© 2012 Will K DSC_0310

Spring River Quickdraw

A few weekends ago, my buddy Matt Tucker and I shot south into northern Arkansas for a shot at the incredible fishing (and fish) that the Spring River offers. We met up with our guide, Mark Crawford of Spring River Flies and Guides, and took a half-day float in his Hyde skiff down the prime section of the river.  Matt had fished it before and spoke highly of the water, and I had heard other reports of 100+ fish days.  I was stoked pre-trip for some exhausting action.

I did my research on the river and learned that Rainbows are stocked, as expected, but along with them Cutthroats and Browns were as well.  Having never caught a Cutt before, I was immediately excited about the possibility–stocker or not, I wanted to hold a Cutt.  Flies were anyone’s guess, as were rods.  We both brought a range from 3wt to big streamer 8wts, but ended up throwing 3s and 4s the whole day.  We both relied exclusively on the fly choice of Mark, and he didn’t disappoint us.  He has developed several flies patterned specifically for the bugs and personality of the river; we threw a variety but had the most success with Mark’s “Mayfly Emerger” in a beefy size 8. Tight-lining the nymph deep with a long upstream chuck and a few mends meant that at the end of each swing there was either a strong bite or a fish on.  Very effective and equally as low maintenance.  Anyone can fish that way, and that means anyone can catch good trout on the Spring River.

I missed a number of good fish, both Rainbows and what I’m convinced were two piggish Browns, but bringing a couple dozen fish to the boat helped quench any disappointment.  Mid-float, in a particularly juicy section down from a broad, fast section of delightfully broken water, I laid my nymph on the bottom and as it rose up near the end had a slam of a bite.  Immediately feeling the power of whatever I had, I hollered like a little kid that this was “a good fish…good fish!”  When I finally brought it in for a quick netting, I realized that it was a modest fish at best.  What it lacked in length was made up for in gladitorial strength and breeding–I had my Cutt.

We continued to fish down and saw the bite turn on and off like a light switch, but were having too much fun to care when we weren’t catching.  We knew that in a few minutes…it’d be back on.  Mark was a great guide–my first ever guided trip–and patiently back-rowed when we got hung on the bottom (or trees) and encouraged us when the fishing was down.  He made sure that not a single moment went by that either of us wasn’t fishing–he swapped flies, tippet and rods out like a machine, handing them off as we went.  I’ve never felt so lazy, but it was great fun to switch flies and rods with nothing more than a quick hand-off to Mark.

The Spring River gets relatively little fly-fishing pressure.  The regulations are not as stout as Matt and I are accustomed to in Missouri, and the concept of “Catch and Release” is still a foreign idea and practice to the vast majority of fishers of the river.  Interacting with locals, most of them chucking bait, was an enlightening experience.  It’s easy to knock bait-chuckers, but to do so ignores a much wider and deeper cultural frame in which the people exist.  To them, the method of choice for fishing isn’t easily separable from their way of life; knock their methods and you’ll find that you are knocking…them.  Conservation mindfulness will increase as more people visit, promote and simply talk about it; it will not come overnight, though.  To open someone’s eyes to the joys of fly fishing and its seemingly inherent conservation attitude, a quiet regard for not only the fish and habitat is required, but one for the audience as well.

At the end of that day, and every one since, I’ve been craving a return trip.  More time, more flies, more fish.  I suppose that’s the hallmark of any good trip–it births another that cannot be refused.


Photos courtesy of Matt Tucker, Ozark Chronicles, copyright 2012; use prohibited except by written permission.


  1. Posted March 28, 2012 at 11:20 am | #

    Sounds lime a great trip Will. It’s always nice to add new fish to the roster. I’m with you on careful treatment of local attitudes and customs. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Posted March 28, 2012 at 11:23 am | #

    The picture alone makes me want to go!

    • Posted March 29, 2012 at 12:24 am | #

      Matt is an incredible photographer; he knows how to catch the spirit of each scene and moment in a photo. That cutt shot is epic.

  3. Posted March 28, 2012 at 11:45 am | #

    I need to get you some more of the photos, once i have them sorted out. It was a good trip. We will return…..only this time with my boat in tow.

  4. Posted March 28, 2012 at 12:43 pm | #

    Pretty River and what a great way to spend a day!

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