The Green Country Flyfishers in Action, 1970-1973

By Bob Cunningham

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By the beginning of the 1970's, our monthly meetings began emphasizing equipment, fly patterns, rod designs, etc. trying to find the best permanent location and time for our meetings, and figuring out just how we were going to establish a brown trout fishery in Spring Creek—not  so exciting—so the records of the meetings are not detailed.

1970

February 1970

At the February 1970 meeting, the GCF established that its regularly scheduled meetings would be held at 7 pm on the first Tuesday of each month at the First National Bank Meeting Room, Bartlesville.

March 1970

In March 1970 Dave Whitlock introduced the club to the art of fly fishing for carp, impressing upon us its fighting abilities.  (I still enjoy fly fishing for them.  They are the "Southerners" salmon.) 

Frank Brown, a very active member in Little Rock, Arkansas, arranged an elaborate program on March 22, 23 and 24, 1970 for Little Rock sportsmen and also a special meeting with the Arkansas Fish and Game officers about GCF's hopes of improving trout fishing in the White River.  Dave Whitlock and Bill Howell represented GCF at both affairs. 

APRIL 1970

Dave Womble, our first Oklahoma City member, expanded GCF's influence on April 18, 1970, with a meeting to establish the Prairie Fly Fishers at Oklahoma City and to elect its officers.  The first President was Dave Womble; Vice President Bill Jackson; Secretary Everett Dale; Treasurer Ray Binnicker; and Program Chairman Glenn Moore.  

The April 1970 meeting of GCF was held at Greenleaf State Park near Muskogee.  Green Country's memberships were family memberships and it was hoped this setting would encourage participation of the wives and kids as well as add members by opening the gathering to prospective members.  Bringing together more than 50 members and guests was exciting from the standpoint of both fellowship and learning.  This was the first outing that lasted an entire weekend at an organized campground and sure enough the wives had contacted each other ahead of the time and they and the kids added much to the event.  There is a zoo at the Park and that excited the kids, and Greenleaf Lake,  nestled in the foothills of the Cookson Hills with its cypress trees and well manicured lawns and clean facilities, was at its most beautiful in April.


JULY 1970

Brown Trout in Spring Creek?

Bill Howell was elected President of GCF at the July 1970 meeting to replace Dave Whitlock, whose professional business required more and more of his time. Dave also gave up his job as editor of the monthly Flyline.  I volunteered Hazel and myself for this enjoyable task. 

At this meeting Milt Blaustein reported that he had learned of an instream trout incubator from an article by Don Warren, President of the Catskill, New York, chapter of Trout Unlimited.  This device, called the Vibert box, was invented and patented in 1950 by Dr. Richard C. E. Vibert, who was employed by the French ministry of Fisheries.  Milt had contacted Don Warren and learned that the boxes were available from a United States source at a cost of $0.25 each.  Each order was accompanied by an instructional sheet written in French.  He also learned that brown trout eggs were available through George Stack of the Paradise Brook Trout Company, Cresco, Pennsylvania for December delivery.  The cost for 50,000 eggs would be $250.00.  Our total cost for the boxes and eggs would be only $275.00 !!  Excitement? You bet!!

BIG ONE II


BIG ONE II was held at the White River July 18 and 19, 1970.  It was another whopping success with again even more new on-stream introductions and trading of fly and fishing information.  The business meeting was held in Mountain Home at the Holiday Inn.  The attendance was estimated at 75 persons.  The largest trout reported was caught by Bill Howell—3-3/4 pounds—on a Madge's Olive Shrimp.  This pattern was designed by Frank Brown of Little Rock and named for his wife and her olive yarn which he used as the body of the fly.  Frank also introduced us to his sow bug pattern, a very effective lure on the flat below McClellan's dock on the North Fork River.

