Fly Fishing Arkansas
Arkansas is widely recognized as one of the top states for fly fishing as many of the rivers and streams that cross the region are teeming with abundant numbers of trout and other natural game fish species.
Skilled fly fishing enthusiasts often have many of Arkansas’ most prominent rivers atop their bucket list when it comes to the best trout fishing opportunities in the continental United States.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at five of the best rivers across the state of Arkansas and discuss what anglers can expect to find in each of them when it comes to fly fishing.
Best Fly Fishing in Arkansas
1. White River
There’s little argument among anyone who has a decent amount of trout fishing experience in Arkansas that the White River is the best of the best as it relates to catching a variety of sizable trout. For many trout fishing guides, the best part of the White River is the tail-waters located below Bull Shoals Dam.
The areas of the White River that anglers consider to be the best locations to fly fish are typically very wide and require that anglers use a boat or kayak to place themselves in the best possible position to land one of the many trout that can be found swimming in its waters.
There are numerous fly fishing guides located along the White River and anglers who might consider themselves a beginner or novice fly fisherman might be best served by booking one of these guides. The White River is known for having huge brown and rainbow trout and many anglers that regularly fish its waters recommend using large flies with hook sizes of 6/0.
2. Little Red River
North-central Arkansas is home to the Little Red River, which is another well-known hotspot for fly fishing throughout the year. These waters were thought to be the state’s best kept secret for trout fishing up until roughly ten years ago when anglers from the states surrounding Arkansas discovered the pristine waters and plentiful numbers of trout in the Little Red River.
The area below Greers Ferry Dam is known to be among the best fly fishing locations in the entire state of Arkansas. Anglers from all over the world flock to this area each year to try their luck at fly fishing for massive brown trout.
There are vast stretches of water along the edges of the Little Red River that are waist-deep, making them perfect for fly fishing. These waters are actually home to a 40-pound rainbow trout that stood as the world record for many years before it was broken.
3. Little Missouri River
The Little Missouri River might be the best location for fly fishing in the Natural State, but it doesn’t have trout that are quite as large as those that can be caught in the White River or other waterways. Located in the woodlands of southwestern Arkansas, the Little Missouri River is quite different from the deeper, fast-moving waters of the upper portion of the state.
Many fly fishing enthusiasts prefer the more shallow, gentle rivers of southern Arkansas like the Little Missouri because it is more suitable for fly fishing at any time of the year. As the river slowly winds and twists around the hills and cliffs of the southern portion of the Ozark mountain range, the waters of the lower portion of the ‘Little Mo’ are also home to catfish, smallmouth, and other popular species.
When it comes to prime fly fishing areas, the upper segments of the Little Missouri River are a scenic haven for anglers who love to use their nimble fly rods and hand-tied lures to land brown and rainbow trout throughout the year. The area of the Lake Greeson tail-waters are notably some of the best for trout fishing, but space on this river is very limited, so anglers should plan on getting there early if they want to secure a spot on the water.
4. Spring River
While the Spring River doesn’t have quite as much of a reputation as the White River or other famous waterways in the state of Arkansas, it is known to be among the top waterways in the state for fly fishing. Anglers who sometimes find the Norfolk or White rivers to be muddied by heavy rainfall often prefer to fish the Spring River instead since this river is fed by the icy waters of the Mammoth Spring just north of Hardy, Arkansas.
The Spring River is nestled deep in the Ozarks just below the state border with Missouri. Anglers will find it easy to wade across the entire width of this river, making it an ideal waterway for those who prefer to use techniques like nymphing, or dead drifting with a variety of flies.
This river is quite unlike any other in the entire state of Arkansas as it is the only waterway that naturally supports trout populations without the need for human intervention to improve or stock the trout population. This is mainly due to the fact that the pristine waters are colder and clearer than anywhere else in the state.
5. The Norfork River
Our list of the best fly fishing rivers in Arkansas wouldn’t be complete without listing the Norfork River, which is located in the north-central portion of the state. The Norfork River is one of the most picturesque waterways in the Natural State as it gracefully winds around the wooded mountains of the southern Ozarks.
There are a number of smaller streams that feed into the Norfork River, making it an extremely popular location for fly anglers to visit. Most fly fishing experts who regularly fish this river consider the few miles just below the Norfork Dam to be some of the best trout fishing waters in the state, as well as the entire country.
Trout in these waters commonly subsist on diets that are heavily-influenced by vast populations of insects. These waters are home to large numbers of rainbow, brown, and brook trout, as well as other popular game fish species.
This river, like others on our list of the best fly fishing spots in Arkansas, are fed by tail-waters of a powerful dam. It’s crucial for anglers to understand the timing of the dam’s release, as well as other factors that play a major role in the overall health and habitat of trout.
Most guides and skilled trout anglers prefer to load up into a canoe or other boat and paddle down-river to some of the best spots. The Norfork River is a popular destination for serious fly fishing anglers as they will typically seek to traverse its waters in a canoe and camp along the waters’ edge for exciting multi-day trout fishing expeditions.