Welcome to, ADRIFT, my diary of living on the banks of the greatest brown trout water in the world, sharing life with my beautiful wife, and watching two great kids grow up. This is an avenue to display my unquenchable thirst for this region and all it has to offer from a fly-fishing perspective. I am blessed in that I have a great job but with it comes a great deal of travel. The majority of my travel is on the east coast with me sporting a suit and tie most of the time. It is those times I yearn the most for my beautiful cabin on the river, my family, and my next opportunity to wet my waders.
|Posted by Mick Spaulding on January 5, 2014 at 5:15 PM||comments (42)|
I have had the opportunity to have a completely new experience this Winter. All because I made the decision to purchase a new drift boat this summer. That is full access to the water at any time. We have already experienced one of the worst winter seasons in memory here in Northern Arkansas. In the past it would have created an atmosphere of looking out the window at the snow and cold temperatures only hoping the Core of Engineers would take compassion for my soul and shut the water down so I could wade fish. The temperatures and snow have never bothered me, actually it's quite the contrary. I always treated it like a badge of honor to wader up and catch my fill of trout in terrible winter conditions. But, that scenario was always based on low water.
Now, with the river boat, my thought process and reality have changed. Now, it is me trying to justify NOT getting geared up and rolling the Clackacraft to the river. Well, in my "rookie" season, I have done my part to continue chasing browns despite the weather conditions. Over the past 2 weeks, in very cold conditions, I have drifted the Norfork River twice and the White River twice. Wade fishing is one thing because you are never very far from your warm vehicle and a change in plans. Launching a drift boat for a scheduled shuttle 5 hours down river is another thing. Before the drift boat, the anxiety was to simply get my waders wet. Now, it is an unquenchable pursuit of a Monster Brown Trout.
What proves to be the worst conditions for most, is absolutely necessary for any opportunity to enticing a Monster Brown to pursue a fly. In contrast the very best conditions are extreme cloud cover, rainy, misty, and high water generation from the Core of Engineers. The type of conditions that get you weird looks at the gas station when you are seen bundled up and getting your drift boat ready.
An additional new experience is the addition of huge streamer patterns to your arsenal. In this chasing of monsters, a 6-8' articulated streamer becomes the norm. But, it doesn't stop there. When the normal fly rod for your trout fishing is a 9 foot, 5 weight, this new obsession requires big reels, big rods, and heavy lines. As opposed to the normal 5 weight, weight forward floating line, you are required to throw a full sinking tip on 8 or 9 weight lines. The beautiful loading of the fly rod and tight loop is replaced by a forced withdrawal of the fly with no false casts chucking this heavy combination directly where the water meets the bank. Gentle stripping of the line when fishing your size #12 Woolly Bugger is replaced with heavy and rapid retrieves to give your fly as fast of action as you can produce.
The craziest part of this "game" is how you determine a "good" day. When fishing like this, you are not looking for the normal 16'-20" fish, but the kind of 24"+ fish that you can only dream about. As crazy as it sounds, you can fish for 6 hours and see 4-5 fish in that class, and that is a "good" day. This is without any takes. It's the only time you can catch a 20" brown and be utterly disapointed.The one luxury that we enjoy in my boat is a better than average adult beverage. These past trips my compadres and I enjoyed a bottle of single-malt 15 year old Glenfiddich Scotch.
Like I said, I have already been out 4 times in an effort to chase these Monsters and yet to bring a fish in this category to the boat. All in all, approximately 28 hours of water time with zero success. But, in these times of frustration, there is one thing that can make it an awesome experience. That is the people who you choose to share this experience with. I am very fortunate that I have some great friends who share this crazy obsession as well. And, I can easily say, I have had a blast each time I have went out this winter. So thanks Larry Babin, Dave Cornue, Paul Bobby, Paul Port and Bill Thorne for keeping the unfortunate an awesome day on the water.
The other thing that has completely changed for me is fly-tying. Not the process, but the type of flies. With a history of tying size #16-#22 bugs, it was a huge change to tying these 6'-8" articulated streamers. It has been an infusion of another thought process that has been like a breath of fresh air compared to tying the same old mundane flies of the past.
