White River (Bull Shoals Tailwater) — The Maiden Voyage

The alarm went off at 5:30am Saturday morning (3-1/2 hours after we set it) and we quickly rose to the noise of a ceiling fan that sounded more like a creaky rocking chair than a ceiling fan and I wondered which one of us it would take out when it comes crashing down upon us in our sleep (but later it served its purpose as it helped to drowned out the snoring noises of 3 tired fisherman and 1 dog….who knew dogs snored).  We were to meet up with Brian Wise and Jim Traylor for breakfast at the Gold Pan Restaurant and Bar for breakfast at 6:15am.  We were in no real hurry to get on the water today, as the forecast was for thunderstorms and the temperature was doing its best sauna impression.  It was oppressively humid to say the least.   After a filling breakfast, and catching up with everyone, Jim headed to his guide trip and Brian, Brent, Tim, and I headed off to the Dam to drop our boats in the water and shuttle vehicles.After dumping the boats in the water and ensuring that we had all the essential gear, Brian and I headed off to White Hole where we left his rig and headed back up to the Dam to begin our float.

Self shuttling has got to be the biggest downside of drift boats, but this shuttle wasn’t that bad – it took less than an hour.  During this time, Brent rowed my boat and Tim rowed Brian’s clackacraft up to the grassbeds near the dam and picked up several fish while we were gone.  By 9am we had the shuttle done, oars adjusted, and were shoved off and begun our float on the fog covered waters of the White River.

I wasn’t concerned so much with the fishing today, as I was with putting my boat through its paces and figuring out how the boat handles.  I used a lot of the stuff I had picked up from rowing my pontoon boat on the smaller Ozark trout streams and essentially the same principals applied.  McClane took position in the bow of the boat, and Tucker the Dog took his position up on the bow of the boat in front of the knee brace (where he would stay for most of the day).It was a little nerve racking as I tried to get used to maneuvering the boat in the fog covered waters and around other boats that were fishing (and wading bank anglers), but soon I tried to get in a rhythm and McClane started picking up fish with ease on a double nymph rig (a caddis pupa and worm set-up) as soon as we left the C&R area under an indicator rig.Wise and I played leapfrog with each other on the river, until we finally put some distance between us but the fishing pretty much remained constant until the rain came.

By the time we rowed infront of Gaston’s boat ramp, the skies just opened up and it rained, and it rained, and it rained some more.  I got really good at scooping water out of the boat (the sponge also came in handy as well).  We messed around with trying to film a little of the rain, while waiting for the lightening to stop.  In all the rain, McClane turned his attention to the pods of stockers along the river bank and picked them out with ease as Tucker the Dog ran around in the pouring rain.The rest of the afternoon was filled with much of the same, and just seeing what the boat would float through and how I could maneuver it.  Brent managed to pick up about 30 fish on his two-fly nymph rig so that offered reassurance to me that I was keeping the boat in decent water and giving him the opportunity to make good drifts (with his verbal commands of where he wanted to be).  It was pretty close to fishing, and I really enjoyed this aspect of the day. 

There were no big fish today, but we did spot one fish that easily broke the double digit mark so that was a plus.The other thing that was noticeable about today was how stable drift boats really are.  At the big flat hole in front of Gaston’s lodge, I had Tucker the Dog laying in the bow above the knee brace and I had McClane sight-fishing to fish while standing on the bow with the dog.  He didn’t even flinch as I rowed the boat toward fish he was spotting – I am sure it was a sight to see on the river.

We ended the day at White Hole Access about 45 minutes after Brian and Tim had pulled off the water and loaded Brian’s boat onto the trailer (and dropped the trailer for ease of shuttling), in the pouring rain.   After running to pick up my rig at the Dam, we loaded up the boat and began securing the boat for the drive.  It was during this time that I became increasingly frustrated with my William Joseph Gear Bag that was given to me during the 2004 Trout Bum Tournament.  My frustrations can best be seen on this video – it is safe to assume that I will no longer be recommending William Joseph products.  We had a few laughs at William Joseph’s expense and said good bye to Brian Wise (who had to get home to tend to a sick wife and kids) we headed back to Patrick’s on the White for a quick shower before dinner.

7:45pm found us pulling in to the 178 Club in Bull Shoals for dinner with Jim Traylor and Davy Wotton (whom were standing outside having a quick smoke before heading in).  I think this is the second or third time I have had dinner with Davy and Jimmy together and it is an absolute blast.  The amount of knowledge and oddities between these two is nothing short of fascinating.

Davy shared stories of his recent trip to the

Yellowstone area, as we discussed everything from the recent release of the “proposed” trout management plan options, the humor of British television and my lack of understanding it, and just life in general along with a lengthy discussion of chipmunks of all things.  Lots of laughs were shared for sure, and hopefully this is an evening that will play out over many years to come.  But the food was finished and we were all fading fast so it was time to pay the bills and head out.

We were originally supposed to hook up with Chris Gates and Ryan Mueller from

Columbia, Missouri but they got down on Friday morning early and floated a lower section on Friday and stayed in that area on Saturday as well.  But missed communications meant the only time we were going to get to hook up would be on Saturday night.  So after dropping McClane off at Patrick’s on the White, we headed down to Gaston’s for quick hellos and trading notes on the day.  They hadn’t ran into the vast amount of rain that we had earlier in the day (the rain had only hit them at around 5pm) which was odd, but lends credibility to how crazy the weather was today.  It had been a couple of years since I had seen Ryan on the water, so it was good to catch up with him and talk with them about their day and how their boat handled the White.  But Tim and I were fading fast, and passed on the barley beverages and opted to head back to Patrick’s on the White to hit the sack.  Lights out at around 11:30pm.

 –Matt Tucker

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