Lower Mountain Fork
The Mountain Fork River is an angling haven for fly-fishing addicts in the south-central United States. The river has for years been a great year-round getaway for flyfishers in Oklahoma City, Little Rock, and Dallas who need an immediate trout fix. It is located in southeastern Oklahoma, 10 miles north of Broken Bow. The river is three and a half hours northeast of Dallas, Texas.
But the river is rapidly becoming a destination spot as the quality of its angling continues to improve, as anglers become more aware of this, and as more guides and flyshops serve the fishery.
The 12-mile tailwater is loaded with a diversity of holding water, ranging from pools to runs to wide, lake-like flats, a few riffles, and pocket water, with plenty of underwater cover and even some undercut banks.
The Kiamichi Range of the Ouachita Mountains provides a pleasant backdrop to fishing in the pools and riffles of this small, clear tailwater. In the fall and early winter, the trees and bushes are alive with reds and oranges, and this is when the fishing for rainbow and big brown trout is at its best—but anglers can drop a line for trout in this tailrace all year long.
Come spring, the trees burst out in a palette of greens and the waterway is lined with both pine and cypress trees.
Hatches & Flies to Use
Flyfishermen will find a few hatches, but fishing under the surface gets the best results. A #16 Hare’s Ear or Copper John floated 18 to 24 inches underwater usually gets strikes. For a searching pattern, try a wet, like the Partridge and Green, or a small spruce.
When the trout are looking up, attractor patterns like the Royal Wulff, Adams, Humpy and House & Lot work well, as do terrestrials like a black ant and black beetle.
In the slower areas below the Reclamation Dam, slowly stripped streamers and wet flies will draw strikes from the brown trout. But often, anglers will have to fish small flies like midges and small mayflies. Hopper patterns are a good bet against the grassy banks. If you like nymphing, bump crayfish patterns off the bottom.
In the lower sections of the river, the cypress trees belie the fact that this tailrace is an excellent trout producer. If the skies are overcast, the trout can be found in the riffles feeding on the surface. If the sun is shining, the trout tend to hide in the head and tail of the pools and off the numerous ledges in the river. Mountain Fork River has quietly become a popular trout-fishing locale for Oklahomans, Texans, and Arkansans, especially from November to March. While most anglers fish Spillway Creek, a diversion of Mountain Fork River, if you want to catch the big ones (or just a lot of trout) or fish the 100-yard wide stretches of the river, then fish downstream of the state park in Sections Two and Three.
A warning: This river is the slickest, slipperiest (is that a word?) river I have ever fished. You will probably fall down a time or two. Wear felt soles and, if you have them, cleats. Even then, you will likely fall. Wade slowly and patiently.
Most anglers will end up fishing in Section One (in the park) because when water is released from Broken Bow Dam, the main river becomes unfishable or at least unpredictable. Much of the stream that flows through the park is a diversion creek from the spillway, known as Spillway Creek, that later meets up with the main stem of the river coming from the dam.
As if to prove the Mountain Fork River is becoming an increasingly crowded favorite of flyfishers, certain sections of the river now have nicknames. The Cold Hole, the Forty-Foot Hole, the Bluffs.—you’d almost think this was a real trout stream.
Beavers Bend State Park is one of the prettiest state parks in the Midwest. The park has 47 cabins, numerous campgrounds, facilities for RVs, showers, nature trails and, of course, a nice trout stream. The fishing traffic in the park, especially during weekends and holidays, is heavy. During the fall and winter, traffic falls off.
While Section Two has bigger trout and more of them, Spillway Creek holds some nice ones too. I have seen 20-inchers caught by the dam and 2-3 pound trout caught throughout the park. In the last year, parts of the stream have been improved by instream weirs and by the placement of big rocks which create more holding water. We are seeing more holdover trout now.
Spillway Creek is characterized by shallow water with riffle-run-pool configurations in some spots, big pools and pocket water in others, and lots of plunge pools. Some sections just don’t seem to hold fish (no cover). In most spots, the trees and brush come right up to the river and interfere with your casts. Some big flat areas of Section One and Two find anglers using float tubes since the current is so slow and the water too deep to wade.
