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Home » Fly Fishing the White River: Discover the Secrets of Arkansas’s Pristine Waters

Fly Fishing the White River: Discover the Secrets of Arkansas’s Pristine Waters

Image By Jpowersok at English Wikipedia, CC BY 2.5

Unravel the beauty of Arkansas’s prime fly fishing location, the White River. This comprehensive guide offers an in-depth look into the art of fly fishing on this crystal clear river. From understanding the fishery to finding the best fishing spots, picking the perfect fly fishing gear, and honing your techniques, we’ve got you covered. So, let’s dive into this treasure trove of fly fishing wisdom. Remember, there’s always a bigger fish out there waiting for your cast!

The White River and its Fishery: A Biography

The White River runs for 722 miles, providing some of the finest fly fishing waters in the country. The fishery is primarily known for its large Rainbow and Brown Trout populations. The best times to fish here are the spring and fall seasons, offering the most active fish and the most pleasant weather. The river stays cold all year round due to the dam releases, which makes for an ideal trout habitat.

Top 5 Access Points on the White River

LocationDirectionsLocal Guide Shop
Rim ShoalsOff Highway 62-412, east of CotterRim Shoals Fly Shop
Wildcat ShoalsEast of Cotter on County Road 704Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher
Bull Shoals State ParkOff Highway 178 in Bull ShoalsBlue Ribbon Fly Shop
Sylamore CreekNear Mountain View off Highway 5-9-14Sylamore Creek Fly Shop
White HoleSouth of Flippin on Promise Land RoadWhite Hole Fly Shop

The Best Low Traffic Fishing Spot: Wildcat Shoals

The area around Wildcat Shoals tends to be less crowded than other parts of the river, making it a hidden gem for anglers looking for a peaceful fishing experience.

The Busiest Fishing Spot: Bull Shoals State Park

Bull Shoals State Park is known for being one of the most active spots, filled with both beginner and experienced anglers.

Ideal Rod and Reel Selection

A 9-10 foot, 5-6 weight rod with a matching reel is a versatile option for most conditions on the White River. This setup provides a balance between casting ability, line control, and fighting power for those hefty browns and rainbows.

Fly Selection by Season

SeasonFly NameFavorite ColorHook Size
WinterZebra MidgeBlack/Red#18-22
WinterPheasant Tail NymphNatural#16-20
WinterGriffith’s GnatBlack#18-22
SpringElk Hair CaddisTan#14-18
SpringHare’s Ear NymphNatural#14-18
SpringMarch Brown Dry FlyBrown#12-14
SummerFoam HopperGreen/Yellow#10-12
SummerCopper JohnCopper#14-18
SummerLight Cahill Dry FlyLight Tan#12-14
FallWoolly BuggerOlive/Black#6-10
FallEgg PatternOrange/Pink#10-12
FallParachute AdamsGray#14-18

Three Techniques for Fishing the White River

Dead Drifting: This technique is ideal for nymph and dry fly fishing. Cast upstream and let your fly drift naturally with the current.

Swinging Flies: Cast your fly downstream and let it swing through the current. This is effective when fishing with wet flies and streamers.

High Sticking: When nymphing in fast water, keep your rod high to maintain better control over the drift and detect strikes more easily.

Rigging Your Rod

Start by choosing a fly line to match your rod’s weight. Attach a 9-12 foot leader tapering down to a 4X or 5X tippet. If you’re nymphing, set your indicator about 1.5-2 times the water’s depth above your fly and adjust as needed.

Local Laws and Restrictions

Ensure you have an Arkansas fishing license and trout permit before fishing. There’s a slot limit on brown trout from 12 to 24 inches, and only one over 24 inches can be kept per day. There are no bait restrictions, but barbless hooks are encouraged for catch and release.


Unlock the angler’s paradise by mastering how to fly fish the White River. From identifying the perfect fishing spots to honing your techniques and rigging your rod, this river offers a unique fishing experience. So grab your gear, cast your line, and embrace the thrilling adventure of fly fishing on the White River.

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