Keep up with all things, outdoors, with Big Billy Kinder...
The seasons can actually change before your eyes when it's fall on the White River. This spring fed trout haven flows through the incredibly beautiful hills and mountains of northern Arkansas. There are more trout than people here...my kind of place. Between 1.7 and 1.8 million hatchery trout are released every year in the stretches of the White and Norfork Rivers. From the Bull Shoals dam to the confluence of the 4 ½ mile Norfork river and well beyond, the federal fish folks make sure that this is one of, if not THE top U.S. destination for trout fishermen. My most recent trip to these waters was in mid September. You definitely needed a jacket to start the day. Temps in the forties and a 20 mph boat ride first thing in the morning combines to put the wind chill somewhere down around “Brrrrr Nellie!” The crystal-clear water is actually warmer this time of day and year than the air temp, causing a ribbon of fog along the top of the river. That makes a great photo op from high atop one of the mountains that line the stream. By 9am, you're shedding the jacket...shorts and t-shirts should be perfect thereafter because the seasons have changed on the river from late fall to summertime again, right before your eyes.
My favorite way to fish the White and Norfork Rivers are on foot with fly rod in hand. I like to walk the river low water and pick little spots apart. “Fishing to a fish”. This trip didn't allow that though. Because of spring flooding, the dams at both Bull Shoals Lake that feeds the White and Norfork Lake that obviously feeds the Norfork, have been releasing a lot of water all summer long-More than usual this year.That’s not a problem; you just fish em differently. In past years, I’ve done it on my own and had success catching fish...lots of fish. A boat rental comes in to play, my fly rod goes back in the tube and the spinning gear comes out. Your line to the side of the boat as you drift your bait towards waiting trout is the ticket. This time around I didn’t mess with a boat rental. I went with a couple of guys that fish this river nearly every day of their lives. Paul and Mike are pros, and I caught a LOT more fish than on my self guided floats. They handle the boat, you set the hook and grin. They make it a very easy day for the fisherman. Visit the guides and outfitters here on the website for their contact info. By the way, it’s a few bucks more but worth every penny...don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy Paul and Mike’s shore lunch. Your morning catch, prepared on a gravel bank complete with salad, taters and dessert. Yes! There is no additional fee for the bald eagles soaring overhead keeping an eye on your lunch.
My friend Rick Pope, owner and founder of Temple Fork Outfitters not only produces some of the best fly rods on the planet but uses them as well...all over the world. He tells me that this river system is among the very best, if not alone at the top for North American fly waters. He should know. If you want to catch the next world record (that’s happened several times over the years in this neck of the woods) that fish will more than likely come from the Norfork. If you want to catch a load of eaters and still have the opportunity to catch big fish, it’s the White. To complete a White River slam, you must produce to hand a rainbow, brown, cutthroat and brook trout in a single day. I was 3 out of 4 on two days of my trip. All I was missing was the brookie. They are in there but are the toughest to put in the boat.Numbers are not as high as the other three species. The river is perfect for world class anglers, and first-time worm drowners. If you decide to go, be sure to leave an afternoon open to take the kids to the Federal Fish Hatchery at the base of the Norfork Dam. They’ll give you a tour...you will be amazed.
October 13, 2015