Fishing with Garvin

Casey Creek is a nothing trout stream but it was one of Garvin’s favorite spots so here I am.DSCN0610

Barely a rivulet with a sand and gravel bottom that generates a cloud of silt with nearly every step, Casey Creek is a stream that’s often choked with blow downs and root wads strewn about from the occasional thunderstorm-generated torrent. It rises in Tennessee before spilling into Kentucky and winding northward, eventually feeding Lake Barkley, the final Corps impoundment on the Cumberland River. This is not exactly classic trout country. But the creek is spring fed, clear and flows surprisingly cold for about three miles. Eight times a year the state dumps 1,000 or so fresh-from-the-hatchery trout (mostly rainbows along with a handful of browns) into the creek from a county road bridge. The few trout that aren’t caught immediately by the locals quickly acclimate to their new surroundings. It was for these trout that Terry Garvin preferred to fish.IMG_3843

Garvin and I began fishing together more than 20 years ago, not long after we met. He wasn’t much of a fisherman then, but became one by way of a curious, sharp mind that he could focus to unusual purposes. He’s the only person I’ve known who could render trout fishing into nearly a purely intellectual contest of wills between fish and fisherman. This may sound silly but you wouldn’t think so had you ever fished with Garvin. It was remarkable to witness.

I am alone on the creek, which is not unusual for a weekday afternoon unless it is stocking day, which it is not. The last trout stocking was nearly three weeks ago.

The first pool upstream from the bridge was Garvin’s favorite spot so that’s where I start but a recent storm has wedged a cottonwood against the mud bank, clogging the run and pushing the current into a queer dog leg that plunges under the root wad. Garvin would have figured it out but after hanging up and breaking off on successive casts I move upstream, crossing the creek to reach a narrow chute that empties into a long pool that is big for this stream. A roll cast drops the gold flecked nymph at the head of the pool, where it sinks slowly, attracting a swarm of minnows.

I last saw Garvin on a Monday in April in Little Rock. We’d planned to fish the White River a couple of days that week; a trip that had been scheduled for months. But he’d been felled by terrible medical problems no one saw coming.

“Better reschedule,” he’d said and I’d agreed, although we both knew it probably wouldn’t happen. The following week I spoke at his memorial service.

On the third drift the leader darts and I set the hook. A buttery colored trout comes to hand. One is enough. I do not think I will fish here again. DSCN0608



Stocking Day

It was stocking day on a small stream I occasionally fish. I usually avoid stocking day but I was in the neighborhood and stopped by. IMG_2499

I arrived around mid afternoon and the stocking truck had come and gone, leaving behind – according to the state game agency website – “1,000, 9 to 11 inch rainbow trout.”

I knew this because seven cars had crowded the small parking area and a couple more had squeezed onto a gravel bar flanking the small stream.

The highway bridge serves as the stocking site. On stocking day this is where you’ll find the fish and the fishermen. The trout that survive the stocking day angling onslaught eventually disperse and a couple of miles of the spring-fed creek, which winds through the heart of largemouth bass country, holds trout year round and is a surprisingly good fishery.

IMG_2501I walked toward the bridge. The creek became dark with trout, which were crowded into the deeper water that pools against the far bank. A guy dressed in tan shorts and a golf shirt, fly vest, wide-brimmed hat and oversized net was casting a chunk of shrimp into the pod of trout. He hooked three and landed one, adding it to the four he had clipped onto a metal stringer. Three other fishermen stood shoulder to shoulder. An older man was sitting on a step stool he’s positioned under the bridge. Two guys were on the downstream side of the stocking site but all were within casting distance of each other.

I walked back to the parking area. Two more cars had arrived. A red Jeep pulled in and parked beside me.

“Do any good?” the driver asked.

“Not fishing today.”

“They dump some fish?”

“I think so.”



Arkansas Notes: Gaston’s on the White

Gaston’s White River Resort has been in business since 1958. The White River has been in business as a trout fishery since 1952. That’s when President Truman arrived by train, stayed four hours, and gave his dedication blessings to Bull Shoals and nearby Norfork dams, thus forever changing the local landscape.

Truman’s place in history is secure. The White River’s place as one of the most productive tailwater trout fisheries in the country is also secure. Gaston’s reputation as one of the best resorts and fishing outposts on the river is well established, as well.

