Arkansas has been on my radar for more than a minute now. At eleven hours from the house, it’s just far enough to feel like I am actually on the road, but not so far that it requires a Rockies West suicide run of a full day-and-a-half in the truck. A couple of years ago, there were whispers of putting together a flick about the world record brown that old Rip Collins yanked out of the Little Red. That is until two weeks before the trip that crankbait-chucking dude on the Manistee put a kibosh on well-laid plans. Since then, I have had plenty of buddies who made the trek over and tortured me with stories of cookie-cutter twenties and miles of blissful tailwater love. When I got the call from Jamie Rouse down on the Little Red to come down and fly fish Arkansas for a couple of days, I was as excited as a dog with three peters (learned that one in Heber Springs).
For the two weeks before the trip, I kept an eye on generation schedules and Jamie’s website. The water had been perfect and the trout Jamie’s clients were putting on the boat looked just shy of redonkulous. The stars were aligned and the gates to brown trout heaven appeared to be wide open. At this point I have yet to mention my road trip luck. I’m considering tattooing the phrase, “you should have been here last week” on my forehead just to save people the hassle of saying it to me. My first bonefish trip: two days after Katrina cleared the flats; first Albie trip: missed them by a week; and on and on the story goes. This time had to be different. The universe owed me a killer trip, or at least an average one.
Somewhere west of Nashville I get the call from Jamie with the generation outlook. Take a quick guess at what it was. Yup, you guessed it: Shitty with an outlook of shittier. Jamie is a pro and immediately jumps into expectation setting. While my expectations are being managed, the only thing I can think of is, that I can’t remember running over anybody’s dog, but I must have done something pretty f’ed up to deserve another trip down the same road.
In the end, fishing is fishing and we were going fishing whether it was 7000 cfs or 100 cfs. At 7000 cfs, the Little Red is up in the trees and the traditional wisdom is that it’s not worth fishing. But, once not fishing is eliminated as a viable option, what you’re left with is Jamie Rouse and a grinder attitude that puts him on the water two hundred and fifty days a year no matter what the generation is, and not another soul on the water. In this case, just because no one else is doing it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
Slinging articulated meat on 300-grain sink tips and slutting them up off the bottom with 16-foot nymph rigs was the name of the game, and let me be the first to say that the game was delightful. In two days of fishing, Jamie and his trusty sidekick, Matt Millner, put us on more consistent 18-20 inch brown trout than I ever thought possible, hell or especially high water be damned.
Don’t get me wrong. My first trip to the Little Red was full of fish that are burned into my brain like a picture of your sister naked…you just don’t shake things like that. But what I really can’t get over is the way my eyes were opened to moving past what everybody else thinks and just going out and fishing no matter what the conditions are. Whoknows, maybe some of those other trips might have turned out as epic as this one?
I would like to thank all the fellas at Jamie Rouse Fly Fishing Adventures for showing us the low down on the most underrated brown trout fishery on earth. Our tour around brown town on the Little Red will not soon be forgotten. If you’re planning on fly fishing Arkansas, you can’t do any better than them. We would also like to thank Maurice at Fat Possum Hollow for providing us with accommodations and the knowledge that beyond his gates it is truly, “a jungle out there.” We’ll be seeing ya’ll again very soon.