Spring River (Mammoth Spring, Arkansas) — July 18, 2004

Fly Rod & Reel Trout Bum Tournament Check-In # 10

We arose at 6:00am on this last day of our trout bum adventure to fish the Spring River that rises from the ground in Mammoth Spring, Arkansas. After waking up all those crashing in our room. Not only did we manage to bum a room for our trout bum adventure, we allowed our unofficial Team Ozark Chronicles groupies (Team Chronic Smack) to crash on cots in our room. It was the least we could do for them, since they brought down a huge check for the folks at Hooked On A Cure. Ron Caimi, the bamboo rod maker from Waterloo, Illinois (www.troutcamprods) also drove down to fish with us on the Spring River and make the presentation of the rod he built (we did that on Saturday night – man what a beautiful rod) for the Hooked On A Cure raffle and he met up with us at the tailgate of Rich’s Bronco.

After cooking espresso by the propane burner on the tailgate of the Bronco and casting a couple of different fly rods, we loaded the truck with all our trout bumming gear and headed for the Gooseneck Island Restaurant on the bank of the Spring River for the world’s best biscuits and gravy (not to mention they make a pretty good ham & cheese omelets). Brent successfully bummed breakfast for the both of us, and we ate heartily (of course we had the biscuits and gravy). Owner Jack Bartruff was very happy to help out our cause for St. Jude.

We than got ready to launch the Hyde drift boat on the Spring River. Only Team Ozark Chronicles could successfully bum a Hyde drift boat from Wisconsin to be delivered and used on the last day of the trip. We had never met Rich Brown or Matt Pedersen prior to this trip (other than some emails back and forth), but a couple of comments about wanting to fish the Spring River from a drift boat and they agreed to come on down. So this might be the finest bum of the trip – get two guys to bring down their drift boat for us from Wisconsin and take us out on the Spring River in it. After the launch, we were on the water and fishing by about 8:30am. I made a comment about missing the early morning bite, when I was quickly asked “Are the trout in the Spring River different from any other trout, in the fact that they won’t eat all day long?” by Rich Brown. To which I had no replies and no worries, as the trout bum experience was nearing an end.

[From Brent] While Matt, Matt and Rich were putting in the boat, I took Ron to the hotel to get his truck, checked out of the room and noticed the fuel gage was getting on a quarter tank. I swung into Hocker Oil’s Gas+ station at the state line on highway 63 and explained what we were doing. As I suspected, you really need to get in touch with corporate offices of gas stations to get fuel, and that wasn’t possible on Sunday. However, the manager (who asked to remain anonymous) pulled $20 out of his own pocket to give to us. Can you believe the generosity of people? (This whole experience has really helped me believe in mankind again, as I have noticed myself getting a little cynical living here in the city.) I put the $20 in the tank, noticed it was pretty much full and hoped that would be enough to get us home.

[From Matt again] After walking the boat down a couple stretches of shallow water, I am now convinced the Spring River needs at least 6” more of flow to be prime drift boat water. But we got some interesting questions from the locals about the boat, as we truly believe we were the first drift boat on the upper Spring River. But watch out for when we win the pontoon boat from Cabelas, that should be prime for this river.

Fishing was slow for everyone. Well, everyone except McClane. I ended the day with only 5 fish brought to hand, but McClane brought to hand 19 fish for the day with his damn nymph fishing techniques. Just as we were getting ready to get off of the water and head home, Tommy Garner (http://www.tommygarner.tv/index2.html) and his wife Wanda Garner (http://www.womenanglers.us/) had arrived to shoot some video and photographs of our trout bumming adventures for their respective publications. Tommy was shooting some video tape and the fish were cooperating with McClane, while I was having trouble hooking up. But I was rescued when the battery for the video camera went dead, and he had to shoot still photos. I hooked up managed to land a fish for the camera as well. After some brief conversation and thank you’s, we headed toward the parking lot to meet Rich and Matt and have one last bummed meal before heading back to St. Louis.

