Come take a guided fly fishing trip on White River for beautiful Rainbow Trout and Trophy Brown Trout.
Ever thought about learning to Fly Fish? Come and have a great time and learn a new way of fishing fun with a guided fly fishing trip! See all the details on our 2017 Spring fly Fishing School here.
The White River in the Arkansas Ozarks is home to some of the largest brown trout in the U.S..
My desire is for this page to provide you with exceptional White River fly fishing information. I would like to use my experience to provide you with accurate information and techniques needed to successfully fly fish the White River. I believe that anyone considering this destination deserves an accurate description of our fishing.
Trophy fish can not be guaranteed. If they could be, then there would not be anything special to catching one. The White River does deliver many trophy browns in the four to five pound range, with some of fish in the teens, and a few in the twenties. The river holds brown trout that are in the thirties and maybe forties, but they are rarely landed. Catching large fish usually requires patience, perseverance, skill, and a little luck. . Are we the least expensive guide outfit on the river? No, but you can expect more because the owner will be your guide. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. My passion for making your day on the river the best, is my goal everyday.
Rates For Guided Fly Fishing Trips
Full Day: 1 or 2 people $375 3 people $450
Half Day: 1 or 2 people $280 3 people $350
Includes all gear, flies, tippet, leaders & cold water. If wading, you need to furnish waders.
Custom Deli lunches are available for $ 10.00 per person upon request, with a 48 hours advance notice.
Something unique about my guide service is I offer light tackle spin fishing if you have a fishing companion who wants to fly fish.
*3 person fly fishing trips are not recommended unless at least one angler is of intermediate skills.
White River and North Fork River Fishery Management
Both of these rivers are managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish. The abundant nutrients found within this watershed allow its trout to grow at astonishing rates of up to 1” per month. The river contains trout concentrations of up to 3500 fish per mile. That’s a lot of fish, growing really fast! The two rivers are managed pretty much the same with the exception that the North Fork River has a much larger percentage of the river set aside as “Catch & Release “ areas. Since the North Fork River is only 4.9 miles long in Arkansas this really doesn’t represent a true comparison picture. Both rivers are managed as trophy brown trout fisheries. This is accomplished in two ways.
- Some areas are set aside as “Catch and Release” areas, where artificial lures with a single, barbless hook are the only method of fishing allowed. All fish caught in a Catch & Release section must be immediately returned to the water.
- A harvest regulation of a minimum size of 24” is set on German Brown trout, with a limit of one. This size restriction pertains to the entire lengths of both rivers. Any brown trout caught that is less than 24” must be immediately returned to the water. A large percentage of our brown trout are wild.
Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout, and Cutthroat Trout are managed basically as “put and take” fisheries. While this doesn’t sound very romantic, it is the way it is. The advantage of this is the rainbows provide a lot of action. They are much easier to catch and that means that when the fishing is tough you can still come up with some fish, and everyone has a good time. The Brook Trout and Cutthroat Trout are stocked in much lower quantities than the rainbows and provide the ability to catch all four species of trout in one location. This is not to say that big rainbows, cutts and brookies don’t come along, but it is much more infrequent than trophy browns.
I realize the above description of our fisheries management is very general and leaves out the many nuances of fisheries management, but it gets the point across.
Both the White river and the North Fork River are tail waters. What is a tail water river?
In the 1950’s the Corps of Engineers built both Bull Shoals Dam and the Norfork Lake Dam. Bull Shoals Dam was built across the White River and formed Bull Shoals Lake. The Norfork Lake Dam was built across the North Fork of the White River and created Lake Norfork. (You’ll noticed the spelling difference in Lake Norfork and the North Fork River….it’s a subject of a lot of debate, but the names are found spelled different ways depending on the source….who am I to say.)
Before the dams, these rivers were some of the best smallmouth rivers in the U.S. There is a great history of the fishing float trips taken by thousands beginning in the late 1800’s. To mitigate the loss of the business generated from the smallmouth fishery the federal government promised to forever provide trout for the cold water rivers that now exist.
These rivers are cold water because the dams release water from the bottom of lakes
while generating electricity. Since electricity cannot be stored, the water levels
of the rivers change as power demands fluctuate. It is not uncommon for the water
levels to change 5 to 9 feet in a few hours time. While this seems very radical to
fishermen, it is just another day in the life of a White River trout. The trout in
our rivers can be caught at any water level, you just have to understand the techniques.
