The White River Blues

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white-river-blues

Never a good sight to see, the morning of your float trip. Photo Louis Cahill

Do you ever feel like certain fly fishing locations have a curse On you?

I feel strongly that’s the very case, when it comes to my attempts to fly fish the White River in Arkansas. I’ve made the 22-hour round trip drive twice from Georgia, spent a total of about ten days fly fishing this famous river, and I’ve yet to see a reasonably nice day of weather on the river to wet my line. The first trip Louis and I made to the White River, about four years ago, we were dealt 20 mph winds, with a constant and very painful single-digit wind chill. We had close to a foot of snow that was dumped on us from an extra sneaky backdoor system, that surprised us the night before our fishing trip started. The next five days of fly fishing felt like Louis and I were training for an extreme cold weather survival expedition for National Geographic.

Fast forward in time to our last trip to the White River a couple weeks ago, and we were once again shown no mercy as an abundance of nasty cold weather was sent our way. This time around, we were pummeled by an ice storm that shut down everything around us, including all the big trout in the river (which seemed to have gone into hibernation). For whatever reason, the White River never shows love to Gink & Gasoline. It’s almost like it’s trying to tell us, “You G&G boys aren’t welcome here, go home.” The morning of day three, I laughed hard when Louis told me, “Enough of this BS Kent. We’re not coming back to this place unless it’s August, and there’s zero chance for a blizzard or ice storm in the forecast.” As much as I’d hate to be fly fishing on the White River, during what I’d think would be one of its most crowded fishing times of the year, I couldn’t dismiss the fact that it sounded damn blissful at that point in time. That was, at least, as I struggled to shovel almost two feet of snow and ice out of our brand new Adipose Flow Skiff, with the only suitable tool on hand, being a tiny dust pan that I’d found in the corner of our bunk house. Two hours, and 575 scoops later, the boat was finally ready to hit the river. Now we just had to figure out how to safely get up and down the boat ramps.

Here’s a tip for you to remember. Take the time to put on that expensive boat cover that you splurged on, if you know you’re in for a nasty winter storm. Do so even if you know it’s going to be a total pain in the ass because it’s your first time putting one on. I assure you, that although a boat cover is overkill in most situations, there are times when it will feel like the holy grail of all gear. When the shit hits the fan, it will prove to be time well spent. Especially if the sky has decided it’s going to take a 24-hour dump of ice and snow on your head. Here’s a second tip for you. Pull up your windshield wiper blades on your vehicle beforehand if you know Jack Frost is going to be paying you a visit. If you happen to live around his regular stomping grounds, you’re probably laughing your butt off that a couple of southern trout bums like ourselves, didn’t know about the importance of this ten-second weather storm preparation. We were, however, at least smart enough to remember to bring in our wet waders, boots and rigged rods.

Before I left for this past trip to the White River, I had promised to report back to the G&G community, after Rob, Louis and I, had all hammered big trout on streamers. I painfully remember mentioning something about having an outrageous goal of landing a trout over three feet in length. Yet, as I found myself with my two buddies, huddled up in our tiny shack along the banks of the White River, tying meaty streamers, most of which never tempted the first respectable trout, much less touched the water, I realized I had undoubtedly been a total schmuck and had fully inserted my foot in my mouth. You know fishing is really shitty when you’re on a river that’s been confirmed to hold the world record trout, and you’re dreaming of floating a sub par trout river in your home town. Then, everything gets worse when you realize it would have been twenty-one and a half hours less of driving in a car. I guess that’s just the life of a trout bum, and the price he pays, when he sets his expectations far too high.

adipose-flow-skiff-winter

One good thing about snow is you can slide a drift boat on it very easy. Photo Louis Cahill

The last day of our trip, things turned around a little bit for us. We did manage to get a few hours of fly fishing in, without our rod guides freezing up on us constantly. We even landed some smaller trout on nymphs, and we had a few brief opportunities for big fish on streamers, one being a LDR. Driving home, sitting bumper to bumper at a standstill, with traffic backed up as far as the eye could see, I found myself able to let go of all of the heart break from our lackluster White River fishing trip. As I looked in the side mirror of the Subaru, a big smile came over my face, as I was remembered of the real reason we had come to the White River in the first place. It wasn’t the chance to catch a three foot long trout, rather, it was a date to pick up the most beautiful drift boat that I’d every laid my eyes on. Our new Adipose Flow Skiff didn’t put us on a lot of fish, but it rowed effortlessly, was a complete pleasure to fish out of, and wowed us with its unbelievable craftsmanship. In a way, it was the perfect start to a very long relationship with a boat that’s going to provide us many fish catching memories in the future. I’m pretty sure every fishing trip moving forward will end up being better than our first, and I’m totally stoked thinking about it.

