Wednesday, October 8, 2014

IFFF Southern Fall Fishing Fair and a Little Stream Time

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This past weekend I headed down to Arkansas for what used to be called the Fall Conclave , now the Fall Fishing Fair , put on by the IFFF. I had several buddies that were going to be down for the event so I figured that it'd be a good opportunity to hang out with some friends and sneak a little fishing in as well.
I arrived at Dally's Fly shop in Cotter just before lunch on Friday and met up with Kevin and Jeff. Kevin and I planned to spend the weekend camping on the river while Jeff was just finishing up a couple guide days on the White and was headed back North that evening for a trip on a different piece of water. Kevin had a few interviews with local guides lined up for that afternoon but Jeff and I had an open schedule and decided to float Wildcat to Cotter and throw some hoppers and maybe a streamer or two for some browns. We got on the water at Wildcat and the first thing I noticed was the numbers of people around the access , I was sure glad to be floating away from that cluster of humanity! Things thinned out a little after we got downstream a little ways and we got busy with the fishing.The conditions weren't perfect for what we wanted to do but neither of us had any desire to put on an indicator rig and nymph up rainbows. Jeff chose to throw a hopper pattern mostly and picked up several average bows during his time in the knee braces. I stuck with a medium sized streamer and didn't fare quite as well , picking up a couple small rainbows and getting the middle finger by two browns who took a look but just wouldn't commit. The fishing may have been anything but stellar but who can complain when you get to spend an afternoon in the front of a driftboat doing what you love.
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After getting the boat loaded up we headed back to the flyshop and my truck. I still had to get a quick camp set up and Jeff was headed back North for the weekend.
That evening was the first event of the Fall Fishing Fair , a free dinner of brats and burgers along with a bottomless cup of keg beer for a measly $5. I may not be big on social events but a $5 endless mug of beer is enough to get even my attention. It was a great evening of meeting some old friends and being introduced to a few new people in the industry as well. Kudos to the folks who put this together as it was a great start to a busy weekend of fly fishing related events. By the time Kevin and I made our way back to camp it was getting late and neither of us felt like screwing with a fire so it was an early night for us. Tomorrow I had plans to go chase a few fish around...
Saturday we woke up to what felt like a perfect October day , the air just had that crisp feel to it that screams "Fall is Here"!
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After dragging ourselves out of our sleeping bags we decided to head over to White Sands for an artery clogging breakfast before attempting anything else. If you're ever in the general vicinity fishing , this place has the best breakfasts to be had in the area. After putting away enough calories to keep the average person going for an entire weekend we made our way back to camp. Kevin had a full day of meet and greets planned at the Fishing Fair in Mountain Home so he began preparing some things for his outing while I started getting my fishing gear ready for a day on the water. I knew what the crowds would be like on the two tailwaters surrounding the event, as I had been witness to some of it the previous afternoon. While I had brought along my one-man pontoon to float and get away from some of the crowds I decided this morning that I'd be better off to get in the truck and drive a little bit , trying my luck at a different venue than what most of the fairs attendees had in mind.
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I pulled into the parking area next to the creek and found one other vehicle , one more than I had hoped for but still a good deal better than what would have met me on the White or Norfork. With the air still having that slight chill to it , I donned a pair of waist high waders and grabbed a rod and a couple of flyboxes and headed off downstream.
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This was my first time on this creek so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect , besides the fact that there were said to be a few smallmouth swimming around in it's waters I was pretty much clueless. The day started off a little slow , I picked up several dinks as I worked my way from pool to pool but if there were any decent fish around they weren't interested in what I was offering.
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I continued to hike and fish my way downstream throughout the morning and early afternoon with the fishing improving as the sun warmed the waters during the day.
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This stream runs through some beautiful country and I enjoyed the scenery and abundant wildlife I encountered almost as much as the fishing itself.
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Other than the deer , turkey and osprey sightings (oh yeah , let's not forget the water moccasin that I barely missed stepping on!) throughout the day I never saw another person on the water...that in itself made the day a success in my book.
