KW Morrow, White River

May 16th, 2005

White River Blues
By Ken Morrow

Well, my long-awaited first day of fishing on the White River in Arkansas finally arrived. A well-known guide who works for the famous Gaston's Resort agreed to show me the ropes on his day off. The plan was to ride the rising water as power generation began in the afternoon in his boat, a 20' river johnboat of the variety so common to these waters. He told me to call him on the cell phone when I reached a certain point on my 77 mile drive from Branson, Missouri, so that he would have time to get the boat ready to launch below Bull Shoals Dam where we were to meet at 11:00 AM.

When I called, he informed me that the dam was not generating, so we were just going to wade the C&R area below the dam. I did have my waders, but I had packed my boat bag instead of my chest pack. I would have to improvise. I quickly laid out a plan to reconfigure some of the gear in the bag that would allow me to wade more efficiently and to leave the WilliamJoseph Gear Bag in the truck. I arrived shortly after 11:00 AM. As is so common in the Ozarks, the public access to the tailrace below Bull Shoals is not marked with signage. He had emailed me directions, and without them I would have had no idea how to get to the river.

We fished from about Noon until 4PM on 0 generators. Then they turned on two. I was amazed by the lack of fish and the small size of the fish after all the stories I've heard over the years. But so was the guide. I got the classic "you shoulda been here yesterday" story several times. Even the fish that were there stopped taking anything we threw at them after the first hour. Fishing was very tough. I caught four trout between 12 and 15 inches in the first hour of fishing... nothing after that. I have to say I am not used to catching so few fish. This was the closest to skunked I have ever been while fly-fishing for trout. Other anglers we talked to were also bewildered by the lack of fish and the lack of bites. But I was impressed with the fight these small Rainbows put up. They were obviously very strong and energetic for their size.

When the generators came on line and the water began to rise, the guide informed me that a 2-generator rise wasn't worth riding. He said he was going home to prepare for the next day's guide trip. Who am I to argue with a gracious host? So our day ended at 4:30 PM with a handshake and a smile.

On another note, I was shocked to see the heavy moss and algae and the phosphorous coating the gravel below the dam. The guide said that it got even worse farther downstream. By comparison, the tailraces below Table Rock Dam and Powersite Dam are pristine. But the state of AR isn't very serious about their water quality issues...and it shows. I hope they have a change of heart in Little Rock in the very near future. It's pretty obvious they've got real problems. I finally had a chance to see firsthand what Fox Statler demonstrated so well in previous Ozark Angler columns. And I must say it was far worse than I had anticipated. All in all, the trip was very anti-climactic...pretty disappointing (insomuch as a day of fishing can disappoint). ~ Ken

About Ken:

Ken graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1988, and spent the next several years serving in the United States Navy as an intelligence analyst and Russian Language translator. He is a veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Leaving the nation's service in 1993.

Ken is also a published outdoor writer and historian, having penned articles and stories that have appeared in several national hunting publications like North American Hunter magazine, on, in regional and local newspapers, and historical and literary journals. He has also provided hunting and dog training seminars for Bass Pro Shops and other sporting goods retailers nationwide. He volunteers his time to Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited, as well as several local charitable organizations. He is also a REALTOR with Coldwell Banker in Branson, Missouri; where he lives with his wife, Wilma, and their Weimaraner, Smoky Joe.

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