Unplugged in The Ozarks

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HEADING SOUTH ON HIGHWAY 14 out of Yellville, Arkansas, there’s an abrupt decline in civilization as the tree canopy closes in and the road begins to wind and drop toward the bridge at Dillard’s Ferry. No more gas stations. No more car washes. No improved pastures or homesteads. Just a couple of B&B inns and canoe livery shacks, opportunistic endeavors that support a clean-flowing river.

The Buffalo got its “National River” designation in 1972 when Arkansans decided that this wild and un-dammed jewel of the Ozarks needed a little extra love. From its headwaters in the Boston Mountains, the Buffalo winds for 135 miles through limestone canyons and hardwood forests before pouring into the White River below Cotter.

I first heard about the Buffalo River a few years back while trout-fishing on the White with guides Steve Dally and Ben Levin. They said that the Buffalo was the quintessential smallmouth bass experience and that someday we should plan a float.

Well, we did.

On Tuesday, May 5th, an entourage of driftboats, guides, anglers, swampers, camping gear, and cameras gathered at the gravel ramp at Rush Boat Landing on the Lower Buffalo. After stringing up rods and stowing gear, I pulled out my cellphone and noted that we were essentially off-the-grid before we even started.

No signal, no service. Nothing to do but fish, shoot photos, and float a great river with good friends.

Over the next three days we covered 26 miles of river, caught scads of fish, camped in comfort, ate like kings, and laughed ourselves silly. I should note, that we also had absolute perfect weather and exceptional river flow and clarity. I suppose that less-than-favorable conditions could have possibly dampened my enthusiasm for this trip; but short of a Biblical flood (which happened the day after we left) this fact remains: the Buffalo is an extraordinary river, and if you like flowing water and stunning scenery and zero hint of mankind to muddle the view, it should be tops on your list to experience.

While our main goal was smallmouth on the fly, we also caught crowds of longears, greenies, Ozark bass, and one longnose gar. There was no pressure to pass up shots at one specie in favor of another, and if you missed a bite because you were gazing at incredible scenery or watching a bald eagle soar overhead…hey, no biggie. The fish were hungry and the action was steady.

If you’d like to try this trip, call the boys at Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher and get your name on the list. Buffalo departures will be limited, each spring, so don’t…uh…dally around…if you’re pining to fish it.

Thanks to all involved for pulling off an extraordinary adventure. To see the entire Buffalo River photo shoot, please click here.

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Miles Nolte and John Boatwright working a bucket

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Bronze beauty

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Bass kibble

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Gaper’s gar

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No phone, no light, no motorcar…

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Longear sunfish on a 3-weight

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Abe and Buck tending the morning vittles

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Ben Levin knows smallies like very few others

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Ozark bass on a Boogle Bug

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Kevin, Chad, and Miles slinging string

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I’ll never tire of these

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Fishing Mullahs

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Bubble bass

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Gabe Levin working a rock ledge

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In the evenings we had sport

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Gravel bar bruschetta

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Fireside minner session with Chad Johnson and Kevin Vincent

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Yep, that’s box wine. No glass allowed on the Buffalo. No down, either.

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Whiskey hour

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Goodnight, John Boy…

 

8 Responses to “Unplugged in The Ozarks”

  1. Ken & Patti Ferrin says:

    Your photos are so good I feel we have already taken this trip. Looks like lots of fun.

  2. Tosh says:

    Thanks Patti and Ken – hope you guys are doing well!

  3. DLM says:

    First class photos, especially the underwater shots. Your talent has been fun to watch develop over the years and is quite impressive. What camera rig for the underwater shots? Thanks for sharing. DLM

  4. Great story Tosh. The Buffalo has been a long-list of ‘Smallie haunts to visit’. It just jumped up many notches, thank you. Great write-up and fabulous photos. I really commend you for making that Gar shot (which BTW, the LN gar is a gorgeous fish!!) look as exotic as a Peacock Bass! And is there a more beautiful fish than the Longear sunny!??! Seriously! Kudos. Now I see why Bob White sings your praises on a regular note. Well worthy of his yodel, too. Thank you again. WOW! That looks like a lot of fun! 😉

  5. […] No signal, no service. Nothing to do but fish, shoot photos, and float a great river with good friends. _ Tosh Brown […]

  6. […] Gray’s Sporting Journal carries a photo essay on a float on the Buffalo with our team in May last year through the masterful lens of outdoor photographer Tosh Brown. You can read Tosh’s thoughts on the Buffalo on his blog here. […]

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