Lucky We Brought Beer

Warning: Not many fish were caught during the making of this video.

At an average of 3000 – 4000 fish per mile, you’d think they’d be more plentiful than the rocks on the river bed, but sometimes they can be as hard to find as a politician with his hand in his own pocket at election time. Or so it proved to Caveman and I the other day.

Naturally, with a pastime not short on intangibles and variables, there is no corresponding shortage of excuses either. ‘When in doubt, blame the weather’ is a particular favorite, and the last refuge of many a fishing guide. It can always be too hot, or too cold, or too windy, or too something. In reality it often boils down to the fact that on some days, the fish are reading a different book than you, and there is not a lot you can do about it.

All things considered, the river has held up really well this year from a recreational point of view. The last time the fishery experienced similar low flows throughout the summer was in 2002. This was also the summer a seven fold increase in the number of fish over 14 inches was recorded. Less current means fish can spread out over more of the riverbed, resulting in decreased competition for the prime real estate along the edges. More calories go into growing than battling the current and other fish. Generally mid to late August are the Dog Days, with fish hunkering down during the day, awaiting nightfall to get active, and the warmer water temperatures this year have exacerbated this.

Slow days are the ones you hope you brought enough beer. Fortunately, I’ve always believed that when it comes to stocking the cooler, plan for the worst. Its better to have a couple left at the take-out than being two guys eyeing up the last one with three miles still to float. Slow days are when the memories are generated watching time pass anchored in a back eddy or parked beneath the shade of a bridge or cottonwood, BS-ing.

Slow days also make you really fish. Working extra hard to find a feeder, you’ll try different flies and techniques, fishing fast water and slow, shallow and deep, dead drifts and twitches. It also demands extra concentration when you are the recipient of only one or two strikes in an hour. Morale can plummet and self -doubt seep in when you miss those rare opportunities. There are days when the river, and the fish, flatter us, so it is only fitting that there should be an equal number where they humble us as well. If at the end of the day, you’ve more flies lost than fish landed, its fair to say you’ve probably been served a dose of humility, along with a desire to come back and try to even up the ledger.

But the true point of the day is not how many fish or flies were caught or lost, but recognizing the privilege of living in a place that supports such luxuries as fishing for fun ,and the little cubes of ice you buy in a bag that help keep the beer cold. That, and a special word of recognition to shuttle drivers, without whom we’d all be stuck in an eddy somewhere, eyeing the last can.

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One Reply to “Lucky We Brought Beer”

  1. I do believe this is your finest piece Hayden. You described it perfectly…the good days and the not so good days on the Arkansas. Still hope you get up there when the good fall fishing starts. Cheers…

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