Norfork River, White River, Spring River (Somewhere in Arkansas) — October 22 – 24, 2004

I am writing this report more than a month after the trip, as I was waiting for the new OzarkChronicles web site update. The trip started off with Craig Peterson and I leaving for the Norfork River around 12pm on Thursday, October 21. We got down to the Ramada Inn in Mountain Home, Arkansas just in enough time to give John Wilson ( a call and inquire about the fishing and a place to watch the Cardinals vs. Astros NLCS game 7. We ended up at the BackForty Bar & Grill and watched the Cards to victory while enjoying a great burger and some cold beers. We headed back to the hotel room in preparation of David Stinnett driving in from Lewisville, Texas. David showed up about 11pm and after quickly unpacking and checking the generation on the Norfork, we opted to do some night fishing at Quarry Park.

We got to the river around 11:30pm and suited up, and headed towards the river. Not being on the river for 30 minutes, the horn started blowing and the water came up. During the rising water, David hooked up with his biggest brown trout to date of about 16″. As we were standing around the boat ramp waiting to make a decision, another angler made his way up to us. It was Troy Miller, an internet acquaintance from John Wilson’s message board. We talked like we were old pals for at least an hour, during which the water came back down. We all decided to fish a little more (even though falling water normally means no fish), and I gave the riffles in front of Dry Run Creek a try. I was rewarded with a nice 21″ brown trout, which made my trip and was the reason I came down. About 3:30pm we all met back up at the truck and decided to head back to the hotel room and get some sleep, since it was a long day.

On Friday, we rose about 10am to find that the water had been running for some time that morning and after a quick conversation with John Wilson it was decided that they were probably going to run it all day. We ate breakfast at the Country Kettle, and then decided to check out the fly shop and then go check out the White River dam area (since I have never seen that water). We walked around for a bit, and it was crowded, but there was some wadeable water on 3 generators so we decided to suite up and fish the area around the trout dock in the State Park. After about 2 hours of fishing, I found a nice incline on which to take an afternoon siesta.

After a shower, we met up with John Wilson for some drinks at the BackForty bar until about 11:30pm on Friday night. The only good that came of that night, other than the great conversation and friends getting together and telling lies was that the other guys learned how to say “Put it on Tucker’s tab.” All in all it was a great time, no matter what the bar tab.

They ran water all day on Friday and were still running water when we got back to the hotel room from the bar, and we made the decision to head over to the Spring River in Mammoth Spring, Arkansas to ensure that we got some fishing done. The Spring River diddn’t disappoint, and on Saturday we caught over 80 fish between the 3 of us (Craig caught over 40). We fished out the river for an hour on Sunday and then headed home. I am forgetting a lot about the Spring River, but it has definitely become a great standby in place of the tailwaters if they are running water. There is talk that we may head to Wisconsin to chase steelhead and lake run browns instead of doing Arkansas in October (due to water generation), we will see………..

Norfork River (Mountain Home, Arkansas) — July 14, 2004

Fly Rod & Reel Trout Bum Tournament Check-In # 6

Hey Everyone, here we are again. Not sure what the exact problem is in getting the updates to you. Seems FR&R didn’t get an email or two of ours, and we have been totally swamped since Wednesday. So here are a couple of reports FR&R hadn’t gotten and the rest also. The last days have been just a blur actually. As you will see we basically got only a couple hours sleep (literally) went fishing and ate on and off for a couple days. Please just look at the dates we type in as the order of events will follow these dates…….I have had to keep a notepad and pencil in my fishing shirt pocket constantly, and take notes of when we have done what just to keep track of all that we have done. What a wild ride we’ve been on!!!

Well, after fishing with John during the day…..Hey, he’s still with us!!! Guess who is bumming off the bums??? Like I’m complaining. NOT!! We’ve learned a lot. OK, back to where I was……we finish fishing and head into Mountain Home, AR for some eats. We stopped at a couple restaurants, but since it was late, most managers are off work and no one else can authorize freebies. Finally we made our way to El Charro Mexican restaurant (see pic) and asked if we could bum dinner. YEP!!! We even bummed dinner for John. What a hoot. Food was great; service was awesome and quick as can be. Thanks El Charro!!!

