Trout fishing is about the best thing going in The Natural State right now, so get it while it's hot.
Beau Saunders, owner of Lobo Landing on the Little Red River near Heber Springs, said fishing conditions on the lower portion of the Little Red's trout waters are almost ideal. The Army Corps of Engineers has been generating electricity at Greers Ferry Dam in 12-hour cycles, Saunders said. The rise hits the area between Libby Shoal and Mossy Shoal in the evening, at the end of peak fishing hours. The water falls by morning, giving anglers virtually the entire day to fish in low water.
"It's low enough in the day that you can't take a prop boat past Libby," Saunders said.
The problem is perception, Saunders said. Word has spread among nonresidents that the Corps is "blasting" the Little Red River, and that high water is making it unsafe for boating and fishing. This rumor encourages anglers from central Arkansas to skip over the Little Red to fish the bigger, boater-friendlier expanses of the White River below Bull Shoals Dam.
Because hydropower surges reach the upper sections of the trout water quickly, the section from Greers Ferry Dam to John's Pocket does get high and fast during prime fishing hours. However, the hydropower rise doesn't reach Lobo for several more hours.
Because it is so far downriver and relatively remote, this area is fished more lightly than the section from Greers Ferry Dam to Cow Shoals. The river there is deep and wide, with little visible cover.
Wade fishing is limited to Libby Shoal and Mossy Shoal, which are about 5 miles apart. Libby Shoal is more heavily fished due to a walk-in access from Arkansas 337.
Mossy Shoal, a catch-and-release-only area, is accessible by boat only, and boat access can be tricky in low water because of exposed rocks that can damage a propeller or lower unit.
Anglers that fish Mossy Shoal report catching a lot of trout, with respectable numbers of trout larger than 16 inches. Wade fishing is difficult, however, because of deep silt deposits that form midstream hummocks. The silt is thigh-deep in places, and extracting one's foot can be strenuous.
On the other hand, trout stack into the many seams that course through the shoal. Work it slowly and thoroughly to catch mixed bags of brown and rainbow trout. The best fishing is always in overcast conditions, especially in a light drizzle or rain.
I landed my biggest brown trout below Libby Shoal while fishing with Pat Kimble of Hot Springs after a thunderstorm. Runoff had turned the water brown, and the only clear water was in thin ribbons next to the bank. I threw a large Rapala stickbait into one of those clear ribbons and caught a 22-inch brown trout, which I quickly released.
The long stretch between Libby Shoal and Mossy Shoal is straight, deep and featureless, but it contains a lot of trout. Trolling stickbaits is the most productive technique for me.
About this time in 2018, Rusty Pruitt of Bryant and I enjoyed a two-tiered trip of sorts that started out with us fly fishing at Mossy Shoal. The action was slow until a thunderstorm hit, and then the fish started biting immediately. My highlight was a 15-inch brown on a 4-weight Reilly Kildare fly rod.
Pruitt's highlight was a brown trout that bit again seconds after Pruitt released it.
The water fell while we fly fished, and it took considerable effort for us to wrestle my War Eagle aluminum boat out of the rocks and back into deep water above.
Back underway, we trolled stickbaits upstream for hours, catching and releasing small brown and rainbow trout almost back to Libby Shoal until nightfall. To reduce stress on fish, you can replace the treble hooks on your stickbaits with single point hooks. Pinch down the barbs to make them even more fish friendly.
Low flow is also excellent for fly fishing deep water. Drifting slowly downstream in a boat is a great opportunity to entice a strike from a big brown trout with streamers. You also can try for numbers with midges and nymphs under a strike indicator.
Another excellent way to fish in low water is to anchor near a current break and soak PowerBait, Power Eggs, Gulp baits, nightcrawlers or waxworms on dropper rigs.
Tie a Dipsey sinker on the terminal end of an ultralight rig with no heavier than 4-pound test line. Tie a 14-inch dropper line 8 inches to 12 inches above the sinker and attach a single barbless bait hook, which in most cases prevents injuring fish that swallow the bait.
In addition to the walk-in access at Libby Shoal, there is also a public Game and Fish Commission boat ramp at Lobo Landing. Keep an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission trout regulations book handy.
A dropper rig on light spinning tackle is a proven way to catch rainbow trout on the Little Red River.
The Sebile Stick Shadd is the author’s favorite lure for catching big brown trout on the Little Red River.
Sports on 07/07/2019
Print Headline: Trout bite is hot!