At the walk-over bridges, the water gets hammered but there are always lots of trout (but they tend to hold deep). Get away from all easy accesses and walk a bit to find your own water. Trails follow the river on both sides.
The biggest mistakes I see anglers make in the park are 1) overuse of dry flies; 2) don’t get down deep enough with nymphs; and 3) they see insects, big insects on the water and in the air, but that’s not what the trout are eating.
Section Two is characterized by wide, slow water, characterless to the untrained eye. You see an island, underwater dropoffs and ledges, rocks the size of an Angus bull. This is the water where they catch the whoppers.
Rainbows were first stocked in the river in 1988 and browns in the 1991. The rainbows are harvested so quickly it is difficult to assess their populations, but the browns are thriving.
Think streamers, think woolly buggers and crayfish, think weighted nymphs. Anglers can reach this area on the streamside trail from the lower campground in park, the parking lot in that same area, and the Rereg dam.
The inside of the island is a great place to test but make sure to try the other, deeper side too. Then you’ll need to wade out and prospect, searching the water with weighted nymphs and streamers. Make sure to watch for risers, fins, and hatches. Some use float tubes and other personal watercraft in this area when the dam is not generating. Barbed hooks and bait are banned. Anglers will want to fish below the plunge pools, inside the island, on the dropoff ledges, and around the big rocks. Be patient. You’re not going to pull out a ton of 8-inchers like you will in the park.
The weekends can have too many anglers (and there are always campers) at the Rereg dam, but other times, during the week, it’s yours and it’s good. The water’s wide with some big boulders sprinkled in for good measure.
Some suggest that trout are reproducing in the river but there is no sure evidence yet Bring out your crayfish patterns here. Wade safely. Here and in Section Three, the river is lined in places with softball-sized rocks covered in algae. They are as slippery as walking across greased bowling balls.
Section Three is difficult to reach and by the time you drive all the way in, the dam is generating water and it’s too high and roily to fish. This section is characterized by lots of islands, drop pools, cypress trees and knees, chutes, some huge pools (fish the heads all through the tailouts), some wide whacky water, side channels, rocky outcrops, big trees, and more islands.
This section of water changes drastically depending on the water flow. Anglers will have to fish even around the cypress knees. Make sure to fish the cutbanks of the islands.
The trout population of this section has suffered in the last couple of years and guide Rob Woodruff believes that two of the contributing factors included the increased water temperature (due to uneven flows during the hot months) and the subsequent de-oxygenation of the water. If the river were managed properly, the fishery could become much more productive and we could see more and bigger fish—and possibly even reproduction (although it will probably be limited to browns since rainbows need gravelly tributaries, which this river lacks).
The Mountain Fork flows cold out of Broken Bow Reservoir for 12 miles to the I-70 bridge. Much of Mountain Fork River lies within the boundaries of Beavers Bend State Park, located in southeastern Oklahoma six-plus miles north of the town of Broken Bow on Highway 259A.
Lodging and Camping
There are camping spaces throughout Beavers Bend State Park and some cabins. Your best bet is to camp in the park, grab a cabin around the lake, or stay in one of the hotels in town (the Microtel, Broken Bow Inn, Charles Wesley and soon, a Ramada Inn). There are cabins for rent in the park but you usually need to call well in advance.
Suggested Fishing Spots
The area near Campgrounds G and H, the Cold Hole, the Forty-Foot Hole, the Beaver Lodge Nature Trail area, and the Low Water Dam at R.V. Camping Area A, Section Two at the island, at the Rereg dam, anywhere in Section Three.
Year-round, but the best times are from Labor Day to Memorial Day. The best months to fish dries are January through late April. The rest of the time, dry fly fishing is sporadic and anglers will have much more success with nymphs and streamers.
8- to 9-foot rod for 4- to 6- weight line.
When the water rises, it rises quickly. If you hear the siren, get out immediately. Be aware of the water levels by keeping a rock or tree level in sight. The rocks in the river are slick and the chances of a wader falling are good. Wear felt-soles, use a wading staff, take your time, fish with a buddy, and be careful. Anglers can wet-wade in warmer months.
When the water is high in the main stem, it’s time to fish Spillway Creek. There is a constant flow through Spillway Creek. When the water is on its way down or has been down, fish the middle and lower section for some big fish.
