Sowbug Roundup! Where else can you see hundreds
of people concentrating intently on nothing but
the art of tying flies? Where else can you meet
the frontiersmen of our sport; its old guard: Dave
and Emily Whitlock, Floyd Franke and Tony Spezio,
right next to its upcoming leaders: John Wilson,
Duane Hada, Fox Statler? Where else can you get
a lesson not just in casting, but in tournament-level, honest
to God you've never read it in a magazine advanced
casting? Better still, where else can you get it
all for the price of a church chili supper? And
best of all, what luck to find it sandwiched right
between two of the greatest trout-fishing destinations
in North America: the Norfork and White Rivers?
The 2005 Sowbug Roundup in Mountain Home Arkansas
was sponsored by the North Arkansas Flyfishers.
The event featured intensive tying and lessons
on the finer points of flyfishing, taking place
over three days (beginning on Thursday so the
Lutheran Church could have its gymnasium back
in time for services on Sunday).
Entry for the entire weekend was $5. Classes
and presentations went on throughout the event,
but the main attraction was the fly tying. Over
one hundred presenters were set up in long tables,
all tying flies at any given time. Flyfishing
art was on display. The Arkansas Game and Fish
Commission, one of the better Wildlife divisions
in the entire country, gave presentations on trout
management and had a replica mount on hand of Rip
Collins' world-record brown trout, a 40 lb., 4 oz.
behemoth. This fish was caught out of Arkansas'
Little Red River in 1992, but two of the previous
world record browns had also come from state waters
(sadly, none of them on the fly).
Dave and Emily Whitlock, two of the nicest people
you'll find anywhere, gave one on one tying
instruction and Dave also drew and signed autographs.
Although the tiers were the main attraction,
other vendors and artisans presented their
wares as well. One whole corner of the gym
was devoted to tables full of tying materials.
Chances are good that many dead animal pelts
haven't been assembled in one place in Arkansas
since Reconstruction. Cane rod makers showed
their stuff, including this table featuring Harry
Boyd of canerods.com, shown below.
Possibly Harry's finest display was a
custom-engraved set of slide bands made
up for him by a talented gunsmith. That
gunsmith is so busy he asked Harry to keep
his name a secret.
Fly Anglers Online (FAOL) was represented at
the Conranch Hackle booth.
Outside the convention, casting instructors
gave free casting lessons and tested out rods.
This lady was nice enough to let me take her
picture as she worked on her loops.
I arrived from Knoxville too late on Friday
to make the convention but just in time to
join the best event of all: the informal
casting and bull sessions that took place
each night behind the Ramada Inn in Mountain
Home. I received free, one on one instruction
from not one but two FFF master certified
casting instructors. Al Crise, who posts here
as Flysoup, was kind enough to diagnose
various trouble areas in my casting stroke
as well as give me a wonderful set of pointers
on the completely different art of teaching fly
casting. Floyd Franke also chimed in, forgiving
one of my idiosyncrasies as "style" rather than "error."
(Thanks Floyd!). He also regaled the group with
the highlights of his presentation on fighting
big fish. His tips must have sunk in during
the presentation, as we heard the same things
repeated to us several times the next day.
Later that night we retired to the hotel room
to tie guide John Wilson's new Trout Crack
pattern and continue to shoot the bull. We
were fortunate to find several periods of low
water on both Norfork and the White River during
our stay, and we capitalized to the best of our
The 2005 Sowbug Roundup couldn't take place in
a nicer town, especially for fly fishers. At
11 hours away, my drive wasn't half the distance
some traveled to attend. (Special tying presenter
Gordon Mackenzie came all the way from the UK!)
The event was well worth the effort, and certainly
worth the price of admission. I encourage all
within range to travel to the event next year,
and I assure you a good time will be had by all.