It was year 4, day 6, and hour 12 of the float when Jay set up on a good one at last light. Chaos ensued as we moved to the bank to get a good look at the fish. We lost an oar and probably a whole bunch of other stuff in the process, but he did it. After scrambling down to the takeout, we drove down to Kelly’s place to show him the fish. Within seconds of walking through the door, KG had Jay lifted off the ground in a giant bear hug. High fives and beers all around while we told the story. We spent 4 years in Arkansas searching for that moment, and we will spend the rest of our lives trying to repeat it.
There’s nothing easy about our trips to Cotter. We prep for months leading up to the trip, we drive 20 hours straight through ridiculous weather to get there, we don’t sleep, we barely have time to eat, and we grind every day on the river until the bitter end. Then we turn around and head home on fumes. Jay and I love every second of it. We love the anticipation, we love the old motel we stay in, we love getting dialed in, we love the hunt, we love trying to crack the code, we love the people, and we love the unknown. We love leaving every year with nothing left in the tank having learned new things, met new friends, and shared experiences that we talk about endlessly.
The people we have met on our trips to Cotter and the experiences they have given us over the years are nothing short of incredible. Moments like showing up on Year 1 with an 11’ 2 seater Hyde in massive flows, and a lady from Texas coming over to tell us how cute our boat was at Wildcat. Dally telling us that our boat was like a little white pram and that it looked like Jay was sitting in my lap. Sitting in Lafkas’ boat for hours on his day off listening to him constantly telling me not to suck as I missed fish after fish. Fishing with Chad, hanging multiple fish, laughing our asses off and high fiving all day long. Dragging poor ol’ Schmidt out in our boat in a solid rainstorm while he proceeded to school Jay all morning (Mike, next time you’re rowing).
Running into Kelly in very random places on the river over the years and listening to his colourful, plentiful and highly entertaining stories. Fishing with John McClure, who can bomb casts for 8 hours straight like a machine gun. Meeting and getting sucked deep into conversation with Davy Wotton until Rebecca Dally kicked us out of Lovefest. Hanging at Chad and Tiffany’s cabin up in the hills. Watching and tying in a room full of legends at Lovefest. The list goes on and on…
That’s what it’s all about. It’s the fish that bring us to the White, but it’s that and so much more that will always bring us back and keep us thinking about it every day in between. Cotter is a place that literally haunts us. I love you Arkansas.