Fly fishing in ice cold, crystal clear, trout-filled waters flowing through rugged terrain along high river bluffs with bald eagles soaring overhead. Where are we? Colorado, Montana? No, we are in the heart of the Ozark Mountains in North Central Arkansas on the world famous White River.
Once an outstanding smallmouth bass stream in the 1950's the Corps of Engineers brought electricity to rural Arkansas with a series of hydroelectric dams. This ended the bass fishing but provided a unique opportunity for trout.
The river rises out of the mountains southeast of Fayetteville and flows north into Beaver Lake, into Missouri through Table Rock Lake, then into Lake Taneycomo at Branson. The last lake in the chain is Bull Shoals Lake which sprawls across the Arkansas-Missouri border. This series of lakes provide the silt-free clear waters of the White River tailwater. The constant cold temperatures are ensured by the deep water thermocline above Bull Shoals Dam.
Over the centuries the river has carved its way through the limestone base of the Ozark Plateau providing the nutrient rich waters in which trout thrive. Fly fishermen should come prepared for a variety of water conditions because of the varying generation levels. Although many areas of the river are wadeable at low levels the river is best accessed by boat.
The river has a wide variety of aquatic life including midges, sowbugs, freshwater shrimp, caddis flies, and Mayflies. Larger food sources include sculpins, minnows, crayfish and shad from the lake. This wide selection means that time of year and water level dictates your fly selection.
This is a big wide open river so 8.5 and 9-foot rods in 4, 5, and 6 weight are usually preferred. Most fishermen like their floating lines, but don't forget to put in a spare spool with sinking line for those stubborn fish in heavy water. With its four species of trout (brown, rainbow, cutthroat, and brook), its varying water levels and its year-round season, the White River offers something for every fly fisherman.