Written by Mark Devino, 1996

The People

     I grabbed my seven year old son Adam and headed to the NOARK (North Arkansas) conclave one fine weekend this Fall. My friend traded the pop-up trailer I used to borrow and I'm not a "tent camper" at all. This would be an adventure. On the way from St. Louis to the clave I drove a slightly different route than usual. Adam and Curtis Gave us the chance to stop at a couple of interesting places on the way. We also picked up two new pets/passengers on the trip. Adam had found and taken a liking to two turtles we "rescued" from the pavement of Texas county. He named them "Curtis" and "Lonely". They really helped pass the time on this five (+) hour road trip.

     We arrived at Bull Shoals State Park on Saturday AM. I'd have left on Friday evening, but it was raining cats & dogs and I wanted to wait and see what the weather was gonna do. Anyhow, I found the sign-in sheet and headed to Snuggs Browns campsite. Snuggs was the one who'd signed in WITHOUT removing the sheet from its' plastic sleeve :-) . Snuggs was gone but I found Rob Gregoire tying bassbugs in the hot Arkansas sun. Robs dog Bo was soon to became the somewhat unofficial mascot of the 'clave. With Adam eager to set up camp Rob helped me in the process of beginning the assembly of this raggedy tent I'd borrowed from a guy at my office. Meanwhile Adam was looking for one of his 2 turtles. The smaller of the turtles had sneaked off under the seats in the truck or something. The other turtle, "Curtis", was safely corralled in the campsite fire pit.

     Turns out the tent was an unpitchable piece of crap. It was a hodge-podge of homemade parts & missing pieces. After a forty five minute struggle trying to pitch this mess I insisted that we give it up. I consulted with Adam about the possibility of sleeping in the back of the Suburban instead of the tent. Nothing doing. He came to camp out and sleeping in the truck wasn't allowed. So we ran to town, picked up a little dome tent and pitched it successfully. I sent Adam back to the truck to look for the still missing turtle. It was darn hot and I really didn't need a dead turtle in the truck.

     With the turtle still very lost, Rob, Adam and I went over to the Norfork to do some fishing. The water on the White at the park was too low at the moment. When we got to the Norfork Adam and I headed up Dry Run Creek instead of fishing in the Norfork itself. This is a "catch & release, lures only/kids only" water coming out of the federal fish hatchery. It wasn't loaded up with fish as usual, but you could spot them here and there. Instead of walking along the path Adam I chose to have him fish his way upstream from it confluence with the Norfork. We wet waded our way over rocks & logs up to the spot where the fish would be. He had a couple of hookups that he didn't land. But he DID end up hooking, fighting and landing a beautiful trout in the 16"-18" range. It was a NICE FISH. My camera was in the truck of course. This was Adams first ever trout - he was excited. What a way to start.

     When we got back to the campsite I met Snuggs Brown for the first time. He was alot different than I'd expected in his appearance & mannerisms. If I was forced to give a description I'd have to say that he's like a "southern Santa Claus". Not the way he looks, but the way he acts. For those of you who don't know, Snuggs far exceeded the duties of conclave co-host. He went overboard. After I told Snuggs about the missing turtle problem, he offered Adam $1 for the turtle that was still lost in the truck. Adam countered saying that the missing turtle was worth closer to $20, but that he'd sell him the other turtle for $1. No dice. I also met L.C. Clower and Hilary Thompson Hilary and LC in person for the first time. What a hoot it is to put faces & voices with these people we already know. LC is not what I'd had in mind. I thought he'd be a somewhat quiet guy with many years of FF'ing wisdom under his belt. I was wrong on one count. LC isn't quiet. He's a north Texan with the drawl to prove it. Perfectly willing to spin long yarns of BS way into the night. But between he and Hilary they cook up a great pot of coffee.

     Around 7:00 we all headed over to meet everyone else and eat supper. Here was my chance to most of these people for the first time. Ben "The Colonel" Benoit was the "take charge" kind of guy I'd expected. We needed that. There was a bunch of people to be fed and some group pics that needed to be taken. Allan Fish was exactly who I expected him to be. My mental image was accurate. Super gentleman, I wish we'd gotten the chance to fish together. The raffling of prizes and the fly swap were all handled by Snuggs. Adam started to get antsy around 10pm and was ready to head to the tent. I took him back to our tiny tent and slid him into his "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" sleeping bag. He fell asleep almost instantly. I returned to the group, some of whom were STILL eating. We hung out and chewed the fat for awhile before heading to bed.

     The AM came early. My son didn't want to me cook breakfast on a gas burner. That would be too common and too convenient. He insisted on cooking on an open fire. From the truck he rounded up the axe, the firewood and some newspaper. I also had him take another look for the missing turtle while he was there. After the campfire cooked breakfast most people headed out to fish. Adam and I broke camp, released the one turtle back to the wild and soon after and were on our way to Wildcat Shoals. He wanted to go fishing.

     One of the things that'd been nagging me was this missing turtle. I didn't relish the prospect of finding this smelly dead turtle sometime next January. So before I packed the Suburban I took a deep look around for it. Not finding it I assumed (or hoped) that it had fallen out one of the often open doors. Adam on the White Anyhow, we pulled into wildcat to find the water pathetically low. Adam grabbed his rod and made a few fruitless casts anyway. No luck. We took off from there downstream to Cotter. There's a spring there and I'd hoped to find Adam a few more fish. The water was low at Cotter also, but trout were stacked up near the spring as we'd hoped. Hundreds of them. But these are those trouts that don't eat - proven by their complete lack of cooperation to hit. It didn't matter because within a half hour or so Adam was enticed by to go catch crawdads a little girl that'd been trying to get his attention. What an enchantress. A few minutes of that and we struck out for one last look at the White River, destination Rim Shoals.

     On the way there something fell onto my foot out from under the dashboard of the truck. IT WAS THE MISSING TURTLE! He looked no worse than he did the day before. We stopped only briefly at Rim Shoals. Just long enough to take a look at the low water, make a few last casts and release the turtle.

     The conclave was great. I really have to do this again soon!

[Windows '95] [Colorado Travels] [The Bamboo Experience]
[Trout Unlimited] [Professional] [Bassbugs!]

© 1996, 1997 Mark Devino