Benjamin Woodard / Courtesy
In a state known for its natural wonders, there’s no shortage of good places to enjoy the outdoors in Arkansas.
There are acres upon acres of forests and parkland to explore. There are hiking and biking trails, places for camping, climbing, boating, and bird-watching. The forests are full of wildlife, and the waterways offer some of the best fishing you can find anywhere.
Fly Fish Arkansas Film Night
Where: Fayettechill Basecamp
Date: Thursday, Feb. 1
Time: 6:30 p.m.
More info: Facebook event
All that considered, it’s no wonder there are so many folks around here that are enthusiastic about enjoying the outdoors in the Natural State.
It’s also no wonder that some folks here in Arkansas have found a way to turn their passions into careers, and among the latest Arkansan to do just that is Hot Springs resident Benjamin Woodard, founder of Woodard Rod Company and creator of a new film titled Fly Fish Arkansas making its debut in Fayetteville this week.
Woodard’s passion for fishing actually began long before he arrived in Arkansas. He grew up in Waco, Texas, and took up fly fishing there at the age of 12. He moved to Arkansas for college, where he fell more deeply in love with the sport, and eventually opened his own fly shop, WRC, Southern Fly Outfitters in Hot Springs.
That let him to start his own line of fishing rods designed specifically for use in Arkansas back in 2016. Woodard started building his own rods when he was 19 years old.
“I started Woodard Rod Company to provide high quality fly rods for a low cost, specifically designed for the Ozark Fly fisher,” he said. “They meet the needs of other fishers, but excel on the tailwaters in this region.”
The company operates an online store, with a handful of rods named for Arkansas waterways for sale at around $200 each. The rods themselves are currently manufactured made out of state, though Woodard is working toward a new facility near Cotter, Arkansas that would allow him a chance to manufacture the rods here in Arkansas.
“We are looking to move to Cotter, AR on the banks of the White River to open up a production facility, retail store, guide service, teaching center, and accredited guide school,” he said.
Woodard said the design of his rods are what set them apart.
“I went through dozens of different blank designs before we landed on the type of graphite we use today,” he said. “It’s high density, and fast. We throw a lot of big bugs and heavy nymph rigs, so it was crucial to have a fast action rod to lay out the most line possible on every cast.”
The Arkansas connection is also important to Woodard. “Our fly rods are named after the Arkansas rivers and namesakes, because they are specifically designed for those rivers,” he said.
The company is still in its early stages, but Woodard said he is extremely encouraged by its growth so far.
“We are in our second year at Woodard Rod Company, and growing fast,” he said. “We are in the process of getting more inventory and focusing on setting up shop. In 2016 we sold 32 fly rods. 2017 to present we’ve sold 198.”
In addition to serving as a guide, and running the shop, Woodard has also begun dabbling in film creation.
He served as producer for a new film called Fly Fish Arkansas, set to be screened in Fayetteville tonight (Thursday, March 1) at Fayettechill.
“Fly Fish Arkansas was a dream I had to unite the front here in the state, and to show the rest of the world what it’s like to really fish here,” he said. “It’s more than just big pictures of big fish, it’s the towns, and the guides, and the habitat that encompasses us. It’s a real special place.”
The film was directed by Andrew McNeece, Jeff Rose, and Andrew Winn, and will be released online in the coming months.
“We plan on a couple more showings that are yet to be scheduled, then a big release and social media push on YouTube and Vimeo,” he said.
Woodard is also working on two more films, chronicling the fishing opportunities at Beaver Lake and in Cotter, Arkansas.
To stay up to date with future screenings and the film’s online release, bookmark Woodard’s blog.