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
www.ginkandgasoline.com
hookups@ginkandgasoline.com
 
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23 thoughts on “The White River Blues

  1. The thing about fly fishing stories is that..win, lose or tie, people still love to read them. It’s a story about something we all love and the writer is able to bring us into the adventure and we like that. I have realized this more and more recently as the evidence piles up. So even though you didn’t land a 3 footer (and this may be little consolation if any) you still won Kent! Also, showing gratitude for your new boat will come full circle. Good vibes.

    • Spencer,

      Thanks man. It sure wasn’t our beautiful girls fault that the trophy trout fishing was off. Then again we could have nymphed more and probably landed a fare number of twenty inch fish, just not three footers :) I went all in and came up short but its all good. Have a great day man.

      Kent

      • I totally understand you going all in when you know there is such a healthy population of very large fish. I mean, knowing there are possible 30 to even 40 inch browns lurking, of course you’re gonna toss big streamers. You’ve caught countless 20 inch trout throughout your life, but 30+ inches? You, me and many others are going for a home run every time! Thanks Kent and Louis.

  2. Guys,

    In your Feb. 28 post, you showed your new Adipose with the trout skin paint job. In today’s photo about the White River, a white version. Was the earlier version a glimpse of Louis’ Photoshop skills with the G&G logo?

    In any case, the boat looks great, they seem to be the new go-to boat on the Missouri River. Tracy Allen is an old guide friend from Livingston spring creeks. It is great to see him doing so well with Adipose.

      • Plain white, wrapped in “trout skin” color or any other color, Adipose boats look like a great fly fishing platform. When can we expect a performance report?

        • Tim,

          The boat will look exactly like the header photo in the Feb 28th post on the site. The time that we’ve road it has been heaven on earth. It tracks like an arrow down the river and is super responsive and a breeze to row. Without question its the nicest drift boat we’ve ever set foot in or rowed. More testing and time on the water will really allow us to report on our Adipose.

          Kent

  3. Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you man. Don’t give up on the White River……it is the “oh shit” moment that keeps every once of us going back there for more.

    • Matt,

      Thanks for the encouraging words. The weather was so bad for us we were the only fly fishermen we saw the entire trip. You know its really bad when that happens. Ha

      Kent

  4. You G&G boys would enjoy today on the White River with 70F, partly cloudy,and low wind & 2 gen. on. Ideal for floatin your boat.Catch you later, and come on down.

  5. I understand how you feel to a point. I have left on two trips to the White only to be turned around mid drive by some unforeseen circumstance. It remains a bucket list destination for me and I will get there one day. Maybe I will see you in August tossing some big ol’ Hoppers.

  6. Hi Kent:

    Jeff from OR here. I have made a few trips to fish the White River and have come away wondering how it ever got such a lofty reputation. I have summed it up as a “to to” place. Most of the time it is either to hot, or to cold, or to windy, or to rainy, or to crowded, water to high, water to low, stream environment to manipulated, etc. I realize I may have offended many who like the White, but I have scratched it off of my list as an over-hyped tourist trap.

    Jeff

    • Jeff,

      “To to”. That’s exactly how I feel its been for us :) sounds like many have been in our shoes on the White River. I’ve got one more trip in me that way but I think next time around I’m going to spend my time on the Little Red. Thanks for comment.

      Kent

  7. Come on down in October in time for the Southern Rodmakers Gathering and try it then, you may be pleasantly surprised.

  8. Winter fishing is usually super fun but this year it has been super tough. Sorry to hear about your trip getting hosed by the “Old Man”. I think I fished about 3 times as much in MI last year than this year.
    The comment about using the boat cover will be even more valid the first time you drive down a sand and gravel road in the rain. A wet and sandy drift boat is one you’ll not want to be in again anytime soon. I have a cover. I use it religiously. One time I didn’t and ended up with the sort of day I mentioned and pain in the ass or not, I’ll never travel without that thing on again.

  9. Come back April — the Turnip Truck is parked on the banks of the White — you can bunk in for a few days and share some boxed wine.

  10. I fished the White a few times when I lived in Arkansas. My suggestion is to go back in September and plan on fishing the Norfork and Little Red as well.

    All three rivers could yield that 3 footer you seek.

  11. I’ve been the White dozens of time. Never had unbearable weather. Feb. 2 years ago, snow and freezing rain, several days never got above freezing. Best fishing I have ever had on the White: I caught 5 Browns 15” to 22” inches. Last Feb, I fished in shorts a couple of days.
    We have our annual FDFC, (Fall Down Fishing Classic) every October, I would invite you, but you bring that F’in bad weather with ya’.

    dw

  12. Really Sorry you guys got the Weather!!, the Day before the Rain/Sleet/Snow event was Beautiful ….. low to mid 70’s and clear skies …. waded 1/2 mile …. picked up 5 on my 3 wt, midging. From the photos, I believe you guys were about 3-4 miles upriver from me.

    At least now I know “Who to Blame the Weather On” (jokingly of course)

    BTW: You guys weren’t the only ones that were “Blown Out”, one single boat went by the place all day, and they were “Freezing” from the report I got.

    Better luck next time … early to mid week is always better on either the White or Little Red

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