Kelly Bostian: Arkansas waters offer plenty of fly-fishing action
BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Sunday, January 20, 2013
1/20/13 at 5:13 AM
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FINALLY, I was getting back into the groove, executing a half-decent fly-cast and laying a length of 5X fluorocarbon tippet and tiny egg-pattern fly right where I wanted it.
"Yes, there you go, right there," said Arkansas guide Capt. Jamie Rouse. "Count down from five."
So I did, "Five, four, three, tw - Ack!"
I missed the strike.
"Oh! Ho ho!" Rouse laughed. "Don't let 'em punk you like that, man. They're just messing with you now."
That's the fun of fishing with Rouse on the Little Red River. You can miss a strike like that and laugh because you know another one will come along soon enough - or at least we could last week when Tulsa Bird Dog Association president Shane Bevel and I joined Rouse for a calm, cloudy fish-filled day on the Little Red.
Tulsans can meet Rouse this week as Bevel invited him to Tulsa for an event Tuesday evening with the bird dog club, the Tulsa Fly Fishers and local fly-fishing shop The Gadget Company. "We have a lot of members that fly-fish, and we kind of think that fly fishing and bird dogs kind of go hand-in-hand," Bevel said.
A former Alaska guide, Rouse has 20 years' experience showing folks the fly-fishing ropes. He and his guide team are Orvis-endorsed and Rouse was named Orvis Guide of the Year in 2007. Jamie Rouse Fly Fishing Adventures was 2012 Guide Service of the Year.
They work in trout heaven in Arkansas, in the tail-water offerings of the Little Red, the White and the NorFork rivers. They are in one of North America's best trout areas, which boasts several world records to support the claim.
Rouse moved from Mountain Home, nearer the famed White River, to Heber Springs "because I've fallen in love with it," he said. "This is Arkansas' only pure wild brown trout river. They don't stock them here."
Rouse said he's on a mission to make Heber Springs "the center of the fly-fishing universe." He guides fly fishermen for bass, walleye, stripers and hybrids in local lakes as well.
We chased mid-winter rainbows from the comfort of his stable yet narrow-beamed 21-foot riverboat. It's his secret weapon for reaching trout others can't. With a shallow draft and jet unit on the motor, he reaches waters normally frequented only by canoeists and kayakers.
Once we reached our destination, he turned off the motor and maneuvered the flat-bottom with oars, drift-boat style.
After Bevel pulled a couple early-risers to the boat, Rouse gave him the lowdown on the Little Red.
"There are some serious slobs in here so you never know what's biting on your fly. Anytime you set the hook it could be just a 'nice' fish," he said with a pause and emphasis on the word "nice." He used the same pause as he continued. "Just be ready, because they will just, completely destroy you, in a matter of like, two seconds."
The Little Red didn't destroy us, but we did get a little bit spoiled on this stretch of clear, calm water below Greers Ferry Dam.
The day was like the river, damp and still. Drought and dam repairs meant the Little Red hadn't seen flow from the lake since Dec. 14. Snowmelt from a recent storm put a nice chill on things. Rouse warned us the water was unusually cold and that the fish would be slow, the hits light and to expect we would miss some.
This was a far cry from pulling in a Lower Illinois River trout on a hot July day. "You gotta let 'em run a little bit," Rouse said. "They're not going to just come right to the boat."
No joke. These rainbows fought like they were just plain mad at us. Next time, maybe, we'll get one that destroys us.
Original Print Headline: Trout heaven
Meet Jamie Rouse in Tulsa
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Zarrow Regional Library, 2224 W. 51st St.
What: Tulsa Bird Dog Association meeting. Jamie Rouse and assistant guide Matt Milner will talk about fly fishing and the Little Red River. Free and open to the public.
Arkansas River guide Jamie Rouse hoists a Little Red River rainbow trout as Tulsa angler Shane Bevel continues to fish from the bow of his guide boat. KELLY BOSTIAN/Tulsa World