AR HeadHunters

Guided Fly Fishing on the White and Norfork Rivers

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Product Review-Yeti Cushion

I've been shopping for a while for a cushioned top to install on my Yeti to make it a more comfortable seating option. Yeti produces a solid white option for $130 but I was unimpressed and kicked the idea around of making one. During upholstery 201 I stumbled across a website of gentleman in San Antonio that was already custom producing them cheaper than the Yeti offering.

The website makes it a breeze to build your customized cushion with several options and a ton of different colors schemes to choose from. The owner reached out to confirm my purchase almost immediately and gave me a timeline to receive my cushion of around two weeks. He had the cushion on my doorstep right on time.  If you're in the market for a great way to customize your Yeti or any other high end cooler give Rusty a chance to impress you.




Project Healing Waters - Lake Taneycomo





I had the opportunity to spend a few days guiding some of our nations finest last week and had an absolute great time.  These guys were all chomping to get on the water and start catching trout and Lake Tanycomo didn't disappoint.  Despite the hot temperatures and super clear water we were able to catch fish the entire trip.  The high water in the afternoon allowed for a slight cool down and really got the bigger rainbows biting.  We spent most of our time drifting from the cable down to the MDC boat ramp and caught fish the whole way down.  In the mornings, we had up to 10 boats all jockeying for position on the low water up around the MDC boat ramp.  That area fished well but the takes were very subtle and barely noticeable on the indicators.  Several of us were standing up high in the boats to watch the fish take to tell our fisherman to SET!  It was some of the loudest fly fishing I've ever seen but those veterans were having a great time and hated to see our time on the river end. 

A boating accident Tuesday afternoon was a tragic reminder that these tailwaters are to be respected.  Accidents can happen so quickly on these rivers and it only takes a mistake or two to have a great day or trip end in tragedy.  My thoughts and prayers go out to Father Gary Bernhardt's family.  Father Gary was on the PHW trip as a volunteer and had gone out to fish with a couple of other sponsors.  A line from their boat got tangled in a tree and in the process of attempting to free the line the boat was capsized. 

Make boating safety a priority for your next trip.  If you question whether an action is safe then you already know the answer, don't chance it. 


Hopper Fishing

Mother Nature has turned the thermostat up and the rain has all but disappeared from the forecast and while the days are hot the hopper fishing is just starting to crank up.  Once we start drying out from the spring rains the hoppers start migrating to the river banks in search of green vegetation sending the fish in search of an easy meal dropping from above.  To me, there’s nothing more exciting than watching a big brown slam a foam hopper the instant it hits the water.  The urge to raise the rod will generally get me on my first few fish of the year but once I get the adrenaline under control it’s hopper time through the first heavy frost. 


On guide trips on the White River we would generally nymph fish the lower morning flows followed with banging the banks after lunch with the foam.  An alternative is to fish a hopper dropper rig with a size 16 or 18 midge tied to the bend of the hopper allowing us to hopper fish all day. 


While the hoppers get most of the attention relative to terrestrial fishing, beetles, ants and other terrestrials deserve a shot as well if the hopper fishing is slow.  That’s especially true early in the season.  The Beaver Tailwaters is a great place to go through beetles and ants to rising fish. 


I have hopper trips available all summer so get in touch with me when you’re ready to go!


AR HeadHunters

Brad Smith

Guided Fly Fishing Trip-What to Expect

If you’ve never taken a trip with a fly fishing guide you might not know what to expect.  Where will we fish?  How will we fish?  Will the water be low or high?  The fun part is the guide doesn’t always know either.  The White River Tailwater system is a complex grouping of several agencies working together to maintain power and flood control over a large geographical area.  While “forecasts” are available through SWPA they aren’t always adhered to. 


Due to travel, most trips are going to be booked in advance leaving you to fish the available water at the time of your trip.  The advantage to booking a guide trip on the White River is the length of the system allows opportunities to follow prime water downstream for the style of fishing a client would like to hone in on.  We constantly monitor water flows and understand the dynamics of fishing a tailwater fishery.    


 Sometimes the water just isn’t available to fish the way a client would like, big articulated streamer fishing being the most affected.  That doesn’t mean the day should be a bust.  Lower flows means opportunities at sight fishing to large fish, potential for dry fly fishing and in general just makes the river a prettier place to enjoy.  The ability to adapt to given water situations is the main reason to hire a fly fishing guide to learn the nuances of the river. 


Angler ability also plays a major role in how a day will be fished.  Everybody wants to come throw big streamers until they actually have that eight weight rod in hand with a sink tip line throwing a six inch plus fly.  Honesty about your casing ability will really make your day more rewarding.  If you’re interested in a streamer or hopper trip make sure you put in the practice to make sure you’re prepared to maximize your day on the water.  A morning of indicator fishing followed with an afternoon of hopper or streamer fishing is a great approach to maximizing your time on the water.   