Spillway Creek runs throughout the park and has lots of pullout accesses and a trail which follows the river. Zone Two can be reached by parking in the parking lot south of Area A Campground and following the trail that runs along the river. The Reregulation Dam is reached off of Highway 70—you’ll see the sign to turnoff. Presbyterian Falls can be reached in Zone Three from Highway 70 East. There are over 11 stocking points in the park itself, and another four or five outside the park. Fish up and down from the stocking sites because that’s where most of the anglers congregate.
There are several access points for the stream ranging from low water crossings used by the logging trucks of the Weyerhaeuser Company to jeep trails and a highway crossing. The following is a description of the access points that are considered usable:
- Hatfield Crossing – This is a low water bridge on a gravel road between Hatfield, Arkansas and Smithville, Oklahoma. This is in the extreme northeast corner of McCurtain County, near the town of Beachton. This crossing offers adequate access for launching a canoe or flat bottom boat. Parking is limited but there is an area available for primitive camping.
- Pikes Crossing – Located 2 miles further downstream, this is an old river ford. Access to this put in is by a rough jeep road from the right bank.
- Rock Creek – Due east from Smithville a dirt road leads to Rock Creek. When the streams are “up” some from recent rains, this small tributary can be used to reach the main stream.
- Highway 4 Crossing – Just downstream from Rock Creek Oklahoma Highway 4 crosses the Mountain Fork over a paved bridge. One the right side access can be gained through the Mountain Fork Lodge for a small fee. The Mountain Fork lodge is a fishing camp with six to eight cabins and expert fishing guide services.
- Gravel Pit – Adjacent to the Hwy. 4 bridge is an old dirt road crossing. Parking is available near an old gravel pit which is a short walk to the river.
- Eagle Fork – An old highway bridge immediately east of U.S. Highway 259 offers access to the Eagle Fork. Access off of the east end can be difficult after rain. The mountain Fork is .4 of a mile from this point.
- Low Water Bridges – There are several low-water bridges crossing the Mountain Fork near the downstream area known as the “Narrows”. This area is immediately off of U.S. 259 southwest of Smithville. These low water bridges are part of the logging roads of the Weyerhaeuser Corporation and are accessible to the public. The low water crossings offer easy access for put-ins of canoes and John boats. Caution should be exercised around these areas. The suction created by the culverts under these low water bridges can be dangerous for wading and swimming at the intake side of the culverts.
Lower Illinois River
Fishing for trout on the Lower Illinois River can be fun if you know the right techniques. The best technique seems to be dead-drifting with nymphs. Take a good selection and experiment with streamer fishing and dry flies while your there.
Most the fish seem to stay in the pools rather than the fast water. There are not as many access points as the upper river but there are several. Right at the dam is the most popular and MarVals has the best facilities.
Remember you have to have a Trout stamp and MarVals can sell you one.
When flyfishing the Lower Illinois for trout you prefer the generators to be off. When they turn the generators on the water level will get high very quickly. There is a web site you can look at and a phone number for the schedule. But there is no guarantee that is will be that way. Anytime they feel they need more power, they will turn it on.
It can be disappointing, to drive down there and find it on. It can be dangerous, if you are in the river and they turn the generators on. There is a horn that “sounds” and if you’re anywhere near you will here it. It means get out now. I have been fishing and had people ask me what the horn means and I tell them. I once met a young man walking down the river as I was leaving and I suggested he leave. He gave me a dirty look and asked why. I simply stated, “look at your feet”. It went from dry, to over our ankles during our short conversation.
If you cross the river anywhere beyond the dam area, put a stick near the waters edge that you can see from your fishing spot. If you see your stick is now in the water get back across quickly or you may be walking all the way back to the highway. Never try to cross if it gets to high! It’s not worth it.
The middle section of Spavinaw creek between Lakes Eucha and Spavinaw is one of my favorite places to go for a little flyfishing on a nearby warm water stream. The gravel and shelf rock-bedded stream is short in length but it is definitely long in challenges. From it’s beginning as a small tail water to its ending as the head water of Lake Spavinaw, this stretch of the creek can offer a full day of relaxing diversion or a real test of your fly fishing skills and savvy.
