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7-16-04 - We're in ARKANSAS BABY!

180° Panoramic Image - Morning Mist on the Norfork Tailwater at low water.

You can click the thumbnail above for an enlargement or check it out in the 3D viewer...BTW I've figured out how to make them SMALLER, the full 3D is only 688 kb!

Way to break the skunk with a Norfork Brookie!

Time to get out of the water if you know what's good for you.

This should give you an idea how fast it was coming up.

Use this as a benchmark against some of the pics further down...this is already up a good foot or two in only a minute or so.

Look what pulled in behind me!

In go the stockers...

WOW...just how many fish are they putting in?

Some laggers...

So THIS is what Tom meant by a bunch of little fish will show up!

Gotta love the coloration on Ozark Stocker Rainbows!

One of a literal GAZZILION trout I landed.

Look at the gold, purple, deep maroon...stunning little stockers...I admit they have Iowa beat.

Tom Able, trout professor, gives these future trophies their first lesson in what is and is not edible. They start educatin' them young in Arkansas!

The water is all the way up..hmm.

BREAK OUT THE DRIFTBOAT!

The Falls on Dry Run Creek.

Looking upstream on Dry Run Creek.

I admit I did find these editorial additions to be rather amusing.

Fat shows me why he doesn't own a line winder.

Back for some nighttime bruisers.

This time the stockers COUNT.

That is ONE FAT FISH!

Lots of nightfishing produced nothing other than a couple hits for the Fatman.

7-16-04 - The famed NORFORK!

Waters Fished: Norfork River (aka. Norfork Tailwater)
Fish Caught: HUNDREDS and I AM talkin' TROUT!
Outing Date: 7-16-04
Weather: Rain in the AM
Air Temp: around 85F
Water Temp: didn't take them
Water Level: started at LOW stage, bumped up to high (2 generators)...came back down around 11:00 PM
Water Color: CRYSTAL CLEAR
Fish Species: Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout
Pattern Fished: Threw the box but the Tucker got most ALL the fish! Also got my brookie on a Green Soft Hackle, #16.
Pattern Color: It's a Tucker Nymph...if you don't know by now go hit the fly patterns page!
Fishing Quality: for a while there it was lookin' pretty dismal

After midnight we were definitely still on the road...we'd have to go to Rolla and then down into Arkansas..a solid 4 hours of driving after St. Louis. Arriving in Rolla, we stopped at the 24-hour Walmart to get some supplies...i.e. food, beverage, and MUSIC! FATMAN for some reason wanted AC/DC's greatest hits...we'd been through all sorts of strange stuff on the drive so far...turns out that the remaining time in the card we'd be listening to...AC/DC's greatest hits.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of twisting, winding roads, FAT got us to the Norfork Dam. We were BEYOND bushwhacked...Mountain Dew and Hansen's Energy Drink had been keeping us going until 4:00 AM or so. A word about Hansen's...it's even more of an acquired taste than Red Bull (my preference) but Hansen's does have more vitamins and stuff...i.e. Vitamin C. Good for those times when you totally just beat the sh*t out of your body. This was one of those times. Despite my daily limit of Hansen's I had NO problem crashing in the Bronco..bumming our campsite in the parking lot of the fish hatchery.

Four hours later we were awake...fog blanketed the river. Many folks were out...most on the gravel bar that separated the info from Dry Run Creek with the main flow of the Norfork Tailwater. Not sure exactly where to start, we basically just started pounding water.

First things first, I have to say it was TOUGH....due to all the fog our view into the crystal clear water was totally obscured. It turned out that much of the time I was fishing water that was really too shallow...not to mention that traditional holding spots (i.e. boulders, weed beds etc..) were pretty much absent here. The bottom was just a slow dropoff...no steep rise for fish to hold up on. This was indeed tougher than I had expected.

Then the rain came....and everyone got out of the water. Well, MOST folks did...I went and got my rain gear on. If lightning got close, we got out for 10 or 15 minutes...then right back in. The in-between times I got to talk with a couple really nice local anglers...one of whom I'd get to know throughout most of the day, Mr. Tom Able.

As the rain came on and off Rich and I moved downstream and found ourselves below the lower boat launch. Tom had suggested that much of the activity was going on there..and sure enough, when we got there we finally started seeing fish! In fact, as the rain petered out, the fish started jumping like crazy..obviously picking NOTHING off the surface...well...if there were even midges they were frickin' TINY 'cause I never saw a thing.

