Well, my long-awaited first day of fishing
on the White River in Arkansas finally arrived.
A well-known guide who works for the famous
Gaston's Resort agreed to show me the ropes
on his day off. The plan was to ride the
rising water as power generation began in
the afternoon in his boat, a 20' river johnboat
of the variety so common to these waters. He
told me to call him on the cell phone when I
reached a certain point on my 77 mile drive
from Branson, Missouri, so that he would have
time to get the boat ready to launch below Bull
Shoals Dam where we were to meet at 11:00 AM.
When I called, he informed me that the dam was
not generating, so we were just going to wade
the C&R area below the dam. I did have my waders,
but I had packed my boat bag instead of my chest
pack. I would have to improvise. I quickly laid
out a plan to reconfigure some of the gear in the
bag that would allow me to wade more efficiently
and to leave the WilliamJoseph Gear Bag in the truck.
I arrived shortly after 11:00 AM. As is so common
in the Ozarks, the public access to the tailrace
below Bull Shoals is not marked with signage.
He had emailed me directions, and without them
I would have had no idea how to get to the river.
We fished from about Noon until 4PM on 0 generators.
Then they turned on two. I was amazed by the lack
of fish and the small size of the fish after all
the stories I've heard over the years. But so
was the guide. I got the classic "you shoulda
been here yesterday" story several times. Even
the fish that were there stopped taking anything
we threw at them after the first hour. Fishing
was very tough. I caught four trout between 12
and 15 inches in the first hour of fishing...
nothing after that. I have to say I am not used
to catching so few fish. This was the closest
to skunked I have ever been while fly-fishing
for trout. Other anglers we talked to were also
bewildered by the lack of fish and the lack of
bites. But I was impressed with the fight these
small Rainbows put up. They were obviously very
strong and energetic for their size.
When the generators came on line and the water
began to rise, the guide informed me that a
2-generator rise wasn't worth riding. He said
he was going home to prepare for the next day's
guide trip. Who am I to argue with a gracious
host? So our day ended at 4:30 PM with a handshake
and a smile.
On another note, I was shocked to see the heavy
moss and algae and the phosphorous coating the
gravel below the dam. The guide said that it
got even worse farther downstream. By comparison,
the tailraces below Table Rock Dam and Powersite
Dam are pristine. But the state of AR isn't very
serious about their water quality issues...and it
shows. I hope they have a change of heart in
Little Rock in the very near future. It's pretty
obvious they've got real problems. I finally had
a chance to see firsthand what Fox Statler
demonstrated so well in previous Ozark Angler
columns. And I must say it was far worse than
I had anticipated. All in all, the trip was very
anti-climactic...pretty disappointing (insomuch as
a day of fishing can disappoint). ~ Ken
Ken graduated from Southern Methodist University
in 1988, and spent the next several years serving
in the United States Navy as an intelligence analyst
and Russian Language translator. He is a veteran
of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Leaving the
nation's service in 1993.
Ken is also a published outdoor writer and historian,
having penned articles and stories that have appeared
in several national hunting publications like North
American Hunter magazine, on GunMuse.com, in regional
and local newspapers, and historical and literary
journals. He has also provided hunting and dog
training seminars for Bass Pro Shops and other
sporting goods retailers nationwide. He volunteers
his time to Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited,
as well as several local charitable organizations.
He is also a REALTOR with Coldwell Banker in
Branson, Missouri; where he lives with his wife,
Wilma, and their Weimaraner, Smoky Joe.