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Pole-bending rainbows: Arkansas' White River lives up to its reputation

There were rainbow trout aplenty during a recent trip to the northwestern part of the state.
by Ed Godfrey Modified: July 7, 2012 at 10:34 pm •  Published: July 7, 2012

photo - Fly fisherman Jim Sinclair hooks a rainbow trout on the White River below the Beaver Lake dam near Eureka Springs, Ark. PHOTO BY ED GODFREY, THE OKLAHOMAN
Fly fisherman Jim Sinclair hooks a rainbow trout on the White River below the Beaver Lake dam near Eureka Springs, Ark. PHOTO BY ED GODFREY, THE OKLAHOMAN

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.

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by Ed Godfrey
Copy Editor, Outdoors Editor, Rodeo, River Sports Reporter
Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more...
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To learn more

For more information on Spider Creek Resort, visit 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, visit or call (479) 253-6154.


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