The stream meanders over rocks and boulders from the base of Lake Euche dam and descends in an easy meandering run through the Spavinaw Hills. The streambed is primarily gravel layered over flat shelf rock with very little silt present. During the spring and fall the stream is exceptionally clear. Several underwater springs tend to lower the natural temperature of the water by a few degrees during the summertime which keeps the stream cooler than many Oklahoma warm water streams.
On one of my outings last spring, a blue gill nabbed a small white spider fly I was casting. The brightly colored Bluegill was fighting erratically when it suddenly vanished in a boiling mass of water that had erupted near an under water boulder. My rod bent sharply downward and the leader began to cut a deep “V” quickly across the surface of the stream. With 5 x tippet on the line, I eased up on the rod pressure immediately to prevent it from snapping. After several bullish tugs and runs, a black bass that I would estimate to weigh around four pounds calmly drifted toward me. His approach was by his choice and had nothing to do with the cautious pressure I was applying to the rod tip.
I peered down into the water and watched the dark green predator gap it’s jaws widely and expel the hysterical Bluegill. The bass whisked its tail near my leg with a powerful thrust he drifted like a sinister torpedo slowly back into the dark recesses of the rocks.
This was the second time on this particular stream that I have had this happen. On several occasions I have watched a Black bass aggressively charge a blue gill that was zigzagging on the end of my fly line. The Bass’ predatory instinct appears to be triggered by the erratic motion of the small fish fighting against the tension of the fly line. I have purposefully “played” some of these small perch after a take to see if I could entice a black into striking, but I have never been successful when intentionally trying to get one of these predators to charge.
Spavinaw creek has several pools of water between shallow runs that range in depth from waist level to well “over your head” in some places. Long, shallow water gravel stretches with babbling ripples course around bends to connect one pool to the next. At one particular pool on the stream there is a tree hugging the bank with a fire hose dangling from high in its limbs and marks one of the deepest of holes in the stream. During the summertime, the makeshift swing propels daredevil divers a good twenty feet over the water before they release and plummet downward into the clear blue-green water.
Two dams on the stream create Euche and Spavinaw Lakes. These reservoirs help meet the water demands for the city of Tulsa some thirty miles away as the crow flies. The small stretch of stream running between the two lakes is for the most part unknown to many fly fishers since it is well off the main highway and on a less traveled path.
Spavinaw State Park, situated below the Spavinaw Lake dam, is a well-known section of the lower portion of this stream. The park area has provided several fly fishers with a “place to practice” during the milder days of winter or when a trip to a favorite trout stream is not possible. During the summer months however, this lower section of the stream is a place for the fly fisher to avoid.
Further north, the middle section of Spavinaw creek running between Lake Euche and Spavinaw Lake offers flyfishers far greater solitude and productive water during the warmer months. During the spring and fall of the year only the subtle sounds of nature prevail across the water. It’s during these times that a fly fisher who knows where this section of the stream is located can wade these waters in solitude.
The challenge to fly fishing the middle section of Spavinaw creek is in its water clarity and finicky if not down right, obstinate Black bass. The stream holds a good population of Black bass with an ‘attitude’ along with a few Smallmouths. The Smallmouth bass are small most being less than twelve inches in length. There maybe larger Smallmouths in the stream but I have yet to connect with one.
The Black bass in the stream include the occasional hog lurking in the moss and flooded grass beds along the banks. For the most part though, the Black bass range in the two to three pound class. During the Spring and early summer they often cruise the shallows above deep pools stalking prey along the flooded grass beds that dot the banks. During spawn, they will be scattered around the shallower back waters of pools guarding nests. The stream also contains some large perch. Larger than hand size is not uncommon for these scrappy fighters and smaller versions including brightly colored Sunfish are prolific especially during the early summer and during their nesting times.
Over the years Blue River has seen an ever growing number of fly fishers presenting their flies on the waters. With six miles of meandering, forking waters full of structure in the form of granite and limestone formations, fallen logs, and boulders, Blue River presents a challenge to the best of the best fly fishers.
Blue River is almost an oddity in itself; a misplaced river of sorts. Located in southern Oklahoma, this meandering collage of waterfalls, riffles, pools, eddies and runs is something that looks like it belongs in Colorado. It’s about everything a fly fisher would dream of compacted in six miles of accessible water. The many braided branches and forks of Blue were created by the uplift of the Arbuckle Mountain systems millions of years past.
