Beaver Tailwater (Eureka Springs, Arkansas) — July 11, 2004

Trout Bum Tournament Check-In # 3

Here I sit at the keyboard in our plush condo, living the life some trout bums dream of. The washing machine is washing our fish clothes from 3 days of fishing, the beer is on ice, and Brent is out trying to put our trout chariot back together. As I sit here, I can’t help but laugh about today’s events. In every good trip, there must be a story. Well, it seems that our Trout Bum odyssey is only getting better as we move on.

The alarms went off at 4:45am this morning, then it was time to hit the shower and we were off. A quick stop off at McDonald’s for a bacon egg & cheese value meal to share between the two of us and we were off, total cost of breakfast was less than $4.00. We have been consciously trying to save as much of the $500 by walking the fine line between starvation and just “being hungry.” Pop-Tarts and Crackers have been our savior thus far. Well, that and David Bewley’s cooking, and the fine lunches our guides have provided on this trip to date. It is all in the name of charity, and if eating $4.00 breakfasts are what it takes to win then we will do it (although I am secretly craving a breakfast of biscuits & gravy or at least for Hardee’s to run a 2 for $2 breakfast sandwich special so I wouldn’t have to share a biscuit with McClane).

Today we were to fish the White River below the Beaver Lake Dam, with Ken Richards of Just Fishin’ Guides (www.justfishinguides.com). We had a one and a half hour drive ahead of us (southwest of Branson, Missouri), just west of the town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The scenery that we were passing was amazing, I don’t know of a more scenic place than the Ozarks – especially with this quality of trout fishing right out your back door. We met Ken and his Hyde drift boat at the turnoff for the dam access, and did our quick introductions. I had only met Ken once before, during the Hooked On A Cure event, and prior to that he had agreed to take McClane and I out to his home water.

Before we could fish, however, we had some charity business to take care of. We have accepted pledges for every fly shop that we visit, and Ken said we must stop in at the Dam Store (that really is the name of the fly shop / gas station at the base of Beaver Dam). We went in and met Charlotte, “Tasmanian” Steve, and their dog Gill. The store is a great little store with every last minute thing a fly fisherman could forget on this trip, and then some. After some brief conversation, a couple of pats on Gill’s back, and a bummed a favorite local fly pattern called the Redneck Fly we were off. Or at least we thought we were.

It seems that in the haste for leaving for the river, McClane’s driver side truck door was introduced to the gunwale a drift boat. Even though the noise was loud from inside the cab of McClane’s truck, we didn’t think there could be that much damage. Well, we were right. There wasn’t much damage…………to the drift boat…….but it buckled the driver’s side door of our trout chariot. We were all amazed at how the door on the truck had bent in almost 4 inches, but the drift boat barely had a crack on it. After the initial shock was over (in like 5 minutes), we all laughed about it……several times. And spent the next hour trying to get the door to stay shut and latched. After breaking out the tools that any good trout bum should carry, like a crow bar and allen set, we pried the door into a somewhat latched position and the used a ton of duct tape to seal the door. Duct tape is great stuff, and we thought it was up to the job, so we decided to go fishing (after making sure that all the doors were closed and the boat had enough clearance. Accidents happen on trips, and this is just one of those things we can already sit back and laugh about it.

There was no water running on the Beaver, so we decided to fish the catch and release area of the river. We finally got on the water by 10:30am and Ken put us on fish immediately with a bead head thread/midge pattern (a size # 18) under a yarn indicator. We hooked up with 20+ fish in two hours between the two of us. Although, I will concede that McClane out-fished me again today. There is something to this indicator fishing (I used to razz him pretty hard about fishing under a “bobber,” but it isn’t as easy as it looks) and I still need to get the hang of it – but the fish came a little easier today and I landed about 10. We hiked downstream to take a look at the rest of the waters, and the scenery was breathtaking. There was only one house on the whole river, no trout docks, and very little noise of motorized boats. It was wonderful, and a great change of pace from the hustle and bustle of Lake Taneycomo. I just couldn’t believe how nice this river was, and how there was mainly fly fishermen on the river, with the occasional spin fisherman from a canoe. On the walk downstream we met several friendly fly fishermen, including Scott Sanders of Discover the Art of Fly Fishing. He is a local Beaver guide, and seemed to be having a good day. We wished each other luck and were on our way back upstream. Ken left us to fish out a hole, while he went up and prepared our shore lunch.