Now, the nice part about this stretch of water was that there was a clearly defined channel...we could see SEVERAL large browns on the bottom (I mean LARGE approaching our Great Lakes Browns). Finally, swinging Green Soft Hackle along the far rise of the channel...the line stopped, I set the hook and bam fish on. Rich came over with his new Loki net and we got I officially broke the skunk with a nice fat Brookie.

However, the fishing remained slow. Mr. Able came out upstream of us and within a few casts...FISH ON. JEEEEZE. Obviously the local pro :) No sooner than he stepped in the water than a certain WHISTLE blew....as in time to GET THE FRICK OUT OF THE WATER.

So it blew 2 or 3 more times before the actually started generating...Tom figured it would be 2 full generators kickin. Man does that water come up FAST! Tom was shouting to pass it along downstream...apparently they have already fished out 4 drowned anglers this year.

I gotta say Mr. Able got me good....as the water came up folks started showing up with boats. Tom is telling me that as the water comes up, this little area of weeds is going to fill in. First a few fish will show up, the there will be a lot of little fish in here. Then the big ones will move in...."just watch...you'll see a 5lb rainbow behind that rock out there and you ain't gonna touch him!".

So he suggests I start fishin and keep an eye out...tons of little fish are gonna show up in a minute...just wait. I drift and drift...nope I don't see ANYTHING yet. Then for no particular reason I turn around...and there right behind me for the last 10 minutes had been the STOCKING TRUCK.

Rich says they were all getting a good laugh out of me...totally oblivious to what was going on behind me while Tom is telling me that all these little fish are gonna show up right in this little back eddie. Tom, I totally admit it, YOU GOT ME GOOD.

So I step aside and WHOOOOSH...a fountain of water and fish spews forth into this little back eddie. The whole process takes less than a minute! And now, at my feet, are HUNDREDS of stocker trout. For those of you who say Rich and/or myself follow the stocking trucks in Iowa, I submit this to you...they apparently follow us ;)

Well, the water is HIGH and FAST...what are we to do? A lot of folks go home. We drove a total of 14 hours with stops just to get here...I wasn't about to leave with 1 brookie to show for my morning's effort. Mr. Able breaks out the "ugly jig" - a very small gray micro jig, and says it's time to teach some trout. HMMM...I see where he's going here.

In NO TIME Mr. Able has his first trout...if not his first then second drift. I watch as he hits fish after fish after fish...granted this is a very contrived situation here. Fat and I kinda look at each other...there is no doubt in either of our minds that this is the highest concentration of trout we may ever fish...so WHY NOT?!

We both got into it with enthusiasm...the rules were simple...these fish DO NOT COUNT in the numbers...but I would allow that this would count as FAT getting his skunk off for the morning.

We sat for maybe an hour and no problem, we hooked easily 100 fish each. MOST we didn't even bother to land, instead we'd just let the line go limp and hopefully they'd shake off. Meanwhile, for every fish Rich or I caught, I conservatively estimate that Tom hooked 3. While both Rich and I fouled a few (they were simply that thick), we weren't using indicators...Tom was. Tom knew if he had a bite or not..he was riding the jig above rather than through the fish..indicator goes down set the hook...simple. And all of a sudden the appropriate use of an indicator became VERY clear and VERY cool.

The action wore down as we probably hooked every darn fish they had just dumped in...you could literally see the bites just taper off, even for Tom. It sounded like now would be a good time to stop screwin' around and start fishing.

While we had been doing this, Rich and I watched the local guides and their method of chasing fish at high stage (high flow, multiple generators etc..). Basically they'd zip all the way up to the dam's barrier in a long thing John Boat (there is some area immediately below the dam that's off limits).

Then they'd get in and drift down. More or less even the fly anglers were using huge chunks of lead, as the water was now up a good 8-10 feet, so some spots were easily 10-15 feet deep. They'd dunk in and basically free drift down with the current..one LONG-ass drift. The guide would use the motor more or less idling to keep position of the boat and to keep moving slightly slower than the surface current. Talk about a lot of effort for a drag-free drift...and honestly I didn't really see it paying off for any of the folks we saw out in the boats.

None the less we brought the drift boat and well, this is exactly why. After pit stops we launched in with some last advice from Tom on where and how we should go about this. More or less below the access was an island...drift down, cut back in this LARGE eddy and we'd be carried right back up to drift again.

