Fly fishing gear

Brandon Butler: Bull Shoals, a special fishing destination

The White River in northwest Arkansas is where my love of trout fishing was born. This world-class fishery stretches from the base of Bull Shoals Dam southeast to its confluence with the Mississippi. The upper 30 miles of the White is one of the nation’s greatest trout fishing destinations. Anglers descend on this mecca for both the numbers and the chance of catching a trout of a lifetime.

For almost 30 years I have been returning to White River and Gaston’s Resort because I have yet to find a more suitable place to refresh my soul. Fishing, food and cozy riverside cabins combine to create the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

The whole area is an outdoor masterpiece. The Bull Shoals Reservoir is exceptional for bass, crappie, walleye and more. For boating and water sports, few places compare. As an army corps retainer, the shore remains pristine. It’s easy to escape the crowds on this huge body of water. The area is inviting.

There is freedom in these Ozark Mountains. It’s a sweet desert. Where you breathe clean air, fish and swim in clean water, walk through lush forests, watch eagles soar, know bears roam, hear the bugle of elk and let your spirit soar. It is a destination where special memories are created. Where families gather and old friends find time to reconnect.

I met Jeremy Hunt over ten years ago while guiding on Lake Taneycomo in Branson, Missouri. I was immediately drawn to his extensive knowledge of fly fishing and his gregarious nature. Now he is living his dream on the White River as the owner of Flys and Guides, where he and his partner Lisa Bellue run a first class fly shop and guide service.

Jeremy is an expert fly tyer. He sells his flies in stores and online. Along with Lisa and a team of third parties, they also wholesale to other stores. No one ever said living your dream was easy work. But Jeremy proves it every day, it’s rewarding.

As a master of his craft, Jeremy takes pride in every fly he makes, knowing it could be the one that connects an angler to a fish and a moment they will never forget. The Miracle Fly is an egg model tied on a jig head.

Traditional? No. Efficient ? Oh yeah.

Customers run the store. Seeking knowledge and equipment, Jeremy provides both. He is not short of stories. Take this man’s advice on what to use and where to use it. Streamers are a price on white. Flys and Guides has the ones you need. You don’t know which color to use in which conditions? Jeremy does. Let him settle in. Band streamers for giant browns. Hang one and you will be changed for life.

Just east of Mountain Home is the Norfork River. The little gem of a downstream is loaded with trout. Dry Run Creek flows into it at the dam. A special water set aside to give young anglers the real trout chance of a lifetime, just as the River Norfork gives the same to us all.

Norfork is one of those rivers you never get tired of. When it’s on, it’s like nowhere else. It doesn’t matter if you are a traditionalist fly fisherman or a spinning rod enthusiast, the Norfork has it all. Fast runs, long rapids, steep drops, plunge pools and lots and lots of trout.

The Norfork is more intimate than the White River. It’s smaller, but like dynamite, it’s explosive. Catch the Norfork when the conditions are good, and I don’t know what river can compare. Rainbows, browns, brookies and cutthroats can all end up on your line at any time. Rare tiger trout and golden trout provide the occasional surprise. Walleyes and incidental bass occasionally please trout anglers.

You don’t have to be a fly fisherman to enjoy trout fishing. Too often, fishermen disagree on methods. These waters invite everyone. Regardless of their preferences, anglers of all stripes come to set a line, bend a rod and beam with pride and joy as they net another trout.

Waters this perfect deserve the utmost respect. If you want trout for the frying pan, there is a reserve of stockers for this purpose. Please release the trophies. Handle them with care so they survive to fight another day. A replica mount is a superior option for killing a magnificent fish.

To experience the Bull Shoals area is to discover a fishing destination like few others in America. With the 50,000 acre Reservoir, White River, Norfork Reservoir, Norfork River, Dry Run Creek and two other must see fishing destinations in the Buffalo River and Crooked Creek, just make the trip to this area or their list things to do. will never be complete. Once you do, once you leave with memories of this special place, you will come back to do more.

See you on the trail…