Arkansas Fly Fishing
Arkansas tailwaters first gained fame for producing lunker rainbow trout in the 1950s and ’60s. During that period, five to 10-pound rainbows were commonly caught. In recent years, though, monster brown trout have stolen the limelight and made Arkansas world-famous as a trout-fishing hot spot…
The all-tackle, world record brown (40 pounds, 4 ounces) was caught in May 1992 in the Little Red River below Greers Ferry Lake by H. “Rip” Collins. This and other tailwater trout fisheries produce significant numbers of brown trout topping 30 pounds. Five- to 10-pounders are common. Several regulations have been implemented to help trout remain for several years in the fertile tailwaters. Currently, a statewide, 16-inch minimum-length limit and two fish daily creel limit apply to cutthroat trout, which commonly reach four pounds. The state record is 9 pounds, 9 ounces caught by Scott Rudolph on the White River. – Arkansas Game & Fish Commission
Overview of Ozark Fly Fishing Opportunities – by Brian Shivers
I’d like to take a trip some day to fish all the tailwaters of the White River from Beaver Lake in Arkansas up into Missouri, across Table Rock Lake to Lake Taneycomo, back down across Bull Shoals into Arkansas, and over to the Norfork in one continuous fly fishing odyssey. As a fantasy trip it ranks right up there with Argentina or New Zealand. I can picture the rolling beauty of the Ozarks and the brilliant colors of the trout. How many “grand slams” (rainbow, cutthroat, brown, and brook trout) could I score? Would I get a shot at a new world record brown? Oh well, until this fantasy comes true, I’ll have to take it one stretch at a time.
All of these trout fisheries are the result of dams that were built in the 1950’s and stocking programs initiated by the states. The combination of cold water and a rich subsurface environment produced an excellent habitat for growing fish. Also as a result of the dams, water levels in these tailwaters can range from easily wadeable to high and fast-often in the same day. This provides anglers with a chance to experience the same length of river in two totally different ways, with completely different flies and techniques.
The Beaver Lake tailwater, near Rogers and Eureka Springs, covers 8 miles from the dam north to the headwaters of Table Rock Lake. There is a habitat program going on in this area through the efforts of local volunteers, the state game and fish agency, and the U.S. Navy Seabees that is making significant improvements to the fishery. If the water conditions are right, you can make this a day trip combining float fishing from a canoe or johnboat with wading the shoals. Low water wading is particularly good for fly anglers. Just be sure to keep a close eye on the water levels since it’s hard to hear the warnings when the gates are opened a few miles upstream.
Scott Branyan, owner of the Ozark Fly Flinger in Rogers, Arkansas, is an excellent guide for the Beaver tailwater and a good fishing companion anywhere. Scott uses a McKenzie River drift boat he built from a kit as a more comfortable and stable alternative to the long White River johnboats the other guides use. You can contact Scott via his web site at http://ourworld. compuserve.com/homepages/flyflinger, or call him at 888-993-5464.
Lake Taneycomo, near Branson, Missouri, connects Table Rock Lake to Lake Bull Shoals. It’s older than both of those lakes and was originally a warmwater fishery until the cold water coming out of Table Rock created a great incubator for large trout. Taneycomo trout may grow as much as a foot each year. Browns are protected by a 20-inch minimum and a one fish per day limit, so there are plenty of big browns. Limits on rainbows are more generous, but there are plenty of good size rainbows too. The Missouri Department of Conservation posts weekly fishing reports between April and October on their website at www.state.mo.us.conservation/fish. You can receive the reports via e-mail by signing up with their list server.
The Bull Shoals tailwater is the best known (and most heavily fished) stretch of the White River. There are catch-and-release areas below the dam and at Rim Shoals. Very large browns and rainbows can be caught when the water levels are up during the day, and at night during the summer and fall. There are many trout docks and lodges in this area where anglers can rent the traditional White River johnboats. Fly fishing guides, while increasing in numbers, are still hard to come by. I recommend Hank Wilson at Gaston’s White River Resort (870-431-5216), and Jim Lipscomb at Cane Island Fly Shop (870-431-4555). Both are located in Lakeview, Arkansas near the dam.
