|Why Are The Trout Doing This?
Starting in late September or early October of every year, trout inhabiting the North Fork
and White Rivers start their run into Dry Run Creek. They are not spawning. They are
seeking oxygen rich water so they can breath. Trout by the thousands concentrate in Dry
Run Creek, and a half-mile stretch of the North Fork River downstream from Dry Run.
Trout continue to concentrate in Dry Run through November and early December.
Around Christmas, and lasting through January they begin swimming back out into the
North Fork and White Rivers to spawn, which lasts through most of February. By March the
fish are extremely hungry.
Some of the best trophy trout fishing in the world can be enjoyed
along the upper North Fork River from October through March. This is because you can catch
brown, rainbow, cutthroat, and brook trout as they swim to, and back from, Dry Run Creek.
The rate at which the trout move is quite slow. Since the fish are
already just slightly sluggish from lowered dissolved oxygen levels in the water, they
conserve energy by swimming slowly and resting frequently. They can take up to a week to
swim four miles.
The further upstream they go, the larger, and more concentrated the
schools become. The half-mile stretch from Dry Run Creek downstream becomes filled with
trout by mid October, and stays that way much of November.
Each year the exact time and location of these schools of trout is
not hard to determine, especially if the water is shallow. Depending on generation levels
the water can be quite low. If so, the fish get spooky.
Take Your Children Fishing
Dry Run Creek is open to fishing 365 days a year to children under the age of 16, and to
handicap fishermen. Dry Run is catch and release fishing with single barbless hooks on
artificial baits only. An adult must be present with fishing children at all times.
Several well developed walkways along Dry Run allow to see the trout
up close. Since Dry Run is not much more than 20 feet wide in most spots, and since it is
rarely deeper than two or three feet, your child does not have to be an expert caster.
On several occasions we have watched children catch trout after
trout after trout, one after the other. A trophy trout is any fish weighing three pounds
or more, or a trout at least 18 inches long. It is not unusual for a child to catch
several this size and larger in a few hours of fishing. After a day on Dry Run children
understandably develop high expectations for trout fishing anywhere else!
Fishing For Adults
While it is not legal for adults to fish in Dry Run, there is still good news here. Where
Dry Run flows into the North Fork River, which is just below Norfork Dam, the fishing is
great too. And you can't beat the smooth, paved access here. Shaded picnic tables and
parking spots line the bank.
Depending on generation levels, wade fishing can be spectacular
here. You can wade for several hundred yards. Fishing out of boats is also excellent.
While trout will be swimming the entire river, they are concentrated along that half-mile
stretch from Dry Run down to Gene's Resort.
You have two excellent choices. Fish as the trout are moving up into
Dry Run, or again when they are moving back out into the rivers. Generally speaking, they
are moving into that half-mile stretch in October and November, then moving back out in
December and January.
Why Are The Trout Doing This?
As mentioned above, it is not about spawning. The trout do spawn, but not in Dry Run. In
early fall the dissolved oxygen in the rivers that trout need to breath drops.
Understandably the fish fear suffocation. Instinctively they head for cool, shallow creeks
where dissolved oxygen levels are high. In shallow creeks like Dry Run, water flowing over
rocks stirs oxygen into the water in large amounts. The trout will lay in the oxygen rich
waters of Dry Run for weeks, gaining strength for their coming spawn.
The Trout Come From Miles Around
The trout filling Dry Run Creek come from both the North Fork River and the White River.
Four miles below Norfork Dam the North Fork flows into the White River. Trout from
upstream and downstream in the White make their way into the North Fork at this
How Do They Know Where To Go?
When dissolved oxygen levels drop, trout in the White River will swim around seeking
higher oxygen concentrations. They will move upstream and downstream until they smell or
sense what they are looking for. Once onto the scent they follow it.
The water in Dry Run Creek comes from deep within Norfork Lake.
Large pipes carry millions of gallons of water per day into the fish runs at the Norfork
National Fish Hatchery. Because trout need a lot of fresh, cold, oxygen rich water, the
lake water flows through the hatchery right back out into Dry Run Creek. Several large
discharge pipes from the hatchery tanks make waterfalls into Dry Run.
The hatchery water has it's own unique scent. This scent makes it
down into the White. Many of the large trout you'll see at the falls have made this trip
several times in their life. Since all trout of all sizes and ages start seeking higher
oxygen levels at the same time, the younger trout, sensing the older trout are on to
something, follow these older fish. Like migrating young geese following the old wise
gander at the head of the formation, these young trout learn the scent and purpose of Dry
What Moves Them Back Out?
The natural food supply in Dry Run Creek does not last very long once the trout schools
move in. Trout will go weeks without eating much. Eventually hunger gets the best of them
and they start moving back out into the rivers. By this time cool weather has corrected
the low dissolved oxygen condition in the rivers and trout can once again breath
comfortably. So in their quest for food they also discover oxygen, and the migration
begins all over again, but in the opposite direction.
As you can imagine, hungry trout by the thousands in a small area creates a fisherman's
fantasy. And yes, many of the trout are quite large. Keep in mind that the All Tackle
World Record brown trout was caught in the North Fork River. The record stood for many
years, and still holds third place as the largest brown trout ever caught.
If you want to experience this phenomena you'll need to brave winter waters. The good news
is that many winter days in Arkansas are well above freezing. December and January daytime
temperatures are usually in the 40's and 50's, with several days hitting 60F. Whether
you're a fly fisher or spin fisher, if you have never fished the North Fork or White, we
highly recommend spending a day fishing with a professional guide.
Boat, Bank, or Wade Fishing
While many fly fishers refuse to fish out of a boat, many more are very willing to do so,
and it works very well. If the water is high due to generation, a boat is a must if you
want to fish more than just a few bank spots. Actually a boat is a great way to fish
anytime. Fly fishers and spin fisher alike use the boat to reach fishing holes accessible
no other way. They beach the boat, then wade fish an area, then move on.
If you stay at Gene's Trout
Fishing Resort you'll have several options. First, Gene's Resort is right on the main
honey hole. You can walk down their sidewalks to fish from the bank, wade fish, rent
a boat, or go with a guide. For a truly versatile fishing experience you'll want all these
choices. The main public access to the North Fork river is one-half mile from Gene's
Watching Trout At The Falls
Whether you fish or not, you'll enjoy watching these trout attempt to clear the falls. And
access to the falls is very easy. Drive to the Norfork National Trout Hatchery at the base
of Norfork Dam. Tour the hatchery, go for a walk along Dry Run Creek. Then drive across
the road from the hatchery. Pull into Quarry Park right across the road from where you
leave the hatchery. As soon as you pull into Quarry Park you'll see a small parking lot
large enough for about four cars. Pull in here. Walk toward the trees and you'll see a set
of wooden steps going down to the creek. These lead right down to the falls. Stand down
there for a few minutes and you'll see the trout doing their thing. The best month for
this is October. You'll see a few leaping in November, but in no other month of
You'll see rainbow, browns, and cutthroats in action. While brook
trout come up to the base of the falls, for some reason they do not leap.