Nymph fishing is the mainstay of the White River Tailwaters and is a skill that anybody can pick up with a few quick pointers.  If you want a great introduction to fly fishing that anybody can do this is the way to get started.  No real casting skills are required so your guide can have you on fish from the start of the day.  In the summer especially, flows begin to increase with the heat of the day opening up opportunities at hopper or streamer fishing as your casting improves through the day if that is something that interests you.  Otherwise we just increase the tippet length, add a little more weight and fish on.  A two day trip is a great way to get introduced to fly fishing as you have time overnight to think about the skills you picked up during the day with still another day to employ them.


Taking a guided fly fishing trip is a great way to cut the learning curve whether you’re taking your first trip or ready tackle a new skill set.  There’s no better place to cut your teeth than the cool waters of the White River.  We have dates available in July and August.


AR HeadHunters

Brad Smith    

Articulated Streamers

 Streamer Fishing

If you’ve been paying attention the last couple of years you will have noticed a number of great grip and grins featuring huge brown trout with half a chicken hanging from their mouths.  Streamer fishing, in particular larger articulated streamers, has jumped in popularity ever since the high water years starting back in 2008 and for good reason.  It’s the best shot on the river to hook up with a fish of a lifetime given proper conditions. 

Fishing small streamers like muddlers, clousers and sculpin patterns isn’t anything new but chunking an 8” fly on a trout stream doesn’t seem to match any hatch you would think you would normally encounter.  That is until you realize the hatch your matching is the fish you normally catch.  These predatory fish are too large to spend their day sorting scuds, midges and whatever else makes its way down the river.  These fish are plenty large to take stocker size rainbows and many spend their days laid up downstream of the trout docks feeding on the guts and carcasses of cleaned trout.

When to Fish Streamers

While I’m typing I’m watching a rainstorm headed to hopefully raise the lake levels back into the wade fisherman’s dreaded flood pool stage again.  While it’s a course to the ground bound those with boats can't wait to fish the big flows.  Winter is often considered streamer season and that’s a shame.  While bigger flows and hungry browns do occur post spawn, these guys eat year round and will take a streamer at any time of the year.  Flows above 10,000cfs are ideal but you can fish smaller streamer patterns on the lower flows down to around 5,000cfs on the White.  I would rather nymph fish on flows any lower than that as the numbers just really start to fall off.  The Norfork fishes well with streamers with one or both units running.  

Where to Fish Streamers

 With the bigger flows casts need to be concentrated to the shoreline and any adjacent structure.  Chunk boulders, log jams and boat docks make great current breaks for these predators to wait for their prey.  Lower flows will spread the fish throughout the river.  Covered gravel bars and grass flats are great places to start probing in the lower flows.  Casting through the quick shoal water is often affective as well.   

 What Equipment to Fish Streamers

Your rod choice will depend on the flies you intend to throw but I generally use an eight weight on the heavier flows with a sink tip line and a six or seven weight rod with a shorter sink tip or a floating line on the lower flows.  If you’re serious about fishing large streamers this is where to invest in that high dollar rod.  While it’s nice to have a sweet stick to indicator fish you’ll never cast it like you will your streamer rod. 

I like to use a 24” furled leader with around 36” of 10lb tippet on the heavier flows.  On lighter flows I’ll either extend the tippet or switch to a tapered 9’ leader.  I concern myself less with what patterns to throw and worry more about the water column I intend to fish relative to flow.  With one unit on the Norfork or two to three units on the White a Zoo Cougar has been very effective teamed with a 9’ tapered leader fishing covered gravel and grass or fishing through the shoals.  When the water continues up it’s time to start banging the bank with larger articulated flies with the furled leader to help turn them over.  A black S. Dungeon is generally my first choice followed by the Double Deceiver.  Brian Wise of Fly Fishing the Ozarks has the absolute best tying videos for most of the popular articulated streamers. 

How to Fish Streamers

You really need a boat to effectively fish the larger flows with large articulated streamers.  While you can wade fish some of the lighter flows you’ll be extremely limited on your choice of water.  Fishing from the boat we’re constantly fishing to fresh fish giving you the best opportunity to catch the fish of a lifetime.  The jerk strip .popularized by Kelly Galloup, is another important aspect to getting hooked up so definitely look it up.  He has a DVD available through Netflix.  The jerk strip puts the articulation to life allowing the fly to dart and stall like a jerk bait would be used on a spinning rod.  The flailing darting action is the key to a great streamer pattern.


Streamer fishing is often regarded as “Hero or Zero Fishing” and while that can be true the hero portion of the equation eliminates any days of zeroes.  If you’re ready to go find a true river monster contact me for information on booking a guided streamer trip on the White or Norfork Rivers. 


AR HeadHunters

Brad Smith  





Brad Smith

Call or Text: 479-283-8490