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  • Arkansas

    Did you ever see a place where it's a joy to be on the water just because it looks "fishy"? Arkansas's Little Red River is one of those.
    Created in the early sixties with the closing of the Greer’s Ferry Dam, the Little Red was carefully engineered to provide great trout fishing under federal mitigation orders. After gathering elodea, commonly called coontail, from the nearby Spring River, Arkansas Game and Fish biologists rolled the big round bales off the launch ramp below the dam, followed the next year with sowbugs from the same source. After all this effort the first rainbow trout from the Greers Ferry National Hatchery, just below the dam, were stocked in '65.
    As in any new fishery, the fish grew quickly and by the time I arrived in 1970, rainbows were so well established that we laughed at folks who had to measure their trout instead of weighing them. It took a rainbow of 4-5 lbs. to get any attention and the river record quickly shot up to 16.9 lbs. The current Little Red rainbow record is 18lbs. 10 ozs., caught in 2005.
    There's always those who can't be satisfied! Many fly fishermen wanted brown trout as well but the Game and Fish guys, who stocked browns in Arkansas's White River in the middle '40s, nixed the idea. Brown trout, after all, eat lots of those $12 federal trout from the hatchery. Not to be deterred, those wily fly fishermen (who shall remain nameless) bought brown trout fry from an unknown source and placed them in the Little Red under the cover of darkness one summer night in 1973, following that stocking the next year with several Vibert hatching boxes full of fertilized brown trout eggs.
    Since that time, regulations have been instituted that prohibit such activity but the Little Red has blossomed into the most phenomenal brown trout fishery on the planet with the IGFA world record brown as proof.

    This huge female that probably weighed 43-44 lbs. when caught was certified at 40 lbs. + when it was officially weighed about three days after it was landed in 1993. A scale sample revealed that the fish was 17 years old when caught, putting it in the first age class in the river.
    Sightings of 20-30 lb. browns are fairly common in the clear tailwaters of the Little Red but few fish of this size are landed for reasons any experienced brown trout angler knows. The local fly fishing guides discourage night fishing because in the summer months the river (at 47degrees from under Greer’s Ferry Dam) creates a fog cover so heavy that it's hard to breathe, let alone try to find a way to place your casts effectively. Also, the bigger browns are the brood stock for the river as no brown trout stockings are likely. The more responsible of these guides even refuse to fish the spawning shoals when the browns are on them.
    Let's not neglect the still thriving rainbow fishery on the Little Red. While
    Brown trout are the stars many more rainbows are actually caught, especially by fly fishermen. Hatches of caddis, blue winged olives and other mayfly patterns, midges in the winter and huge populations of sowbugs (scuds), freshwater shrimp, small leeches and snails provide most of the Rainbow forage in the river.
    As in any river, the anglers with the most skill catch the largest rainbows but with a combination of federal and state stockings providing 350,000 fish per year over 45 miles of water, there are rainbows anyone can catch! Bring the kids---it's a great place to teach fly fishing!
    While the fly fishing shoals can become crowded on the weekends when the weather is nice, there's plenty of room after the brown trout spawn is completed in late November and early December.
    Arkansas' mild climate and year-round trout season attract many out-of-state anglers. In the winter and spring months, prepare for wet weather but snow has become a rarity in recent years. Most of the fly fishing done on the river uses pretty standard stuff, a 5-6 weight rod, 5x tippet and 14-18 size flies. Popular patterns include sowbug (scud) patterns, with and without bead heads), Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear, Red Ass, San Juan Worm, Blue Wing Olive, Elk-Hair Caddis, various soft-hackle varieties, etc.
    I usually guide out of Lindsey's Resort located about 2.5 miles below the Dam, (www.lindseysresort.com). Another worthwhile web address is www.greersferrylake.org that will take you to the Greer’s Ferry Lake and Little Red River Association's site, which contains a ton of information about the area. ~ Richard Crawford (richc@aristotle.net)
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