It has been about 12 hours since I pulled the boat out after my most recent trip, it's currently 19 degrees, snowing, wind gusts over 30 mph, and I'm already thinking about my next opportunity to Chase the Monsters..
|Posted by Mick Spaulding on December 1, 2013 at 11:10 PM||comments (1)|
Living in Mountain Home, Arkansas has afforded me the luxury of befriending some of the premiere people in the fly-fishing world. Those friendships have led to an education in the ethics, disciplines, and knowledge of the sport. I thank the Lord on a daily basis for allowing me to live in such a wonderful place full of amazing people.
Most people here have no idea what I do for a living or the fact the majority of my time away is hopping planes from one business meeting to another. They know me for always being on my way to the river. This is all because I fell in love with the right girl, my wife of more than 20 years, Jen. When we met I was a collegiate basketball coach and it seemed always away trying to climb that elusive ladder to Division 1 big time sports. Well, I never made it, but my inability to sit still and need to constantly be challenged still keeps me on the go. She is still very forgiving and allows me to visit my mistress, the White River System, as much as I like.
When I am on the road with work, I constantly revisit the river in my mind. I often think of certain aspects of fly-fishing that cause curiosity or intrigue. My mind is always turning and the majority of the time it involves the river. It is because of that inability to turn my mind off that I have began writing this diary to put my thoughts in print. Not that they are land-breaking by any means, but I have found that most times if it is in my thoughts, others have questioned it as well. So, my hopes with this diary is to connect with those that read it and maybe spike an interest that is familiar to many.
This website is another avenue for me to share all the fly-fishing opportunities of the Ozark waterways and some of the amazing people living near it. As I launch this website, I am most excited about introducing the first attempt at a one-fly competition. One-fly competitions were made famous on the western rivers to determine who would receive the bragging rights as that years best fly-fisherman. I believe I have created a system which will focus on all the waters at specific times. Giving all involved ample opportunity to find the time to take their shot on the waters selected. If you are reading this and can participate, I encourage you to be part of the inaugural season, the White River in 2014.
From a personal perspective, my main goal with this is to continue the education process for my son. Just like any other 11 year old boy, keeping his attention for more than 10 minutes at a time is difficult. Jen and I both share the desire to ensure our son has an understanding of the outdoors, how to enjoy it, and most of all how to appreciate it. We recently purchased a piece of property on Wildcat Shoals of the White River which has enabled us to get Zach to the river often. I have always been conscious that forcing a youngster to do something often backfires into them not enjoying it. So, I have been very careful not to overload my son with learning everything from reading the water, tying knots, fly casting and tying. Due to that caution over the past five years or so I can see my son beginning to become more interested. He has watched me tie thousands of flies over the years and just recently asked if I could begin to show him how to tie. Knowing that his focus on any task would be fleeting, we began with the old beginner stand by, san juan worms. As far as fly casting, he has always been a natural. He has understood how to load a rod since he was just little.
(photo by Matt Tucker; Ozark Chronicles) When the river is not generating, he has a specific spot where the current rolls over a slight drop. It is usually just loaded with small rainbows. He ties on his favorite go-to fly, the size 10 olive woolly bugger, and strips it through the drop off. It has been a great place for him to learn the dynamics of mending, swinging, and retrieving a streamer. In most cases, he is hooked up as long as it keeps his interest. I am fortunate that he is very articulate. He is a very quiet kid, but you can watch the wheels turning in his mind as he figures out something new with fly-fishing or fly-tying.
Most recently, he has really been interested in fishing Dry Run Creek. If you are reading this and you have someone in your life under the age of 16 or handicapped, there is no better place on earth for them to hook up monster fish. It is a small stream mostly generated by the excess water running off the hatchery next to the Norfork River dam. The large brooding fish are placed in this stream when there time as a tool for trout fertility comes to an end. This is an amazing place and I cannot encourage you enough to take advantage of it. Although the action is awesome, there is still a limit to his interest. Most of the times is about an hour and a half of constant action before I can tell he's ready to go. But, with any 11 year old boy, that is a long time. And the times we enjoy there together will resonate through both of our lives as wonderful memories.
The education of Zach (Bubba) will continue and be chronicled in this diary. So, thanks for taking the time to read this first edition of the ADRIFT. Moving ahead there will be uncountable entries of entomology, potamology (study of rivers), gear, fly-tying, casting, and living on and dreaming of the Ozark waterways.