Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mr. Smith Goes to Arkansas

The first time I fished with Shawn Brillon, I was left dumbfounded. It must have been some ten or twelve years ago when I met him at a predetermined spot alongside a little tributary to the main river. As I recall, it was in the predawn moments when Shawn parked his Grand Cherokee, exited, walked to the rear, and popped the hatch back. From a bag in the back he pulled out a bottle of brandy, and upended it. When I refused his offer of a hit, he again upended the bottle, this time draining it. While I looked on, he sat on the tailgate, donned his waders, and dropped five or six cans of cheap beer down inside. After blowing snot out of each nostril, he looked at me and exclaimed, "Well, I'm ready fuck nuts. What's taking you so long?"

Shawn and I have both come a long way since that first trip together. We both drink better beer, although not nearly so much as we once did, and we try to stay away from the brandy. I'm a teacher now, and Shawn is the fly and fly tying product developer for the Orvis company. I find I'm sometimes jealous of Shawn's job. He travels quite a bit; often going to Colorado, Idaho, the Florida Keys, or Montana. He has the opportunity to fish in places I'll likely only ever dream of fishing. Most recently, Shawn visited the White River in Arkansas as part of a trip to Wapsi.

As you'll see from the photographs included below, Wapsi isn't nearly so ... antiseptic ... a place as you might otherwise imagine. There is fur and fluff everywhere. The equipment used to process the materials so many of us use is somewhat archaic, and looks to have done duty in a 19th century textile mill. The sheer volume of material is absolutely staggering. Also staggering is the quality of fish the clowns at Wapsi take after dark. Clearly, Mountain Home, Arkansas is a fly tyer's nirvana.

How much marabou do you suppose could be dyed at one time in these vats? For reference, those are canoe paddles laying across the top.
Saddle hackle ... half full or half empty?
Someone has a lot of venison in his freezer.
So, what do you do for a living? Oh .. you know ... I staple rodents to plywood.
Dubbing mixer?
Is that you Bambi?
Oh ... the humanity!
Z-lon or Rapunzel's hair?
Somebody turned the Wapsi boys loose on Sesame Street.
Anybody know where I put that bag of 500 pink bucktails?
Just in case anyone needs to tie 525,000 dozen hendricksons.
I'm pretty sure this thing was pictured in my 11th grade history textbook in a section on child labor.
And now I draw your attention to the center ring.

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