Copyright 2009 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide to the North Fork of the White River Missouri
The uppermost part of the North Fork of the White River starts in the Mark Twain National
Forest. There it is a warm water fishery with smallmouth bass and sunfish. When the stream
gets down to Rainbow Springs, its size doubles and the water becomes much colder.
Rainbow Springs adds an average of about 80 million gallons of water per day that averages
57 degrees to the flow.
The area between Rainbow Springs and Blair Bridge is referred to as the Missouri Wild Trout
Management Area. In 1998, the stocking of brown trout was stopped in this almost six mile
long part of the river. This has allowed the rainbows in this part of the river to grow faster
and larger because they have more to eat. Only flies and artificial lures can be used in the
Wild Trout Management Area. Approximately 75% of the trout in this part of the river are wild
rainbows. Anglers are only allowed one trout, either brown or rainbow but not both, over 18
inches per day. From the Blair Bridge down to Norfolk Lake, the river comes under the
Missouri Special Trout Regulations. This area is stocked with brown trout, but not rainbows.
Like any clear spring creek, the North Fork of the White River isn't exactly easy to fish. You
have to use a lot of stealth and make good presentations to fool the trout. Leaders and
tippet should be longer and lighter than those you would normally use in a freestone stream.
Most of the time you will have to resort to fishing flies below the surface of the water. Dry fly
fishing can be good at certain times when a hatch is occurring but most of the time you will
need to stick with nymphs, wet flies and streamers. Although the locals don't use them very
much, imitations of midge larvae, pupae and the adults work great year-round but especially
during the times nothing else is hatching. Although there are not many of them, you need to
pay close attention to the hatches that occur because that will be your best opportunity to
catch trout on the dry fly.
You can catch plenty of smaller trout in the riffles throughout the year. During the hot
summer, the larger trout will be found in the deep pools below the riffles. They are also found
there during the winter. If you possible can, you need to drift the river in a canoe or small raft
type boat. Even if you don't fish from a boat or canoe, it will allow you to reach water that you
otherwise would not be able to fish wading from the few bank access points.
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North Fork of the White River