The July Flyline quotes the rates for rooms at the Commercial Hotel, Cotter, Arkansas as "....from $2.50 to $5.00 single, and $3.00 to $6.00 double; meals are optional, family style, on a fixed time schedule 85 cents to $1.50 each, depending on the day and which meal."  By the way, the bath room was down the hall.  It was always my contention that room rates were determined by the number of broken springs in the beds.

AUGUST 1970

Dave Whitlock, now a Board Member of Federation of Fly Fishers, returned from their annual conclave in August 1970. He was excited about the FFF’s prospects and encouraged us to join at Associate Memberships of $10.00 per year.  It was also decided that the number of issues of the FFF's Flyfisher magazine would be increased to 4 issues from the the 3 currently produced, with an FFF Bulletin, published by J. Stanley Lloyd, to be received between each magazine.  

SEPTEMBER—OCTOBER 1970

The GCF did not hold meetings in July and August 1970. At the September 1970 meeting, the first one after the BIG ONE II, we were asked how the fishing had been at the BIG ONE. It had been good and my response was to that effect. After the meeting, Jerry Alsup sidled up to me and said, "How come we don't see any pictures of those nice fish you catch?" I told him that I did not carry a camera because it interfered with my fishing.

But when Mickey and Don Hall and I made a trip to Arkansas to fish in late October, I decided to take my camera along, just in case. The White River was running several generators, so we went to McClellan's to fish the North Fork instead. We entered the river below the camp and started fishing the Sycamore Hole. Insects were falling into the water from the sycamore tree and it was obvious that some nice trout were feeding on them. Very quickly I caught 4 nice rainbows. I had my camera with me and Mickey took pictures of me and the catch. When we showed these to Jerry at the December meeting, he chuckled as said "Whitlock put me up to teasing you!" Although other people have taken pictures of me, those were the only fish pictures I ever asked to have taken in Arkansas.

DECEMBER 1970

Big one iii

BIG ONE III came together December 5 and 6, 1970.  All eight generators at Bull Shoals Dam were wide open so we all moved to the North Fork River to fish.  It was there that Hazel Cunningham convinced Jim Wingfield by demonstration that Frank Brown's creation "Madge's Olive Shrimp" was the fly to use.  This is when I first met Tom Green as he moved slowly, step by step down the river, rhythmically casting a bright orange line on the end of which was a Mickey Finn streamer.  

Saturday night's meeting was great. Jerry Allsup's fine presentation on the no-hackle dry fly made us want to get to our vise to tie some.  Dave Whitlock's camera work demonstrated the art of fly fishing dead drift with nymphs.  Dave Womble and his son Steve won the door prize: a dozen special Whitlock flies, coveted by everyone there.  It is my recollection that it was at this time that Jim Cory of Dallas inquired how he and Dr. Longnecker could establish a flyfishing club in Dallas and we gladly helped.

Sunday morning was cold, 20 degrees, and the frost looked like snow along the banks of the North Fork.  We had a big fire ablaze on the bank below McClellan's dock to warm us and those who came by and to keep the coffee hot.  I believe this is the time I tried to remove the coontail moss from the clevices on the dock’s mooring cables, referred to elsewhere in this history. Among us on this cold Sunday were the group from the St. Louis area who had just organized the Ozark Flyfishers: Nelson Renick, John Buckley and Caesar Carnaghi.  I believe this is where I first met Billy Munn from Bridgeport, Texas, who still amazes me with his skill with deer hair bugs and Dave's Hoppers.

Incubating "Our" Spring Creek

It was mid-December, 1970 and the eyed brown trout eggs hit the Tulsa Airport on a Friday night. By 2 AM Saturday we were ready for “our creek."  A locator cord had been attached to each Vibert Box, it had been filled with approximately 500 brown trout eggs, and the boxes had been distributed evenly into four large styrofoam ice chests.  The boxes were covered with wet towels on which were placed ice cubes to keep the eggs cool and moist.

