I doubt that many of you will be traveling to and fishing the Smokies to fish this month although I
hope you do. The first part of February are probably the coldest times of the year and you will
have to pick out the better days to expect much success fishing the freestone streams. By the
end of February, everyone will be doing their best to force the bugs to hatch and the trout to
respond even though they will probably have to wait a few more days to see any surface action.
That considered, I thought I would write about some fishing trips we have made to various other
destinations. Don't expect these articles to win any awards, just tell you about
Fly Fishing the White River, Arkansas
The first time I ever fished the White River was on a bass fishing trip to Bull Shoals
and Table Rock Lakes, not a fly fishing trip. That was in the mid 1970s. I was
spending a few days nearby the dam and stopped below the dam one afternoon. I
started talking to a guide about the trout fishing, and I couldn't stand it. I had to try
it, so I hired the guy for a half day trip. I remember catching one rainbow after
another and keeping some of the fish to carry home with me. We used spinning
rods and I do remember looking at the dam when we were fishing, so I guess we
were right below it.
I returned to the area several times a few years later, those times in conjunction
with trips I made to Ranger Boat Company located in nearby Flippin, Arkansas. I
would stay at a lodge on the river where I would gaze at the large brown trout
mounted and talk trout fishing. That continued over the years and into the early
1990s when I was assisting in the design of Ranger's saltwater line of boats. I can't
remember the name of the lodge but that is where Ranger always put me up. Each
trip I would always declare that I would catch one of the large browns on the next
trip there. I would be reminded about stories of Forrest Wood, founder of Ranger,
and a friend of mine since the mid 1970s. He guided on the river in a john boat at
one time in his life. I heard various stores about how he came up with a fiberglass
bass boat from ideas and experiences with the river boats as well bass boats.
I can't remember the details but I do remember that in Flippin, a tiny town except for
Ranger Boats, there was a small service station that was a part of one story. Forest
approached the owner before he made his first boat and offered to go in partners
with him if he would let him build his boats in his garage. The man turned him down.
In the early 1990s, the man was still there running his gas station, and Forrest was
still living there but had long since sold his company, twice, in fact. About the only
difference was Forest owned most of the county and the other guy still had the
I guess I got off fly fishing for trout but I couldn't avoid telling you about my first
several trips to the White River. A few years ago, Angie and I returned to the lodge
but that time, strictly to fly fish for trout. I have been back a couple more times
since. The second day there, I caught a 18 inch brown trout. Brown trout is still the
name of the game at the White River. They still stock the rainbows and the browns
still grow to huge sizes. The browns do reproduce naturally in the stream and I am
told there is some natural reproduction of rainbows. A new management plan that
went into effect this year put the minimum length at 24 inches on brown trout.
Fishing the White, as with many tailwaters, is a mater of timing the discharges. Also,
like many tailwaters, the trout have become adjusted to feeding when the water is
moving. Ideally, you want the water shut off if you are wading the river and ideally
you want the water running to catch trout. As you may expect, there are exceptions
to those rules of thumb. Trout can be caught wading as well as from drift boats.
This is a huge tailwater. The area boast of over ninety miles of tailwater trout
fishing. It is an excellent tailwater and one of the best places in the nation to catch a
trophy brown trout on the fly..
Copyright 2009 James Marsh