Understanding the changing water levels
Water depths and current speeds fluctuate greatly given the amount of generation coming through the dam. Water levels can vary by 5 vertical feet in minutes and 11 vertical feet in the course of an hour or two, but that is not usually the norm. Usually in a 24 hour period the water levels will vary by 2 -5 feet. These variances are greater and happen faster the closer you are to the dam. As you move further away from the dam, the existing flows drop, or “tail out” at a slower rate. Likewise the increasing flows have time to spread out as they come down the river making the rise of water levels not as dramatic. Quickly rising water is very dangerous. If you are wading, WATCH the water level CONSTANTLY.
The rise or drop will still be the equivalent if you were stationed closer to the dam, it just takes anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours longer to reach those levels, depending on how far downstream you are. The dam’s current generation and what and when the last change was and when it occurred can be accessed anytime at 870.431.5311
There are several websites that provide monitoring on the dams’ water releases to produce hydroelectric power. By accessing 5 to 6 different sites’ information, and understanding the Corps of Engineers water management plan of 1998, you can become fairly proficient in guessing what the water releases will be. If you really want to learn how to do that just email and I’ll fill you in. If you want to know whats happening right now, call or email, and I’ll fill you in.
Advantages of our section of the White River
We are located 5 miles below the confluence of where the North Fork River entersthe White River. The fresh renewing of cold water from the North Fork River keeps our waters cold enough for the trout in our section of the river to remain very healthy, even though we are 45 miles downstream form the Bull Shoals Dam, we are only 10 miles downstream from the Norfork Lake Dam. We are always surprised by the number of anglers who don’t realize that great trout fishing is available downstream of the first 20 miles below Bull Shoals Dam. While the upper sections of the White River do have great fly fishing and I guide in those areas frequently, I catch just as many fish down river in our section.
What’s different about fly fishing our local section of the White River.
It is much less developed. Yes, you’ll see a few houses, but you’ll also notice that 90% of the banks are forest or empty pasture. For many, this is more enjoyable than looking at one house or resort after another that line the banks of the upper river.
There are a lot fewer anglers. There are a lot fewer boats. There are as many trout per mile per angler as anywhere on the river. This equals to the same fish catching experience without the crowds of the upper White.
Personally, I think solitude and natural beauty adds to the fly fishing experience.
What Fly Fishing Techniques are used on the White River?
The White River is a big river. 75 to 250 yards across with it’s trout waters stretching for 90 miles. It has shallow riffles, deep fast runs, and deep holes. The bottom can be moss and grass covered, clean gravel or solid rock with many ledges and fractures to hide big fish. The White River fishes like a big river. You can successfully employ many different tactics to catch fish. For the fly fisher, streamers imitating baitfish, crayfish, and small trout will produce some of the largest fish in high water conditions. We also employ unique methods of deep nymphing during periods of high water.
During low to medium water conditions, soft hackles, nymphs, dries, and streamers can be productive. Our most productive nymphs are scuds (freshwater shrimp) and sowbugs (a water version of a roly poly, also known as cress bugs). The river has a prolific hatch of Caddis in the early spring sometime in the March – May time period and White Sulphurs around late May to Early July. Midges are prevalent throughout the year, but are dominant in the winter. In low water conditions midges in emerger patterns can be very popular. From mid June into late September, terrestrials, especially grasshoppers are productive. Wooly Buggers in olive, rust & black are always a hot fly and white if the shad hatch is on or has occurred recently. The overall point here is that a lot of techniques work on the White River.
The North Fork River is much smaller than the White. It averages 35 -50 yards across and at low water 80% of the river can be waded. The North Fork tends to have low water levels more often than the White River so it is popular with fly fishermen, who enjoy wading. Within this river’s catch & release areas, the fishing is technically demanding, often requiring anglers to fish tiny flies on light tippets. 3 wt to 4 wt 9’ rods are the right stick to use.
With the low, clear flows the fish can be spooky of poorly executed casts and drifts that aren’t natural. Scuds and sowbugs are found in the North Fork Riverand represent the largest portion of its year round food base. Midge hatches are present nearly all year long. The river also has hatches of Blue Wing Olives,White Sulphurs, Crane flies, and Caddis. In the late summer, terrestrial patterns such as beetles and ants work well. There is very little open pasture next ot the North Fork and grasshopper patterns are not a major thing.
Flies for Fly Fishing the White and Norfork Rivers
Our basic staples:
- Sowbugs (also known as cressbugs) Size #12 – #20 – a medium grey is by far the most common natural color, but I’ve seen them get a very dark grey, nearly black.
