For a number of years now I have been sending flies by the dozens out to the banks of the White River in Arkansas; to date, between shops/guides and clients, I have sent somewhere north of 300 dozen streamers to the greater Mountain Home vicinity. Crazy thing is that after all that I had not been on the fabled waters myself…until last weekend.
About a year ago Michael Kyle from the FFF Southern Council contacted me about coming out to be a headliner for the Conclave. I talked with him a few times about it and what his plans were to rejuvenate the gathering before his enthusiasm about it won me over and I agreed to come out. Last Thursday I flew in to Springfield Missouri and met Michael out front of the airport for the ride to Mountain Home. After driving a few hours, part of which was through tornadic level storms complete with hail, we reached the banks of the White. It took everything I had not to jump out after crossing the bridge and seeing the gin clear flow to not jump out of the car and start rigging up on the spot. The first order of business was to hit up Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher to catch up with the guys and get a license. I was very impressed with the shop from the time we walked in. Steve has put together a serious amount of gear, tying stuff and clothing in to a large space. He had everything you could need for out there under one roof! While at the shop we was confirmed that the weather was getting a little too sketchy so we nixed plans for a short float. After hanging out with Steve, Bill and Gabe for a bit at the shop I left (with a bag of new tying goodies of course) and we headed over to the hotel to get checked in. A short while later Michael and I headed over to a local catfish joint to meet up with a few of the other Southern Council board members for dinner. The catfish was fantastic, as was the company, but while we ate we watched another gnarly cell roll in across Norfolk Lake. It was bad enough that nobody wanted to even walk to the cars so we spent an extra hour or so watching the lightning that was so prolific that the sky never really got dark. Eventually we got out of there and headed back to the hotel were a few other guys came by and we tied flies, drank beers, and watched Oregon take a totally unexpected loss. It was awesome.
Friday morning came real fast. I woke up just before my alarm and realized I had been up24 of the last 28 hours…sleep when you die I guess. I did not dwell on it too long though as I had to get up and prep for a couple three hour classes I would be teaching. The first class revolved around articulated streamers and the second class was classic winged wet flies. The classes had a half dozen in each and went off without a hitch. The guys that signed up did a great job on the flies and asked a lot of good questions. It seemed like the classes were over in the blink of an eye.
Once I got the class materials all packed up I caught a ride over to the fairgrounds for the night as there was grilled food, bluegrass and beverages to be had. It was a gorgeous night (though a little chilly) and the event was well attended. I had the opportunity to meet a bunch of people I have only talked with on line. It was great to talk flies and fishing the White over a few beers with everyone out there.
Eventually the band tapered off to take a break and that opened the door for other to take the mic…spontaneous and hilarious karaoke broke out for a few more hours. The night ended up the same way as Friday…back at the hotel with a few more beers and this time watching BYU lose a stunner.
Saturday morning was another early one as I had to get back over to the fairgrounds to set up the table for tying as well as prep the presentations. I was set for the day to alternate in the presentation room with author Jason Randall. I did presentations on Production Fly Tying and Streamer Fishing a few times and tied in between…the day flew by.
The show seemed to be very well attended as the presentation room was always full and there were people a few deep in front of the table when I tied. I got all my gear packed up as the show was winding down and we stayed at the fairgrounds for the evening festivities.
That night there was a competitions BBQ team providing the food, an awesome bluegrass band (Missouri Boatride) and an auction to be had. The BBQ and bluegrass definitely did not disappoint.
I got a chance to check out some of the auction items and was stoked to see the flies I had donated were framed by Steve Jensen for the auction, and brought in some really good money for the club. I also was being auctioned off for a day on the White river the following day and was excited to see that a few friends that we had been hanging out with won and would be headed out with us in the morning. By the time the auction wound down we got everything there squared away and headed back to prep for the morning...which was o course done over a few beers with another great football game on.
Three straight days of going hard was definitely wearing on me but nothing was keeping me from finally getting to the river. We got all of our gear squared away and met up with the guys, then headed to the water. I have been told that the White runs clear but still was amazed to get to the launch and see that it was bathtub clear and you could spot trout all over the place. The Corp had shut down generation so it was low and slow…not great for streamers though I gave it a shot. I ended up with one on a streamer early and then it just shut off. Eventually we resorted to fishing midges to get some fish in the boat but I don’t think anyone would have really cared if we hadn’t; we had a great time floating and joking around for the day. I think the highlight of the day for me was in early afternoon when I spotted a 30” class brown just a few rod lengths from where we had the boat anchored off. It was on a shallow flat with a rainbow tboned in it’s mouth and shaking it like a rag doll. IT would then release it, swim a few feet away and circle, then come back and hammer in to it again. I got serious fish fever just watching it. Once I had a streamer tied on I made a cast far upstream but evidently not far enough as it spooked off. Michael and I jumped in to the extremely cold water and got over to shore to sneak up and see if we would get another shot, and sure enough it came back. I was able to make two casts this time before it ghosted out in to the center current. I thought for sure that a fish like that on the feed would be more of a player but the conditions were against us. I will be haunted by that fish until I get back out there and do it again…in January.
After we finished up the float we packed everything away and said our goodbyes to John and Chris then hit the road back towards Michael’s place in Springfield. We had briefly toyed with the notion of stopping on the way past Taneycomo for some night fishing but between the lack of sleep and the generation schedule decided the better of it and headed straight to his place. I was totally wrecked and was out by about 8:30 that night. Sleep was glorious.
We got an early start on Monday so that we could get a few hours in on Taney before I had to get to the airport. We checked the gauges on the way and found that the generation that was supposed to go on all morning, yielding good streamer water, had been shut down about 2am, yielding lesser streamer conditions. We dumped the boat in anyway and gave it a shot. After a bit we hit a second launch to grab Michael’s buddy Matt for a few more hours. I did not resort to midges but did end up basically dead drift fishing a small weighted sculpin to get in to a few more fish. Taney has a little more color to it than the White but is still more clear than anything I have here in the Midwest so it was really cool to look around and just watch all the fish and how they act. Eventually it was time to pack up to get to the airport and end the trip. I was able to get right through security with no problems, a rarity for me as I must ‘fit some description’ and on to the plane. It was an easy trip back until we were on our final approach for Columbus and there was a terrible storm centered over the airport. At this point I’d had about 20 hours of sleep over the five days and the captain came on to tell us that we had 25 minutes of reserve fuel to circle and hope the storm would break up before we would divert to Pittsburgh…for the night. All I wanted to do was get home to my wife and my bed so this was not well received. At 24 minutes he came back on that we were cleared to attempt a landing and that it would be bumpy. He wasn’t kidding. Ten minutes later we were on the ground and happy. What a trip.
Michael Kyle and the rest of the Southern Council put on a great show this year. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would recommend going for anyone that is in the area next year. I may be out there again just to enjoy the fun but can’t wait that long to exact my revenge on the spooky trout…I’m heading back out for Dally Streamer Fest on January 31st and will get some water time in then!