KW Morrow, White River

July 12th, 2004

A Spring River Reunion
By KW Morrow (silvermallard)

Arkansas' Spring River was first stocked with trout around the turn of the century. Today, a modern hatchery operation is maintained by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission on an island just below Dam #3 and is accessed via State Highway 342. Rainbows, Browns, Cutthroat, and Brook trout are stocked regularly. The Kroger food company donated the hatchery to AGFC in 1985. USFWS also operates a hatchery in the town of Mammoth Spring, near the source of the Spring River. Mammoth Spring discharges 9 million gallons of 58-62 degree water every hour into the river, creating ideal habitat for a variety of fish species in addition to trout. The first 10 miles of the Spring River is considered trout water, but the first 2.5 miles from Mammoth Spring to Dam #3 consists of ideal fly fishing water and higher trout densities than does the downstream portion.

I first fished the Spring River for trout and Smallmouth Bass as a boy in the 1970s on family vacations to Cherokee Village, a resort on the banks of the Spring River some 16 miles downstream from Mammoth Spring. So it was a very fitting location for a reunion this past week with my oldest brother, home on leave from the war-torn Persian Gulf. The Spring River doesn't hold the most fish, the prettiest fish, or even the biggest fish in the Ozarks. But it is the largest spring-fed river that offers trout fishing in Arkansas. And it holds a special place in the hearts of my brother and me. We were both looking forward to fishing her waters together again for several weeks prior to our reunion on her shores.

My wife and I arrived Wednesday at lunchtime. We parked the truck in front of my brother's condo in the spot next to his newly acquired vintage Shelby Cobra. The weather in Northeast Arkansas in July is usually sultry, with temperatures hovering around 100 degrees and plenty of humidity adding insult to injury. But this day it was a pleasant 84 degrees. It would remain mild for the duration of our trip, making our outdoor activities and conversations on the condo's back deck much more pleasant than usual. We went inside to greet my brother and his wife.

We spent the first afternoon catching up on each other's lives and activities of the past 18 months. We had dinner at a locally famous catfish restaurant. We returned to the condo to spend a very pleasant evening out on the deck overlooking Thunderbird Lake discussing the things families discuss during reunions..."the kids," work, politics, current events, and our favorite, new TV commercials. Understandably, we spent a good amount of time on subjects pertaining to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan…a subject that has consumed every waking moment of my eldest brother's life for the past 12 months. But we also discovered the magic of lighted ice cubes!

Thursday was dedicated to fishing the Spring River for trout. We decided to sleep in, and head up whenever we got up and got around to it. We arrived at the Lassiter Access on the Spring River about 10 o'clock on Thursday morning. Wading into the Spring River, I was conscious of a "homecoming" sort of feeling. The comfort born of familiarity separated by time and distance flowed over me as the water tumbled past my legs. Our reunion was complete... two brothers and a river that has served as a strategic meeting place for over three decades. I cannot explain it precisely - or even in a way that probably makes much sense. But there is a mystical ...perhaps metaphysical…healing triangle between the three of us: my brother, the river, and me.

We caught some trout, of course. But that always seems to be a relatively insignificant peripheral to our outings on the Spring River. We watched as a grandfather introduced his grandchildren to the joys of catching trout on a Snoopy Pole. I couldn't help but hope this grandfather and his grandchildren might also experience a similar bond...held together by the cool waters of the river and the trout that lie below her surface.

Our visit was too short. The pressures of professional life for my wife and me, and the weighty responsibilities of waging war for my brother curtailed our visit... condensing it to its basic elements. Friday morning we said our good-byes and pointed the truck back towards Branson. It will be yet another year before the chance to fish the Spring River with my oldest brother presents itself again. Anything can happen in such a long span of time. But for this brief moment, we had our reunion at the river. The mystical triangle was completed once again. And somehow we both knew we were better men for the experience. I wonder if the river knows... ~ Ken

About Ken:

Ken graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1988, and spent the next several years serving in the United States Navy as an intelligence analyst and Russian Language translator. He is a veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Leaving the nation's service in 1993.

Ken is also a published outdoor writer and historian, having penned articles and stories that have appeared in several national hunting publications like North American Hunter magazine, on, in regional and local newspapers, and historical and literary journals. He also provides hunting and dog training seminars for Bass Pro Shops and other sporting goods retailers nationwide and works with other outdoors businesses and conservation organizations in the fields of public relations, promotional marketing, fund-raising, and advertising. He also is a partner in Silver Mallard Properties, LLC. He currently resides with his wife, Wilma, their Weimaraner, Smoky Joe, and their Labrador Retriever, Jake, in Branson, Missouri, where he founded the Branson/Tri-Lakes Chapter of Ducks Unlimited in 1998.

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