I’ve made this trip at least half a dozen times over the years and each time, my senses receive a fresh charge. This year’s venture to Gaston’s Resort on the White River in north Arkansas was no exception.
Fishing? If you want to fish a body of water where you’re practically guaranteed to catch fish, the White River is a slam dunk.
The river is teeming with rainbow trout with the supply of fish replenished regularly from the hatchery located in the area and they’re just waiting for a morsel to float by.
Should that morsel be impaled on a hook, a spirited fight ensues. Fortunately, guides employed by Gaston’s know which shoals will produce the most bites and the bait that will do the job most effectively.
If you really want to get your string stretched, chunky and spunky brown trout are there for the taking. Crank baits, live sculpins and even earth worms usually do the trick on these beautiful fish.
Should you tire of catching trout, a visit to Gaston’s Ozark Nature Trail and Wildlife Refuge is a short walk from resort headquarters. I never tire of watching and photographing peacocks displaying their awesome fans and wild turkey gobblers strutting and drumming all within a few feet of me and my camera.
After a few hours on the river and a walk along the nature trail, it’s time to eat. Chef Rick Gollinger puts on a show in the world class restaurant every bit as impressive as the trout, peacocks and gobblers.
Gollinger prepared menus especially for the group of media members for this year’s visit. I’m a country guy who still loves purple hull peas and cornbread but I have to admit that the dishes he prepared for our group were in a class neither peas nor cornbread could touch.
For starters, on the first night of our visit, the meal was launched with salad of “Boston bib lettuce with fresh raspberries, goat cheese and a warm brie vinaigrette.” Then came the entrée of “braised bison short ribs, Yukon gold mashed potato with a natural red wine demi, jardinière vegetables and crispy fried onion threads.”
That was just for the first meal. The next night, our meal began with this salad; “baby lettuce with seafood sausage and warm brie vinaigrette.” What followed was rabbit confit. Here’s what Gollinger did to a rabbit to cause it to melt in your mouth…”We confit the drumstick in duck butter until fork tender.
The saddle is sautéed and all served on a wild mushroom Marsala cream accompliced by beggar pouch potatoes.” For desert, how about “chocolate chunk crème brule with fresh raspberries”? Purple hulls may never be the same for me after sampling such exquisite cuisine with which Gollinger tempted our taste buds.
One of the special treats for me on this trip was getting to spend time with my fishing partner and friend, Jim Ferguson, originator and host along with his son, Travis, of “The Revolution with Jim and Trav”, a radio network that spans the continent coast to coast airing on over 500 radio stations.
This is not the first time Ferguson and I have shared a fishing boat. Several years ago, he and I attended a press outing on the Green River in Kentucky. It was on this trip that I gave him a nickname, “BB”, one that still sticks with him today.
As we talked, Ferguson from northwest Kansas, shared something that had bothered him and wondered if I could explain. He had at some point fished in the south and heard an expression that needed clarifying. “I heard of a fish I never knew anything about,” Ferguson said. “Can you explain to me what a ‘bull bream’ is?”
I told him that just about everybody down here knows those big pug-nosed bluegills we catch down here that are known as “bull bream”. Poor guy; I’m betting “BB” Ferguson has never sat down to a plate of purple hull peas and cornbread either.