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By Frank Sospenzi

After a couple of day fishing outings, the River City and Jackson, Tennessee programs of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. held their first overnight outing in almost two years!

Lots of fish were caught, some veteran participants caught their first trout on a fly rod, and great comradery all came together to produce a very fun outing!

The River City and Jackson programs are a couple of smaller programs on the Western side of the Tennessee Valley region. We started having joint outings with the primary goal to increase participation in the individual events. An additional benefit has emerged from having these joint get-togethers – “cross pollination” between the groups has led to increased friendship and expertise sharing between all the participants.

Being on the Western side of the Tennessee Valley region means that all of our home waters offer only warm water fishing opportunities, which isn’t bad, but we all love to chase trout on a fly. As such, we must travel about three-to-four hours by car to the famed Arkansas trout waters – the White River, Norfork tailwater, and the Spring River.

With the White and Norfork being tailwaters and our desire to wade fish, we decided to fish the Spring River near Mammoth Springs, AR. The Spring River’s source is the famous Mammoth Spring, which provides the cold trout water in a natural freestone river. Without having to worry about varying dam releases, wading is very easy and predictable. This was the first fly fishing outing for a few of the participants and it was the first wade fishing trip for most, so consistent wading conditions was a must.

The plan for our first day was to meet at the Dam 3 access point on the Spring River at 1:00 P.M. The weather forecast was for a cold day with a constant drizzle of rain. Unfortunately, this was one time when the weatherman was 100% correct. Folks started showing up around 11:00 A.M., donned their waders and rain gear and hesitantly started to fish. We all know the ultimate cure for being cold and wet is catching fish – and that is just what started happening almost immediately.

Everyone caught multiple fish, smiles were everywhere, and no one seemed to notice the cold rain. Our newest participant, John Collier, not only caught his first fish on a fly, but it was an 18”-19” football shaped rainbow!

Frank W. Sospenzi
Deputy Regional Coordinator
Tennessee Valley Region

On the second day, we fished some private water. Fishing was a little bit slower but did pick up after the stocking truck arrived – yeah, that’s right – we just so happened to be there when the Arkansas Game & Fish dumped about a thousand 12”-15” trout in the river. We were all fishing barbless hooks and took this opportunity to practice catch and release, as such felt we were teaching those “newbies” a lesson about being careful about what they stick in their mouth while in the river.

The only thing that might have beat the good fishing days was the story telling around meals. Smiles were everywhere, conversation varied from the fish brought to the net, to the ones that got away, to the plans to catch the “big one” the next day. We even celebrated Paul’s birthday with candles on his pancakes at breakfast. The camaraderie developed during an overnight outing can be as fun, if not more fun, as hooking into a large trout.

We would like to thank Mark Crawford for his expertise and help with “where to go and what to throw.”

Also, we want to thank Les Deatherage, Zach Woolworth and Tim Cagle for their help in planning and execution of the overnight outing.

Finally, a huge thank you to Bass Pro Shops Memphis and the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoors Fund for generously paying for the lodging for this outing!

Story by Frank Sospenzi

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