Arkansas White River fishing trip

Over last weekend the wife and I headed for the White River below Bull Shoals Dam in Arkansas to do some fishing. As some of you may know the White River tailwaters are home to some monster brown trout. So I had 8wt fly rod with a sinking line and some big streamers ready to go.

Upon arriving Saturday morning we stopped at Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher, where I picked up a new net and talked with Steve Dally (great guy) about where to fish and what to use. With my new knowledge of the area, we headed for our cabin. While going across Bull Shoals Dam we stopped to check out the view.

Bull Shoals Dam

The place we decided to stay was Copper John’s Resort. They are fairly close to the dam and on a nice curve in the river. Steve at Dally’s told me there should be plenty of fish right by our cabin. We checked in and unloaded our stuff into the cabin, which had a great view of the river (and all the people fishing).

White River

After watching the people fish for a while the wife and I tossed on our waders and found a spot between people. The water was nice and clear and the trout were all around. We fished for a couple of hours with out a bite. I was a little baffled, but I thought maybe tomorrow would turn out better.

Sunday morning I got up early and left the wife sleeping. There was a nice fog coming off the water and it was fairly cold out. No one else was on the water yet so I figured I might have a chance. I fished a San Juan worm with a zebra midge dropper on my 5 wt. I was striking out again. I decided to change things up and clean the ice off my guides. So I walked back towards my gear that I set on the gravel bar to keep an eye on the water level. I looked back as I was wading out and noticed a lot of fish following me.

I decided to try a basic rock worm pattern. After a couple a drifts I let my fly swing and as it was rising at the end I had a decent size rainbow grab it. I finally had my first fish.

White River rainbow trout

My first thought was I finally figured out a pattern to catch them on. I fished for a couple more hours and had one more fish that came off before it got to hand.  A while later I noticed that the water was starting to rise so I moved my gear up the bar and decided to try an olive woolly bugger.  I had a few chases but no fish. Soon the water was flowing fast and rising fast, so I decided it was breakfast time.

After breakfast the wife and I went down to the Cotter Access area. This is a really nice area with lots of fish but I was struggling to find a pattern that would work. The fish just did not seem to want to eat anything. So we moved up river to The Narrows area. The high water had not arrived but I had a feeling it was coming. I had a lot of fish chase my streamer, but no fish to hand.

Finally got my wife off the bank and into the water.

Next thing I know my wife is yelling for me so I headed over to where she was. She pointed out to me that while I’m fishing the water was rising fast and I had to get back across now. Well it was a little too deep and I found out what waders full of Arkansas cold water felt like. We decided it was time to head back to the cabin.

After a change of clothes and a stop to pick up some bait for my wife we were back fishing by the cabin. Before I could make it in the water my wife was hooked up and had her first fish.

Paula’s Rainbow

We finished out the evening fishing that same stretch of river without catching anymore fish.

Fishing on the White River was a big learning experience for me. I learned many ways not to catch fish. It was still fun to fish new waters. Next time I get down that way I am going to go with a guide from Dally’s, and I know I will learn a lot more and catch more fish.


2 thoughts on “Arkansas White River fishing trip

  1. The White can be very finicky at times. I’ve fished it for 25 years and some of the hardest times to fish are when the browns start to spawn. I’m sure if you’d have known the river better, you’d have done very well. First times are always a learning experience! Good luck on your next trip!

    1. Thanks. I had fun and plan on coming back in the spring.

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