Fishing Arkansas’ White River
There is much written about the large river systems that wind through the heart and soul of this great nation. The mighty Mississippi, Missouri, Columbia, and other massive flows are top of mind.
Recently, though, I was fortunate enough to fish one of the ‘little giants,’ a river that’s not famed for its immensity but instead for delivering trout like pizzas. Arkansas’ White River winds its way through Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas like a golden thread that offers treasures at every turn. The water is pure and clean and surrounded by breathtaking banks and The Ozark Mountains that loom even higher in the panorama. The great Western rivers and streams have long been recognized as trout fishing destinations, but make no mistake, the White River is every bit an angling delicacy as its brothers toward the Pacific.
Arriving at Gaston’s White River Resort, I knew that I’d stepped into another place in time. Southern hospitality was everywhere and I was greeted by folks that couldn’t do enough to accommodate my every need. I was personally escorted to our rustic and welcoming accommodations overlooking the river, where I instinctively peered out the picture window. Trout were surfacing everywhere, feasting on emerging nymphs. I wanted to start casting through the glass. Without a pole, I walked down to the shoreline to get a better look and was greeted by a dozen cardinals cavorting in the trees. You can never find that pocket camera when you need it…
Drifting the White there is a romanticism that grabs your being at every bend. Wildlife abounds, and at times during the trip, I even set down my rod to soak in the wonder of this most gifted place. Peering into the water I spotted trout in nearly every pool, behind every rock, and clung to every log. I was astounded by the sheer volume of fish in the three-mile stretch we covered.
Daily, I was on the river catching and releasing rainbow and brown trout by the bushel. The fish were quite willing to sample black Bug-a-Boo hair jigs from Northland Fishing Tackle, hooking a fish on nearly every cast. We also tossed Rapala X-Raps in the pools along the bank, activating many of the meatier browns. Man, this was fishing…
Being a ‘lake guide,’ running a v-hulled Lund, I quickly noticed the uniqueness of the White River boats – long 20 to 22-foot John boats with 15-25 horsepower 4-strokes. They can slip and slide along with the current, lending the guide complete control to cover every flowing nook and cranny.
Guide Curtiss Blackburn was the man at the wheel. I liked the cut and swagger of Curtiss, as well as the way he talked about the White as if she were a beautiful woman; he showed great respect for the river and its bounty. Curtiss carved his niche as a guide by being humble, gracious to his clients and answering any question thrown his way. Curtiss is a guide’s-guide, with a smile as big as Arkansas and a personality just as broad. He knew every pool and rock as if by name.
Jeff Kolodzinski from Frabill and I were able to spend some time with this gentle giant and came away with deep insights into trout behavior and an even deeper appreciation for the resource. Jeff is that breed of angler who pays acute attention to detail and watches and listens to angler’s thoughts and opinions, which sometimes spawn new products that improve the overall fishing experience. Listening to Curtiss and I talk about weather conditions, current breaks, boat control and several other topics when two guides from different worlds get together, was an extra treat for Jeff. And when Jeff caught his first White River rainbow trout, it was as if he reached back in time just for a moment remembering his first hook-set as a youth back in the Midwest. I clicked off several pictures so Jeff could immortalize his first White River trout, a fish I’m convinced won’t be his last. Jeff is hooked on the White just like this northern boy.
Editor’s notes: Tom Neustrom is an accomplished fishing guide from Grand Rapids, MN. Tom was also honored recently by being inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. Visit his website at:
www.mnfishingconnections.com. Special thanks to Arkansas Parks & Tourism (www.arkansas.com) and Gaston’s White River Resort (www.gastons.com) for putting together this fantastic voyage.