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I arrived back in camp just as the sun was setting over the surrounding hills. A little tired , a lot hungry and pretty much satisfied with my decision on where to fish for the day. Kevin was already kicked back around a campfire enjoying a cold beverage when I showed up so we discussed our days events over a cold one and started making plans for the next morning. Except for a quick run into town so that I could grab a bite to eat (hadn't eaten since breakfast so I was withering away) the rest of the night was spent under the stars around the fire.
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Sunday we woke up and took down our tents and packed away all of our gear before heading out for the day. Kevin had taken care of all his business at the Fishing Fair the previous day so we were headed back to my little creek of the day before to try our luck for a few hours before we both had to hit the road for home. We chose a different access than the one I used on Saturday just to get a look at some more new water , this time we were the only ones in the parking lot.
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As was the case the day before , the fishing started off a little slow and improved as the sun climbed higher in the sky. We both caught decent numbers of smaller fish and a couple of chunky scrappers as well , unfortunately we had to call it a day just about the time it was starting to get really good.
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All in all it was a great weekend of fishing and comraderie , while I didn't spend as much time checking out the Fishing Fair event as I had hoped , I did get to spend a couple of days exploring some new to me smallmouth bass water and introducing myself to a few of the locals...oh the sacrifices we make!
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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Two Old Men...An Annual Trip back to a Favorite Destination

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We all have a favorite place (or places) we try to make that annual pilgrimage to each year to refuel the soul. For some it might be the destination itself ,the quality of the fishing or maybe it's just getting together with the same group of guys to do something you all love that makes the trip so looked forward to. While I've got several local (local for me being within 250 miles of home) trips that I try to make happen each year , this particular one is more of a roadtrip and has become a tradition going on six years now. For me , this trip is all about the destination.
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Not because it's a glorified spot you might read about in your favorite fly mag or hear about on the local fishing forum , just the opposite. What makes this place special for me is the beauty of the area and the noticeable lack of people out on the water enjoying it. This year nothing got put on the books in ink with any of my usual fishing buddies so when I ended up with several days off mid-week and no plans , I made a last minute decision to head North for the Driftless Region. I've only got one fishing partner who never balks at the chance to hit the road for several days , even on such short notice , so Monday morning Joe and I hopped in the already loaded truck and pointed the nose North for four days of Driftless solitude.
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The ride up was uneventful , a few extra pit-stops were needed during the 8+ hour drive than I remembered making last year , but what do you expect with two old men? We arrived around 1:00 and set up camp in our favorite campground next to a nice little creek.
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This isn't roughing it by any means , I prefer the comforts of home when it's feasible to bring them along. That way I don't wake up in the morning feeling like I've been hit by a truck (at least not from the sleep itself , the prior nights intake can be another story altogether).
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By the time we got camp complete and the first beer of the trip cracked it was approaching 3:00 , plenty of time left to spend several hours playing around on one of the streams close to camp before the sun disappeared. We spent the remainder of the afternoon enjoying the Fall sun on our face and the peace and quiet of a small Driftless stream.
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We fished until it was too dark to see the path we'd walked in on and then made our way back to camp. That evening we slummed it for dinner and ate cold fried chicken and potato salad in the dark , washed down with a cold beverage. The tent made it's calling early on this night , it'd been a long day of travel followed up by an afternoon of fishing for these old men. Rest was needed...tomorrow we would do it all again.
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Tuesday we woke to another brilliant Fall day , sunshine and temps starting out in the 40's are about as good as it gets in my book. After a quick breakfast sandwich we loaded up the truck and headed about twenty miles away to hit one of my favorite little streams in the area.
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This place is strictly wild browns , no stocked fish and it's catch and release only.
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If you put this same stream in my backyard of the Ozarks you'd have a parking lot full of cars seven days a week , all vying for the best section of water. Just as expected though , we pulled up to an empty parking lot and the entire stream to ourselves. We hit a couple of my favorite runs and a few new ones as well , picking up several small buttery colored browns in the process.