We found ourselves at the D&W State Line Restaurant in the Ozark Heritage Mall in Thayer, Missouri around 4:00pm sitting at a table and awaiting the return of McClane who was trying to successfully bum a meal for the four of us. He returned, and said he successfully bummed some burgers and fries for the both of us but our “posse” would have to fend for themselves. During dinner, we relived some of the action of a day on the Spring River and our trout bum experience. In a flash, we were gone from the State Line Restaurant and on our way back to St. Louis. McClane pulled his best Mario Andretti impersonation, and had us back at my house in record time. To which I was met with a sign made by my daughters that read “Welcome Home Daddy.” As quick as I was met with hugs from my family, McClane was gone to see his special someone – and I completely understand. As much fun as we had during our trout bum, it is good to be home.

[From Brent] Yep, I would have to agree with Matt. This has been a trip of a lifetime, one I will never forget and one that I have learned so much from. At the same time…..I also couldn’t wait to get home to see my girl, Jen and all the animals. It’s good to be home. I think I’ll sleep good tonight!!


Tight Lines,

Matt Tucker & Brent McClane


Little Red River (Heber Springs, Arkansas) — July 17, 2004

Fly Rod & Reel Trout Bum Tournament Check-In # 9

McClane was up until 1:00am working on reports for FR&R, while I was in the room across the hall dreaming of more monster brown trout in my sleep. We got up today around 6:00am, to meet up with Team Chronic Smack, the unofficial fan club of Team Ozark Chronicles, at the public access at the base of Greer’s Ferry Lake Dam and the start of the Little Red River. After we said goodbye and thank you to our gracious hosts (www.jamierouse.net) we headed for the river. We got to the access around 7:30am, and quickly suited up and prepared to meet up with Rich Brown (www.fishinfatman) and Matt Pedersen (www.ramblingreports.com) and fish with them for a day on the river. We have to personally send a shout out to all those from www.fishinfatman.com and www.ramblingreports.com for all the support for Team Ozark Chronicles as it was pretty overwhelming. After the official presentation of the Team Chronic Smack check to Team Ozark Chronicles and the showing off of some really sweet raffle prizes that the posse from the north brought it was time to hit the river.

Rich and I headed towards the dam in search of the elusive Ozark grand slam, and had some insider information that this was the place. We had a blast catching brookies and rainbows all morning long, while McClane and Pedersen were downstream trying their luck. We didn’t catch any monsters, but had a blast in the process of the hunt. I almost received my first baptism in the Little Red River, but managed to catch myself before I hit the drink. But good news, my Fuji FinePix S5000 camera is functioning properly after my Norfork baptism earlier this week. But I doubt it would have survived two dunks in one week. Those little brook trout were a blast to catch on the tan & ginger mohair leech I was sight fishing to them.

Then it happened. Like any other good tailwater experience, this one came to an end with the defining sound of the horn from the dam. It signified that they were starting generation and to seek higher ground. So Rich and I reeled up and headed towards the parking lot, where we sat in the shade of a friendly camper’s awning and awaited the return of McClane and Pedersen and tails of monster trout. Upon their return, we heard stories of lots of trout, and McClane’s kindness in teaching a couple of kids to fly fish and the fact that the kid caught a very nice trout for his first fly rod trout was what made McClane’s day. In total, we caught 30 fish between Brent and I and the other guys caught a nice mess also, but we won’t include them with our totals. After shedding our gear we decided to not run down river in search of lower water, but opted to seek out a place to bum some lunch.

[From Brent] Our fish numbers would most definitely have been higher for the day if I had actually fished the whole time I was there, but while catching a number of fish in only a few minutes, some very well mannered young gentlemen came over to me and asked what I was catching them on. I love teaching kids to fish, so the next thing I know we were talking about leaders and knots and drifting and all kinds of things. I told them that the drift was the most important thing and the flies were secondary, but that sowbugs were probably the most common fly to use there. In just a little while the boys (Zack Birge and Brett Daniels) were all smiles as they brought in fish after fish. They obviously are very smart guys as I only had to show them once what to do. Good thing they let most of their catches go, cause these guys are going to be incredible fly fishers very soon. The highlight was when both boys had been fishing for a nice ‘bow’ for a few minutes and all of a sudden I hear “He caught it!!!” I looked up and saw Brett fighting a really nice fish and Zack helping his pal out with netting it. The look on their faces was better than catching fish myself. I may have found my calling…. On our way to meet Tucker and Rich, Matt and I stopped by the campsite of the boys and their moms and talked with them for a while. It was kinda cool that the flies they caught their fish on were tied a few nights before by “ESPN Dude” (John Wilson). I told them to watch the games on TV and that they would be able to see the guy that tied their flies. You gotta admit….at that age, I would have thought that was pretty cool.