- Scuds (freshwater shrimp) Size #12 – #20 – Light grey, dark grey and olive are the most common colors. Make sure you have a few in orange to imitate a dead scud.
Fish the larger sizes when drift fishing from a boat and the smallest sizes on low to medium flows while drifting or wading.
White River Attractor Flies
- Egg patterns #12(peach, fire orange, pink, cream)
- San Juan Worm #10 (fire orange, red, cerise, pink, wine, natural)
Various Shad Streamers, #4 – #10
Various Sculpin patterns #4 -#6
Copper John, #12
Large, weighted streamers
Sub Surface Wets & Nymphs
Woolly Bugger #8-#12, (olive, black, std. & beadhead)
Pheasant Tail Nymph, #14-#16
Various Sowbugs, #12-#20
Caddis Pupae, #14-#16, (cream, green, gray)
Soft Hackles, #14-#18, (hare’s ear, orange, green)
Zebra Midge #16 – #20 (black, brown, purple)
Trout Crack #18 -#22
Dry Fly Fishing – We have a very decent caddis hatch beginning in late March, that lasts into mid-May. The bugs come off in sizes #14 – #18’s. Body colors will vary by the species; you’ll see light grey, dark grey, cream, and olive. 80% of the time a simple elkhair caddis with the correct body color and size will take fish. On the cream version, I’ve had much better catch rates using a cream or white colored wing. Of course hanging a emerging caddis pattern below your dry will catch a bunch more fish, if that’s what floats your boat. This hatch is much more prevalent on the White River, and occurs from the Bull Shoals Dam 60 miles down to Calico Rock.
In late May we begin to see our White Sulphurs. This cream colored mayfly hatches in sizes #14 – #18. The better hatches occur in the first 20 miles of the White River below Bull Shoals Dam. This hatch is usually not as strong as the caddis, but the fish will key on it in areas it becomes consistent. Again, this hatch is much more prevalent on the White River.
The North Fork River has midge hatches year round, with some of the heaviest in the later winter, early spring. These bugs are all #18’s and smaller, like down to #32’s and smaller. My set of eyes keeps me at flies no smaller than #22’s. While you will find risers taking dries, the better fish are usually down 12″ – 18″ taking the emergers as they rise. I usually fish a dry with an emerger dropper. At the surface, the majority of these midges will have black or grey bodies and matching colored wings. The pupa bodies will range from zebra, red, green and black. On sunny days I use flashy patterns and on cloudy days I use muted patterns. An underappreciated hatch on the North Fork is the crane fly. These bugs some off in 2 or 3 sizes and are easily imitated in both the nymphal and emerging patterns.
Best time to fly fish for trophy German Browns
I’ve fished this river since 1978 and have guided on it since 2004. It has been my experience that for trophy browns the White River fish’s best in the cool or cold weather months. Being located in northern Arkansas our winters are rarely extreme. While we will have very cold days that occasionally reach into the teens, they only last for short period before we are back up in the 40’s & 50’s. Snow may come 4 or 5 days a year and is usually light.
One reason the river fishes better during the cold weather months is
because the fishing pressure is so much lighter and the fish feed more in daylight hours. It’s at these times that sight fishing for these big fish is possible. Some of the best trophy fishing occurs in mid October to the end of November, then again from mid January to mid March. The first period coincides with the migration of brown trout upstream to spawn and the second period is after the spawn when the fish are putting weight back on after the spawn.
The second period in January to March is when we can have what is locally known as the “Shad Hatch”. Obviously this is not a hatch, but a time when shad located in the reservoirs above the dams can be susceptible to quick drops in temperatures as cold fronts move acrossthe region. The stunned, dying or dead shad are swept through thedams electric generation turbines and flushed into the river below.It’s like someone yelling “Free steak” at The Outback Steakhouse.The fish come from miles to gorge on the shad. At the beginning of this feeding frenzy the fishing is easy. As it progresses the fishlearn that all that looks like a shad, is not a shad. This is wheneach guide seems to have their own tricks and patterns to continueto fool the fish and keep the bite coming. This event happens most often below the Norfork Lake Dam, but is usually a much biger event when it occurs below the Bull Shoals Dam.
Can this hatch be predicted? No, not really. It requires a combination of weather conditions and the dam generators running hard enough to pull the shad through to the river. Is it worth jumping in the car and coming with a moments notice…ooohh, yes. When the action is hot during the shad hatch you will pull your fly away from 3 lb. plus fish, because they are the little ones.
