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Little Red River Fly Fishing
One of the Natural State’s best fly fishing destinations is without a doubt the Little Red River. This waterway is located in the middle of the state in the foothills of the Ozark mountains and is well-known as one of the best trout fishing rivers in the United States.
The gently-rolling water is teeming with abundant numbers of brown trout, as well as rainbows, brook trout and cutthroat trout that can be caught using a fly rod at any time of the year.
The water of the Little Red River is quite clear compared to other waterways in the southern United States that are typically muddied by regular heavy rainfall during the fall and winter months of each year.
The Little Red River runs through what is known as the ‘Gateway to the Ozarks’ near Heber Springs, Arkansas and the cold, crystal-clear waters of this portion of the river are ideal habitat for any type of trout species.
The river is home to Greers Ferry Dam, which is responsible for creating Greers Ferry Lake, a large reservoir that is known for its abundant number of bass, crappie, catfish and other species that anglers love to go after.
The Little Red River stretches for more than 80 miles as it winds around the hills and valleys of central Arkansas before joining up with the famous White River in an area that is widely considered to be among the best fly fishing destinations in the world.
In this article, we’ll discuss the Little Red River and why so many angler consider it to be among the best trout fishing locations in the country, as well as the different methods and strategies anglers use to take advantage of the river’s pristine waters.
Little Red River Fly Fishing
While much of the Natural State’s rivers are home to bountiful numbers of brown trout, the Little Red River has a higher number of rainbow trout than any other species.
Many of these rainbow trout are wild and thrive in the cool, clear waters near the dam and other sections of the Little Red River, but the state’s wildlife biologists and other entities work to continually stock the river with farm-raised rainbow trout throughout the spring and summer months in an effort to bolster the numbers of fish and attract more angles from outside the state.
Unlike other waterways in Arkansas, the Little Red River is overflowing with huge numbers of various wildlife that include fish, insects, and countless other critters that roam the banks and forest lands along the edges of the river’s 82 miles.
Trout in the Little Red River, as well as other species of game fish, have the opportunity to forage on the abundant numbers of insects and smaller prey that call the river home. It is this reason that rainbows and brown trout are able to grow to massive sizes in the Little Red River.
When to Fish for Little Red River Trout
The state of Arkansas is known to have a moderately warm climate for much of the year, which is one of the reasons why fly fishing is a productive form of angling on the Little Red River throughout any time of the year.
Like other rivers in the Natural State, trout fishing is typically more productive as the summer heat fades into the cooler months of autumn.
Once the winter season takes hold of the river, trout are usually in the middle of their annual spawn and fly fishing anglers are known to take advantage of this incredibly-productive season each year.
Despite the fact that frigid temperatures often grip the state for days or weeks at time during the winter months, the waters of the Little Red River are capable of staying at or very near a more consistent temperature thanks to the tail-waters below the dam.
This is part of why so many anglers brave the chilly conditions and wade into the waters of the Little Red River each winter to go fly fishing.
Anglers who live near the river and regularly fish in the waters of the Little Red River are well-aware that the winter months are more productive for brown trout while the spring gives new life to the rainbow trout bite.
Like other trout fishing rivers in Arkansas and the surrounding states, the sudden changes in water levels due to the dam’s release can make fly fishing in waist-deep water quite dangerous at any time of the year—especially for fly anglers who are not aware of the usual signs that the water level is about to rise rapidly in a certain area of the river.
This is why so many anglers, fly fishing enthusiasts, as well as those who opt for spinning rods and reels, generally prefer to fish from a small boat or canoe.
Fly Hatches on the Little Red River
The Little Red River might not have the many different types of fly hatches during a single year that other prominent fly fishing rivers experience, but anglers will do well to pay close attention to the hatches that occur and understand how to utilize them to their advantage.
Midges hatch in large numbers on the Little Red River, but there are very few other types of insects who emerge in such great numbers as the blue-winged olives, mayflies, and other types of critters.
Blue-winged olives generally hatch in the fall, which makes this a prime time to take advantage of this hatch, as well as brown trout who are preparing to spawn in the Little Red River. It is during this time that many fly anglers sight fish with nymphs and manage to catch hungry and aggressive browns and rainbow trout.
Caddis flies usually hatch around the middle of March and will continue to do so well into the summer, typically ending around mid-June. Midges are known to hatch throughout the entire year, but January and February are perhaps the most prominent times of the year for these variations of insects that trout like to eat.
What Flies to Use for Little Red River Trout
Like the nearby White River that joins the Little Red River at one point, anglers have always been known to catch massive trout using larger-sized flies than they might normally employ at any other river.
This is mainly due to the fact that the river is home to an abundant number of large insects, but is more likely tied to the general consensus that trout in the Little Red River have so many different types of food to choose from, they often overlook smaller flies as not being worth their effort.
Many experienced anglers who regularly fish along the Little Red River recommend using larger flies when the water level is up. Sow bugs, midges and other types of similar flies are best used when the water level is down due to less rainfall and other factors.
Sight fishing is very productive on the Little Red River when water levels are low, so nymphing is another very popular tactic used by fly fishing enthusiasts.