As we were fishing, and McClane was landing another rainbow trout, I thought I smelled the distinct smell of a barbequed hamburger (I am the husky one remember, and no that smell anywhere. I even made a joke that the “Beaver sure smelled good, like BBQ’d hamburgers.” After which, McClane nearly fell in the water from laughing so hard. Several more jokes about the Beaver were made during the day. Just about the time we were going to head upstream a little bit, the horn blew at the dam, which signified rising water. Ken must have known something was up, as he had lunch prepared just as the water rose. We hiked up the access trail to a little picnic table in the shade, where Ken had prepared us perfect shore lunch of bbq’d hamburgers, hot dogs (with lettuce, onions, pickles, and condiments) and pasta salad (with a little cayenne pepper). Man it was a feast fit for kings. During lunch, I amazed them with my phobia of bugs that buzz. Yes, a big guy like me “freaks out” when something buzzes by my ears or face to the point that I will swat at anything the buzzes near me. I don’t have a use for insects like that – other than to make other people laugh at me (come on guys, you all know someone like me). But what the hell, it was a good time and they had a good laugh. Ken had promised us a true “normal” guided trip, and he didn’t let us down. It was perfect, as a trout bum needs to keep his nourishment during fishing and bumming activities. After we cleaned up our trash from lunch and packed everything up, we headed for the trucks and the boat to do some high water fishing.

Back at the truck, I discovered the right leg of my waders have a hole in them. I can’t decide if ordering them now would take away from the $500 cash or if the powers that be will allow me to buy a new set of waders. Perhaps I could bum a new pair (anyone out there reading this, and want to outfit a trout bum in some waders – all it takes is to send me an email (matt@ozarkchronicles.com)) (Oh and they must be in size HUSKY….hehehehe…(from Brent)). I thought there was a little extra sting in my leg. Ken had said that the Beaver always runs cold, and boy was he right McClane used his William Joseph thermometer and got a reading of 48 degrees.

We put the Hyde drift boat in at the dam access, and floated about four miles down stream tossing streamers and nymphs. Fishing was tough with McClane the only one picking up fish. But hell, I didn’t care. The scenery from the bow of the drift boat was worth the price of admission (which was one helluva sunburn). On the drift down, we met up with Scott Branyan (www.ozarkflyflingers.com). Scott is going to be taking us out on the White River tomorrow in his custom build wooden drift boat (that he built). After some quick hellos, and some making of what time to meet and where we were each on our way. We floated to the access and called it a day. What a day on the river. A total of 33 fish brought to hand with at least 20 more hookups / turned fish.

After cleaning out the boat and stowing our gear in McClane’s truck, Ken offered to buy a couple of trout bums dinner at one of the many great restaurants that Eureka Springs, Arkansas has to offer (if you have never visited the town of Eureka Springs, I recommend that you do as it is full of neat little bed & breakfasts and close to some fantastic fishing). He had already prepared us a great shore lunch, made a donation to Hooked On A Cure, and allowed us to bum a guided fishing trip down the Beaver. We told him that we had some cheese / crackers / sausage in the cooler or the leftover BBQ from David Bewley, but he insisted. We settled on McDonalds and ate there. Thanks Ken for everything. You were a very gracious guide and person. We had a ton of fun on the river, and caught some beautiful fish in the process.