After eating, we decided we better go to Wal-Mart to try and transfer Matt’s pictures from his camera card…..remember?…..the one he dunked? OK, so we get at Wal-Mart a little after 9:00. Dhooooppp!!!! The camera center has JUST shut down. Matt’s rear was still puckered wondering whether or not his card was ruined, so we begged the nice woman running the center to PLEASE just let us see if the card had pictures on it, even if we couldn’t burn a CD at the time. She agreed. SHWEW!!! Card was fine and Matt’s pics were saved. Well, at least Matt felt better. We just decided to let his camera dry out a bit more before we would attempt to use it.

After Wal-Mart, we headed over to John’s place to pick up some glow-in-the-dark fly lines for all of us to use during night fishing. We grabbed that stuff and headed over to His Place Resort to respool reels with the new line sine we didn’t have spare spools with us. John taught us a few new knots while doing the respooling and we BS’ed a bit and finally got to bed about 11:00……well, they got to bed, I slept on the floor again!!! Actually, they offered to switch, but I said no, so I could whine to you all instead!!!

2:15am and the alarm goes off!! That was a nice nap. We all pop up and grab our clothes and gear and hit the road by 2:40. At 3:15 we are sitting at a private access (pays to know people that know people) and holding our new fly lines in the headlights of the dodge to charge them and we hit the trail. John told us to shut off our headlamps unless we wanted to shut all the fish down for a couple blocks as we walked. We kept close on John’s heels as we had seen a bunch of logs and large rocks earlier in the day. Way we figured it. If John dropped out of sight, we would stop or at least move to one side so it didn’t happen to us. We walked about a half mile upstream in the pitch dark about waist deep. It was a really cool experience. We would see through the fog enough above to see the stars and even satellites, but we could hardly see more than 30 feet in front of us. There was no moon yet tonight. That’s why John wanted to night fish. All around us as we waded, we could hear fish breaking the surface and feeding. Some of the splashes sounded like “toads”. That’s an Arkansas term for HUGE fish. Fish well over 10 lbs and 30 pounders had been caught where we were fishing.

The glowing spools of line looked like Homer Simpson had put plutonium in our reels and John told us to keep our reels on the bank side of us so the fish wouldn’t spook. By 3:45 am we were spaced out along the stream and could see the eerie glow of the gossamer like line unfurl in front of us as we cast in to the darkness. As we stripped in our big flies, every once in you would hear a “OH”, “CRAP!!” or other term from the darkness as one of us missed our first hits. In less than 20 minutes though, Matt and I had landed 5 fish. We were pumped.

Matt landed a nice rainbow and we decided to take a picture of it. We tried to take a few pics using our red lights on our headlamps, but they didn’t turn out well. We took a pic with the flash and started fishing again. That flash turned the fish off for 20 minutes. DANG!!! Finally we got into fish again and landed 17 fish with the average about 16”. Then Matt hooked up with a nice brown. Now this one was worth shutting the fish down for a little while. Although we didn’t have a tape measure, using the net as a scale to confirm later, it appeared to be a little over 20”. Nice fish Matt!!!! At 4:45 am the moon rose and our night fishing was done for the night. We walked back down to the access with a very satisfied look on our faces. Even driving out, was kinda cool. Not everyone gets to use a private access on property owned by a prominent member of the fly fishing community. Sorry….we were sworn not to tell who or where we were. Heck…..I doubt we could find it again anyway…

At 6:00am we ended up at Norfork Café to get breakfast. After talking with the cute waitress and telling her about our plight, she agreed to feed the bums and even the bums bum…..”GOG ESPN Guy”. That was one heck of a breakfast. If you are in the town of Norfork or around McClellans access you should really eat at this great place. At 8:00 am we were back at His Place Resort for a little shut eye. And I mean LITTLE!! We awoke at 10:00 to get a few things done. Matt, John & I headed down to the office of His Place Resort to thank Steve and Julie for all of their help and hospitality. Well…mostly……I had to bum batteries off of them for my camera so that we could take a few pics of them and their place to show all of you. J

