WORDS and IMAGES Scott Faldon
Most people think of the White River and Cotter, Arkansas when you mention trout fishing in our area. And while that area is certainly ripe with trout, this means other great trout water often gets overlooked. There’s the White River below Beaver Dam outside of Eureka Springs, the Lower Illinois below Tenkiller Dam near Gore, Oklahoma, Roaring River State Park in Missouri and the Lower Mountain Fork River near Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Most recently, we explored the Lower Mountain Fork River (LMF) and were impressed with the area.
Lower Mountain Fork River flows through Beavers Bend State Park. Two dams release water from Broken Bow Lake into the LMF. The first creates the river, while the second generates hydroelectricity. The hydroelectric dam is located about eleven miles downstream from the cold-water release. This means as long as you’re upstream from the hydroelectric dam, your fishing won’t be affected if they begin generating water. This isn’t much of a consideration in the winter, but it is in the hot summer months.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife stocks the LMF with rainbow trout all year and this year added 12,000 brown trout. Thanks to the stocking efforts, there are now reproducing populations of browns and rainbows in the river. That eleven-mile stretch inside the state park is divided in Blue and Red Zones with different regulations for each. Check with the park and pick up a map so you’ll know the different regs as you move from spot to spot.
Being just three hours away from Dallas-Fort Worth means Beavers Bend’s parking lots fill with vehicles with Texas license plates on the weekends. But if you can sneak down there during the week, you’ll usually have large sections of the river to yourself.
While it’s possible to keep your feet dry and fish from the numerous trails along the water’s edge, the best option is donning waders and easing into the river. This cuts down the distance you’ve got to cast, which means you’ll be more accurate. A good 4-weight fly rod from Temple Fork Outfitters, Orvis, Sage or Scott is a great selection for the LMF. Waders and boots from Simms and Orvis will keep you dry and – most importantly on the algae-covered rocks – sure-footed.
During our trip we found the best method for catching trout was with a two-fly rig. First, tie a Girdle Bug to the end of your leader. Next, tie an 18-inch section of tippet onto the bend of the Girdle Bug’s hook using a clinch knot or Orvis knot. Then add a Manhattan Midge. An Airlock Strike Indicator then goes above the Girdle Bug – with the location on the line being dependent on how deep you’re wanting to fish. All the usual suspect flies (Wooly Buggers, San Juan Worms and Eggs) came into play as well. But on that day, the Manhattan Midge did most of the work.
A common tactic at LMF is to begin at the spillway just below the dam and fish your way downstream. An abundance of parking lots, bridges and walking paths make this easy to do. Once you’ve bounced around a few times, head back to where you’ve had the most bites or where you ran into the biggest fish to end the day.
For us, that meant circling back to a section of the river called Evening Hole. With a large parking area and a huge scree field between a bend in the river, it’s a popular spot with families, casual anglers and flyheads. The river makes a hard right as it hits the base of a sheer bluff and deepens – which means bigger fish often stake out that location to catch an easy meal. A nice brown hit on a midge but managed to throw the hook before it was netted.
When handling your catch, keep the fish in the wet. This means holding it in the water in your net while you are unhooking the fly and your fishing partner is getting their phone ready for the photos. Return it to the water as soon as possible to ensure it remains healthy.
Hochatown, located just outside the state park, has exploded in the past decade with hundreds of rental cabins being built. Of course, Beavers Bend State Park also has a lodge, cabins, RV hookups and primitive camp sites available to rent as well. Restaurant options are plentiful and the region has seen a major influx of tourists over the years.
Whether you’re new to fly fishing or an experienced angler, we’d love to visit and help plan your next adventure. Visit The Woodsman Company in Fort Smith, Arkansas for all your outdoor needs!
The Woodsman Company
5609 Rogers Avenue, Fort Smith, Arkansas