Last week I needed to go to Missouri for meetings. When I checked the flights into my destination a few weeks before, the prices were astronomical. I don't care if it's company money or my money - I HATE getting fleeced by airlines. So , I looked at a few alternatives. One of the alternatives was Little Rock. Hmmm - I could stop and visit with an old friend who just happens to be a potential OEM vendor for us.
Who just happens to be a fly fishing fanatic.
Who just happens to have a family place on the Little Red River.
That, my friends, is how plans are born! And this one came off without a hitch.
I met James at our pre-arranged spot in Heber Springs and we were quickly off on my first ever Arkansas fishing adventure. This trip, unlike any other I can recall, was a TRUE joy - I used James' rods / reels (he's a fellow Winston devotee), used his flies (ALWAYS defer to local knowledge), went in his boat, and, best of all, we wear the same size waders and wading shoes, so I used those as well. It would be really easy to get used to this kind of treatment, but I really don't expect it to happen again very often in the foreseeable future. However, if there are any volunteers out there, feel free to email me!
We launched his "White River Jonboat" - not sure if that is a recognized boat style or just a local term - and started down the Little Red River, in the tailwaters of Greer's Ferry Lake. There was virtually no water being generated so it was very low and clear. It also didn't take long before I started seeing fish, either spooking in front of the boat or rising up ahead. The river is really a series of long, deep pools connected by shallow rocky stretches. This river is (was) home to the former world record brown trout, a 40 pound, 4 ounce behemoth landed in 1992 by Rip Collins. The pools are deep (20'?) and there is a LOT of downed timber in water - perfect habitat for giant brown trout. There are a ton of rainbow trout in these waters, too - nice snacks for the big browns.
Even though it was mid-afternoon under a clear blue sky and bright sun, there were periodic rises along the river. We saw a few caddis flitting about but attributed most of the surface activity to midges. With little current, we opted to fish the deep pools.
This brought another new technique to my repertoire - sinking flylines. In all the years I've flyfished, I have NEVER fished with full sinking lines. I have done very little stillwater flyfishing - the places most sinking line fishing is done - and when I have fished stillwaters, Intermediate sink lines sufficed. I've fished sink tip lines in heavy currents for trout, and thrown ridiculously heavy sink tips for stripers along the Massachusetts coast, but never full sink lines.
Since I haven't fly fished for over a year for anything , picking up a full sink line was not the ideal way to start, unless you want to look stupid. Which I did in dramatic fashion. After working the kinks out of the casting stroke and getting used to the line, the casts were pretty easy. And, after a few pools, we got dialed into a pattern with a moderate retrieve of a local version of an Olive Wooly Bugger about 10' - 12' down. It resulted in nearly a fish (or at least a hit) every cast. Cookie cutter rainbows - all between 12" - 15". Some stockies, a few wild fish, and some that James ID'd as McCloud strain - beautiful, bright stripes on their sides. All in all, I believe I landed about 45 rainbows that afternoon. There were times that I would hook a fish every cast for maybe 20 minutes. Oh yeah - got 1 little wild brown while nymphing, too.
The fisheries in northern Arkansas may not be the first words out of every fly fisherman's mouth when asked to name the best fisheries in North America, but they certainly ought to be on everyone's short list. They are certainly different - bait fishermen and lure slingers float alongside the fly fisherman, and many trout become dinner. But the shear quantity and size of the fish in these waters is truly astounding. When the power generating turbines are running and the river rises, the big fish from these deep holes move up to feed. And, of course, the brown trout spawn in November, which I understand offers combat fishing for giant fish at it's finest. James' best brown to date is a fish he got last year that he estimated at 23-24 pounds. He has taken numerous 10-15 pounders. Somehow I see a trip to Little Rock in my future, maybe in the mid-November timeframe ...