Two Glorious Days On The White River

Let’s get started!

After spending three days in Little Rock Arkansas attending the annual Outdoor Writers Association Of America conference Dave Zumbaugh and I headed north for Mountain Home and the fabulous White river.

Headquartered at Riley’s Station where the Buffalo River meets the White, Miles’ son Gavin drove us up to Rim Shoal. Dave and I stayed out of the way while Miles and Gavin launched the battered 20’ johnboat.  With Dave and I safely aboard we motored upstream through heavy fog to Redbud Shoal, then started our drift back downstream throwing two-fly rigs…and catching trout.

When we had drifted through a particularly productive piece of water Miles would fire up the 9.9 hp Mercury and take us back upstream so we could drift it again…and again…and again until it stopped producing and we moved on downstream to the next hot spot.

We fished through the popular Rim Shoal area, on down through Lower Rim Shoal, catching and releasing 11’ to 16” rainbows with an occasional cutthroat or brown in the mix. Dave and I both playing a trout at the same time and keeping Miles busy with the net became almost commonplace.

The afternoon fishing was cut short about 2:30 when a violent electrical storm sent us grabbing for rain jackets. Our race downstream was briefly interrupted when the cowling blew off Miles’ outboard motor. After a few unsuccessful circles trying to find it we gave up and hauled ass for the safety of Riley’s Station.

Fishing in the fog

Hot flies of the day were red San Juan worms tied on jig heads by the Riley’s twelve-year-old daughter Jalen, orange egg patterns and #16 zebra midges. And they proved just as effective the next day.

Dave fighting the big one

This little White River cutthroat fell for an orange egg pattern

Dave displays his rainbow trout tattoo

One of many “Twofers”.

 

Even Geezers can catch fish on the White.

We had hoped to spend Day Two between Buffalo Shoal and Riley’s Station but the storm that had driven us off the water yesterday had turned Crooked Creek into a torrent of mud so once again we put in at Rim Shoal and immediately started boating and releasing trout. Looking for shade anyplace we could find it we pulled to shore at mid-day and once again enjoyed one of Miles’ (or maybe Michelle’s) gourmet lunches.

Somehow during our downstream float, happily bouncing off rocks and catching trout, Miles discovered the entire lower unit of the Merc was missing. This didn’t mean we were dead in the water but it did mean less power. So Dave and I continued to catch fish while Miles deftly maneuvered the big johnboat around rocks to avoid further damage. When we reached Crooked Creek and the inflow of muddy water we stowed the rods  and, tired but happy,  limped on down to Riley’s Station.

It’s always fun to spend a day on the river with outfitter/philosopher Miles Riley. This was Dave’s maiden voyage on the White. He’s already scheming to go back and I hope I can tag along. Meanwhile if you’d like to catch a mess of trout, see some beautiful Arkansas scenery or just relax in a nice, quiet cabin, check out Miles and Michelle’s website www.rileysstation.com. They’ll be looking for you!

 

 

This way to Riley’s Station

Mile’s and some old geezer.

Miles & Dave. Lunch break

The old man and the river

All but three photos by Dave Zumbaugh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No River For Old Men

No river

This story was first published in the August 2009 issue of Wyoming Wildlife magazine. It was awarded the  Best Magazine Humor award  in the 2010 Magazine Humor contest of the Outdoor Writers Association of America Excellence In Craft Contests. 

My buddy Ned was ecstatic. “Can you believe it? There’s nobody here but us!”

Ned had parked my truck at a campground. I had let him drive because the grandkids had taken my car keys away. They said I was just an accident waiting to happen. We had walked about a half mile downstream to a popular “honey hole”. It was usually crowded but today we seemed to have it all to ourselves.

Ned tweezered a #18 elk hair caddis out of his fly box and handed it to me.

“Can you tie this on for me?”, he asked, “ I can hardly see it.”

“Sorry”, I said. “I forgot my bifocals”. I thought I was wearing them but obviously I was not. I started wondering what I had done with them but couldn’t remember.

