Species At This Location:
Trout Brook
Trout Brown
Trout CutThroat
Trout Rainbow

The easiest way to access the upper White River access points for the 18-mile stretch discussed on this page follow. Mountain Home is the largest nearby town, which is located in the northern center of Arkansas just below the Missouri/Arkansas border. The area is pretty remote with very few roads, and the nearest airport is 2.5 hours away.

From Little Rock:
Take I-40 west from Little Rock to Conway. At Conway, exit north onto Highway 65. After Marshall turn right on Hwy 265 (watch close for this one) and take it to Yellville. At Yellville turn right on Highway 62/412, which goes through Flippin, Cotter and, finally, Mountain Home.(WGS84, N36.33210 W92.38434)

From Memphis:Take I-29 north from Memphis, exit west at Highway 63 and go through Jonesboro to Hardy. At Hardy turn left on Highway 62/412, and continue to Mountain Home.

To Bull Shoals Dam area: From Mountain Home, take Highway 5 north to Midway. Turn left on Hwy 178. Just before crossing Bull Shoals Dam, turn left and follow signs to the Access.

To White Hole area: From Mountain Home, take Hwy 62/412 west to Flippin (you will cross the White River near Cotter). At Flippin take Business Route 62 into town. Turn right on Hwy 178. At Fairview (a few miles north of Flippin) turn right at the sign for White Hole Fishing Access, and follow signs to the river.(WGS84  White Hole Access & Hwy 178 N36.33315 W92.60448)

To Wildcat Shoals area: From Mountain Home, take Highway 62/412 west through Gassville. About 1.5 miles west of Gassville, turn right on County Road #1, and follow signs about 4 miles to the Wildcat Access.(WGS84 N36.30759 W92.57659

To Cotter area: From Mountain Home, take Highway 62/412 west through Gassville. About 1.5 miles west of Gassville, turn left on Business Route 62 into Cotter. Follow signs to Cotter Access and Boat Ramp. Some signs say 'Cold Springs Access.'(Cotter WGS84 N36.30957 W92.51903)

Below, happy anglers Ron Yarborough and Justin Cordonnierand catch a brown trout on Arkansas' upper White River.

In total, the White River runs 722 miles through Arkansas and Missouri. On the portion of river discussed herein, an 18-mile stretch on the upper White River, it's an artificial situation in that you don't know what the water level will be from day to day due to the nearby dam generators. As such, if you approach the river uninformed it can be dangerous.

The first thing you need to know about this fishery is there are hydro-electric dams used to make power. Because of this, tail waters can fluctuate dramatically every day. And there is no way to know ahead of time how many generators will run each day because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does not broadcast their anticipated flows.

The fastest the water can move coming out of the dam is 4 miles an hour, and it takes 1 hour from no-flow to full generation. This, in turn, flavors just about everything that has to do with fishing on the upper White River.

This 18-mile stretch covers Bull Shoals Dam down to the town of Cotter. By car or by boat, it is common to cover 30-40 miles in a day to keep up with the generators.

A sample day fishing the upper White River:
32 miles below dam is Buffalo City. If the dam generators are shut off at midnight the night before you hit the fishery, the water will be too high to wade at Buffalo City because it takes 8 hours to rise, so itll take 16 hours to fall in order to be able to wade. A common mistake people make is that they assume that to stay on foot and wade, they'll start farther down the river. However, the opposite is true: If the turbines are shut off, it takes the water about twice as long to fall as it does to rise. Oftentimes, fishers will leapfrog ahead of the water flow and travel 10-15 miles down the road as the water rises.

Don't be put off by the dramatic behavior brought on by the hydro-electric dams. It makes for a great fishing challenge, and the good news is that it's never too warm to support trout on this 18-mile stretch of river.

Fishing at different water levels:
When the river runs at its lowest level, when the turbines are shut down, 300 cfs are running through the dam and there are creeks winding through, which turns the fishery into a fair-sized river. At this lowest level, you can wade bank to bank back and forth across the river.

The situation changes as water rises and falls. Bull Shoals Dam has 8 generators in it, and each generator raises the water level of the river about 1 foot. You can walk bank to bank when it's low, then you put 1 generator on and raise it 1 foot, and when you put 3 generators on, it raises 3 feet. In small areas you can wade, but it is limited.

Once you get above 4-5 generators, the wading is limited and by the time you get to the highest level of 6-8 generators, the only wading you'll find is in prepared areas, where there's a long slope down to the river.

A good way to look at it is most of your wading opportunities are from 1-3 generators, and from 4-8 generators, it increases the boating situation. If you get optimum conditions for wading, the fishing here is incredibly easy. But as the water levels get higher, the situation tends to get more complicated, and fishing guides come into play.

The featured stretch of river is 18 miles in length.

It's a pretty good situation in this area of Arkansas because you really can fish year-round. The mean temp is 63 degrees, according to the area's Chamber of Commerce. The summertime brings hot and humid temperatures, and the wintertime rarely gets to 0 degrees overnight, though it can bring some stormy weather. The most common daytime winter temperatures are 35 degrees to 50 degrees.

Spring and fall are the most popular seasons on the upper White River, at which time it's just gorgeous and the fishing is great. Hatches occur in late spring, and fishing is pretty stable year-round. The most likely items to impact the quality of fishing is when the water flow isn't cooperating with what fishers want it to do, and that it is a busy river.

The easiest fishing for someone not familiar with the area is May through November, which has to do more with the water flows than the quality of the fishing.

Fishing Methods:
View the following detailed chart of wet and dry fly patterns that tend to work well on the upper White River at all times of the year.

Hares Ear Nymph    Sizes 12-16
Various Sowbugs    Sizes 12-16
Squirrel Nymph    Sizes 12-16
March Brown Nymph    Sizes 12-14
Shad            Sizes 4-6
Green Caddis Pupa    Sizes 14-16
Red Ass Soft Hackle    Sizes12-16
Standard Soft Hackles, green/orange    Sizes 14-16

Lt. Cahill        Sizes 14-16
Sulphur Dun        Sizes 16-18
Elk Hair Caddis    Sizes 14-20
Midges         Sizes 18-24

Hares Ear Nymph    Sizes 14-16
Bead Head and Standard Soft Hackles    Sizes 14-16
Various Sowbugs     Sizes 14-18
Bead Head Olive Wooly Bugger    Sizes 8-10
Olive Wooly Bugger    Sizes 10-12
Various Scud & Shrimp        Sizes 12-18
Zebra Midge, black/brown/red    Sizes 18-22
Trout Crack        Size 18

Sulphur Dun        Sizes 16-18
Parachute Adams    Size 18
Hoppers        Sizes 8-10
Midges            Sizes 18-24

Same as summer but add:
Glo-Bug                Size 10
San Juan Worm     Size 10-16

Hoppers        Sizes 10-12
Midges            Sizes 18-24

BRF Gold Matuka    Sizes  4-8
Various Sculpin    Sizes  4-8
Shad            Sizes  4-6
B.H. Olive Wooly Bugger    Sizes  8-10
B.H. Squirrel Nymph    Sizes 10-12
Various Sowbugs    Sizes 14-18
Glo Bug        Size 10
San Juan Worm    Size 10-16

Blue Wing Olive     Sizes 18-20
Midges              Sizes 18-24

Below is a view of an angler on Arkansas' upper White River.

Fishing at the upper White River in Arkansas is good year-round.

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