Four teams met at the Donut Shop in Locust Grove, Oklahoma, at 10 am that Saturday.   The first team’s members were Jerry Abrams, Jerry Allsup and Bill Howell, all from Bartlesville, along with Roland Bean of Muskogee; the second team included Ed Jennings from Tulsa, Jerry and Mike McGrew from Oklahoma City and Milt Blaustein of Bartlesville.  Bob Cunningham and Mickey Hall of Bartlesville and Don Hall of Tulsa made up the third team; and the fourth team was Harry Parker and Dave Whitlock of Bartlesville, and Dr Dick Storts of Tulsa.

After donuts and coffee we all converged on the low water bridge just below Teresita. It was very cold.  The edges of the stream had thin skins of ice.  Dave's team demonstrated  the techniques of implantation, marking the site, etc. Then teams went to their designated sections scattered along ten miles of the creek to do their work. Things went well and we all met again at the Donut Shop at 2 PM to discuss our experiences and how the procedures could be improved.

1971


JANUARY  1971

 Effective January 1, 1971, any person 16 years of age or over, including those holding lifetime memberships who wish to keep any trout caught from the public waters of Arkansas, must have in possession a valid Arkansas Fishing License and a valid 1971 Trout Permit. To be valid the permit must be signed across the face in ink by the holder. Anyone who catches a trout and does not hold such a permit must immediately return the trout to the water. The permit costs $2.00.

At the January, 1971 GCF Meeting, Bill Howell was elected President, Jerry Allsup, Secretary-Treasurer and Milt Blaustein, Frank Brown, Paul Clark, Frank Cox, Don Hall, Bill Marshall, Porky Loucks, Dave Whitlock and Dave Womble Directors, and Hazel and Bob Cunningham, Flyline Editors.   

In January 1971 Dave Whitlock wrote in the Flyline an article “personally thanking Bob and Hazel Cunningham – Flyline Editors, Milt Blaustein and Bill Marshall for arranging fine programs, Jerry Allsup for taking care of finances, and Don Hall for overseeing stocking of fly tying materials at Looboyles.”

It was noted that in the whole of the Federation of Fly Fishers there were only 58 member clubs at the end of 1970.

Three fly tying clinics were set for the evenings of January 12, 19 and 26, 1971. Fly of the Month #4 was tied by T. D. (Don) Overfield, Warwickshire, England. It was an original tie by Don which he named the “Lockwhit Dun”.

On January 18, 1971, Dave Whitlock presented the program for the Arizona Fly Casters Club at their Annual Banquet.

A picture of Dave Whitlock standing pocket deep in the White River snatching a beautiful trophy trout from the water was the cover of Sports Afield. Inside was his article “ Four Seasons River”.    

On January 20, 1971, at 9 AM the teams assembled at the Donut Shop in Locust Grove for last minute instructions on the removal of the boxes and the counting of the unhatched eggs in the boxes. Enjoying coffee and donuts were Milt Blaustein, Bob and Buddy Cunningham, Dave Dillon, Don Hall, Bill Howell, Ed Jennings and Dave and Joel Whitlock. It was emphasized that we might be slow in returning to the Donut Shop as the groups were not the same as the ones who had placed the incubators and prepared the records. We should expect some difficulty understanding the sketches and notes describing the box locations with which we had to work.

We reassembled at the Donut Shop shortly after noon. It was calculated that more than 40,000 brown trout eggs had hatched. Don Hall and I found a trout fry in one of the boxes we recovered and Don remembered a gallon coffee can just upstream. He retrieved it and filled it with water. We placed the fry in it and presented it, alive and alert, to Dave when we reassembled at the Donut Shop.  Dave took it home and raised it in his small aquarium.

JUNE 1971 

On June 27, 1971, Dave Whitlock and I surveyed a section of the stream and found several brown trout feeding in the riffles. We estimated them at about 4” in length. In July Dave, Allan and Joel Whitlock, Bill Greenway and Milt Blaustein found several trout in a different area of the stream. They were unable to accurately count them as the trout moved quickly from one area to another when startled; however they saw several at one time in a number of different places.  

