Day 3 of our 3 Day fall trip to the White River. (2013-11-24)
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.
“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.
It seems that the North Fork of the White River is pretty hot right now. With Brian Wise, Justin Spencer, myself, and several others are posting photos on local forums of all the big fish the river has been giving up recently; the stream is definitely getting some good press (there also was an article in the latest issue of Fly Fisherman by Zach Matthews featuring friends of the OC (Brian Wise, Kyle Kosovich, and Randy Hanner). The only saving grace about the press the river is getting, is that it is so damn hard to get to from all of the populated areas in Missouri and Arkansas. It helps to keep the crowds down.
With all that being said, and the fishing being red hot, I found myself back on the North Fork of the White River this past weekend with a couple of streamer addicts that I met over the internet (Dan Held and Paul Chausse). Dan and Paul are good guys, even if they are flatlanders, and they offered to swing by my house on the way through STL to pick me up and afforded me the first trip in a long time that I didn’t drive on……and it was damn nice.
We ended up staying at River of Life Farm on the banks of the North Fork of the White River. With the “Winter Rates”, the place is an affordable fish camp with some high end luxuries. It is a bit tougher to cook potatoes o’brien, scrambled eggs, and biscuits and gravy while tent camping along the river; but it was easy peasy this past weekend.
The weekend was a streamer weekend, and Dan and Paul came prepared. We were fishing big nasty schlappin inspired streamers. On Saturday we floated from ROLF to Patrick bridge and didn’t squeak a fish into the boat the entire day. We floated the day with Brian and Jenny Wise and Jenny had a consistent nymph bite on a brown wigglestone down deep. It was a great day to be on the water, the temps were in the high 50’s and we didn’t see an another person on the river the entire day. It was the way a winter day on the NFOW is supposed to go.
On Sunday, Paul and I floated from ROLF to Blair bridge and took our nymph rods out of the boat so as not to tempt us into breaking the skunk off. It was a short float, as Dan stayed back because he wasn’t feeling well and just met us at the take-out. In the short 3hr float, we boated 3 fish with the biggest being a 17″ brown. All the fish were caught on a rainbow schlappen inspired fly tied by Paul Chausse. It was a good float and much needed after the day before. But quite simply it was a weekend that we had to put in our dues.
Traveling with new fishing buddies is always a delicate dance, it is the fisherman’s equivalent to the first date. How does he pack, what does he pack, can he fish, does he pitch in and help around camp, etc. A fishing trip is a fishing trip, but we all know that there are only a few that we can travel with. Dan, Paul, and I seemed to hit our stride and the traveling and the fishing went well. I am certain it was the first of a few more trips.
All in all it was another good weekend on the water.
I have quite a few things planned in the coming weeks, so be sure to check out the site for updates.