January 31

They finally brought the units running on the White down from 4 to 1, so we headed over to the State Park. We figured we would start there and then head downriver if they came up again. It had snowed 4-5 inches early in the morning and light snow was still falling. We had the entire park to ourselves. We started down by the Spring and noticed a considerable amount of fish taking emergers just under the surface. We started out fishing zebra midges and black beauties under indicators, but eventually took them off and starting just swinging the zebra midges. You could pick out a fish and swing the fly past it, and it would take it just about every time. I caught a handful of smaller rainbows in the 10-12 inch range before the fishing slowed down. I decided to give a small beadhead wooly bugger a try and the fish loved it. At one point I landed four fish on four consecutive casts. I fished my way down through the riffle until the fishing finally slowed. We didn’t manage any browns, just the smaller rainbows.

We decided to head downstream to try a new spot called the “Narrows”. It was an adventure getting there in the snow and finding the right spot to park, but we made it. We headed out to the top of the island and right away found water that looked promising. We started up top in the chute and worked our way downriver. The chute looked like a good spot to find a big fish, but we didn’t manage any strikes. I was working a zonker and it wasn’t until I got further downstream that I finally got a strike. The fish were in an area that got a little deeper and slower. The bottom structure turned darker with some rocks covered in moss. I was soon hooked into another fish and yelled for Matt to come downstream. I missed two more fish with my fly just dangling in the water next to me. He started hammering fish on a San Juan and was catching 2-3 fish for every one I was catching on the zonker. I decided to switch over to the San Juan and keep working downstream. I caught one nice rainbow before I hooked into a larger fish. It peeled the line off the reel with one strong run and I knew it was a better fish. I got it turned around and I could barely make out in the ater that it was a better brown. It attempted a couple of more short runs before we got it in the net. It was a healthy female in the 20 inch range. We let her go and continued working down towards the bottom of the island. It was getting dark before we made it all the way down, so we decided to call it a night.

February 1

We called the dam at 3:00 AM and the water was off, so we decided to head up to the Catch & Release section by the dam that had just opened that night. There was only one guy on the water when we arrived, but he had a 22 inch brown in his net. It was the largest fish of the night for him, but he had caught a lot of smaller fish. I took a quick picture for him and we started fishing. After seeing his fish, we had high expectations. I was throwing the zonker again and within a couple of casts I was hooked up with a smaller rainbow. I caught a couple more smaller fish and missed at least another 3-4 fish. I finally hooked into a better fish, which turned out to be a 17 inch brown. Just as I was releasing the brown, the horn sounded, and the water started coming up. I called up to the dam and they were turning 3 units on. So much for fishing until daylight…

We woke up around 8:00 AM and they were still running 3 units. We decided to go check out another new spot, Roundhouse Shoals. We started up at the top of the island and started working our way downstream. The water didn’t seem too “fishy” and we didn’t catch or see any fish. We decided after a while to head back upriver to try another spot near Cotter. We pulled into the Cotter access and I checked the dam again. No units on! We took off to the dam and there were already 12-15 people fishing when we arrived. There were a couple of boats trying to make their way downriver, right through the area where we were going to fish. Matt went further downstream and immediately started catching fish on a San Juan. I was throwing trout crack, only catching an occasional rainbow. As it got lighter out, I could see I was fishing shallower water and there weren’t a lot of fish holding in front of me. Matt switched to Trout Crack and at one point landed 10 fish on 10 consecutive casts. John Wilson (FlyfishingArkansas) came over and asked him what he was using. He was pretty surprised when he answered Trout Crack, which is one of his flies. This was the second time down to the White River that we have run into John. He seems like a great guy and was even nice enough to give us a couple of tips on how to rig our flies. He even showed us a good spot up by the dam. We continued catching trout almost all day long, I even managed two 20 inch browns in the spot that John showed me. All together we probably landed 40-50 trout each. The larger fish that were around, were podded up in the deeper pockets downstream on the boat launch. We didn’t get into any real big fish, as the boats moving through had scared all of the big fish out. The were only two big fish in the 24-26 inch range caught all day, but there were a lot of smaller browns in the 20-22 inch range caught. (They returned the next day and multiple 10 pound plus fish were caught) The best flies for us were trout crack and San Juan worms. John also caught a lot of fish on a zebra midge that I had given him, up in the faster water.