Fly Fishing Big Streamers for Trophy Browns
Another proven technique for trophy browns is to “bang the banks” with really large streamers with heavy lead eyes using sink tip lines during high water levels. During mid- water levels you can concentrate further away from the banks on areas of deep water at the end of fast runs, and work the deep pools. Also look for deep moss beds and areas of solid bedrock with ledges, cracks and boulders. The toughest and most technical fishing for trophy browns is at low water. Low water is when techniques change to small flies and rods that are soft enough to protect the light tippets you have to use. This is when long, accurate casts will increase your chances of success.
Fly Fishing on High water, White River deep nymphing methods
A method that was developed and perfected by local guides of the White River has been to use a deep nymphing technique during periods of high water levels. This technique is what makes fishing the White River possible under any conditions. While it may make the fly fishing purist wince, it definitely catches fish. Many large trophy browns are taken using this method because these fish are more active during periods of heavy water flows. Food is more abundant and the higher flows offer them protective cover. A plus for the novice fly fisher is that this technique does not require all the skills of fly casting and presentation. Really it’s pretty simple.
The rigging goes along these lines. Use 4 wt- 6wt 9’ rod with a floating line. The rig casts better and fishes more efficiently if you do one of the following.
- Make a custom leader as follows: Flyline to 18″ 20lb. / 18″ 15lb. / 12″ 12 lb. / 48″ (0x) / 36″ 1x / 24′ 2X / 24″ 4X. As a general rule you rarely need to go below 4x. The high water flies (see the selection above) are sized from #10’s to #16’s.
or the easier way
- But a 7′ 6″ tapered leader that ends in 0x . Then build it out as follows: 36″ 1x / 24″ 2X / 24″ 4X.
Use a large indicator, I prefer any type that allows you to quickly change the depth of your flies. Then place enough split shot on to get the fly down. This will vary with depth and current speed and requires some experimentation. Place the split shot about 18 “– 24” above the fly/flies. This allows the fly to work in the current naturally, but still keeps it close to the bottom. Remember, if your split shot isn’t occasionally hitting the bottom, you will not catch fish. You haveto get your flies within inches of the bottom.
Boat drift is the second consideration. You must achieve a drift that matches your indicators drag free drift. This is critical, because you need your fly to get deep, and that takes time, you want to keep casting to an absolute minimum. Keeping your fly in the water is where it needs to be to catch fish. The most common fault in fly fishermen new to this technique is to cast again just about the time their fly reaches the strike zone. Some people use a paddle to get the right drift, some use the outboard motor, some use oars. I use all three, depending on the conditions. Some folks scoff that this isn’t even fly fishing. I’ve fished in the west during high water run-off and I’ve seen the same techniques employed. Its fly fishing, it’s just different. An open mind catches fish.
The third consideration is the strike. Like the rest of this technique, think big. No, lifting slowly into the fish like you are setting a dry fly hook. By the time you see your indicator twitch, go under, or pause that fish has had that fly in his mouth for nearly longer than needed to realize it doesn’t taste right and you need to set that hook before he spits it out. The strikeneeds to be straight up. If you miss, your whole rig should be straight up in the air. If you missed the strike just move your arm into a backcast and the rig will drop untangled behind you. The just use a gentle water-load cast to place out in front of you and go back to fishing.
Why would you even want a fly fishing guide?
Since our rivers are tail waters and subject to frequent changes of water levels,you may want to gain some “on the water” insight as to how this affects the fishing,wading and boating experiences of the river. Even if you decide not to hire a guidefor these reasons, stop by a fishing shop or call a guide and discuss this with them, it will help you catch fish and help you to have a safe day on the water.
You are in the area for the first time and don’t know the techniques and types of water that hold the big fish, or the higher concentrations of fish. You’ve come prepared to wade, but water levels won’t permit it and you are not comfortable renting a boat and navigating the river yourself. So you hire a guide to handle the boat.
You know how to fish, but want to maximize your time fishing, not looking for the next spot.
You know how to fish, but want to spend time focusing on your spouse, children, grand children, friends or business client.
You want to sharpen or acquire new fishing skills, fly casting skills, different fishing methods, or even boat handling skills.
What makes a good fly fishing guide?
One who works hard to deliver what you ask for.
I love to fish, but even more, I love to guide people and see them catch fish.I’m polite and professional. I will match your fishing skills to techniques that will catch fish. If you desire to learn more, we will start with where you are at and work to develop the skill you are interested in acquiring. If I can’t provide top notch instruction for the skill you want to develop, I’ll recommend a guide who can. Something that is unique about my guide service is I offer both fly & spin fishing trips or even a combination spin/fly trip.
