Day 2 of the 3 day annual fall bender we put on down on the White River. The tales from this day are best left for around a campfire. (2013-11-23)
The predicted generation for Friday (10/26/2012) wasn’t looking good at all, as the White River had ceased generation on Wednesday and now we were looking at dead low water. No one was in a hurry in the morning, given the low flows, high skies, and high winds, so I decided to get up a bit early and fix everyone breakfast. Biscuits & Sausage Gravy, Scrambled Eggs, Hash Browns O’Brien, and some homemade coffee cake that Jim Held brought was the order of the morning. Breakfast was good and we took our time milling around the house trying to figure out what the hell each of us were going to do.
Craig, Dan, and I decided to take our chances on the White River and float from Gaston’s to Wildcat Shoals, which Paul, Dan, and Jim decided to put the kicker motor on their boat and work the pools and shoals near the access at Wildcat Shoals. If you ahve ever had one of those days where you should have stayed back at the cabin and drank, this was one of those days. The day started with me trying to catch my boat to slow it down as it slid down the trailer and into the water (non-existent low water ramps suck) only to be drug 5ft into the water (luckily I was able to catch myself and keep the top of my waders above water and from filling up…..but my shins and knees are still bruised up a week later). The day only got worse from there, from a boating standpoint.
Navigating the White River on dead low water is best left to kayaks and pontoons. The majority of the section was fine, but I had never seen the White River as low as it was and it was a great education……and workout. Between catching countless dink rainbows, we were in and out of the boat as we pushed and pulled it through skinny water and when it was floating us 3 big guys, we were abusing the hell out of the G4 bottom (that stuff is the real deal…..as we would have left a gel coat trail all the way down the river, this float without it). From a fish count standpoint, we caught a ton of fish on a variety of flies (eggs, worms, midges, little streamers), but there were none of the bigger fish that we had become accustomed to on our trips to the White River.
We did get a beer break when we bumped into Jeff House (High Plains Fly Fisher Blog) and Ray Reidy (Trout Journeys.com) as they came down for the shindig and were floating from Dam to Wildcat in Ray’s Clacka skiff. After catching up with them just above White Hole and comparing notes, we were both on our way. The fishing pretty much remained consistent the rest of the float, but near the end of the float we had to push through alot of water to get back to the house for a little shindig we were throwing for the locals that night.
Prior to the trip, Paul Chausse and I had cooked up a plan to throw a little BBQ shindig at the house we were staying at. We always like to eat well on trips, but what started as just a good steak dinner for the 6 of us morphed into a good old fashioned fish camp party, complete with pimped out drift boat, lots of beer, fire, and good food. We had sent out alot of invites to various friends that live down there, and those that could make it included Steve Stinnett (Seasons on the White Outfitters), Larry Babin (Hogs On The Fly), Dominic Zametto (Two Rivers Fly Shop), Bill Thorne (Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher), Paul Port (AGFC), Corey Dodson (Chasing The Dream Blog), Ray Reidy (Trout Journeys Blog), Jeff House (High Plains Fly Fisher Blog). Combine those above, plus the six of us staying in the house, and that was the makings for a great evening around the fire.
Dinner included some jalapeno poppers stuffed with 4 different kinds of cheddar cheese and bacon, bacon wrapped asparagus bacon wrapped 6oz steaks, roasted potatoes, marinated Italian salad, and biscuits. It was damn good…..I mean ridiculous The whole house was silent as everyone was eating (the food was just that good).
After dinner, we hung out at the house for awhile and then headed out to check out Paul Chausse and Dan Held’s pimped out Hyde drift boat. They have rigged their boats with various LED lights and control panels, and pimped out wheels. It is something to see. So we headed down to the river to get some photos of it on the water, at night. Once we were down at the ramp, no one grabbed a pair of waders, so it was interesting watching the boat get loaded and unloaded into the low water without waders on a cold, windy night.
The night was filled with plenty of laughs and stories and was a hella good time, and the reason we look forward to this first fall trip every year. The night wore on, and people came and went at will. I think we finally shut the lights out around 1am or so, dead tired from a long……good day.
“Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you.” — The Stranger from The Big Lebowski
Saturday morning came early, after a late night. We rose and readied ourselves for our three boat drift on the White River. After plenty of discussion the night before, with me apparently being a little more vocal than most, we decided on floating Dam to Wildcat again on Saturday. The weather was much nicer this morning, with plenty of cloud cover and just some misting rain every so often. We were all fairly stoaked to begin the day, so we dropped the boats in at the Dam Site Ramp in the State Park and ran our shuttle to Wildcat Boat Ramp.
While dropping the trailers off at Wildcat, I had the chance to meet up with Corey Dodson, Chance Maxville, and thier group of guys from Oklahoma as they were floating from Wildcat Schoals Boat Ramp to Cotter (about a 6 mile float). It was cool to finally meet these guys and say hello; but there were fish to be caught (or so I thought), so we were on our way.
To say the drift boat craze has caught on in the Ozarks might be a bit of an understatement. Four years ago, when I would take my boat down there, you might see one of the other 4 guides (at that time) out in one but just on the shuttle drive we saw at least 6 other drift boats either at the ramp or on the road being trailered to a ramp. It is pretty cool to say the least.
Evan Muskopf and Brian Greer were in my boat, Dan Held and Paul Chausse were in thier boat, and Ray Riedy and Jeff House were in Ray’s skiff as we started the float. The fishing details are pretty basic and for every trophy fish grip and grin you see with a pig trout and a streamer hanging out of its mouth there are handfuls of trips like the one we took today. Meat was thrown in the wind to no avail and no hard chases in our boat. Paul / Dan managed to put a 20″ fish in thier boat, and the other two boats (ours included) managed to eek out some dinks but that was it. The streamer game is a nasty game at times, and sometimes dues need to be paid. Today we paid ours. Just like the quote at the beginning of this blog post.
Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you.
Evan Muskopf and I headed south on Thursday (02-02-2012) to meet up with Paul Chausse, Dan Held, Ray Reidy, and Jeff House for a three day fishing trip on the White River. It is sort of an annual February pilgrimage for me, yet it had been a few years since JimmyT and I had fished together in February. With that in mind and despite the drift boat in tow, we jumped at the chance when JimmyT offered the opportunity to get Evan and I out in his boat for a day of fishing.
We arrived late on thursday night and after a little scheduling conflict (and my lack of procrastination in reserving my RV for an additional night), we grabbed a room at River Rock Inn in Mountain Home. We were up early and on the way to meet JimmyT, we stopped and picked up Ray Reidy and Paul Chausse at Wildcat Shoals Boat Ramp and shuttled them back to the Dam Site put-in for their 11 mile float. After some breif catching up, they were on thier way and we were on our way to meet up with JimmyT at his Wishes & Fishing Fly Shop in Bull Shoals.
We wadered up and dropped his boat in for a very wet day of fishing. The rain was fairly consistent throughout the day, with some downpours here and there. The fishing was consistent enough to keep us interested, but the big fish on the streamer bite wasn’t really there. We focused our efforts mainly on the catch and release area, doing several drifts and picked up the occassional rainbow; but the big browns eluded us. Perhaps it was the number of boats that were out there (at any time there were at least 12 boats within eye site). At JimmyT’s urging, we switched to one of his rigged up 11ft nymph rods and on the first drift I picked up a “barely 20 inch” brown trout. It was a good fish, and only on the White River can a guy be a little disappointed with a 20″ fish…..but I know better on this river. We got lots of love on the nymph rig, but our hearts were with the streamers so we switched back and threw more meat the rest of the afternoon with the same results. The thing is, though, that even with the weather being as wet / cold as it was; JimmyT was on his game keeping the boat positioned perfectly and giving us the shots we needed.
As the day wore on and the temerpature began to drop with the river level (the generation was letting up), I asked for mercy as I was wet and cold, so we headed back to the ramp and to Wishes & Fishes Fly Shop for some beers and catching up out of the rain. We headed back to the Bull Shoals State Park Rent-An-Rv and unloaded our stuff and plenty of food / drink were had as the entire group (Evan Muskopf, Brian Greer, Dan Held, Paul Chausse, Ray Reidy, and Jeff House) were present and recounted the day before more storms rolled in. It was a great way to start February, even though the truly big fish didn’t cooperate.