[From Matt again] After we all finished up at the tailwater, we headed to McPearson’s Restaurant on Hwy. 25B in Heber Springs, Arkansas. McClane successfully bummed lunch for all four of us (a total bum of more than $50 in dining experience) and we enjoyed a nice leisurely lunch in true trout bum style. After posing with Jackie McPherson, the owner of the restaurant, and him offering to buy us breakfast tomorrow morning (does that constitute as another bum?), we were off to the Ozark Angler Fly Shop (www.ozarkangler.com) to say hello and see if we can bum a few things (more specifically some tying materials for Trout Crack). After going in and introducing ourselves, and several photos, we walked out with the needed tying materials, a set of croakies for McClane’s sunglasses, and an official OzarkAngler Hat Trick t-shirt for me – all of it bummed. McClane is really starting to find a niche with the bumming in person.

After we left the fly shop, we headed north towards Mammoth Spring, Arkansas and the Spring River. On the way, we drove through Cave City, Arkansas, home of the world’s sweetest watermelons. What is a trout bum to do, other than bum one of the world’s sweetest watermelons. Smooth talking McClane bummed us a yellow watermelon, and then it was picture time and time for the road. What a way to break up the 2 ½ hour drive (in total we have already driven over 900 miles thus far). Also while driving, Matt and rich both had their tying vices attached to their sun visors in their trout truck and were tying flies all the way. What a hoot. You all HAVE to see the photos of this spectacle. Talk about ingenious!!!

We arrived in Mammoth Spring around 6:00pm, and checked in to the RiverView Motel off of Hwy. 63 and overlooking the Lassetter Access on the Spring River. All we had to do was mention St. Jude to the owners, Bill & Bonnie Gildersleeve, and a free room was a done deal. They were more than willing to help out, as they have in years past for families traveling to St. Jude. What a nice place to stay when fishing the river, as it has a great view, clean rooms, and a great location. After check-in, we found Ron Caimi. Ron is a bamboo rod maker from Waterloo, Illinois (www.troutcamprods.com) and was kind enough to donate the grand prize for the Team Ozark Chronicles raffle to benefit Hooked On A Cure, a really sweet bamboo fly rod. After hitting the showers and getting cleaned up, it was time to check out the rod that Ron built. Man what a super sweet rod, I only hope that the person that wins it in the raffle appreciates it for the fine piece of work that it is and fishes with this rod (Ron truly believes his rods aren’t made to be set in the corner and admired, but they are to be fished). Once we were all done admiring the ‘boo’, it was time to head to Fred’s Fish House in Mammoth Spring for dinner.

McClane worked his magic again, I don’t know if it was his smooth talking or if it was the fact that he carried in one of the world’s sweetest watermelons to slice up for the employees and patrons of the restaurant, but not only was he able to bum dinner for himself and I, but he also bummed dinner for our posse of 3 (Rich, Matt, and Ron) as well. ([from Brent] You all should have seen the look on everyone’s faces when I walked in with that thing!! It was pretty hilarious!!) We all sat in the big round table in the front of the restaurant, reliving the trout bum experience, when we were told by our waitress, Samantha, that today was her 19th birthday. Well, what are trout bums to do, other than sing Happy Birthday to her and serve her a slice of watermelon with some candles in it. We ate heartedly at Fred’s Fish House and had a ton of fun in the process. But like all good things, the fun at Fred’s had to come to an end, and we were on our way back to the RiverView Motel.

Back at the hotel, several beers were drank (thanks to the 8 cases of beer bummed from the fine folks at Anheuser-Busch and Feather-Craft Fly Fishing), and we downloaded the photos from today on the water. It was 11:30pm before we all hit the sack to get well rested for a day on the Spring River. Matt and Rich crashed with us in our room too. They brought cots along and we all snoozed the night away with the thoughts of leaping trout dancing in our heads.