EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. – It seemed like the trout were teasing me.
Every afternoon while sitting and sipping iced tea on the back porch swing of my cabin at Spider Creek Resort (my Mayberry time as I called it), I would watch the silhouettes of rainbow trout swimming in the White River below.
Most of the time, I could see the shadowy figures of at least a half-dozen rainbows from the bluff above when the river was low.
At night, I could hear them flopping in the water from that porch swing. I imagined they were calling me out like a gunfighter on the streets of Dodge City, daring me to catch ‘em.
I never waited until high noon. Each morning after sunrise, armed with a spinning rod and jars of Berkley Power Bait, I marched myself to the river to battle the rainbows in the White River below the Beaver Lake Dam, except for the one morning when my weapon of choice was a fly rod.
I won my share of battles, but everyone catches trout on the amazing tailwaters of the White River system, from Lake Taneycomo in Branson, Mo., to below Bull Shoals Lake and Beaver Lake in northwest Arkansas.
For five splendid days of vacation last month, my family and I caught and cooked trout on the White River below Beaver Dam, just 17 miles from the Arkansas-Missouri line.
Actually, we only kept a limit on the first day which was plenty for the week's dinner table. The rest of the time was catch and release.
It was near 100 degrees that week but hardly noticeable when you are wading waist deep in the chilling waters of the White River with a fly or spinning rod in your hand.
My 17-year-old daughter, Katie, earned bragging rights for the biggest rainbow, a 17-inch beauty caught on a guide trip booked at the Beaver Dam Store near Spider Creek Resort. The rest of the time, we fished on the banks of the river that runs through the resort.
One morning I followed Jim Sinclair, who guides and gives fly fishing lessons out of the Beaver Dam Store, to one of his favorite spots on the river where it bottlenecks and the trout congregate. Sinclair was schooled in fly fishing at age 12 by his grandfather. That was more than four decades ago.
After watching him cast a fly line like Will Rogers would dance a rope, I decided that life was best spent hip-deep in a river with a fly rod in hand.
We played with trout all morning until the whistle blew to warn everyone on the river the powerhouse at Beaver Dam would begin generating soon. It was our signal to get off the river before the water started rising.
When I wasn't gazing at the trout swimming by, I would sit in the porch swing and watch the other Ozark Mountain wildlife such as white-tailed deer, fox, beaver and raccoons.
My 13-year-old daughter, Kaci, spent her spare time skipping stones and chasing lightning bugs, but she had more luck catching trout. My wife, Linda, kept a sharp eye out for the spiders and some of the most aggressive wasps I've ever seen.
Spider Creek Resort and other outfitters in the area offer canoe and kayak rentals, and many people simply enjoyed paddling down the White River. A parade would come by my cabin each afternoon.
They say trout don't live in ugly places, and that's especially true in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. Catching them is a bonus. Just being there is enough to enrich the soul.
Spider Creek Resort is owned by an Oklahoman, Peter Godfrey (no relation), who splits his time between Madill and Eureka Springs. His father bought the property 32 years ago, and the family has been gradually buying more land and adding more cabins ever since. The bank and wade fishing is excellent there.
Beaver Lake is best known as a trophy striper fishery, but the locals say the walleye fishing has been coming on strong in the last two years, although they really didn't want me to share that piece of information.
But it's the trout fishing that draws most of the tourists. The Beaver Lake tailwaters are best known for rainbows, but it also is stocked with brown trout.
I was told the browns start biting better in the fall on the White River, which is legendary for producing trophy browns. Autumn is supposed to be the best time to try and catch a big brown trout on a fly.
Luckily, I have more vacation days remaining.
To learn more
For more information on Spider Creek Resort, visit www.spidercreek.com or call 1-800-272-6034.
For information about guided wading or drift fishing trips in a boat on the White River below Beaver Dam, email the Beaver Dam Store at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.beaverdamstore.net or call (479) 253-6154.