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I should have trusted my instincts.

On Tuesday, Greg Rawn of DeValls Bluff joined me for a day of trout fishing on the White River at Mountain View. We'd been planning the trip for weeks, and the river appeared to be in prime condition. The Corps of Engineers haven't let much water out of lakes Bull Shoals and Norfork because of flooding on the Arkansas River. The Corps only ran two hydropower generators at Bull Shoals Dam and none at Norfork Dam for weeks, so fishing conditions were ideal. Fishing reports confirmed it, as anglers have caught big brown trout below Bull Shoals Dam since early May.

One thing I added to my trout fishing arsenal is a drag chain. Dragging a chain from the bow makes a boat drift straight backwards. Without it, a boat pinwheels downstream, which makes the captain waste a lot of time controlling the boat and spend too little time fishing.

Steve Wright, author of Ozark Trout Tales, recommended 50 feet of rope with about four feet of heavy chain.

"You can use carabiners to reduce chain length and rope length as needed," Wright said. "Those things come with a warning, though. They can hang up at any time and throw you out of the boat."

Rawn, an experienced White River angler, echoed Wright's warning. He recommended splicing a length of twine into the main line and running it through a foam noodle with a big washer at the end.

"The break strength is about 60 pounds," Rawn said. "If the chain snags, it'll snap without the sudden stop, and the noodle will keep it afloat so you don't lose your chain."

Wright recommended splicing a bungee cord into the line to absorb shock in the event of a snag. I chose that option, splicing a 48-ing and 36-inch elastic strap into the line.

When Rawn and I arrived at the Sylamore Access, the news was good and bad. Four generators at Bull Shoals created moderate flow, but the river was the color of coffee. Visibility was inches. I had not accounted for all of the dingy water coming out of the flooded Buffalo River.

Also, the water was full of moss and algae.

I chided myself for ignoring my instinct to fish far upstream at the Ranchette Access.

We tried trolling stickbaits, but there was too much junk in the water. A stickbait scarcely submerged before fouling.

We tried drifting with dropper rigs, but the current was too fast.

We considered bounce fishing small jigs, but frankly, the thought of it bored us.

Happily, the drag chain was successful. The boat drifted straight and true. It did not take long for the chain to snag, but the bungee straps absorbed all of the shock, and the boat stopped gently every time. To free it, I merely pulled the boat upstream with the line until the chain popped free.

We spent the rest of the afternoon fishing for smallmouth bass. Our method was the same as it would be in high water on the Buffalo River or Crooked Creek. We perched the boat in eddies along the bank and fished soft plastic lures around trees and rocks. Rawn used a small purple/white Rapala Shad Rap crankbait.

I caught one smallmouth with a Zoom Baby Brush Hog before switching to a Yum Crawbug. I got one bite. It occurred as I dragged the lure over a limb in the water. The lure went slightly airborne as I popped it over the limb, and a big smallmouth leaped over the limb in pursuit. It contacted the lure but did not get its jaws around it.

Rawn caught a rainbow trout. It jerked loose as he got it to the boat, but the lure snagged a lamprey and yanked the parasitic fish off the trout. The lamprey attempted to attach to the lure.

We ended the day fishing for smallmouths in Sylamore Creek, but they refused to play.

The highlight came at the end of the trip, in Maumelle. My first job, from 1979-83, was at a legendary restaurant and club in west Little Rock called John Barleycorn's Vision. It was a wild place for a teenage lad to work, and it was, to say the least, a defining experience.

Rawn was the manager. His brother, Bobby Rawn, owned the place. Greg and I have maintained our friendship, but I hadn't seen Bobby in 36 years.

He was waiting in his driveway where Greg's truck was parked. The reunion was worth more than a boatload of trout.

Sports on 06/16/2019

Print Headline: Bad location doomed White River trout trip

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