So Rich got in and I was to fish first...but man I wasn't even ready for it. Rich TRIED to motor us up to the dam's barrier...the current was SO strong though that even at wide-open our little motor just wasn't going to cut it. We made it up, the sonar was on and just feet from the shore it was 8 feet deep.

Rich tried to anchor...no way was that working, so in the end we tried one pass with downstream with the motor on....it was real clear to me that if we got past a certain point downstream we weren't getting back up. OK. So we made the pass and as I FLEW BY I could see large fish all around me underneath. But we were going by WAY TOO FAST and I wasn't nearly leaded enough.

We came back into the eddy, and I suggested Rich let me try this. We only had a quarter tank of gas, so rather than burn it all up I thought we should try rowing. I could see the seam we should work, so I put rich in the front and took the oars...we still had the motor if we needed it.

Let me tell ya now, this is what a drift boat is MADE for. I could position us facing downstream, the stern facing into the current, and with SLIGHT effort..i.e. a stroke every 5-10 seconds, I could keep us stationary...heck the motor really wasn't even able to do that!

I was able to give Rich a 3 solid drifts...on the third one we got adventurous and went down farther than we probably should....all the while Rich hadn't seen ANY fish. It seemed like this was a losing proposition as Rich got the outboard back online and motored us back up to the eddy.

Alrighty, time for a break....we pulled out and took a look at Dry Run Creek. It's basically the outflow from the hatchery. Only the handicapped or people under 16 can legally fish here, and it is 1 barbless fly only.

Um. Wow.

If you have kids under the age of 16 who are fly fishers...by all means make ANY excuse to get them down here before they turn 16. SERIOUSLY.

We weren't quite sure what we'd do next...FAT was sliding around all day (forgot his felt soled boots) so next stop was the fly shop. I picked up a few things I needed, he got what he needed, and I got a laugh out of this shop's humorous approach to encouraging catch and release.

We ended up back in Mountain Home...found a park and Rich relined his rod while I tied flies. A good way to spend the afternoon. We had heard that the night bite had been good when we got there this morning, so we figured we'd relax and get out after dark.

Rich and I were both perplexed coming out of our dinner at Bamboo Palace...some stuff was really alright for the price, some stuff notsomuch..i.e. worst eggrolls I've ever had the displeasure of tasting. When we saw the all-American who came out to put more Crab Rangoon in the warming trays...well that tipped us off that maybe this wasn't destined to be a phenomenal Chinese restaurant. Or MAYBE it was the "Sizzling Catfish" that should've tipped us off?

We got back at sunset with the following rules. ALL fish will now count (stockers included). Whomever lands the most wins bragging rights and will be first oarsman for Team Ozark Chronicles in the driftboat.

I'll tell ya now, I wasn't fooling around, and in the 30 minutes between sunset and dark I whipped out the Tucker and showed Rich what the Pet Fly Smackdown is all about. 5-3 I think was our total.

After dark, I was kinda tired but then it happened...the water was at my feet a minute ago and now it's a foot below me and 2 feet away....I haven't MOVED?!

Generation had STOPPED..the water was receding and receding FAST. Again, WOW. We now had a shot at some NICE night fishin. Rich rigged up like we do for Salmon and literally disappeared into the fog. Meanwhile, not knowing quite where I was going..I took a little longer but eventually made my way out.

Within an hour the water was dead low again. I couldn't see squat. The fog thickened to the point where I couldn't see the hills above me...couldn't see the water's surface. I'd cast out with the glow stick indicator and it would just appear to stop in mid-air...actually that's the water's surface. I couldn't tell up from down...and then the strobe lights kicked in....wait STROBE LIGHTS?

I didn't know what was going on until we packed it up a few hours later to head for the Little Red...turns out there was lots of heat lightning...that's what we were seeing randomly pulse through the fog. I'll tell ya now...nightfishing in this kind of fog after DUSK was a mind blowing FREAK-YOU-OUT experience. It got to the point where I had to put myself on dry land or I would've gotten lost. The headlamps did nothing and the spotlight just turned everything WHITE. Visibility...25 feet at the most. Casting was a trip...between the trails and the fog and the vertigo...well...you get the idea. Not for the timid!

So that wraps up our first official day in Arkansas....we drove over to the Little Red River after midnight...I'll tell y'all 'bout that in the next report!

  MP 

 

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