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 flows 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 greatest trout fishing destinations in the country. Anglers descend on this mecca for both numbers and the chance at a trout of a lifetime.

For nearly 30 years, I’ve been returning to the White River and Gaston’s Resort because I’ve yet to find a place more suited for refreshing my soul. The fishing, the food and the cozy riverside cabins combine to create the perfect place to escape the hustle of everyday life.

The entire region is an outdoor masterpiece. Bull Shoals Reservoir is outstanding for bass, crappie, walleye and more. For pleasure boating and water sports, few places compare. As an Army Corps impoundment, the shoreline remains pristine. It is easy to escape the crowd on this massive body of water. The region is inviting.

There is a freedom in these Ozark Mountains. It’s a mild wilderness. Where you breathe clean air, fish and swim in clean water, wander bountiful forests, watch eagles fly, know bears roam, hear elk bugle and let your spirits soar. This is a destination where special memories are made. Where families gather and old friends find time to reconnect.

I met Jeremy Hunt over a decade ago when he was guiding on Lake Taneycomo in Branson, Missouri. I immediately was drawn to his depth of fly fishing knowledge and his gregarious nature. Now he’s 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 tier. He sells his flies from the shop and online. Together with Lisa and a crew of tiers, they sell wholesale to other shops as well. No one ever said living your dream is easy work. But Jeremy proves each day – it’s gratifying.

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

Traditional? No. Effective? Oh yeah.

Customers keep the shop hopping. Seeking knowledge and equipment, Jeremy provides both. He’s not short on stories. Take this man’s advice on what to use and where to use it. Streamers are a prize on the White. Flys and Guides offers the ones you need. Don’t know which color to use under which conditions? Jeremy does. Let him set you up. Strip streamers for giant browns. Hook one and you’ll be changed for life.

Just to the east of Mountain Home is the Norfork River. The short gem of a tailwater is loaded with trout. Flowing into it at the dam is Dry Run Creek. A special water set aside to offer youth anglers the real chance at the trout of the lifetime, just as the Norfork River offers the same to us all.

Norfork is one of those rivers you can’t get enough of. When it’s on, it’s on like nowhere else. It doesn’t matter if you’re a traditionalist fly angler or spinning rod aficionado, the Norfork has it all. Swift runs, long riffles, sharp drops, deep 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 right, and I don’t know what river can compare. Rainbows, browns, brookies and cutthroat can all end up on your line at any time. Rare tiger trout and golden trout offer the occasional surprise. Accidental walleyes and bass please trout fishermen from time to time.

One does not have to be a fly fisherman to enjoy trout fishing. Too often anglers are at odds over methods. These waters invite all. Regardless of preference, fisherman of all ilks come to wet a line, bend a rod and beam with pride and joy as they bring another trout to net.

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

To experience the Bull Shoals Region is to experience a fishing destination like few others in America. With the 50,000 acre reservoir, the White River, Norfork Reservoir, the Norfork River, Dry Run Creek, and two additional must-fish destinations in the Buffalo River and Crooked Creek, one simply has to make the trip to this region or their bucket list will never be complete. Once you do, once you leave with memories of this special place, you’ll be back to make more.

See you down the trail …