We started the trek back to Branson at about 7:30pm and realized that the duct tape / latch job that we had performed on the trout chariot was failing. We had a decision to make, try and fix it or make the 11-hour round trip drive back to St. Louis to swap vehicles and be on the White River by 8:00am the next morning. It just so happens that our fly fishing mentor, Mike Swederska of St. Louis, owns Shur-Way Auto Body Shop. Mike was also the one that donated some official Team Ozark Chronicles clothing that you will see McClane and I sporting during the trip. He also donated the embroidery on some of our shirts donated from Feather-Craft Fly Fishing as well…OH!! And we can’t forget Vicky!! Mike’s wife. She is the one that owns the embroidery shop and did all of the embroidery. Man are our shirts cool!!! After a brief telephone conversation in the parking lot of a gas station in West Branson, we thought we had received a fix on the door from Mike and were on our way to Wal-Mart to pick up Ice, more Duct Tape, and some Tums (the spicy “southern” food has given us both heartburn). Total Wal-Mart trip cost was $17.06. It was now 10:00pm and we needed to get back to the Condo to pack our gear, clean the condo, load the truck, FIX the truck door as by now the only thing holding the door seemed to be the duct tape, write our report, and get some sleep (although McClane’s motto has been that we can sleep when we are dead).

Speaking of McClane, it is now 11:00pm and he is out working on getting the door of the truck to close / lock thanks to Swederska’s Auto Body Telephone Lesson #101. He took a couple of beers and his fishing headlamp so he may be out there awhile. I need to finish up some stuff and it is now 12:45 pm and we are meeting Scott at Rim Shoals Fly Shop at 8:30am, which is 2 hours away– where does the time go.

 

Tight Lines,

Matt & Brent (written by Matt)

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Hey, this is Brent now. I just read all that Matt wrote while I was working on Old Blue and it looks like he has pretty much hit all that we had talked about on our drive home tonight. That reminds me. I have a feeling we will be adding little tidbits about past days that we have forgotten to add in these past reports. We haven’t gotten much sleep and our reports all seem to be written pretty darn late….some beer may have been involved too. ANYWAY…..SUCCESS!!!! I just got in and I’m pretty darn happy. The door seems to be operating. How darn fortunate are we that one of our favorite fishing buddies just happens to own a body shop? I described to Mike on the phone what had happened and he told me how to spring the hinges back out to get the door back on place. Thanks Mike!!! I also need to really thank my dad too at this point because he has always told me to be prepared and take a good toolbox along where ever I go. Can you believe I had a piece of bar stock aluminum in the bottom of my toolbox that happened to be the perfect size to wedge in the door hinges? Hahhahah!!! What a hoot!!!

Well, the door thing was a bummer this morning, but the major reason for that was because we had to mess with it and it kept us from fishing. I guess fly-fishing has taught me that the material things in life just aren’t all the important. Consequently……we had a GREAT day!!! Maybe we didn’t have a bunch of giant fish in front of us all day, but personally, the quiet of the stream FAR outweighed that. The birds were singing, the fog on the water was surreal, the overlooking bluffs were beautiful and there were three great guys fishing and just enjoying the day. It doesn’t get any better than that. What a beautiful Ozark stream.

This has been a real team effort this trip and tonight in particular. While I was working on the truck door, Matt was typing most of this to all of you. After I finished the door, I did some laundry cleaned this place up and got my gear ready. Now Matt is getting his gear in order and taking laundry out of the dryer while I say “Hello”. He’s a pretty good Bum to hang with.

Well, I think I’ll say “Good Night” for now. I still need to write photo descriptions, plug in our route in the GPS for driving tomorrow and get a shower and it’s now 1:34 am….it’s going to be at least 2:00 before we get to bed and the alarm is set for 5:00…..AAAAGGGG!!!!! (Read with a Charlie Brown voice). Take care…..we’ll catch up with all of you tomorrow.

Tight Lines,

Matt & Brent (written by Brent)

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