The majority of the water that meanders, sometimes gently – sometimes in a hurry, emanates from the prolific Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer. The water of Blue is crystal at most times.
The pre-spawn season at Blue can be a wonderful and exciting time for fly fishers and other anglers alike. Not just landing fish; but water blasting, sudden and surprising, exhilarating strikes that will leave fishing memories etched in the mind of the angler forever.
During the pre-spawn, spotted and smallmouth bass become almost singular in mind. Actually they have only two things on their agenda; eating and making love. It’s during this time they become extremely aggressive striking at almost anything the fly fisher can present. However this is not always true and we should always be reminded to watch the water to see what might be attracting the fish.
As far as the waters fly fishers should seek there is not such a thing as “bad’ water. Pre-spawn bass can be found in wide flat waters, riffles, eddies, and the many remote pools created by the forks and branches of the beautifully twisted path of unique river
“What flies to use” always comes to question. Top water! Fished early or late dries, foam poppers and hard body poppers will all bring excitement to the fly angler during the pre-spawn.
Patterns such as Dave’s or Al’s Hoppers, frog patterns, foam beetles and grasshoppers all hold the promise to get absolutely blasted out of the surface film. Miss Prissy Poppers along with Round Dinny’s also will produce quite well.
At the same time and especially during the later summer months large Wooly Buggers, Clouser’s crayfish imitations, and the many variations among leech and minnow patterns can produce lifetimes of fly fishing memories.
Although Blue River is best known as a designated trout stream during cold water season; she should not be overlooked during the warm water season and particularly during the pre-spawn which occurs during April and May each year.
Probably most flyfishers will agree that the Wooly Booger rules on the Blue. However, many of the old standards produce quite well also. Standards such as the Hare’s Ear Nymph, Pheasant Tail Nymph, Zug Bugs, Olive Flashback Nymphs, and olive conehead mini leeches do quite well. Early in the season, egg flies do quite well. Fishing with dries is a little more difficult on Blue but Elk Hair Caddis and Griffits Gnats do quite well.
- Mustad 9672 Size 12
- Brown Thread
- Clump of Elk Hair 6 – 8 hairs
- Mono line 3 inches
- Barbell Eyes 7/64 oz.
- Swiss Straw (Brown)
- Dubbing light brown
Tie in thread cover shank and advance to hook bend. Tie in elk hair (do not stack hair). Tie in mono line. Tie in barbell eye using figure 8 pattern to secure eyes. Tie in Swiss Straw behind barbell eyes (nearest eye of hook). Now dub thread and advance thread to 1/8 inch of eye. Pull over Swiss Straw and tie in securely. Now wrap mono with first wrap behind barbell eyes. Use equal distance between palmer wraps. Tie in cut mono, cut excess Swiss Straw with the exception of making a small crawdad tail. Glue tie off point and glue barbell eye adequately. Now go fish
Blue River Campground
Currently at the Blue there is no charge for camping. Campsite availability is on a first come first serve basis; no reservations. The Blue offers primitive camping at it’s best. The beautiful and rustic setting is a campers dream.
Area 1 runs downstream from Hughes Crossing and is one mile long. There are 29 campsites in Area 1 along with four parking spots. At the end of Area 1 is a large camping site that can be used for group camping. There are two primitive rest room facilities in Area 1. Area 1 consists of five large falls with a number of smaller ripples, forks, and branches. During season trout can be seen rising quite often in some of the slower pools above the heads of the smaller falls.
Area 2 is upstream from Hughes Crossing on the west side of the river. Including the parking area Area 2 offers 41 camping spots and the parking area is often used by RV owners. There is one primitive bath room facility at the north end of Area 2 and a bath room facility close to the parking area. There are seven larger falls within Area 2 and a number of ripples, pools, and eddies. From the north end of Area 2, anglers can take a trail that will lead to Desperado Springs and the south walk in trail of the south wildnerness Area.
Area 3 is across Hughes Crossing and has 4 campsites. There is a primitive rest room facility nearby. Area 3 is a more remote camping site and access to the river is by walk in.