JULY 1971

BIG ONE IV  

BIG ONE IV took place July 17 and 18, 1971 on the White River. The business portion was conducted at the Holiday Inn, Mountain Home, Arkansas. The program consisted of our 17-year-old Youth Member from Trumann, Arkansas, and Bill Marshall discussing their various patterns and techniques for fly fishing the White River, and Bill Greenway revealing his special dubbing techniques. The conference room was filled to capacity with more than 100 persons.   

AUGUST 1971  

In August, 1971 several teams assembled at Spring Creek to plant willow trees, increase pool depths by positioning rocks at the tail of the pools to form cross vanes and to remove trash from the stream bed.

Dr. Strong reported that one of his non-fly fishing patients reported catching a 6” brown trout in Spring Creek. The doctor asked him if he released it and was told that it was released.

The Federation of Flyfishermen officially adopted a coordinated program to promote the use of the Vibert Box, and in 1975 the Whitlock Vibert Box program, with Bob Cunningham as the Vice President of the FFF in charge of the program.

SEPTEMBER 1971  

By September, 1971, GCF Fly of the Month had 40 members. Bill Greenway was assigned a crew of club members to obtain, clean and paint ten 50-gallon drums green and stencil them with the words “Courtesy of Green Country Flyfishers”. When they were finished, they were taken to Spring Creek and placed at strategic locations along the creek. The club was to service the containers at regular intervals. But instead of their being used on the stream, some local residents had removed them to their yards and some of the containers were seen with smoke rising from trash being burned in them.  

DECEMBER 1971

BIG ONE V 

BIG ONE V was held at the Holiday Inn, Mountain Home, Arkansas on December 4 and 5, 1971. Doug Swisher and Carl Richards’ program “Selective Trout”, Nelson Renick and Dennis Evans’ “Aquatic Insects” and Paul Calcaterra demonstrating his fly tying techniques all wound our springs tight. John Buckley of the Ozark Flyfishers presented Dave Whitlock with a wood-framed landing net with a two-toned net handcrafted by Dave Marianna. For her service as editor and printer or the Flyline, Hazel Cunningham was presented with a personalized W&M “Sweetheart” fly rod and a Diawa reel complete to the 3X tippet.

IMPROVING THE VIBERT BOX?

Saturday, December 11, 1971, was a bad letter day for GCF. 50,000 brown trout eggs were to be implanted in Spring Creek.  BUT the water was hip deep to a tall man on stilts, so the eggs were iced down at Dave Whitlock’s house awaiting a more normal water level. Each weekend found the water level far above normal. The eggs needed to be incubated, so Mickey and Don Hall and I visited a farmer who had a nice spring stream underlaying a limestone cliff just behind his barn and feeding further downstream into Spring Creek. We were able to find satisfactory places at the farm for about 20,000 eggs and ended up taking the other 30,000 to the Ozark Trout Hatchery. Recovery of the incubators indicated high predation of the eggs by crawdads, many of whom were clutching egg sack fry. We had noticed considerable of this in some placements in Spring Creek in the past. This indicated a need for a more sophisticated system to increase the survival of the fry. Efforts to control this predation eventually resulted in the development of the Whitlock Vibert Box.


1972


February 1972

The February 1972 meeting was held in the Glass Nelson Clinic with Dr. Strong as our host and, of course, with the usual goodies.   Bill Howell presented  a leader knot demonstration and Dave Whitlock presented the premier showing of the   slide show of our first incubation of brown trout in Spring Creek.

It is impossible to resist relating that in the February 1972 issue of the Flyline under the subject of “CREEL BOTTOMS” a regular feature of the Flyline, I wrote as a personal observation  “Sometimes when you wade, many small nymphs and crustaceans are dislodged and drift downstream to trout below.   Cast into your wading wake every so often….”   This strategy is now known world wide as the “San Juan Shuffle.”  