John and I dropped Matt off at Tom & Becky Rogers’ of TNT Fly Fishing, Inc. so that he could work a little on their computer before we were to go out with Tom fishing later in the day. Mean while, John and I decided to try to get those pics off of Matt’s memory card again to send to you all. Well, after about a half hour at Wal-Mart and even getting the manager to agree to let us bum the cost of transferring them to disk…….their machine didn’t work. Seems it had never been set up for burning CDs yet. Just our luck. Next John and I headed to U-Haul to pick up a trailer to move some of his furniture into his new digs. He had mentioned moving the night before and I gladly offered to help. DANG!!! He actually took me up on it!!! Nothing like moving nice light furniture like a sleeper sofa, refrigerator, washer, dryer, etc in the middle of the day with a heat index of 110 degrees. It was at that time I wished I knew enough about computers to be sitting in air conditioning like Matt. 😉 Actually, I was happy to help out John. Only wish I could have done something in return for the rest of the wonderful guides we had thus far also. Thanks John for all your great guiding!!

We were finished moving, dropped off the U-Haul and I met Matt and the Rogers’ at their place about 2:30. By 3:00 we were off with Tom and Becky to the access at the confluence of the Norfork and White and had the boat in the water by 3:30. Up the Norfork we went to near the dam. This time we were in one of the classic jon boats used in the White River system for trout fishing. This was again a totally different kind of fishing than we had done thus far. The generators were going on the Norfork and we were fishing for large fish in high water. That has been one of the coolest things about this trip. It’s not that we have just been fishing riffles and runs on different rivers, which is what I generally do, but we had been fishing completely differently from guide to guide. What an education!!!

We fished with Tom until about 8:00 pm and caught 18 fish ranging from 14 to 18 inches. After driving back to TNT, we said goodnight and set a time for the morning and headed to a bar and grill in Mountain to meet John for a beer and a burger. I could hardly think. I was a little tired to say the least and I still hadn’t eaten since breakfast (….although Matt smiled as he told me that Becky made mean poppy seed chicken when he was working on their computer!!! BUM!!!!) John has an internet board that a lot of people communicate on and one of those guys was at the bar also. I still don’t think I ever caught his name. I had just gotten turned down at the bar & grill for bumming when this guys says he will buy Matt and I dinner and a couple beers (No I’m not making this up). I think I said thanks and ordered a beer from the waitress all in the same breath. Thanks Dude!!! Actually, he said their was no need to offer up his name and he refused a picture. Bummer!!! That was our first bar bum and I had been waiting for that one. Oh well!!!

After eating a burger and drinking a couple beers, Matt and I were off to the Ramada to use our wireless internet access to try to write a report and send it to all of you. Now looking back on our day, I can see why we were so tired, spinning our wheels and decided to try to get a couple more hours sleep instead of sending this in. Hope you all don’t mind too much, but I wonder what we would have written then would have made any sense anyway. We decided to call it a…….day? It was 11:30, we had had only about 3 or 4 hours sleep the night before……(at two different times) and we needed to be up at 6:00 am.

I am sure I have missed a few things and at this time feel that we need to really give all of our guides more credit than we have thus far. Heck with our daily update confusions, you all still haven’t read about our day on the Beaver River. I sure hope you all get to read that one soon. I’ll upload it again tonight. Hopefully all will work well this time. Matt and I will talk more about how our experiences were so different with each guide at the end and how wonderful all of them have been too. Personally, I think the guys we have had thus far have been absolutely awesome. I would recommend any of them to all of you. It just depends on what type of fishing turns your crank, because all of them have a little different way of doing things. Wading, drift boats, jon boats, nymphing, streamers, dries, midges, low water, high water, night, day, numbers of fish, large fish, etc., you name it……we have done it here so far.

Well, that is about it for now. Hope you all are doing well….I know we are.

