Reliving youth on Dry Run Creek

Posted: June 12, 2013 at 10:56 p.m.

Luke Hannon

— The dog days of summer are about to hit. Heat and humidity arrived in Arkansas this week. There may be a few double shower clean-up days in our immediate future.

There is a place in the Natural State that can cool both the body and the soul. It’s called Dry Run Creek and it’s wedged between the Norfork National Fish Hatchery and Norfork Dam in Baxter County. If you can find a youngster wanting to trout fish under the age of 16, it’s your ticket to staying cool in north Arkansas.

Isaac Hannon

Keagan Anderson

Will Lanier

Kaden Anderson

Noah and Phil West

Sam Hannon and Drew Dodson

Noah West and Clay Henry

I got pulled into a youth trip to Norfork last week because of my love for fishing and friendship with Sam Hannon, teaching pastor at Fellowship Bible Church of Northwest Arkansas. He asked if I’d help with seven teenagers, mostly sophomores-to-be at Springdale Har-ber all from the same Bible study. The plan was to pile into three trucks with a few dads with limited fishing ability. Sam and I would take turns with the boys on the creek.

Since most of the boys are about to turn 16, it’s one of their last times to fish Dry Run Creek, where big fish hang out year round and can be caught and landed if you’ve got heavy gear and someone who can handle a big net. It was a big weekend any way you measure it (numbers or size), but there were some special highlights that included rare time with an incredibly mature and bright bunch of young men.

My first surprise came when Sam told me the dads and I would share one cabin, the boys another. I questioned the sanity of that. I thought an adult needed to be in both cabins, not that I was volunteering to stay with the boys. Not so. The boys were so in to fishing that they retired early and were prepared to fish at 5:30 a.m. Saturday. Sunrise was 5:52.

The next surprise -- and perhaps it was because the pastor was along, but I doubt it -- was that there was not one disagreement among the boys all weekend. They treated each other with the same respect they showed their elders. Along those lines, I’ve never heard “yes sir, no sir” so often. It was a bit like going to Chik-fil-a and saying thank you. Please, I don’t need “my pleasure” every time.

The only real problem is that the boys put a few too many flies in the trees. You have to know that Dry Run Creek has a solid tree canopy. The casts in the narrow creek are more flips than long loops. Most of the boys figured that out quickly, but one -- to be unnamed -- was too much of an offensive lineman to keep his flies on the water. I went through around 50 ruby midges from my box on the weekend, many lost by the same big, tall teenager. He’s such a good kid, I didn’t mind. “Here’s a few more,” or “let me re-rig that,” became my favorite line.

It’s pretty hard to deny an eager, smiling face with an empty leader hanging from the tip of the rod with a simple request:

“Mr. Clay, I broke off another monster, so could you please tie on another section of tippet with one of your ruby midges?”

Dry Run Creek was perfect for the weekend. It may have been 85 away from the river, but under that canopy and standing on the river where the 48-degree water came out of the hatchery, it was wonderful. I wore a long sleeved fishing shirt over a t-shirt and it was comfortable.

I don’t count fish, but Sam does keep an eye on numbers. His best guess was that 400 fish were caught and landed, including maybe 20 that were over 20 inches. There were several pictures snapped of 10-pound browns.

The boys stayed low key, like they’ve done it before. But I couldn’t help myself a few times. I’ve fished a lot and had my share of successes, but I don’t catch the poundage that is the norm at Dry Run Creek. You can sight fish for trophies and those boys had to put up with my celebrations when they closed the deal on fish I’ll never have on a line.

Most of the boys had almost zero fishing experience and those are the ones that I spent the most time around. I didn’t get to hang as much with veteran fly fishers Luke and Isaac Hannon or Keagan and Kaden Anderson, since they had a dad along.

My treat was to get Noah West, Will Lanier and Drew Dodson dialed in with a few trophies in the net. I have no sons and didn’t begin fishing until after my daughters turned 16. I would have hoped that taking them to Dry Run Creek would have been as much fun as hanging out with these boys.

I’ve never been thanked so often or with such firm handshakes as at the end of the trip back in Springdale. All I can say, “My pleasure!”

Clay Henry is the publisher of Hawgs Illustrated, an NWA Media publication