Family, Fish & Fun on the Little Red River

Thursday afternoon August 9, 2018- Pam and I head south from Fayetteville with our old Suburban loaded down with gear, groceries and stuff pulling the all purpose 16 foot War Eagle fishing boat for a 3 day late summer family vacation.  We stop at the Heber Springs Walmart Super Center just before dark to load up with even more groceries and a late evening thunderstorm hits just as we try to exit the store causing a 30 minute delay. 

We finally reach our destination, Lindsey’s Rainbow Resort on the Little Red River 2 miles downstream from Greers Ferry Dam, just after dark.  We have rented two family size cabins for 3 nights.  The kids, grandkids and others will arrive in stages over the next few days for lots of fishing, swimming, cliff jumping (on Greers Ferry Lake), eating and fellowship.

I first started fishing there in 1967 and have been friends with the Lindsey family for over fifty years.  Pam and I started fishing a marabou jig there for trout in 1978.  I have lots of wonderful memories of good times there.

Friday August 10, 2018- There is no generation this morning and my son-in-law, Nick and I launch the boat at the park just below the dam around 8:15 a.m. and start working our way downstream through the fog, the boulders and the wade fishermen into a large hole of water that always holds lots of fish.  Even though it is foggy and cool, the sun is breaking through the fog and with not a wisp of wind, we can tell it is going to be a scorcher real soon.

It is about 2 miles from the ramp to the boat dock and we fish most of the way, seeing only 1 other boat.  The scenery is beautiful as always and we see plenty of geese and two broods of young mallards along with blue herons and kingfishers.

The fishing is a little slow this morning but we manage to catch 5 rainbows apiece up to 15 inches.  Nick is throwing a 1/16 oz. sculpin olive/peach marabou jig on a Loomis 6 foot ultra-light rod and 3 pound Maxima line.   I am stripping a 1/50 oz. black marabou jig on my fly rod and a 6 pound fluorocarbon leader.  We clean a few small fish for supper.   After 2 ½ hours we are ready for breakfast.

After a late morning brunch, Pam and Jordan, my oldest daughter who is nearly 8 months pregnant, join us for some midday fishing in the heat and we manage to land 11 more Rainbows up to 16 inches on jigs.  Again we keep a few fish to clean.

Around 3 p.m. my youngest daughter, Julie and her husband Chris arrive. The girls want to visit and the 3 guys excitedly jump in the boat to try to catch the rise with the intention to ride it downstream 6-8 miles fishing as we go and then motor back upstream to the dock. The 6-8 mile trip will take us through some pretty treacherous stretches of water.  The rise is caused of course by the Corps of Engineers releasing water through the generators.   I have fished the river for decades and consider myself fully capable of riding the first foot or two of the rise downstream without tearing up the boat and motor in the long shoals full of rocks and willows.  The release of water almost always stimulates a feeding spree, especially on a hot summer day.

The only problem is that when I was much younger, I fished that stretch of river 10-20 days a year.  Now I only fish it once a year.  My confidence in my guiding ability proves to be not well founded and I manage to hit a rock with the outboard within 10 minutes of leaving the dock and tear up the lower unit.  Thank God for cell phones.  We are about a mile downstream from the dock and I call the dock for a tow.  We fish a little until help arrives and catch 4 more nice Rainbows.

Our rescuer is a guide from the dock who is in a big flat bottom fiberglass riverboat with a 40hp Mercury outboard with a jet lower unit. We all 3 get in his boat and he starts upstream towing my boat behind us.  Unfortunately the outboard jet does not have enough torque with 2 generators running to pull the one shoal we need to traverse to get back to the dock. After several attempts we give up and tie my boat to a private dock and head upstream in his boat to re-group and come up with another plan.

The guide decides to try again, this time alone with a 25hp Mercury (prop not jet) on an aluminum boat and about one hour later he arrives at the dock with my boat in tow.  I am much happier.

We all retreat to the swimming pool and the cabins to lick our wounds and my bruised ego.

