words: Marla Cantrell
Images: courtesy Hollowly Fishing Outdoors
Josh and Lydia Holloway believe in the romance of fly fishing. Wading in the chilly waters, fly rod in hand, they tend to get caught up in the majesty of it. For Josh, it’s the rhythm that lures him in. Often, fly anglers talk about the beat of casting a fly rod, similar to music. Four counts: rod back on the first beat, pause on the second, forward on the third, then back again on the fourth, just before casting. “Sometimes I have to tell myself to stop for a minute, to look up, to look at the trees and water, and to see what’s around me,” Josh says. “You get in the zone when you fly fish. When I plan a day of fishing, I usually get up at three-thirty in the morning, start fishing at dawn, and don’t stop all day, not even for lunch. But Arkansas is such a beautiful place. Lately, I’ve been reminding myself to look around. To really see where I am.”
Lydia, who’s sitting next to Josh, is smiling while he talks. At twenty-eight (he’s thirty), she’s been married to Josh for five years, and she realized early in their relationship that fishing would play a role in their life together. “On one of our first dates, when we were both students at UAFS, Josh took me fishing with his friends on the Arkansas River,” Lydia says. “He asked me if I wanted to go and I told him I’d grown up fishing with my dad and brother, so I would love to. Of course, for a lot of that time I was more interested in being in charge of snacks,” Lydia says, and then laughs. “What I remember about that date was how nice all Josh’s friends were to me, and how they made me feel comfortable, and of course, how nice Josh was.”
The couple lives in Fort Smith, where Lydia grew up, but Josh grew up in Booneville. “My dad was a pastor and a coach and he loved fishing,” Josh says. “When I was really little we fished in ponds. I’d catch little perch and think I’d caught the big monster. I remember being ten years old, on the Little Red River, and I was fly fishing with Dad. He missed a fish, and the fly came at him and got stuck in his lip and he handed me a knife and told me I was going to have to cut it out.” Josh tugs the brim of his cap, and says, “I didn’t think I could do it, but we finally got it worked out.
“I fished, and I grew up and played baseball, and football, and basketball.” Josh laughs. “In a town that small if everybody doesn’t play, you might not have a team. I played baseball at UAFS, and then transferred to Arkansas Tech [in Russellville] and played baseball there. Now, I coach football at Greenwood Junior High, a job I just love. I think I may have turned out a little like my dad.”
Josh and his dad still spend a good deal of time together on the water, and he and Lydia plan trips around the sport. So it wasn’t a big surprise when Josh said to Lydia one day a couple of years ago that they should start a company that would showcase both Arkansas and fishing. “We have such great trout fishing, rainbow, brown cutthroat, and brook. And you can fish for trout here year-round. The White River is world-class. The world-record brown trout was caught at Little Red River at Heber Springs. But that’s not all. A few days ago my dad and I caught small-mouth bass at Lee Creek. Around here, you have lakes and creeks and ponds, so fishing’s everywhere.”
After brainstorming, the two came up with a name, Hollofly Fishing Outfitters, a play on their last name, Holloway, and fly fishing. And then they came up with a product, a T-shirt design that showed an outline of Arkansas and a trout. “I was looking at a map of Arkansas one day, and I looked at the upper right corner, and I thought that corner looked like the mouth of a trout, and that seemed perfect, so the first design had the trout’s mouth right on that corner,” Josh says.
Our first drawings were not very good,” Lydia says. “One of Josh’s fish looked more like Pac-Man. But I had a friend where I work, at ArcBest Corporation, who knew about design, and she was able to take our ideas and turn them into what we had envisioned.
“We’d been posting a lot of pictures on Instagram, showing us fishing, showing fish we’d caught, and people were really responding to that. We felt like that was a good sign people would respond to our products.”
On December 1, 2014, they unveiled their website, which also includes information on fishing and fishing guides, and set up shop. They converted a bedroom at their house into the Hollofly Fulfillment Center, with boxes of T-shirts and caps ready to go, a desk where Josh makes lures, and a long table where they could pack their orders. They found local screen printers to print their products, and they crossed their fingers.
At first, all the orders came from family and friends. Each night, when their day jobs were over, they rushed home, logged on, and read through all the correspondence on their Hollofly site. When the first order came in from someone they didn’t know, they celebrated. “We got an order from California, and we were thrilled,” Josh says.
Lydia remembers the first time she saw a customer wearing one of their T-shirts. She and Josh were trout fishing and she’d gone back to the truck for a minute. She looked up and saw the guy and her heart swelled. “I almost said something to him, and then I almost took a picture of him and the shirt with my phone. Finally, I just texted Josh to tell him what I was seeing.”
Their next big moment came at the Angler Expo in Heber Springs, in March of this year. They set up shop, met people who had been following them on Instagram, and sold out of all their caps and T-shirts.
Now, the two are in talks with five retailers, working on a plan to get their products in brick-and-mortar stores, as well. And they’re working on new designs, one that shows a compilation of all the kinds of trout you can find in Arkansas. Josh is beaming as he describes it. “We’ll call that the grand-slam,” he says.
As they talk about the future of Hollofy, their thoughts return to their childhoods. Lydia talks about what her dad taught her, out on the boat, fishing. She learned to enjoy nature, to be part of this grand world, and love its beauty. Josh grew even closer to his dad on their outings, and now the two have bought a piece of land north of Booneville, where there’s a lake and the fishing’s great.
They want everyone to feel what they do. The breeze lifting off the water, the thrill of catching the big one, the feel of the sun as morning morphs into noon. “It’s something you can do alone, or with your family and friends,” Lydia says. “Either way, it’s a wonderful experience.”
Josh tugs at the twine bracelet he’s wearing, and says, “There’s no better way to catch a fish than on a fly rod, especially if you tie your own flies and you make the flies that you catch the fish with. It connects you to everything.”
Josh and Lydia are smiling at each other. And then Josh touches the spot where his heart is. He is wearing a gray Hollofly T-shirt with the state of Arkansas in yellow, and a fishing fly at its center. It is an innocent gesture—his hand on his chest—but it seems monumental in the moment. Here is the state he loves, he seems to be saying. Here is one of the best reasons to love it.
Arkansas has a great population of trout and year-round fisheries. These three rivers are world renowned in the fly fishing world and are in our backyard. I have included great access points and tried-and-true flies for each river.
You can buy Hollofly Fishing Outfitters T-shirts and caps at hollofly.com. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Little Red River
Best Access Points: JFK Park, Cow Shoals, Swinging Bridge, Libby Shoals, Pangburn Bridge
Flies to try: Red or Orange Soft Hackle, Sow Bugs, Scuds, San Juan Worm, Egg Patterns, Streamers, with high water.
Best Access Points: State Park Dam, Wildcat Shoals, Cotter, Rim Shoals, Cartney
Flies to try: Ruby Midge, Zebra Midge, San Juan Worm, Egg Patterns, Caddis Pupa, Scuds, Sow Bugs
Best Access Points: Dam, Ackerman Handicapped Access
Flies to try: Ruby Midge, Redneck Midge, Root Beer Midge, San Juan Worm, Egg Patterns