Area 4 is a remote campsite with two campsites. This area is for those wanting to get away from it all. Walk in access to the river. No primitive rest room facilities.
Areas 5 & 6
There are two campsites at Area 5. Area 5 is located across from the south end of Area 1. Campsites are located on a bluff overlooking a beautiful falls. No primitive rest room facilities.
Area 6 is one large group area which can easily accomodate 15 to 20 tents. Primitive rest room located at Area 6.
The Striper has been widely introduced in numerous lakes, rivers and impoundments throughout the Oklahoma, with Texoma being the best known.
Lake Texoma is 89,000 acres with the most beautiful shoreline and wooded areas you could imagine. Lake Texoma is a fly fisherman’s dream with year-round fly fishing. It’s “The Striper Capital of the World”, with excellent populations of large mouth bass, Kentucky spotted bass, small mouth bass, white bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish carp, and gar.
Stripers prefer relatively clear water with a good supply of open-water baitfish. Their preferred water temperature range is 65 to 70 degrees.
Stripers are voracious feeders and consume any kind of small fish and a variety of invertebrates. Preferred foods for adults mainly consist of gizzard and threadfin shad, golden shiners and minnows. Younger fish prefer to feed on amphipods and mayflies. Very small stripers feed on zooplankton.
Like other temperate bass, they move in schools, and all members of the school tend to feed at the same time. Heaviest feeding is in early morning and in evening, but they feed sporadically throughout the day, especially when skies are overcast. Feeding slows when water temperatures drop below 50 degrees but does not stop completely.
The month of October, give or take a week, begins the annual fall and winter trophy striper time on Lake Texoma. This is also the beginning of the fall bait migration. The big stripers will follow gorging themselves on the available shad. They will continue the cycle of migration clear to the pre-spawn staging areas and remain in those areas throughout the winter months and into the spring. This is without question, the best period of the year to catch a double digit striper on the fly. Winter time striper fishing can be excellent.
Lake Texoma and the Red River below the Denison Dam are famous for their striped bass. Although none of the fish in these waters have ever seen the open oceans, which are the natural habitat of their species, they still fight like the saltwater gamefish they truly are. Stripers (Morone saxatilis) are the largest member of the sea bass family. They cruise both coasts of this country and may run as far as 100 miles up streams and rivers to spawn. It was just such a spawning run, back in 1941, which led to the development of the inland striped bass fishery we have in thirty states today.
The Santee and Cooper rivers in South Carolina were spawning grounds for Atlantic stripers. When a dam was built, striped bass were trapped in what became the Santee-Cooper Reservoir. Biologists did not expect the fish to survive, much less to spawn and thrive in their new environment. Somebody forgot to tell the fish. By the late 1950’s a few hundred thousand stripers were being caught there every year.
The striper’s favorite food consists of members of the herring family. Gizzard and threadfin shad made up over two-thirds of the stomach samples collected during a long term study done on stripers in the Santee-Cooper Reservoir. Contrary to the fears of critics of stocking programs, the striped bass were not found to feed heavily on other gamefish.
Not all landlocked populations of stripers will spawn. Successful spawning runs require 50 miles or more of accessible streams, and sufficient water flows to keep the eggs in motion until they hatch. Lake Texoma and the Red River are among the few inland waters capable of generating a self-sustaining striper fishery. While heavy fishing pressure in the lake has led to smaller fish and tighter limits, the stripers in the river often reach 20 pounds.
Fly fishing for stripers in Lake Texoma is possible, but difficult. It requires a boat equipped with fish finding sonar and fast sinking fly lines to get to most fish, unless you are lucky enough to find stripers busting shad on the surface. Fishing in 30 feet of water is not uncommon. A powerful motor is also a must to cover the 89,000 acres of the lake. Fly rodders will have an easier time getting to the fish below the dam.
Most wade fishermen stay between the dam and the lower end of the Corps of Engineers park on the Texas side. A cable stretching across the river marks the upper boundary where wading is permissible.