Look over several different guides’ websites, call a few of them, and choose a guide that you think you’ll enjoy a day on the water with. The following might be some good questions to start a general conversation.
How long will we be on the water?
What is the exact cost, what is included, and when is it expected?
What type of payment options do I have? Are you expecting a tip?
What, if any tackle, food, and drinks do you provide?
What type of boat is being used, and how old is it?
Do you teach me to fish, or just take me fishing?
Do you (the guide) fish on the trip?
Do you Practice Catch and Release? Can I keep a trophy fish?
Are you a full, or part-time guide?
Do you have a Guide License?
Do you have business insurance?
How has the fishing been lately, and what can I reasonable expect?
When was the last time you were on the body of water we will be fishing?
Who removes the hook from the fish that we catch?
Where can I get a fishing license?
Where do we meet, and how do I get there?
If water levels permit, do you allow me to wade?
What to expect from me on a guided trip
Trips are a combination of wade and/or boat trips depending on the water levels, your preferences, and physical condition. I guide in all weather conditions that do not have an element of danger. With over 60 miles of water available we can nearly always find a location that presents good fishing conditions. Graphite rods make wonderful conductors of electricity and we don’t want to get caught in a tornado, but a little snow, rain, and wind doesn’t hurt much and the fish don’t seem to mind. Any canceled trips will be at the guide’s discretion with safety given the highest consideration. A trip may be postponed, interrupted or even canceled if conditions are unsafe. The trip’s cost will be pro-rated against actual length.
I began fly fishing in 1978 and that is the way I enjoy fishing now, so primarily I guide fly fishing trips. However, many of our customers who stay in our lodging do not fly fish and to accommodate those I offer a combination of fly & spin fishing on a trip. This is quite a bit different from many fly fishing guides who just fly fish. Spin fishing is easier for a lot of people and allows for many more people to enjoy catching these great sport fish.
What you should bring on a guided trip:
Waders if you desire to wade
A cap with a bill.
Subtle, earth toned clothing, especially if wading is an option.
Full rain gear
Can I keep the fish I catch?
These fisheries are stocked with rainbows in quantities that
require the harvesting of a high number of them. I’m all for
“Catch & Release“ practices of fisheries managed for that ,
but for rainbows in the White River it is not expected and will
simply result in an overabundance of fish and less food all the fish, therefore you are welcome to keep up to a legal limit of rainbows. Since our brown trout are managed differently, I release all brown trout, even those in excess of 24”. Pictures and measurements can be recorded and replica mounts are superior in every way to original skin mounts. We offer a $ 50 contribution toward your replica mount of a trophy brown trout in excess of 24”.
All boats are premium 20 foot AFF’s, one of the most stable river boats manufactured. Engines are 20 hp Mercury outboards with jet drives. So you have no prop to ruin. In 5 years we have not experienced a single damaged lower unit. We are the only outfitter I’m aware of renting jet drives.
Boat Rental Rates:
$110.00/ Full Day
$ 85.00/ 1/2 Day
Plus whatever gas you use during your rental. Rental includes 4 seats, paddle, life jackets, net, drag chain, & anchor.
Smallmouth Bass Fishing
We have 2 great smallmouth streams. The Buffalo River and Crooked Creek are both close by and offer good smallmouth fishing, especially during the late spring and early fall. Crooked Creek trips are offered on a full day basis only and are usually float/wade combination trips. Buffalo River trips are conducted on the lower portion of the Buffalo River and can be combined with White River trout fishing trips. All smallmouth bass are released.
Special fishing just for Kids and Disabled
Just 15 minutes from our resort is the little stream of Dry Run Creek.
This creek is designated as a special regulation fishery for those 15 and
under and for the disabled. The fishing is done with single barbless hook
artificials, (basically flies only) and is all catch & release. The creek is created by the runoff from the National Fish Hatchery. The highly fertile and oxygenated water allows for an astonishing 6,000 fish per mile in the ½ mile creek. Not only are there a lot of fish, they can be huge!
This is the perfect place to teach a beginning fly fisher how to fish moving waters. Casts are short and easy and they can concentrate on perfecting the drift, strike detection, hook set, and fish playing skills. These fish are not exceptionally easy and you have to use the right flies & techniques. Just ask how to fish it and I’ll explain it all, or you may opt for a guided trip for your young angler. Bring the kids, bring the camera, fish will be caught!
Have any questions or need to check dates for your booking?
Contact Chris or Carol right now.