While the White below Bull Shoals gets most of the attention, it’s the 5-mile Norfork tailwater that has the bragging rights. Formally known as the North Fork of the White River, the Norfork River between the dam at Norfork Lake and its confluence with the White near Norfork, Arkansas produced a 38 pound, 9 ounce brown trout in 1989 which stood as the world record until 1992 when another Arkansas trout took the prize. The state record brook trout (3 pounds, 10 ounces) also came from here. This is your best shot for a grand slam. Scott Branyan, Rick Kilgore, and I fished it in January and caught several very nice rainbows, browns, and cutthroats. About one mile of the Norfork above the River Ridge access area is catch-and-release, barbless hooks only.
Although I’ve been talking about four tailwaters in two states covering hundreds of river miles, they have a lot in common. Remember that water levels can fluctuate widely. Be very careful not to get caught unaware. Having a boat available will increase the time you can spend on the water and your chances of catching big fish. Both Arkansas and Missouri require trout stamps in addition to a fishing license. Licenses can be ordered by telephone in Missouri at 800-392-4115, and in Arkansas at 800364-4263.
Fly patterns are pretty consistent along the White River. Use weighted streamers in high water, and for large browns at night. Popular patterns include zonkers, woolies, sculpins, crayfish, and shad imitations from size 6-10. Low water patterns are usually nymphs and crustaceans. Scuds, sow bugs, prince nymphs and soft hackles size 12-16 work well on 5X or lighter tippets. The White is mostly a nymph and wet fly river, but hatches do occur-size 18-22 midges, caddis, and mayflies will imitate the naturals.
One of these days I’ll take my trip and cover all the White River, but until that happens you’ll find me enjoying my fantasy on the installment plan.
How to get an Arkansas fishing license
Arkansas game and fishing information, Arkansas regulations
Smallmouth bass fishing Arkansas on Buffalo Creek
The Buffalo River also originates from the same spring as the White River, in the Boston Mountains and flows 150 miles east thru the Ozarks and ends at the White River in front of Riley
The stream is absolutely teaming with rainbow and brown trout and also has some brook and cutthroats. Only kids under 16 and handicapped (100 % disable) may fish here.
The 11 fisheries explored in this site produced 12 line-class world record fish, and 10 Arkansas State records.
Arkansas’ Little Red River is a tailwater flowing out of a dam below Greers Ferry Lake at Heber Springs, which is about a 90-minute drive from Little Rock.
fly patterns for trout fishing in Arkansas Ozarks
fly suggestions for trout fishing the White River, Arkansas
Be sure to click on fly of the month for white river flies
Use this form on holiday weekends, during fishing tournaments, or whenever you need to find local lodging in a hurry
The nearby Little Missouri river teems with rainbow trout much of the year with Permanent and Seasonal Catch & Release Areas providing excellent sport and quality fish through the summer and fall
Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
all about Ozark fly fishing
Fulton says the number and quality -of fish in the White and Norfork Rivers is better than it has been in quite some time.
by Brian Shivers
High waters in both the North Fork and the White River have lasted as long as several months.
White river Arkansas fishing article from Frank Amato Publications River Journal series
The White River begins as a small, quick mountain stream and ends up as a broad, meandering waterway serving the barge and towboat industry.
February and March mark a special time for trout fishing on the White River.
Arkansas fishing guide – Fly Fishing For Arkansas Trout
Fly Fishing Guide on the Arkansas White and Little Red Rivers
Covering the Beaver, Table Rock, Bull Shoals, Norfork, & Greer rivers
includes White River reports from anglerguide.com
White River, Norfolk River, Crooked River Reports from Mountain River Fly Shops
Arkansas fishing reports from The Morning News
Lots of other Arkansas area fishing reports too
includes river reports
Resort on The white River
Updated about once per month, or as conditions change.
includes an archive of old fishing reports
based on information from Dale Fulton
suggested hydropower releases in the Southwestern region.
water resources of Arkansas
1489 River Road, Lakeview, Arkansas 72642, 870-431-5851
1343 Hwy 5 South, Mountain Home, Arkansas 72653, (870) 425-0447
577 East MillSap Rd, Ste2, Fayettevile, Arkansas 72703, 479-442-2193
18 W. Sunbridge Dr., Fayetteville, Arkansas 72703, 479.251.7037
177 West Main, Cotter Arkansas 72626; 870-435-6166