The stripers are only found when water is being released. They come up to feed on shad, which are stunned, or killed on their transit through the generators, or flood gates from the lake to the river. Depending on how much water is being released, wading can be limited to only a few feet from shore. Come prepared with sinking, or sink tip lines, in addition to floating lines. You won’t reach subsurface fish feeding in swift currents with a floating line. Save the floating lines for when the action is on top. You won’t know until you get there. Most of the fish will be 5 pounds or less, so the really heavy rods and huge flies aren’t needed, 6-weight to 8-weight rods are usually plenty.
Flies for stripers should be streamers and top water patterns which imitate shad. Lefty’s Deceivers, pencil poppers, Clouser Deep Minnows, Whitlock’s shad patterns, large marabou minnows, bucktails, etc. are all productive patterns in sizes 2-6. One Lake Texoma fly rodder showed me some streamers tied on unweighted jig hooks with small spinner blades attached. Strong leaders and tippets are a must. Stripers have very rough mouths.
Fly rodders who want to cover more of the river will need to have a shallow draft boat, preferably with a motor. Another option is to hire a river guide. Most area guides use air boats. Don’t, however, expect the guides to know much about fly fishing.
In addition to the stripers, the Red River is also a very good smallmouth and largemouth bass river. These fish are usually found around brush piles and dead trees in the river channel. Large catfish also live in the holes along the river bottom and can be caught during low water periods. Hooking a good size catfish on a fly rod feels like snagging the bumper of a runaway truck.
Because the Red River is the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma, there are some special regulations. All of the river channel is Oklahoma, and an Oklahoma license is needed even for fishermen on the Texas side. Since the impoundment area of the lake covers parts of both states, anglers can purchase a special Lake Texoma license to fish both sides of the lake. Oklahoma licenses are available at bait shops and tackle stores near the dam on the Texas side.
U.S. Highway 75 is the best route to the dam from either side of the river. To get to the Texas side, take the exit marked “Eisenhower State Park” just north of Denison, Texas (The Exxon station here sells licenses). Maps show the road across the dam as “75A,” but it is marked as “91E or 91W” on the ground. There is a clearly marked entrance to the Corps of Engineers park and campground. It has a long paved parking area and a combination bait shop and convenience store.
The Oklahoma side is more primitive and harder to find. Highway 91 turns due east, just north of the dam, in the small town of Cartwright, Oklahoma. Look for the small white Cartwright Fire Department building on the south side of the road, near the turn. A narrow street intersects 91E here. Follow this street south for 2.5 miles. It ends at a parking area with a few picnic tables at the dam. Most fishermen follow a dirt trail from this point to a soft sand beach and park. Park your car in plain sight from the water. Don’t park in the trees. Cars are frequently broken into if left in concealed areas.
Since the striper fishing is only good if water is being released, it’s a good idea to call ahead. The Corps of Engineers has a recorded message giving release schedules, water temperature, and weather information at (903) 465-1491. Check this recording, both the night before your trip, and in the morning before you leave.
The Texas-Oklahoma border is a long way from the coasts, but inland fly fishers, who want the thrill of saltwater gamefishing without a trip to the coast, can definitely find some excitement going after striped bass in the Red River and Lake Texoma.
Fly Fishing Tips for Small-Mouth & Spotted Bass in the Lower Ozarks
Fishing and floating the lower Ozarks can take place from spring until winter sets in. Some of the best fishing can take place mid-summer during the aluminum hatch. (The fish don’t mind the traffic.) Small-mouth Bass, Kentucky Bass, Rock Bass and sometimes Sand Bass can all be had on the same water.
The Smallmouth bass in my opinion was made for a fly rod. All you have to know is how to fish for them. The Upper Illinois River is a wonderful place to fish for them because of all the access to the water. It is not the only place, Baron Fork, Spring Creek, 14 Mile Creek and others offer tremendous fishing. Even when the Small-mouth are not biting there are Bream (Perch), Spots, (Kentucky Bass) and Sandies (White-bass).
It is important during the spring that you release your fish. The females should be allowed to lay their eggs and males should not be taken off the nesting beds for very long because they are protecting the fry. If you plan to keep fish for the frying pan, be sure to keep the small ones not the mature adults that can reproduce. It is important that we keep our Smallmouth population healthy.
Fish the whole water column. Poppers and top water flies are and important part of any Smallmouth fly box. From there fish the middle with streamers patterns. Be sure and try the bottom with crawdad and sculpin patterns.
