100 Best: Norfork River

Location: Central Arkansas
Type of stream: Tailwater
Angling methods: Any
Species: Browns, Rainbows, Cutthroat, Brookies
Access: Easy
Season: Year-round
Supporting Services: Mountain Home
Short take: Shortest river with great big trout
Handicapped Access: Yes
Closest TU Chapter: White River
Here’s the challenge. Sure, with thousands of stocked rainbows and browns and brookies and cutthroat, the odds are pretty durned good that you can net a grand slam on this 4.8 mile long tailwater. So let’s make it interesting. How ‘bout a slam where each species has to be at least 16 inches or longer to qualify? Now that’s a Grand Slam and it’s quite possible here on the Norfork tailwater.
When only one generator is running, the Norfork can be waded, though fly fishing is better and more of the river can be fished with both are off. The shoals above the boat launch at Quarry State Park are well worth a shot. Here you’re most likely to collect the brookie for your slam. Better wading is found downstream from the campground. And the best run for wading anglers is the two miles of river upstream from the Bill Ackerman River Ridge Access. Gravel bars, submerged outcrops, occasional boulders, deep troughs, and little channels characterize the Norfork. The blast of a horn signals the start of generation. Don’t count on hearing it. When you wade this river, never put yourself in a position where you can’t escape the current as the water rises.
When the river is flowing full and the trophy trout are a prowl, you can work big streamers or heavy double nymph rigs in places inaccessible to waders. When the generators are off, fish midges, scuds, and sowbugs. The lower river sees occasional caddis, crane fly, and sulphur hatches. Handicapped anglers can fish from a pier at the Ackerman access and along Dry Run Creek which carries the outflow of the Norfork National Fish Hatchery.


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