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I fish lots of water at home , like the White River , where if a brown doesn't hit the two-foot mark it's barely considered a decent fish. This is different...while I know the fish aren't big by any means , I find myself truly appreciating their beauty as well as the beautiful places they live in.
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After a tailgate lunch and some R&R in the shade of a big tree we headed off to try something new , a local warmwater river and hopefully a shot at some smallies.
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This was a first for me in my six years of coming to this area. I'd always focused on the trout streams and hadn't given much thought to anything else. After some on-line research I located a couple bodies of water in the area which were said to have a decent smallmouth bass fishery and decided ahead of time to spend at least one afternoon checking things out.
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The weather was great , the water looked fantastic and we didn't see a single smallmouth the entire afternoon! I'd guess we waded close to two miles of water , me throwing small streamers at every likely looking spot , and still came up empty handed at the end of the day.
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We had an enjoyable afternoon of fishing regardless and I'm not done with this challenge just yet , I may have to plan an extra day into the trip next year that I can utilize solely to target smallies.
That night we got back in camp early enough to cook up a decent dinner before the sun set , one of my favorites , Camp Succotash.
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A few cold ones and a good cigar finished off the night sitting around the campfire...not a bad day.
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After the previous afternoons skunking I woke up with a strong desire to redeem myself and actually catch a few fish the next morning. I'd done a little research on some new-to-me creeks in the area before the trip , but decided to spend the morning on some familiar water instead to try and wash a little of the skunk smell off. This stream has browns , brookies and rainbows swimming in between it's narrow banks , a veritable smorgasbord of opportunity.
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To my relief it didn't take long to break the previous days cycle and put a fish (or two) in the net.
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We spent the next several hours hiking our way upstream and plucking fish out of good looking runs until the hunger pains in our stomachs told us it was time to turn around and head for the truck.
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A quick handful of crackers along with some summer sausage and cheese and we were back on the road heading for another stream.
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This particular creek was one that I hadn't fished before on any of my previous trips , a little bit farther from camp but still well within an hours drive time. We arrived to the same old story , beautiful piece of water and empty parking area , just hate it when that happens.
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Ask anyone that fishes with me and they'll tell you that I like to cover some water when I'm fishing. You know , one of those guys that's always thinking the grass is greener just around the next corner. This particular spot had miles of fisheable water and it all looked good enough to keep you wondering what was around the next bend , a junkies fix for a guy like me.
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We kept it up all afternoon , fish...hike...fish...hike some more ,until both of us were feeling it.
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There were a few steep banks that I had to assist Joe with traversing , he still did much better than I could have expected considering that he's almost 13 years old.
Then there was the clay bluff with about a 10 foot drop to the water that I tumbled off of. As I laid there at the edge of the creek , checking limbs and fishing rods to make sure nothing was broke , I could picture in my mind Joe running back to town (lassie style you know) for help.
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"Timmy fell off a cliff into the creek , I told the fatass he was getting too close and would probably fall off into the water but he just kept insisting that he get a little closer to the edge to make the cast to that midstream boulder. He's a dumbass , but he does take me on some pretty cool fishing trips so can we try and save him??".
Needless to say , we both survived the adventure. Scraped , bruised and a little wore out but with a nice new piece of water that made it all worthwhile. Later that night I told Joe that maybe we should take someone younger and in better shape along with us next year , you know just in case the two old farts have an accident or something.
That night we had a little mexican fiesta for our last nights dinner and then enjoyed one more evening around the campfire.
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Thursday we woke to cloudy skies that hinted to rain in the near future so we decided to take down camp before doing anything else for the day. With the work complete and the truck packed back up for the journey home we picked one of the closer creeks to spend our last few hours fishing on.
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We hit a couple of good spots , fishing in a light rain , until the skies darkened even more shortly after lunch. With the rain becoming more persistent and the thought of an eight hour drive home with a wet , smelly hound weighing heavily on my mind we finally decided to call it a day.
What more can I say , four days spent with my best friend doing something we both love....I can't think of anything better.
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