Tight Lines,

Brent & Matt (written by Brent)

Norfork River (Mountain Home, Arkansas) — July 13, 2004

Fly Rod & Reel Trout Bum Tournament Check-In # 5

Hey ya’ll!!! We’re still kicking……well some of us. Matt is snoring in a bed just across the room. Guess the young punk can’t hang with the “Old Guy”. John is sleeping too. Actually, I can hardly keep my eyes open myself, but I wanted to say hello to all of you before we go out on the river again in a few hours. YES!!! I said again. John Wilson offered to take us out again this evening and if the fish are biting, we’ll fish well into the night….or morning as it may be.

Where do I start? OH, how about where we left off last time. We left you last at the Fulton’s lodge. After we hit the send button and waited for the report and pictures to upload, John gave us some casting lessons. I don’t know about all of you, but I sure haven’t seen all that many people cast a complete line down to the backing with only a couple of false casts. John makes it look easy. If only it was. I got a number of pointers and even a mechanics and physics lesson on rod movement and how the line follows. Things that I have read about for years and were still confused on, all became clear last night. John not only can cast well (that’s why he broke records on accuracy at the ESPN Great Outdoor Games), but he can also convey it to others like me. WICKED COOL!!! (As John would say!!)

After the files finally uploaded…..OH, that reminds me, we called the great people at Fly Rod & Reel magazine today and we think we have things worked out regarding our photos. Please keep looking, you should have a bunch to look at very soon. After the files finished we followed John over to his cabin to stay with him for the night. WELL!!!! Just before John left for the Great Outdoor Games, his AC quit in his cabin. He told his landlord about it and seemed to think it would be fixed when he got back. NOT!!! I’ll kind of leave that there, but I think John had a few words with his landlord….at least that’s what it kind of sounded like about a block away. You fill in the blanks.

Well, Matt hopped on the phone and called His Place Resort, that had already offered to allow us to stay in one of their cabins the next 3 nights and asked if we could come early. They said “Come on down!!”. Shwew!!! It was still in the 80’s and the humidity must have been about the same. We were dripping just from our casting lessons and really needed to cool down. The AC experience was certainly better here!

We’ll we got our main gear out and quickly got showers and started tying flies. John was showing us how to tie his “now not so secret” fly – Trout Crack. This is perhaps one of the simplest flies to tie, but the results are absolutely incredible. I’ve heard a rumor that Umpqua is looking into carrying John’s fly, but it just hasn’t happened yet. ;>) I would highly recommend each and everyone of you contact Umpqua about this fly, cause you sure the heck will want some. I caught about 25 fish in just a few hours, with Matt catching almost as many, with this thing and that is a tiny part of this fly’s track record. I’ll tell you this about it so you have a little idea…’s a bit like a scud and fished dead drift like most nymphs….size 12 to 18 generally.

OK, so we tied about a dozen each and headed to bed. That was about 11:30 and the alarm was set for 3:30. We are in a bit different accommodations, which feels a bit more like Trout Bum habitat. We basically have a 1 room efficiency cabin. Two beds….ya, I know…….there are three of us right?!! No, I didn’t share with Matt last night. Luckily I brought along my sleeping pad and sleeping bag just incase, and slept on the floor. I have no complaints. I think I could have slept standing up last night.

So, I wake to Matt shaking me at 3:30. John wanted us to get to the river at first light for some nymphing and midging to HUGH fish. I mean fish in the 10 – 20 lb range were fairly common in the water we were going to fish with #18s and 6x tippet. Following quick showers, we slipped into our waders at the cabin and drove to the access. Sorry, can’t tell you where it is. Can you blame John for not wanting us to tell the location? He’ll be glad to take you though if you have him guide you. Sounds like a fair trade to me. You can get a heck of a lot of information though and contact John via his web site at Anyway, we ate granola bars on the way and drank sport drinks to try to get some more fluid in us.