“Then how are we going to fish if neither of us can see how to tie on a fly?”

“We’ll just have to use bigger flies”, I explained. “Like maybe #8 hoppers. But it’s a mootpoint because we can’t fish here anyway”.Ned stared at me, stunned. “What do you mean, we can’t fish here?”

“Look, Ned….” I sat down on a log. My back was already starting to ach from the hike in.

“Like you said, Ned, there’s nobody here but us. We’re both seventy years old. What if we fall down and can’t get back up out of the water? What if we slip on a slick, moss-covered rock and go tumbling downstream? There’s nobody here to help us.”

Ned is dumb enough to hang around with me but he’s not totally brain dead yet.

“I never thought of it that way”, he said, rubbing the gray stubble on his chin. “I gotta admit you may have a point”.

“The only reason I agreed to walk all the way in here was because I thought there would be other people fishing here”, I told him. I could see by the look on his face that I was going to have to explain my theory in detail to him. “At our age we can’t just wade into the water and start flinging flies around like we did when we were twenty-five or thirty. Or even forty or fifty. First we need to find what I call a geezer-friendly venue.”

Ned leaned against a tree and stared longingly at the river where a few trout were sipping emergers in the surface film while I continued to expound on my theory.

“What if there’s a mixture of young guys and old guys?” asked Ned.

“That probably means it’s okay. But we should study the water carefully before we wade in. The old guys we see fishing may just be too dumb to realize they’re in danger. Age is no guarantee of wisdom.”

“But if we do decide to give it a try, we should fish upstream from the young guys so they can fish us out if we lose our balance and go floating downstream”, said Ned, warming to my theory.

“You catch on quick”, I said.

“What?” said Ned.

“I SAID “YOU CATCH ON QUICK”, I yelled. “Sit down here on the log beside me so you can hear what I’m saying…. Now where was I?

“You were explaining your theory to me”, said Ned. “Something about fishing where there are young guys around.”

“Oh yeah”, it was starting to come back to me now. “But having young guys around is no guarantee, because if the fishing is really hot – say there’s a terrific hatch on – the young guys may just keep fishing as we go floating by, gurgling and screaming. In fact they may get mad at us for putting the fish down, like we used to do when old guys went floating past us.”

I pulled my collapsible wading staff – which I now called my “ geezer stick” – from its holster on my belt and leaned against it to help me stand up. We started walking back toward the truck, then remembered the truck was in the opposite direction, so we turned around and walked the other way while I filled Ned in on some of the finer points of my theory.

“Those little pockets in your vest… don’t fill them all up with flies, tippet material, leaders, and other fishing stuff. Save some for pills, salves, suppositories, and any other meds that might come in handy on the stream.”

Ned nodded  in agreement.

“And one other thing”, I added. “When you’re just smoking everybody else on the river and some young whipper-snapper asks you what you’re using, just say “Fifty years of experience, Sonny.”

When we got back to the truck I found my bifocals in the glove box, right where I had put them. I pulled out my river map and we started looking for a place on the river that would be suitably crowded for guys our age. In other words, a geezer-friendly venue. We’d head out right after our nap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trout fishing on the Yellowstone River

The first thing you’ll notice about these fishing trip photos is that there are no photos of fish. There’s a reason for that. Few fish were caught. Just a few dinks and a couple of whitefish, which are, to the trout fisherman, what coots are to duck hunters.

While attending the recent OWAA conference in Billings, Montana Brent Frazee and I took July 18th off to float the Yellowstone River. While waiting for our guide to get the boat into the water we noticed a sign informing us that William Clark and party had camped on this very spot July 17th, 1806. Just missed it by 210 years and one day! Sort of gave me goose bumps.

The Yellowstone has not been channeled into a ditch for barge traffic and probably looks pretty much as it did when William Clark, Sacagawea, her husband Toussaint Charbonneau, their little boy Jean Baptiste and the rest of the crowd traversed it in 1806.

You don’t need a lot of fish to enjoy a day like this.