In this installment of “Flies to Fish”, we will be focusing on none other than Arkansas’ White River. The White River has a total length of 722 miles flowing through Arkansas and Missouri: and is home to 8 dams, 6 reservoirs, 3 tailwaters, and countless tributaries. With the waters below Bull Shoals dam being the most famous for their prolific trout fishery and Monster Browns. While the White may not look like your typical western trout river don’t let it fool you. This river has produced two world record brown trout a 38lb 9oz and a 40lb 4oz. Monsters aside, the river has a very healthy population of brown trout ranging in the 18-24″ range. While the browns can be elusive, the river is also stocked with 12-14″ stocker rainbows and even has a few cutthroats also.

With big water like the White, it can be hard to decipher what structure to fish, what flies to throw, and what time of year to go. With advice from local shops, guides, and the fishy folks who know these waters best, here are the best flies to fish the White River.

stripping line on the white river
Image courtesy of Black Mountain Cinema


Dry Flies



Hatch Chart:

The White River has some of the most prolific bug life in the country. From year-long scud and sowbug activity to stoneflies and multiple species of mayflies. To help you with deciphering when and what to fish, has a full hatch chart on their website. Along with the hatch chart, has provided a list of universal fly patterns and sizes.

Dry Fly Madness White River
Image Courtesy: Jen Demers
  • Scuds (Hook Sizes: 14-18)
    • Year Long
  • Sowbugs (Hook Sizes: 12-18)
    • Year Long 
  • Midges (Hook Sizes: 18-24)
    • Year Long 
  • Cranefly (Hook Sizes: 8-10)
    • March – October 
  • Microcaddis (Hook Sizes: 18-22)
    • April – October 
  • Terrestrials (Hook Sizes: 6-10) 
    • June – October 
  • Blue-Winged Olive (Hook Sizes: 18-22)
    • January & February/ November & December
  • Stoneflies (Hook Sizes: 6-10)
    • February – June 
  • Grannom Caddis (Hook Sizes: 14-18)
    • March & April 
  • March Browns (Hook Sizes: 12-16) 
    •  April & May 
  • Sulphurs (Hook Sizes: 16-18)
    • April & May 
  • Light Cahills (Hook Sizes: 14-18)
    • May & June 
  • Giant Mayfly (Hook Sizes: 8-10)
    • June & July 
  • White Mayfly (Hook Sizes: 12-16)
    • August & September  

Baitfish & Crustaceans 

  • Sculpin (Hook Sizes: 4-8)
    • Year Long  
  • Threadfin Shad (Hook Sizes: 4-6) 
    • February, March, & August
  • Crayfish (Hook Sizes: 6-10)
    • March- October  

Now keep in mind that river conditions and flies change regularly. You won’t be throwing the same bugs in 2 months. Below is a list of universal flies for the year, but remember to always check in with the local shops to get an idea of the hatches and what the fish are keying in on.

Monster Brown White River
Image Courtesy: Jen Demers & Stephan Balogh

Dry Flies:

Midges: Harrops Hanging Midge, Bucky’s Midge Cluster, Stalcup’s Hatchin’ Midge

Image Courtesy:

Cranefly: Solitude Crane Fly, Keller’s Crane Fly, Adult Crane

Crane Dry Fly
Image Courtesy:

Caddis: Mercer’s Missing Link Caddis, Goddard Caddis, Halo Sparkle Caddis

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Blue-Winged Olive: Smoke Jumper Baetis, Crippled Thor Bwo, Snowshoe Baetis

Smoke Jumper Baetis
Image Courtesy:

Terrestrials: Fat Alberts, Wiley’s Ant, and Western Ladies

Fat Albert
Image Courtesy:

March Browns: Galloups Tilted Wing Drake, Micro Mayfly, Galloups Sunk Spinner

Brown Drake Dry
Image Courtesy:

Sulphurs: Parachute Sulfur, Silverman’s Stacker, & Comparadun

Sulphur Comparadun
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Midges: Wotton’s Super midges, Super Whitetail midges, and Dawkin’s DD Midge

double bead midge
Image Courtesy:

Cranefly: Tim’s Candy Crane, Killer Bug, Barr’s Cranefly Larva

Cranefly Larva
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Caddis: Edwards’ Rhyacophila Larva, Quigley’s Midget Caddis, Stalcup’s Hydropsyche Caddis Larva

Caddis Larva
Image Courtesy:

Blue-Winged Olives: Craven’s JuJu Baetis, Nyman’s Thin Mint Baetis, Hogan’s S&M BWO Nymph

BWO nymph
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Stoneflies: Girdle Bug, Rubberleg jig heads, Edwards’ Little Black Stonefly

Little Stonefly
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Sowbugs: Rouses’ J-Dub Sowbug, Rainbow Warrior, Rainbow SowBug

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Scuds: Hunchback Scuds, Beadbody Scuds, Flashback Scud wet hares ear

Bead Scud
Image Courtesy:

Mayflies: Tactical Hot Spot, Craven’s Two-Bit, Wiese’s Lucent Prince, and Newbury’s Alt Rkr

Hot Spot Mayfly
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Rubberleg Wooly Bugger: Stonefly/Baitfish

Rubberleg Wooly Bugger
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Mini-Dungeon: Sculpin/Baitfish

Mini Dungeon
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CJ’s Sluggo: Baitfish (Shad)

Sluggo Streamer
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Dally’s Lap Dancer: Baitfish

Dally's Lap Dancer
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From Shad imitations to the smallest midge pattern this list provides you with the confidence and staples to land your next White River monster trout. There’s nothing like getting out on new water with a little extra knowledge in your back pocket.

Featured Image Courtesy:Black Mountain Cinema

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The White River: A World Class Fishery

5 Hatches You Must Fish Before You Die


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