Ben and Gabe Levin make their living on the tailwaters of the White River system. But their hearts are tied to the native Arkansas waters they grew up on. The wild rivers, the Buffalo, Crooked Creek and those more closely guarded, are home.
When we started filming our Buffalo Wilderness adventures two years ago, the master plan was to film a crew of friends exploring the lower 27 miles of America’s first scenic waterway.
The entire watershed is a natural marvel, but the lower 27 miles, surrounded by acres of wilderness and untouched by roads or trails, cell phones or selfies is a place of incredible beauty, wilderness and rejuvenation.
And we had lined up a great crew: well-travelled Texas fly fishers and friends John Boatwright and Kevin Vincent were the “customers”, whose real world experiences travelling to fish would be invaluable to ensure the foundation of our venture into fly fishing camping was solid.
Along to document the whole mess was brilliant outdoors photographer Tosh Brown, and guide, University English teacher, author and Grey’s Sporting Journal angling columnist Miles Nolte. Head guide Chad Johnson and Ben were the guides, with Gabe at the oars on his stripped down drift boat to accommodate a camera crane and the rest of the film gear.
The further we got into the float the more apparent the deep connection between the brothers and their native waters and the smallmouth that inhabit them. Chad provided the spark of an idea, and with some extra filming Buffalo Brothers was born.
The Levin boys
grew up on the Mulberry River valley, on the southern rim of the Ozarks, Ben the elder leading the way, Gabe trotting along behind.
Ben was a protege of artist and guide Duane Hada, the guru of Ozark smallmouth, eventually leading him into guiding for trout as well as the favored smalljaws.
Gabe was less certain he wanted to guide, though he became part of the crew unofficially with that 15lb brown with Ben on the sticks back in January 2011
Both have become an important part of the Ozark Fly Fisher. Gabe took on the challenge of leading the Buffalo trips through Federal certification and in the logistics of the operations.
Ben is returning for another guide season in Chile this winter, while Gabe will be exploring India. Both will be back on the tailwaters and creeks next spring.