OH, guess I should mention the water generation at this time. This was the first time I had experienced tailwater fishing and it was pretty wild to see all of the guides and Matt constantly on the phone calling the dam generation phone number. The dam telephone recording doesn’t tell you “when” the water will be “turned on” for generation, but it tells you when it “was” turned on and how many generator units were put on line. If you know your stuff (which all of our guides have) you can determine how long it will take for the water to get down to your location and plan your egress from the river appropriately. Additionally, you have to constantly monitor the generating schedules to determine what kind of fishing you may be able to do the next day. The water generation determines when you will fish, how you will fish, where you will fish and if you will be wading or fishing from a boat. There’s quite a bit to think about and plan for, and that’s what we’ve been doing the whole trip. Well, I say we…..Matt and the guides have been.

OK, so we buzz down a bunch of back roads and come to a farm field that seems pretty well worn from a few lucky vehicles. Quickly we jump out of the truck, gather our gear and get another lesson from John as to how he rigs his nymph and midge rigs. I gotta start taking notes when I’m around this guy!! After John gets us set, he heads for the river, while we try to keep up. Headlamps on, we slide through a path that looked like a tunnel through the trees and shrub to the river. In we go and wade up river trying not to trip over submerged logs, stumps and boulders. Hey, one word of advice for all of you……CLEATS!!! Wish I had some. I will the next time. Them rocks is slick….so we all stayed dry….at least walking in!!!

Well, John’s timing was perfect. We made it to a…..well, I had no idea what it was. Did I mention the fog? We could barely see 20 feet in front of us up until now, but the sun was starting to peak over the ridge and the fog was just starting to burn off. We could hear very large fish breaking the water in the fog. It was pretty cool. John hands me his rod with a streamer and tells me where to cast. While messing with something on my William Joseph chest pack, a fish took the streamer that I had dangling in the water just 6 feet in front of me. Didn’t get that one hooked, but that was just the start of our day. I had no idea at that point what I was casting to or how far to cast, so John told me the length I needed by seeing my back cast and I was fishing. He told me I was floating my fly over a number of 20+ lb fish….it was just up to the fish whether or not they wanted to eat. I had a number of takes that seemed really big. You all know the feeling….., but I only got in a few small ones. Just 12 to 16 inchers…I was still happy. Especially since I caught both rainbows and a cutthroat. OH, I need to mention that you can catch a “Grand Slam” in this water…..a rainbow, brown, cutthroat and brookie all in the same day on the same water. I was starting to wonder if I might have a chance.

While I was swinging my streamer, Matt was getting lessons in nymphing with Trout Crack. Matt is a streamer fisherman and not greatly experienced at nymphing, but after today, he decided he loves nymphing in the right conditions like I decided I love streamers in the right conditions yesterday. I couldn’t see them well through the fog, but I heard a lot of “OH MAN!!”s as Matt missed a few. He did hook up with a number of fish though and got better and better using the new technique as the morning wore on.

Well, my streamer takes petered out and John told me to start nymphing up near Matt. YES!!!!! I was in total heaven. This is the kind of fishing I love. Fast riffle dropping into a 2 to 3 foot run with a couple of side channels coming in too. Seams everywhere!!! I had a blast!!! We have been really lax at taking pictures with us holding fish up till now, so we decided to take a number of pics today, so that you all believe that we actually have caught some fish. Each fish we would hook up, John would ask if it was a nice fish, what kind and if we wanted pictures of it. Matt and I had him walking back and forth taking pictures of us pretty frequently for a while. On one of my hookups, he asked me what it was. I said I wasn’t sure, it kinda looked like a rainbow…. “NO, maybe a “cut””…no…. “IT’S A BROOKIE!!!” John nearly ran over to me to make sure we got a picture of this beautiful little gem. I have always had a special place in my heart for this beautiful fish, so I was beaming. Then John says… “Game On!!”. I looked a little puzzled and Matt says that I have to get the Grand Slam. Holy Smokes!!! I wasn’t even thinking about that at the time. John tells me to keep doing what I’m doing because there are a bunch of large fish where I am, but he would go off in search of browns. Matt and I both bring in a number of rainbows and cuts when John hooks up with our first brown of the day. He calls me a hundred yards or so downstream (where I was fishing streamers earlier) and shows me the brown hangout. After getting yet another lesson of how to swing the rod in a circle over my head while casting to get the best drift, John lets me loose with a size 20 beadhead zebra midge. After missing, yet again, a couple of nice takes, I finally see my indicator just pause and set the hook. We weren’t sure what it was yet, but it did stay down and we were hoping it was a brown. I took forever getting this bugger close enough to see, cause I sure the heck didn’t want to mess up. Finally after a few minutes (seemed like hours though) we get our first glimpse…….A BROWN!!! Man was I pumped!!! After another couple hours…I mean minutes…..John finally netted the little (14 inches) beauty for me and there where “Hi-Fives” all around. The Grand Slam!!! Wicked Cool!!!