APRIL 1972

BIG ONE VI

BIG ONE VI was hosted by the Ozark Flyfishers, April 14 and 15, 1972, with headquarters at the Holiday Inn, Mountain Home, Arkansas.   Featured were Rod Towsley, Scientific Anglers and Bill Taylor with slides of their visit to the Letort.    Just beautiful!   The Ozark Fly Fishers also sponsored the social hour, an event which they continue to sponsor to this day at annual Council Conclaves.

THE FFF ADOPTS THE VIBERT BOX PROGRAM

In The Flyfisher, Volume V, Numbers 2 and 3, 1972, the Federation of Fly Fishermen published Dave Whitlock’s article detailing how to utilize the Vibert Box.   They also offered the slide show mentioned in our February 1972 meeting notes.  The Flyfisher also announced that the Vibert Box Program had been adopted by the FFF and that the Vibert Boxes and copies of the magazines and slide show were available through its operating office.

NOVEMBER 1972

BIG ONE VII

BIG ONE VII was hosted by Green Country Flyfishers at the Holiday Inn, Mountain Home, Arkansas, November 14, 15 and 16, 1972.   The program featured Jim Green as the principal speaker and teacher.   Bill Howell showed the film “A Trout, A Fly Rod and You.”   The Ozark Flyfishers sponsored the social hour.    The facilities must have shrunk as it is now far too small for the number of people who attend.   SRO.

DECEMBER 1972

DAVE ON THE GO

Dave Whitlock went to Yugoslavia for the month of December, 1972, as part of a group from the U.S.A. to present a major exhibition.   His Report:   “The three things that struck me the most about Yugoslavia were (1) its incredibly beautiful spring creek streams, (2) fly rod angling is just one generation past old Izaak’s techniques and (3) stout hardy men who tie size 18 quill bodied trout flies with a hook and material just held in their bare hands.

1973


February 1973

At the February 15, 1973, Green Country Flyfishers’ meeting, the following were elected to office:   Bob Cunningham, President; Bill Marshall, Secretary-Treasurer; Roland Been, Conservation Chairman; Milt Blaustein, Program Chairman; and Bill Howell, Flyline Editor.   It was decided that regular monthly meetings will be held on the first Tuesday of each month   (an arrangement which continues to this day).   On even-numbered months the meetings will be held in Tulsa and on odd-numbered months in Bartlesville.  

The dues were increased to $10.00 per year and a new application and renewal form was prepared.   According to the Spring 1973 Flyline, “There are now 60 paid up members and when the laggards pay up there should be 70 of us.”


The GCF Brings Rainbows to Spring Creek

For a period of about 2 years after the first trout incubation, the club had been experimenting with various species of salmonid eggs, incubating them in the Vibert Box.   During this year and a half, Dave Whitlock had paralleled these experiments at home in his aquarium.   By spring 1973, it was time to take the small rainbows from his aquarium to Spring Creek for release.   This was the first introduction of rainbow trout in Spring Creek.  

…And Tigers

As well as brown trout, the club had also been incubating steelhead, salmon, and brook trout eggs.   Of special interest were experiments with hybrid eggs which produce tiger trout—half brown trout and half brookies.   As explained earlier in this narrative, club members had introduced brown trout into Spring Creek in mid 1970, and indications were that some of the larger brown trout, survivors of that earlier introduction, were spawning there on their own.  

In order be sure that any brown trout fry were the result of the result of natural reproduction and if so to track the success of this now-native population of brown trout, the decision was made not to implant addition brown trout eggs in Spring Creek.   Instead it was decided to implant tiger trout eggs, thus adding a third species to the browns and rainbows.

