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Mission Smallmouth  


Mick Spaulding

September 24, 2021​

After more than 30 years of chasing trout with a fly rod, I began to lose the excitement I once felt every time I would slip on the waders. Living ​nearly 20 of those years on the banks of the famous White River, the passion and love of the chase had began t​o fade. The commitment I had in chasing the species was unmatched during that time. Just grabbing the rod and few files to go down to the river’s edge for a relaxing day is and was literally something I am incapable of doing. Any topic that grabs my interest also engages my obsessive compulsive genetic makeup to the point of nearly needing therapy. So, understanding my personal traits and addictive qualities, I dissected the sport in an effort develop a plan that would allow me to master all aspects that are trout fishing.

I spent my first seven years focused entirely on only fishing the bottom twelve inches of the river. It didn’t matter if there was an epic caddis hatch, I would not detour from my commitment to only fish the bottom of the river. That led to becoming a student of entomology and how I could transfer that information to become the best fly tyer possible for bottom dwelling life and the trout’s feeding patterns. This led to developing my own patterns and studying those fly-tyers and fisherman who had success catching trout on the bottom of the river. After seven years, I truly felt as if I could not learn anymore as it relates to having success in that twelve inch realm.

Then it was time to move the water above the twelve inches of the river bottom and up to twelve inches from the top of the water. So, I once again committed to using the same strategy for this portion of the river for another 7 years. Once accomplished, then I moved on to the top twelve inches of water. That’s 21 years in all and in that time I am supremely confident that I had accomplished the goals I had set.

I was very fortunate to follow this up as one of the fly fisherman on the White River who participated in the creation and growth of the big streamer game. There were only a handful of guys who were on the water as the evolution of the big streamer phenomenon began. In no way, was I a lead innovator in this craze. The evolution went from floating line, long leaders, and heavy flies to weighted lines, big rods, shorter line, lighter flies, and understanding the development of a new genre of chasing large trout. This created a very unique opportunity to utilize research and development to create flies that have never been used before. It was exciting to know that you could be part of the group of guys who did their best to contribute to technique, materials, strategy, and utilizing tools to meet the end result needed for success.

Now, the big streamer style has reinvented the sport and as it was very exciting in the beginning, I feel as if I have reached the same mastery of this facet of the game as I had done in the previous 21 years. This corresponded with my last child graduating from high school and my family moving to Northwest Arkansas to begin a new chapter. In no way was this move coincidently surrounded by some of the best Ozark waterways. I had watched some fantastic fisherman obsess with these Ozark waters and the fish they produced. I had studied and followed Dave Whitlock, Duane Hada, and others for years and was fascinated with their passion for the smallmouth bass in the Ozarks. In my commitment to fishing for trout I had never once wet my feet in an Ozark stream to chase this species. That is until now. My obsessive tendencies have not changed, they now have simply found a new home; smallmouth bass……..​

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