6:45 a.m. found us at Swift Park just below Keystone Dam. We had been hearing good things about the area for the past couple weeks, and while waiting for the water to drop at Zink we decided to scout it out. The water here was pretty wide and deep, so we geared up and headed downstream, scaling the rocky shoreline and dreaming of drift boats. The humidity this morning was around 112%, so about the time that sweat started pooling up in the bottom of our waders we were pretty relieved to come across a rocky point where the river narrowed a bit and looked fishable. After about an hour of casting all around the point and a pile of boulders out in the middle of the river we hadn’t got a bite from anything other than rocks, so we decided to pack it in and head down to Zink Dam.
When we arrived at Zink the water had dropped to a few hundred cf/s, so we were all pretty optimistic about finding some fish. There were plenty of people lining the banks near the dam fishing with lures or bait, so we worked our way quickly downstream to the area where Donny and Chance had caught their stripers. Lo and behold, Joey was the only one to hook up downstream, landing a couple of small drum. We waded back up by the dam to see if they were biting up there, and along the way Joey hooked into a couple more drum.
Once we had worked our way to the east side of the river we finally got some action. While perched on top of some rocks in order to avoid being knocked over by a herd of gar, I tied on a fly that I had bought just because I liked its name… the Thunder Chicken. Sure enough, on the third cast I set the hook on a nice bite and reeled in a 15” blue catfish. Never would have thought that I would catch one on a fly rod, but that just shows how much I know.
Just before we decided to call it a day, Cole hooked up and landed a nice hybrid. Finally, we had caught one of the fish we were after! Still, the fish had been slow to bite all day long, so we packed it in and headed for home.
Sunday morning found Donny, Chance, and I gearing up to try the Arkansas again, with yet another day forecasted for rain. Never the less, we waded in downstream of Zink and spread out along the area where Donny and Chance had landed their stripers the week before.
Within a few minutes we were getting bites, and all of a sudden my rod bent like I’d hooked onto the back of a go-cart! Line started shooting off of my reel as the fish made the first of many long runs. This was a striper for sure!
After about five minutes and a quick lesson on how to play big fish on a fly reel, my arms were burning as I landed my first striper on fly tackle. She wasn’t a monster, but she was still by far the biggest fish this newb has had on the end of his leader.
Shortly after I landed my fish, the hole played out (minus a channel cat that liked deceivers) and we started working our way upstream.
Donny and Chance tucked in close to the pillars in front of the dam and caught a few fish, while I had spotted a school of large buffalo and decided to give them a try. They were running shad right under the pedestrian bridge, but no matter what pattern I put in front of them none would bite. I did, however, manage to hook a nice sized moss rock. I tried to roll cast off of it in hopes of not having to wade right through the fish, and I heard a loud POP right next to my ear. It turns out that my shiny, brand new, only had it a week, first weekend on the water, 9’6” Albright GP 8wt. rod had snapped in half.* Well this put a damper on things, so after a short conference we called it a morning, hoping that the clouds would clear off and bring us better fishing in the afternoon.
The afternoon turned out to be beautiful with plenty of sun, so we got brave and wet-waded up and down the river. Yet again few fish were to be found, but we departed the Arkansas at dusk with plans of future fishing trips already working in our minds, some good memories, and a pretty cool photo or two…
*Long story short- even though I had only used the rod for a few hours and had only possessed it for less than seven days, Albright refused to back their product and bluntly told me that I would just have to buy another rod. Since, I have read numerous reports of bad customer service and outright rudeness on Albright’s behalf, and refuse to conduct any future business with them. I only post this for the awareness of other anglers in the hope that they can avoid this experience.