At this time there were reports of brown trout being caught in Fourteen MIle Creek which joins Spring Creek several miles downstream from the area we were incubating. We estimated the distance the brown trout had traveled at about 30 miles. Also the Muskogee OK paper reported--along with a picture--that a brown trout that weighed 3 1/2 pounds had been caught near the bait staind below Fort Gibson Dam. We estimated the distance at about 50 miles. When I called Mrs. Khouri, who had caught the fish, she verified that she had been fishing with worms for catfish below the dam when she hooked the trout.

The First Whitlock Vibert Box

As Dave and other members of the GCF gained more knowledge from our work in the field and in the experimental aquarium, Dave began to experiment with trying to find a way to reduce predation in the area of the Vibert Boxes during the egg sac phase of the trout's life. These experiments led to designing a new concept which through the use of a hatchery section and a nursery gave the fry a swimming chance for survival.


August 1973

FFF Conclave: GCF Requests a New Council

Dave and I and our spouses attended the FFF’s Conclave in Sun Valley, Idaho on August 23, 24 and 25, 1973 and requested that a council be set up for our area. The many clubs that had sprung up across the southern tier of states showed a strong commitment to flyfishing and it was felt that these clubs could make a greater contribution to the improvement of the sport if they could be officially represented as a segment of fly fishing's efforts under a regional umbrella that represented their unique needs and interests.


...And GCF Wins the McKenzie Cup

Also at the August 1973 FFF Conclave, the GCF was awarded the McKenzie Cup, the cherished award given each year to the FFF’s outstanding member club.   It was a matter of great pride that of FFF’s 103 member clubs, the Green Country Flyfishers ranked first.


September 1973


The September Flyline, GCF’s monthly letter, announces that the dates for the BIG ONE VIII is still tentative for October.


October 1973

BIG ONE VIII

The October 1973 Flyline says that the date for BIG ONE VIII is fixed as October 20 and 21.   It will be sponsored by Frank Brown and Dr. Hedges on behalf of the Arkansas Flyfishers at the Little Red River. Headquarters will be at the Severs Colonial Motor Inn, Heber Springs, Arkansas, with the meetings at the restaurant next door to it.   Frank Brown will furnish each attendee a map showing favorite fishing locations and have a program on fly rods.   The stocking of trout in the Little Red River has gone on as usual and the fishing pressure is down, so fishing should be fantastic.   However the December 1973 GCF Flyline reported that the “turnout for the BIG ONE VII (sic) on the   Little Red in October was not well attended”, with only 30 people attending.

By October 1973, six organized clubs were participating in the BIG ONE’s: Prairie Flyfishers, Golden Spread Flyfishers, Dallas Flyfishers, Ozark Flyfishers and Arkansas Flyfishers in addition to the Green Country Flyfishers and its widespread membership and friends.   The Golden Spread Flyfishers, Amarillo, Texas, report 50 members.


December 1973

The First Midwest Regional FFF Conclave


We were quite surprised when we were informed by the FFF that the first Midwest Council Conclave was to be held in Mountain Home, Arkansas in December 1973. The establishment of the Midwest Council and highlights of its activities are discussed more fully in the next section of this narrative.

On the Sunday morning of this conclave, Paul Collier and I fished the upper portion of Rim Shoals and I learned how some of the other councils functioned and some of the things not recommended to be done.

The time I spent with Paul also established our close family friendship, one that continues to this day.   Paul, Ruth, Hazel and I shared many conclaves, fished most of the western portion of Montana, some in Idaho and the Deschutes in Oregon.   We did the trail to Grebe Lake in Yellowstone Park.   I visit with Paul and Ruth, at their home in McMinnville, Oregon, by e-mail and by phone to this day.

The Flyline also says that “on December 17, trout eggs were shipped from Paradise Brook Trout Company, Cresco, Pennsylvania.   Be at the Donut Shop in Locust Grove at 9:00 AM   December 22 if you want to participate again in this great experience.”

copyright©2007

R.M. Cunningham II

 

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