2cooleyslogo.gif (4782 bytes) Spectacular Trophy Trout Power
The amazing struggles of big brown, rainbow, and cutthroat trout leaping waterfalls at Dry Run Creek, a tributary of the North Fork and White River near Mountain Home, Arkansas.
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Gene's Trout Fishing Resort, site sponsor, is one-half mile from where the 2Cooleys trout photos were taken.

Why Trout Make Their Annual Run, And How To Fish The Run

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 confluence.

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 Run Creek.

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.

Fishing Action
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.

Winter Fishing
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 Resort.

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 year.

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.

 

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