Every October, about as frequently as the Cardinals make the playoffs, a group of friends and I head for the tailwaters in Arkansas to chase trout in what marks the beginning of fall, and our fishing season. It is one of the few trips that even gets planned out, and this year was no different. Well, it was a little different. It seems that the lonely Texan in the group would not be able to make the trip north due to “the man” and after hemming and hawing over could he go, could he not go, and useless percentages of his ability to go…….it was go time….and he did not (but was subsequently missed, never the less). I sensed that he was a bit overtaken by how easily he was replaced……that is the one thing about owning a drift boat, there is never any shortage of people to fish with. But I digress.
I reached out an old high school friend that had gotten back in to fly fishing over the years and within an afternoon, the boat was full and the wheels were set in motion. Craig Peterson, Dan Ritter, and I rolled out of St. Louis around 4:30pm or so and headed south, boat in tow and loaded down with all the essentials (mainly alot of beer). We were meeting up with two streamer addicts from Illinois (Paul Chausse and Dan Held) at a house that they had found online for rent near the Wildcat Shoals Boat Ramp on the White River. They got an earlier start on the day than we had planned, so we ended up meeting them at the house when we rolled in around 11pm on Wednesday night. After some catching up /rod rigging and a beer or two, it was lights out.
The alarm went off Thursday morning and we were packed up into the rigs and headed for the White Sands Restaurant in downtown Cotter. The White Sands Restaurant is sort of an institution for the traveling fly fisherman. If you haven’t eaten breakfast there……well, you should. The six of us (Craig Peterson, Dan Ritter, Paul Chausse, Dan Held, Jim Held, and myself) had a breakfast bill of no more than $40.00 and we ate like kings (which is a recurring theme for this trip). Next stop was the Norfork River after a quick pitstop to say hello to Steve Dally over at Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher fly shop. My license was set to expire on Friday, so i needed to renew, and the boys picked up a few odds and ends.
We rolled down to Quarry Park Campground and Access around 9am and dropped the boats in (even dropped mine in without the plugs in it for good measure……) and ran down to Two Rivers Fly Shop in Norfork near the confluence of the White River and Norfork River to inquire about a shuttle back to the ramp and for a few bucks we were on our way back to the put-in. The Norfork was pushing about 1500 CFS as we started our float, and the heat built up. The weather, not the fishing, was the story of the day. Craig and I chose to fish in shorts, sandals, and t-shirts, while Dan offered to wader up just in case someone needed to get out and push (he did once). The temp soared to the mid 80’s for the high, but around 2pm or so a massive front moved in (we were fighting an upstream wind all day long) and the temp dropped by 30 degrees by the time we made it back to Mountain Home.
While we didn’t set the world on fire fishing, the boys stuck to their guns and threw streamers most of the day and were rewarded with a handful of small rainbows (although a few did fall victim to a bobber rig). A yellow sex dungeon seemed to be the streamer of choice in my boat, with considerably more follows than takes. But so it goes. Dan Held did get an eat from a “toad” of a fish just below dock hole, but it was over in seconds and we could hear some choice words and rod waiving all the way upstream. We rolled off the water around 4:30pm and headed back to the house in the pouring rain to change and drop the boats off and then dinner.
The Arena Sports Bar in Mountain Home seems to have become my choice for dinner (at least it was the last two trips south). The food is always good, and there are plenty of TV’s to catch up on anything sports related. We hung out there for a few hours enjoying dinner and conversation and were joined by Dominic Zametto (owner of Two Rivers Fly Shop in Norfork) and a couple of his buddies / clients for the day. Good food, good drinks, good conversation, but we were wiped tired from the long night and day and hit it early on Thursday.
More to follow.