated by Quint and Cicely Drennan in Missouri’s Ozarks.

After 16 years operating WindRush Farms Trout Stream near St. James the couple opened SpringRise, 20 miles away on the site of a near-century-old hatchery east of Steelville. Like WindRush, the new facility, opened in 1999, is managed for anglers who pay a daily fee to pursue stocked trout. But while the Drennans improved an existing stream for their original resort, at SpringRise they designed a fisherman’s paradise from the spring down.

If Cornett’s reaction is any indication, they succeeded.

Anglers fish the garden streams at Springrise. Intended to recreate an English meadow stream, the garden streams flow where concrete hatchery raceways once sat broken and overgrown.

“It’s just gorgeous. It really is,” he says of SpringRise. “There are a lot of fish and the setting is just incredible. You can’t find anything like it in Missouri or any Midwestern state.”

Cornett’s appreciation for the facility is even greater because he knows what the Drennans had to work with. “I fished here when it was still the Fisherman’s Dude Ranch,” he says. “It was a mess.”

Indeed, Quint and Cicely had their hands full when they bought the Fisherman’s Dude Ranch. The old trout hatchery had supplied local meat fishermen and a Chicago put-and-take fishing operation since the early 1900s but had fallen into disrepair as the operation passed from owner to owner.

“When they built this it was state of the art but it had run down since then,” says Quint. “I cleaned 16 or 17 junk cars out of the creek. There were old ice boxes and lots of bullet holes.”

Dry Creek, the stream created by the hatchery’s 25 million-gallon-per-day spring had been dredged for gravel. Many of the hatchery’s concrete raceways were broken and the land around them overgrown.

Today, two small streams meander through a beautiful garden setting where the old raceways once stood. An overgrown swamp near the spring is now a lush fen, a type of wetlands now rare in Missouri. Dry Creek is on the mend and the hatchery is back in full operation, producing 200,000 trout a year to supply restaurants, winter stocking programs and the couple’s two resorts.

Quint Drennan transfers trout from rearing pools at Westover Fisheries, the hatchery that supplies SpringRise and WindRush.

While restoration of SpringRise is the largest project Quint and Cicely have attempted, the Drennans proved their willingness to take on a badly damaged stream when they created WindRush, named after a stream the couple fished in England during their honeymoon.

In the early 1980s the couple lived in St. Louis where he worked in construction and she as an interior designer. On weekends they traveled to a farm near St. James that Quint’s grandfather had owned. The land featured several small springs that formed the headwaters of Benton Creek. Like many other Ozark streams the creek had been used to water cattle and was in poor condition.

“It was pretty badly abused. The banks were eroded, very little water depth,” says Spencer Turner, a retired Missouri Conservation Department cold water fisheries biologist.

Both avid anglers, Quint and Cicely wondered if the cold water creek would support trout. With advice from Turner and others, they began shoring up stream banks and created a series of pools and riffles where trout could live.

The Drennans were at the forefront of a nationwide movement which encouraged private stream stewardship. In fact, they formed Missouri Stream Team number 15. The state now has nearly 2,100 such volunteer waterway adoption projects.

Cecily and Quint grab a handfull of stream-bottom vegetation in order to show Terry Strattman of St. Louis the kinds of insects trout feed on at SpringRise. Fly fishing for trout requires anglers to duplicate the wary fish’s natural foods.

“What they’ve done is absolutely incredible in my view,” says Turner, who oversaw the creation of many public trout fishing areas in Missouri during his tenure at the Conservation Department. “Quint and Cicely realized they had potential there and with hard work they developed one of the premiere little private trout fisheries in the state of Missouri.”

While not as well known as Missouri’s trout parks and public trout management areas, private resorts like WindRush and SpringRise are favorites with many anglers who enjoy the solitude and the near certainty of catching fish they offer. To keep crowds and fishing pressure to a minimum Quint and Cicely limit each resort to about 20 rods per day. Both facilities are stocked daily with keeper-size fish.

Because their trout are farm raised no fishing license is required and there is no daily limit. At either operation anglers pay $30 a day for catch and release fishing or $3.95 per pound ($30 minimum) if they keep their catch. While no guide service is available, informal instruction is. And the staff even cleans the fish.

Overnight accommodations are available at either resort. At WindRush, which is served by Intercounty Electric Cooperative, two nearly identical 19th-century two-story log buildings contain eight guest rooms, each with kitchen and bath. The Solitude House, located on a spring-fed lake farther up the valley, accommodates six people. At SpringRise, served by Crawford Electric Cooperative, a restored bungalow, originally purchased from a Sears catalog, sleeps six.

Lodging at the resorts include rooms in these two renovated 19th century log structures.

While trout are not native to Missouri, the fishing at WindRush is pure Ozarks. Benton Creek is a typical spring creek. Fishermen stalk trout under a heavy wooded canopy where fly fishermen must be wary of the heavy brush snagging their back casts.

“This is an intimate little creek. Your deepest water is probably 5 feet,” Quint says. “Some people don’t like it. It’s too tight. There’s not enough room for them.”

Purchasing the Fisherman’s Dude Ranch allowed Quint and Cicely to offer a different style of fishing.
“The way I describe it to people is that WindRush is our wild child and SpringRise is a little more groomed,” Cicely says.

Nowhere is this refinement more apparent than in SpringRise’s garden section, which is reminiscent of an English meadow stream.

“You get all the flowers in bloom over there and a nice sunny day and its just pretty. It’s like fishing in a city park,” says Chuck Tryon, author of “Fly Fishing for Trout in Missouri,” the definitive guide to the state’s trout waters. “It’s totally unnatural but it’s a really pretty area with lots of good fishing.”

A retired hydrologist, Tryon helped Quint and Cicely restore Dry Creek and offered technical help with SpringRise’s garden streams. Although Tryon says he prefers fishing for wild trout in Missouri’s natural streams he understands the allure of the environment he helped create at SpringRise.

Tom Schlueter, an employee of WindRush, displays his catch.

“If you want to catch fish that’s a great place to do it,” he says. “You can actually look in the water and see trout and be confident that trout are there.”

While Quint says the garden streams at SpringRise offer some of the easiest trout fishing in the Midwest, other parts of the property challenge the most experienced angler.

“When we get into the spring branches at the top end its probably the most technical dry fly fishing you can find in the Midwest, too,” he says. “Its sort of like both extremes over here.”

Whatever their preference or ability, anglers can find plenty to please at these two Ozark resorts.

“We have customers who fish both places and split between the two. Some like WindRush better, others like SpringRise,” Cicely says. “That’s what makes the world go round.”

The Drennan’s fishing resorts are open February through November. For more information contact WindRush at (573) 743-6555 or on the Internet at www.WindRushfarms.com. Contact SpringRise at (573) 743-6284 or on the Web at www.SpringRise.com.

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