KW Morrow, White River

April 4th, 2005

Sowbug Roundup 2005
By Zach Matthews

Sowbug Roundup! Where else can you see hundreds of people concentrating intently on nothing but the art of tying flies? Where else can you meet the frontiersmen of our sport; its old guard: Dave and Emily Whitlock, Floyd Franke and Tony Spezio, right next to its upcoming leaders: John Wilson, Duane Hada, Fox Statler? Where else can you get a lesson not just in casting, but in tournament-level, honest to God you've never read it in a magazine advanced casting? Better still, where else can you get it all for the price of a church chili supper? And best of all, what luck to find it sandwiched right between two of the greatest trout-fishing destinations in North America: the Norfork and White Rivers?

The 2005 Sowbug Roundup in Mountain Home Arkansas was sponsored by the North Arkansas Flyfishers.

The event featured intensive tying and lessons on the finer points of flyfishing, taking place over three days (beginning on Thursday so the Lutheran Church could have its gymnasium back in time for services on Sunday).

Entry for the entire weekend was $5. Classes and presentations went on throughout the event, but the main attraction was the fly tying. Over one hundred presenters were set up in long tables, all tying flies at any given time. Flyfishing art was on display. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, one of the better Wildlife divisions in the entire country, gave presentations on trout management and had a replica mount on hand of Rip Collins' world-record brown trout, a 40 lb., 4 oz. behemoth. This fish was caught out of Arkansas' Little Red River in 1992, but two of the previous world record browns had also come from state waters (sadly, none of them on the fly).

Dave and Emily Whitlock, two of the nicest people you'll find anywhere, gave one on one tying instruction and Dave also drew and signed autographs.

Although the tiers were the main attraction, other vendors and artisans presented their wares as well. One whole corner of the gym was devoted to tables full of tying materials. Chances are good that many dead animal pelts haven't been assembled in one place in Arkansas since Reconstruction. Cane rod makers showed their stuff, including this table featuring Harry Boyd of canerods.com, shown below.

Possibly Harry's finest display was a custom-engraved set of slide bands made up for him by a talented gunsmith. That gunsmith is so busy he asked Harry to keep his name a secret.

Fly Anglers Online (FAOL) was represented at the Conranch Hackle booth.

Outside the convention, casting instructors gave free casting lessons and tested out rods. This lady was nice enough to let me take her picture as she worked on her loops.

I arrived from Knoxville too late on Friday to make the convention but just in time to join the best event of all: the informal casting and bull sessions that took place each night behind the Ramada Inn in Mountain Home. I received free, one on one instruction from not one but two FFF master certified casting instructors. Al Crise, who posts here as Flysoup, was kind enough to diagnose various trouble areas in my casting stroke as well as give me a wonderful set of pointers on the completely different art of teaching fly casting. Floyd Franke also chimed in, forgiving one of my idiosyncrasies as "style" rather than "error." (Thanks Floyd!). He also regaled the group with the highlights of his presentation on fighting big fish. His tips must have sunk in during the presentation, as we heard the same things repeated to us several times the next day.

Later that night we retired to the hotel room to tie guide John Wilson's new Trout Crack pattern and continue to shoot the bull. We were fortunate to find several periods of low water on both Norfork and the White River during our stay, and we capitalized to the best of our abilities.

The 2005 Sowbug Roundup couldn't take place in a nicer town, especially for fly fishers. At 11 hours away, my drive wasn't half the distance some traveled to attend. (Special tying presenter Gordon Mackenzie came all the way from the UK!) The event was well worth the effort, and certainly worth the price of admission. I encourage all within range to travel to the event next year, and I assure you a good time will be had by all. ~ Zach


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