When the cool nights of fall arrive, followed by the icy grip of winter, many trout fisheries turn as cold as the weather. But that’s not the case on most tailwater fisheries because of warmer water being released from the lakes above them.
And it’s definitely not true on Arkansas’ Little Red River. This fishery offers outstanding action for not only good numbers of fish, but also huge browns and rainbows on a year-round basis!
Consider this. The Little Red coughed up a former world-record brown trout in 1992 when an angler landed a 40-pound, 4-ounce fish! Amazingly, he caught it on an olive jig and 4-pound fishing line! Double-digit rainbows are also landed each year, and even the average-size fish is in this river is hefty, since the trout grow at an amazing rate of 1-inch per month.
Once smallmouth water, the Red became a trout fishery after Greers Ferry Dam was built near Heber Springs. Heber Springs is about 70 miles north of Little Rock, Ark. Water released from the dam, ranges from 40- to 55 degrees year-round. Vegetation such as coontail moss nurtures thriving populations of sow bugs, scuds, mayflies, and caddis that grow trout quickly to exceptional sizes. The average trout weighs nearly one pound.
There’s lots of water available, from the tailwaters directly below the dam downstream for 29 miles to the Ramsey Access east of Pangburn. Thousands of trout are stocked each year, but there are plenty of larger holdover fish that draw trophy anglers.
Bait fishing is a popular method. Anglers typically use 2- to 6-pound-test line and just a few split shots for weight. If the generators are running, more weight may be needed. Top offerings are salmon eggs and corn on a No. 10 hook, or night crawlers and wax worms fished on size 6 or 8 hooks.
The best spots to fish with bait include eddies, rock outcroppings and brush piles. Basically, though, almost anywhere in the river can produce fish. Anchor and still fish when the power is off or when just one generator is running. Drift fishing is better when two generators are being operated at the dam.
Casting lures is also productive on the Little Red River. Spinners, crank baits, small minnow plugs, and jigs are all excellent choices. Cast these lures towards the shoreline, rocks, weed beds, and eddies. Usually a slow steady retrieve is best.
Trolling can also be a deadly tactic. Use a light to medium-action rod and 4- to 8-pound line. Try minnow lures such as the Rebel or Rapala, small spoons and banana-shaped wobblers such as Kwikfish or Flatfish.
Fly fishermen enjoy the best luck when no power is being generated. Wading is safest and most effective then. The weekends usually see power turned off at the generators, and late afternoon is also a good time most days when power needs have been met.
Dry fly fishermen should try to match the hatch when specific mayflies or caddis are emerging. If you don’t see anything hatching, try terrestrials that imitate crickets, ants, beetles, and caterpillars. During winter midge fishing can be excellent. The most consistent fly-fishing action of all, however, comes with nymphs. Fish shoal areas, riffles and eddies with a dead drift or hand-twist presentation.
The area right below Greers Ferry Dam is good for fly fishing, as is the water near Scroncher Shoal. If you want to get away from the pressured areas, float in to spots away from parking areas.
Lots of camping and motel accommodations are found along the river and guides can be booked through the boat docks, which also offer rentals.
For more information, check out the Greers Ferry Lake & Little Red River Association website at http://visitgreersferrylake.org/
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Top Photo: Anglers fish with bait from anchored boat on the Little Red River.