Water is a funny thing. Too much of it and you have real problems. Too little and it could get real bad. Rarely is there a happy medium in life and such was the case on my latest fishing trip. Vickie and I left Taneycomo and headed south for Bull Shoals, Arkansas. Bull Shoals is the third dam on the White River system and the amount of water that this dam holds back…well it’s a dam site (pun intended). Because of the high water on the lake and the hot temperatures, generation was on going at Bull Shoals and our campsite was just a few feet from a raging torrent…the bottom line was there would be no fishing on the White River below Bull Shoals.
Norfork Lake and dam was a mere 26 miles away and it did not take long for me to devise a plan. Early the next morning I was on my way and arrived below the dam at 6am on the nose. Norfork is the 4th dam on the White River system and is located just a few miles east of Mountain Home, Arkansas.
I must admit that I am always excited when I get to fish…but this was different. I could hardly wait to get in the water as I pulled on my waders, etc… It is not uncommon to see and land big fish and by big I mean a Brown that might go in excess of 20 pounds; several this past year were caught in the 30 pound class and the world record Brown was caught just down the road at on The Lil Red river, weighing in at a touch over 40 pounds!
This would be my first attempt at an Arkansas trout and I decided to go with the big ugly fly that had worked well for me in Missouri. The water was ambling softly from left to right and on my 3rd cast a 15 inch Rainbow made contact. Not bad and at this point I thought it might be easy? Several casts later another good fish hit and took off sideways and left me with nothing but line, my big ugly was gone for good.
I made the decision to tie on a rabbit hair fly that resembles a leech in the water and a few casts later I was taking in the beauty of the place while my line dead drifted down the current when I was literally jolted back awake by a big take on the other end of my line. I instinctively set the hook and out of the water exploded a big fish…and it was a Brown. I got the fish on my reel and knew that I was going to need to move to slack water to land this fellow. To my surprise he didn’t put up a massive fight and within a minute or two I had landed an 18 inch Brown that was a heavy fish; he probably weighed a good 3 pounds or so.
I landed another pair of Rainbows and then watched as a fish followed my leech, then picked it up…I set the hook and within a few seconds I had landed my 3rd specie, a Cutthroat. What a gorgeous fish and my very first ‘Cutty’ ever. Now all I needed was a Brook trout and I would have the Norfork slam! The slam consist of a Brown, Rainbow, Cutthroat and Brook trout and all can be caught on the White River below Norfork dam.
I made a couple more casts and heard what I did not want to hear…the sirens from the generation site, which meant that my fishing was just about over. Not wanting to be a statistic I decided to heed good judgment and headed to the bank where I quickly made a few more casts before retiring for the day. I was both disappointed and encouraged that in just over an hour I had almost caught the slam that I was after; maybe another day?
I fished Norfork two mornings and in the afternoons found my way to Crooked Creek which is one of the top 5 Smallmouth rivers in the country. While I did not land a big ‘smallie’ I did catch a lot of 9 and 10 inch fish and the country is as beautiful as anywhere I have fished. There is just something about being waist deep in a stream, limestone bluffs overhanging, and not seeing another person for the entire afternoon.
If you choose to journey to Arkansas you will not be disappointed but keep in mind that these are tailwater fisheries and there are many factors involved with your ability to catch trout. I stopped by the Blue Ribbon fly shop located in Mountain Home, ran by Bob and Debi Cooke. As I have said before there is no place like a good fly shop and the Blue Ribbon shop is excellent. Bob was very friendly and took care of all of my needs…and even answered my many questions. Bob knows everyone and can in a minute pick up the phone and put you in touch with someone or the things you need. Their phone number to the shop is 870-425-0447. Before you go or head out give Bob a call, you will get all the help you need.
I am not sure what you think of when the state of Arkansas pops up; I can tell you that I will always associate it with great trout fishing and very friendly people. If you are looking for a chance to bag your own Norfork slam or are interested in a chance to land a truly big Brown trout…then “The Natural State” is for you. Point your car in the direction of the Ozarks and you, like me, will be ready to Enjoy the Great Outdoors.
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