Preparing for Arkansas’ White

I’m preparing for a trip to Arkansas’ White River next week for a few days of trout fishing and, as usual, I’m having trouble deciding what to pack. I’ll probably end up packing twice what I need. I always do.

I’m talking about fishing gear. I’ll carry  along a fistful of fly rods, of course, although if this trip is like most of the others I’ll likely not get more than one from its case. But its better to be safe than sorry so the 8-6, 5 weight Orvis Trident will go, along with the 9-foot Loomas GLS, a no-nonsense workhorse what will more than earn its keep should I be lucky enough to tangle with one of the White’s double-digit size brown trout. And if for no other than sentimental reasons I’m sure to pack my 8-2, 6-weight cane rod; a gift from my friend and hobby rod builder John Durbin. A spinning outfit should round out the rod needs.

The White River below Bull Shoals Dam, where we’ll be fishing out of Gaston’s White River Resort, is a Jekyll and Hyde fishery; the river’s complexion reflected almost solely by the volume of water gushing through the massive dam. When multiple gates are open the White can be high and wild; the fishing fantastic. When the water release is a trickle, much of the river can be negotiated by a man wearing chest waders; the fishing sometimes technical and finicky.

Most of the guides I’ve worked with on the White say they prefer high water. The theory being the high, fast water pumps more food into the river and the fish feed more aggressively. I prefer wade fishing but there may be  something to the high water theory. The big brown (pictured) was caught – along with more than 20 other rainbows and browns – on a cold March morning last year when six gates were open and the river was at full throttle. It does seem like the fishing is better when the water is high. Or maybe it just that you can cover more water and  hit more good fishing spots.

Finding out is half the fun.

My fly tying skills are pretty basic but I think I’ll try some stream side entomology this trip, thanks to a friend at Cabelas, who is loaning me a portable tying kit that he says comes with everything I could possibly need to tie any fly to match any insect on or in the water.

This will be a trip packed with writers, photographers and broadcasters, colleagues in the loose leaf world of outdoor writing. A couple of friends are coming, too, both experienced and highly skilled fly fishermen who have trout fished for years but neither has fished the White. It’ll be fun to watch them.

I plan to post daily from the river. Hopefully with a big fish story.

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