I finally settled down and decided to fish from across the riffle we were fishing to get a better drift because I could see some really nice fish in the run just below the riffle. Sure enough. I got on a decent rainbow and Matt asks me if I want him to take a picture. I hesitated, cause it was only 17 or 18 inches I thought, but we did need some more fish pics. Matt graciously waded across, but it was still going to be a little while before it was ready to net, so Matt started to fish. Quickly he had a nice fish on himself. Now John was wading over to try to get a picture of the two of us with nice fish together. Wicked Cool!!! We got the pics, let our little buddies go and while we were watching Matt’s fish swim off…..well, I’m not sure what the heck happened. All I know is that Matt leaned back a little bit and you should have seen the look on his face just before it went under water. Before his ears hit the water, John was turning to grab him, but Matt still got a full Norfork baptism. John pulled him up instantly and after we figured out all was fine, we all laughed our butts off. Only casualty may be Matt’s camera. Not sure yet. We’ll know in a few minutes when we try to upload his great pictures. Keep your fingers crossed!!!! No pictures at this time. The Fuji FinePix S5000, didn’t like the cold water and we can’t get the card to be recognized in the card reader yet. Rest assured, we will keep trying.

Well, that was just about the time we were going to head back anyway, because John suspected the water was going to be “turned on” any minute anyway, which would give us just enough time to get back. On the way back we spotted a number of large fish. One rainbow probably over 10 lbs, numerous larger browns and one brown that John estimated to be in the 30 lb range. Wicked Cool!! Up and out of the river, we found out that the heat was still with us. YUCK!!!! Just another reason to go fishing on a hot day. We were all hungry and tired and headed for lunch. John pulled in to Sutton’s Restaurant in Mountain Home on Hwy 5. He said that it was all great and that they made their own potato chips that we just HAD to get. We ordered, started drinking our tea and talking about our day when I got a twinkle in my eye. Matt looked at me and said, “You’re gonna try to bum lunch aren’t you?” I just smiled. I headed for the kitchen to find the owner – John Sutton. After telling the waitress that I wanted to talk to him she sent me to the back of the kitchen where John was flying around like a wild man making food for all of us. He listened to what I had to stay and instantly said he’s be happy feed us for free. What a guy!!! Then we got the food. Holy Smokes!!! I got a blackened burger with blue cheese and all the fixings. That may have been the best burger I have ever eaten and that’s NOT just because I was hungry….I honestly mean that!!! Mr. Sutton even took a couple of minutes to take a picture with “The Bums”.

After that we picked up a TON of sport drinks and ice. So far, I think we have spent more money on drinks than anything else. We have too though in this heat. We have no choice. Well, the “two” other bums just woke up from their beauty sleep (didn’t help by the way) so I guess I better go. It’s 6:30 pm and we are getting ready to head out for an evening fish, get some food (let’s hope my bumming luck holds), get a couple hours of sleep (I think I better this time) and head back out about 2:00 am in search of big browns. I apologize for not filling in the blanks for yesterday yet (it was a full and fun day that we still need to elaborate on) but there area only so many hours in this day…… and I don’t want to miss a minute of it!!!

Tight Lines,

Matt & Brent (written by Brent)