I fished Tuesday with my mentor and long time friend Larry Rea, who spent more than three decades with The Commercial Appeal, the bulk of which as that newspaper’s outdoor editor. He retired a few years ago then got into the radio business. You’ll find more about that at

Gaston’s has everything you need; from bare bones to full service. Fishing guides, food, lodging, service, tackle, information . . . even the current “hot fly.” Check them out at

Larry and I fished Tuesday with veteran guide Ron Armagost (pictured), who has caught more fish than he can remember and guided more fishermen than need remembering. Ron has a life changing  story of his own, which he was gracious enough to share. More about that soon.

We caught about three dozen trout, which everyone except me considered a good but not great day of fishing (I thought it was terrific). The weather was perfect, the company was excellent and the folks at Gaston’s do their best to make guests feel at home.

I’m here at the invitation of Larry Rea and host Jim Gaston as part of an annual media gathering hosted by Gaston’s. There are about 20 writers and broadcasters here this week, all of whom are colleagues and many of which are friends, including Bryan Hendricks.

Following Tuesday night’s Gaston’s hosted cookout Bryan asked if I wanted to try some nighttime fly fishing. Fishing in the dark does something evil to my casting. Still, I managed to catch a fat nighttime rainbow. Luck again trumped talent.

The weatherman is promising cold and wind on Wednesday. I don’t think the trout will mind.

Arkansas Notes: The View from the Dining Room

The dining room at Gaston’s White River Resort is adorned with, among other things, an assortment of antique bicycles and tricycles, a row of Johnson outboard motors, a ancient motorcycle and a Standard Oil sign. These things hang from the ceiling.

And there’s the excellent food, including but not limited to the delicious omelet I enjoyed for breakfast. IMG_1724

The real action is outside, of course, where the trout laden White River flows past the restaurant. We’re about three miles downriver from Bulls Shoals dam.

Fog blanketed the river early but that is quickly vanishing as temps are headed toward the 60s.

An appointment at the nearby by Bull Shoals-White River State Park will likely swallow most of the morning.

Fishing this afternoon.  IMG_1722

Arkansas Notes: A Smartly Dressed Fisherman

My route to Gaston’s White River Resort took me through Mammoth Spring, Ark., headwaters of the aptly named Spring River.

I stopped along the river and  made a few casts. The day was fairly warm and brightly sunny and my main purpose was simply to enjoy the river, any fish caught would be a bonus. A half-dozen cars were in the parking lot and several fishermen were scattered up and down the river. The majority were working the opposite bank.IMG_2849

A family of three were bank fishing. By all appearances it was a mom, son and grandmother. Mom was splitting her time casting her rod and helping the child cast his. But it was the grandmother figure who caught my attention. She was downstream a respectable distance from the younger woman and child, both of whom were wearing what you expect on a riverbank in March – generic jeans, shirts and jackets. The grandmother was clad in Capri pants and tan leather flats accented with small bows. No stockings or socks although in the fading afternoon light it was cool enough for boots.  I couldn’t see her blouse or shirt because she was wearing a 3/4 length dress coat. But when she turned to retrieve a piece of tackle I noticed that she was wearing pearls. (To those of you who thought of June Cleaver, you’re showing your age or addiction to re-runs.) It is almost as thought she’d stopped off to catch a mess of trout for supper while on her way to church; it was about that time of day.

A guy in camo waders who was fishing the far bank slogged ashore and joined the family. He took over helping the youngster cast. I worked my way upstream of the group then down, catching one, losing another. The pearl lady hooked a trout and played the fish skillfully but lost it at the bank. She was fishing with a simple spincast outfit and cast with a sidearm motion – efficient and accurate. This is probably not her first time on a riverbank.

The family headed for the parking lot; the guy in the waders carrying a stringer heavy with trout. He and the pearl lady exchanged comments. He smiled and walked ahead with the spring in his step of  a man who had enjoyed a successful afternoon on a beautiful river. They soon left.


Walking the Dog and Toying with Tackle

The Kentucky woods are again draped in ice and snow. Unusual for this slice of the country. By early March we are usually seeing green and catching crappie.