Late Summer & Early Fall is a great time to fish with terrestrials. No, I don’t have any alien fishing buddies. I’m talking about land born critters that end up accidentally in the water. Grasshoppers, beetles, ants, katydids and such. In the hot, dry days of the sunny months, terrestrials are plentiful and are a major part of any fishes daily banquet. Grasshoppers are a favorite of many fishermen. Flyfishers have classic patterns from long ago such as Letort’s Hopper, Joe’s Hopper or even an Elk Hair Caddis. Over the last decade Dave’s Hopper by Dave Whitlock ( an Okie by the way ( another story)) has always been one of my favorites. Ray at Elk Creek makes a no name bug from foam that works wonders on the bream and Griff makes a “Crippled Hopper” that is getting great reviews for catching smallmouth. I know of several people that fish live grasshoppers with fly rods and have great success. Live or imitation, you can fish grasshoppers with a spinning rigs using a “bubble” on the line to give you weight for casting.
Find a nice quite nook with plenty of depth, maybe under the shade or the edge of some grass, cast to make a “splat”. If nothing happens give it a gentle “twitch” and HANG-ON!!!
Trout fishers get in the habit of just about standing on the fish because of the way we fish a riffle or a small deep pool. Lake fishermen run full blast to the next hole. You just can’t do that to a smallmouth bass in the river during the beginning of the aluminum hatch. (beer cans and canoes) You have to be a little sneaky.
Wear shirts that blend in to the background. Tan, green and brown work well. Use the golfers “90 degree rule” when approaching that good looking spot. Walk on the path not splashing through the pool. Plan your movement where you are going upstream. Most fish in moving water face upstream when feeding. From behind they can’t watch you coming. Use lures that are a bit more realistic you might hold off on the hot pink lizard.
Mostly try to be quite and not so noisy, be sneaky!
To help build confidence and to help improve your fishing abilities, locate a place you can go to often. Traveling to different fishing locations is fun and educational, but a new place is usually the least productive. Changing fishing destinations can be a lot like changing girlfriends. (You have to start from scratch and you have to be careful of comparisons.) Fish one “place” long enough to learn where the fish are hiding, why they like certain spots and the conditions that change their moods.
Work On Your Sensitive Side. One of the things you can do to improve your fishing is to become more “touchy-feely”. Cast, close your eyes and “feel” the force. Well, maybe just your fishing line.
Sometimes the fish take the lure so softly you can easily miss it. It’s more so with long single hook flies where the material extends a good ways past the hook. Lots of the smallmouth streamers that I like to use are made that way and I have learned to “feel” for the take. With a fly rod there is an advantage in that I have contact with the line in my fingers all the time.
In fact it’s easier to teach this technique to someone who fishes wiggle tail / single hook grubs a lot, than to a trout fisherman who is use to “seeing” the take.
Work on it. Close your eyes, keep your line tight and learn to feel the take. Is it a fish or just a rock? You can now tell your wife you’ve been working on your sensitive side.
Keep a tight slack less line
One of the givens in fishing is that in order to move the lure you have to have a tight slack-less line. An advantage of fishing with conventional tackle over flyfishing tackle is that the reel does this for you as soon as you start cranking in line.
When flyfishing with bass type flies and regular streamers it is important to keep the slack out of the line in order to feel the strike.
An easy way to help yourself to do this is to practice keeping your rod tip down. Unless you are fishing a dryfly or an indicator “rig”, as soon as your fly touches the water you should bee removing slack and lowering your rod tip. Think about it. If your rod tip is high then you have less contact with your fly. Measure and if your rod tip is up then you have 4 to 6 feet of slack between the end of your rod and where it line contacts the water. Get in the habit to cast, drop and keep your rod tip down.
More About Trout Fishing in Lakes
Oklahoma has several lakes and rivers which have good numbers of Brown and Rainbow trout. Remember to check the most current trout regulations and seasons prior to planning your fishing trip.
The list below identifies Oklahoma’s trout areas. Refer to the fishing Regulations section or contact the ODWC for specific information on seasons and licenses.
Active Message Board with Fishing Reports
Beavers Bend Fly Shop
Highway 259A, Broken Bow, OK 74728 (580) 494-6071