The White River
Catch four kinds of trout—if you can
You don’t have to be an expert angler to bag your limit in the cold, clear waters of the White River, renowned for the best trout fishing in America. All up and down the lush, green river, rainbow trout practically jump into your boat, courtesy of a federal policy that stocks it with a million and a half farm-raised rainbows every year. But the wily brown trout is a creature of a different stripe. Raised in the river and wise to the ways of fishermen, it is the trophy that expert anglers seek. Get out on the river early, when the heavy fog turns orange with the sunrise, and you might snag a five- or six-pound brown trout—you might even give the 40-pound, four-ounce record some competition. The trout grow to gargantuan sizes here because conditions are ideal—a constant water temperature near 50 degrees year-round and an ample food source
Wild cutthroat and brook trout are also found in these waters, though they’re elusive. The White River is one of the rare places where it’s possible to bag the Grand Slam of trout: brown, rainbow, cutthroat and brook. It was not always like this. The White River used to be a warm-water river with bream, catfish and smallmouth bass, but the building of Bull Shoals Dam in 1951 made the water too cold for the native fish. To make up for it, the federal government agreed to stock trout.
The dam is also what makes conditions so challenging for anglers in search of the brown trout. The waters rise and drop dramatically and unpredictably in a single day, depending on how many of the dam’s generators are open, and finding the best fishing in shifting conditions requires extensive knowledge of the area. You’re better off using professional guides, no matter what your angling expertise.
Some of the best guides can be found at Gaston’s White River Resort, 78 cottages perched on two miles of riverfront with a landing strip for private planes. Decorated with wood panelling and colonial furniture, the cottages offer fireplaces and redwood decks. The restaurant has a ‘you catch ’em, we cook ’em’ policy, but serves plenty of trout dishes for those who didn’t make it out on to the river. You can sign up for fly-fishing classes, too.
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Trip idea text ©Patricia Schultz. For contact information about the places mentioned and many more USA trip ideas, see Patricia Schultz's blockbuster book.