Green remains hard to come by but crappie are already being caught, of course. Fishing is a year-round proposition here, although I doubt that many boats were on neighborhood lakes today. The half-inch of ice and 4-5 inch topping of snow that piled up overnight coupled with the 5 degree wind chill would have made boat launching treacherous and being on the water foolhardy.

So while the weather moderates I’ll toy with tackle; re-checking reels already cleaned and re-lined and tackle bags, boxes and vests that have been sorted, re-sorted and re-sorted again.

Thankfully, there’s plenty of work to do. A couple of stories and a book chapter need to be finished before trout next week and maybe a go at crappie Saturday if the weatherman hits his 50 degree prediction.

Until then, at least the retriever likes playing in the snow.  IMG_1699

Kentucky Trout Stocking Time

Attention Kentuckians and anyone wise enough to fish in the Bluegrass State: Weary of winter and anxious to fish? The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is pumping trout into areas waters. Get out and catch some.


Jefferson County waters Miles Park Lakes 3 and 4, Green Heron, Angler and Fisherman’s Park Lakes 3 and 4 along with Meade County’s Otter Creek and others were stocked Thursday, Feb. 20. On Tuesday, Feb. 25, Jefferson County’s Tom Wallace, Waverly, Watterson and Cherokee Park lakes are scheduled to receive 1,250, 1,250, 750 and 750 trout each.

Other Kentucky counties getting trout include Boyle, Anderson, Franklin, Fayette, Jessamine, Warren, Marshall, McCracken, Hopkins, Union, Henderson, Harlan, Lincoln, Mercer, Knox, Bell, Marion, Nelson, Madison, Montgomery, Scott, Grayson, Daviess, Kenton, Campbell, Grant and Boone.

Stockings across the state are scheduled through Wednesday of next week. Click on the agency’s website for details.

Kentucky’s sport license year begins March 1. You will need a 2014-15 fishing license and a trout stamp to keep trout.

The View from Gaston’s

Several of my friends and colleagues are trout fishing on the White River this morning, each under the watchful eye of one of Gaston’s expert fishing guides. A work assignment requires my early departure, otherwise I would be with them.

Gaston’s White River Resort rolls out along a mile of the upper White, not far from Bull Shoals Dam. Current owner Jim Gaston’s father started the place when Eisenhower was in the White House.

Much has changed since then but one thing has not and that’s the friendliness and hospitality extended by the folks here. I had the opportunity to chat with Mr. Gaston for a few minutes last night. A more friendly, welcoming gentleman is not to be found.

The fishing is fantastic but fishing is good at a lot of places. The feeling of being at home is more elusive.

Gaston’s is located near Lakeview, Ark. Visit if you can. The number is (870) 431-5204.


Access to the Sipsey Fork

The Fishing Wire reports today that Alabama Power is considering restricting fishing access to a prime stretch of Sipsey Fork, which is the tailwater of Lewis Smith Lake and affords Alabama its only year-round trout fishery.

Alabama Power controls the dam and is considering limiting access directly below the structure – which also harbors some of the best and most easily accessible trout fishing water.

This news comes from Brandon Jackson, who owns Riverside Fly Shop on the Sipsey. Jackson is asking that anglers contact the power company.

Here, in part, is what Jackson sent to The Fishing Wire:

“We have really enjoyed the benefits from the improvements Alabama Power Company has provided along the Sipsey Fork of the Warrior River. We appreciate the funding and work they have provided to benefit the river. However, as many of you know, Alabama Power is trying to decide if they will now reverse course and prohibit angling from Lewis Smith Dam along the east side of the river (across from the fishing “pier”) from the dam to below the “Tube” a stretch of around 300 yards of river footage. This area is the area that many use to fish when the generators are running. It is also used by families to provide open access so that they can fish together. This area is vital to angling access.

In order to preserve this angling access we must notify Alabama Power that we want to keep the access. PLEASE take the opportunity to make your voice heard and encourage friends to do the same. You can email to , , mgodfrey@southernco.combut please try to send a letter by U.S. mail if possible as this has more impact.”

The postal address is:

Mr. James F. Crew
Manager, Hydro Services
Alabama Power Company
PO Box 2641
Birmingham, AL 35291

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I’ve fished Sipsey Fork and spent a few dollars at Jackson’s fly shop. Time and money were both well spent.