My son, Ben and his wife Amy and our 3 grandkids arrive around 9 p.m. and dominoes and board games are the main attraction for the rest of the evening.

Our plans for Saturday include a rental boat, cliff jumping, Kayaking, more food and fellowship.

Saturday August 11, 2018- The morning fog starts breaking up early and again we are on the river around 8:30 a.m.  Julie and Chris rent Kayaks and head upstream in the fog. There is no generation so my son and I are able to fish out of the disabled War Eagle by using the foot control trolling motor.  Again the morning bite is slow but we manage to land 6 Rainbows by stripping 1/125 oz. marabou jigs on fly rods.  Jordan and Nick fish out of the rental boat and do a little better, catching 9 Rainbows. I clean a few fish and we head for lunch to be followed by the annual cliff jumping ritual on the bluffs near the Dam Site Marina on the lake. 

A few adults bail off a 30 foot cliff, then the grandkids (Simon & Henry-the 8 year old twins and Aowyn their 11 year old sister) start with 6-8 foot jumps but eventually work their way up to an 18 foot leap.  The boys announce that it is just like skydiving and all three grandkids repeat their adrenaline rush over and over until we are all wore out and head back to the cabins.

My nephew Jay calls from his family’s cabin downstream and tells us that he and his wife Amber will be joining us for a late dinner around 8 p.m.

The generators are running and the river is rising rapidly, so Ben and I strike out about 5 p.m. for some late evening fishing.  The fog is really thick and we head upstream in the rental boat toward the dam.  Just as we get to the catch and release area below the dam they stop the generation.

Falling water late in the evening in the fog in late summer are some of my favorite conditions for tailwater trout fishing. As the water drops out and the fog thickens the trout really turn on.  We fish for 1 ½ hours and catch 21 trout including 2 nice Browns and 1 small Brook trout.  Ben is throwing various colors of 3/32 oz. marabou jigs on a spinning rod and I am stripping a 1/32 oz. black jig on my fly rod but this time I am using a sink tip leader to get the jig down.

We call it quits before 7 p.m. and join the girls to help cook steaks, trout and chicken and the fixings.  We enjoy a wonderful meal and lots of good fellowship. Jay tells us that he spent the afternoon stalking 2 big Rainbows and 1 big Brown in a shoal about 15 miles downstream.  Unfortunately they would not take any of his offerings.  After supper my nephew and his wife head back to their cabin and Julie and Chris head home to Little Rock. Jordan and Nick had left earlier headed back to Northwest Arkansas.  The rest of us are in bed by 10 p.m. with one more challenge left for the next morning:  how to get the disabled War Eagle boat 2 miles upstream to the ramp at low water with only a trolling motor and paddles.  Life would be boring if it was always easy.

Sunday August 12, 2018- We roll out for a pancake breakfast and a brief cabin devotional. We sing a couple of worship songs, say a prayer and start the next adventure.  We shuttle my Suburban and trailer dropping them at the ramp upstream and my son and I use the foot control trolling motor and the 2 paddles to work our way toward the ramp; even making a few casts as we go.

The fish are very active and we catch and release 5 Rainbows even though we only make a few casts.  We miraculously manage to clear the first shoal without getting out of the boat. 

After about 1 ½ hours of running the trolling motor and paddling upstream we approach the swifter boulder strewn water just below the ramp and our good fortune runs out.  The trolling motor battery is weakening and my son ends up pulling the boat (with me in it) the last 30 yards upstream in shallow swift water.  We trailer the boat and head back to the cabin to load up and head for home in Northwest Arkansas.  The kids are finishing up one last dip in the pool and everyone leaves happy and thankful for family and good times together.  School starts tomorrow for the grandkids and work and life goes on for all of us.  It’s great to live in America and be able to enjoy, as Solomon said “the good things that a good God allows us to enjoy”.


David English:

Sounds like a wonderful family vacation on the Little Red!

Sep 04, 2018

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