Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The North Fork of the White
The North Fork of the White River is one of the finest
trout streams in the state of Missouri as well as the
Ozark Mountains. It has a good population of
wild rainbow trout and trophy size brown trout.
Stocking of the rainbow trout was stopped in 1964 and
the stream has since maintained a good population of
wild rainbows. The brown trout are still stocked but
only in part of the river. Both the rainbows and the
brown trout grow to huge sizes. Rainbows are taken
up to eighteen inches long and the brown trout
commonly reach sizes much larger than that.
This beautiful stream starts at Rainbow Spring, one of
the largest in the state of Missouri, and flows for over
twelve miles into Norfork Lake. Smaller springs along
the way add to the flow. The stream can be waded or
fished from a canoe or small raft type boat. There is
some private property along its course but under
Missouri law you are not trespassing when you are in
You can float the entire river in a day, but the best way
is to break it down into two separate floats. The
uppermost launch is located at Kelly Shoals. From
there you can drift down to Trout Lodge. From Trout
Lodge you can float down to Dawt. Both sections
provide a good day of fishing.
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.
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North Fork of the
White River Missouri
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Fly fishing the North Fork of the White
River is good year-round.
Fishing during the winter is generally
Springtime can be the best time to fish
Fly Fishing Guide to the North Fork
of the White River:
Staying hidden from the trout is mandatory.
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.
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
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.
North Fork of the White River
Missouri Hatches and Trout Flies:
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other foods
at the particular time you are fishing. Unlike
the generic fly shop trout flies, we have
specific imitations of all the insects in the
North Fork of the White River and in all
stages of life that are applicable to fishing. If
you want to fish better, more realistic trout
flies, have a much higher degree of success,
give us a call. We not only will help you with
selections, you will learn why, after trying
Perfect Flies, 92% of the thousands of our
customers will use nothing else.
While the hatches of aquatic insects don't
occur very frequently or occur in big
quantities on the North Fork of the White
River, they are important. They provide the
only good dry fly fishing you will encounter.
Crustaceans are an important part of the
food for the trout in this stream. It has a good
population of both sowbugs, called fresh
water shrimp by some anglers, and scuds.
Imitations of both will catch trout year-round.
Crayfish are plentiful and are eaten by both
the rainbows and brown trout.
Little Black Caddisflies hatch during April.
These are species of the Brachycentrus
genus called Mother's Day caddis is some
areas of the West. They hatch mid-stream
similar to mayflies. You will find various
species of Cinnamon Caddis and Spotted
Sedges that hatch from May through
September. These are just referred to as
Tan caddis by the locals. Imitations of their
larvae, pupae and of the adults will work at
times. There are also some Little Sister
Caddisflies that hatch in June and July. They
are just a smaller version of these
net-spinning caddis. There are several other
species of caddisflies present, but none exist
in large quantities.
Few mayflies exist in the river other than
Light Cahills and Tricos. The Light Cahills
hatch during the month of May and can bring
the trout to the surface to take dry flies. You
will find the Trico hatch to be one of the best
of the year. It occurs during the month of
Stoneflies are important on this river.
Large Giant Black stoneflies and different
species of Little Brown Stoneflies hatch
during the months of May and June. Some
of the Little Brown Stoneflies are actually
black, so don't let that fool you.
Little Yellow Stoneflies, called Yellow
Sallies, hatch during the months of June
and July. Imitations of these stonefly
nymphs are effective throughout the year.
Hellgrammites, or the larva stage of the
Dobsonfly, are effective during the
summer. We have an excellent "Perfect
Fly" imitation of these insects. The stream
has a good population of both Damselflies
and Dragon Flies. Imitations of their larvae
are also effective on this stream.
Terrestrial insects are important from
about the middle of June all the way
through September. Imitations of
grasshopper, ants and beetles catch trout
if they are presented in the along the
banks of the stream in the right places
during the summer.
Don't forget streamers. They can catch
their share of trout from the deep runs
and pools that are common along the
river. At times they will take trout from the
riffles. They are very effective after heavy
rains and anytime the water becomes a
little off color.
We have "Perfect Fly" specific imitations
of all of these insects and crustaceans
found on the North Fork of the White
River. They have proven very effective on
this stream where trout get a good look at
your flies. Our stonefly imitations are very
realistic and effective at catching trout
year-round on this river. Our imitations of
the scud and sowbug are among the best
you can buy. If you haven't done so
already, please give our trout flies a try.
We are confident you'll be glad you did.
Most of the larger trout are found below
the riffles in the deeper pools.
The browns move upstream to spawn and
streamers become effective flies.
Thumbnail Images: Click to enlarge
Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 to 12 ft., 5 or 6X Nymphing:
71/2 ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rod:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five
or Ultimate Six
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Loon Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (email@example.com)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
The stream levels are back down
near normal and the river in good
shape. Fish are still being caught on
the surface during the BWO
hatches. Conditions are excellent
10/16/15 The water levels are still a little above normal for this time of the year. There may be
a few places you could safely wade and it should continue to fall out this coming week.Blue-
winged olives are hatching again, but otherwise, you need to stick to terrestrials and
scuds/sowbugs most days. The water has warmed up some and the fish are feeding on top.
Sulphurs are hatching. Water levels can be a problem, so be sure to check them out before
making a long trip.
11/30/15 The stream levels are in good shape right now, just a little above normal. Blue-
winged Olives and Great Brown Autumn Sedges are hatching. Trout are eating the Great
Brown egg laying caddis from the surface in the afternoons. They are also taking the Blue-
winged olive duns from the surface. There is a good bit of rain in the forecast, so make certain
you keep a close check on the levels.
12/07/15 The river is blown out right now and has been the last couple of days. It will be three
to four days before it is low enough to wade, if not more. Boaters may be able to fish sooner. It
should be good when it clears up and settles down. There has been a lot of rain and it is still
raining as I write this, but should clear by tomorrow. Midges and Blue-winged olives were
working good. The brown sculpin streamer fly was catching some big trout.
12/14/15 The river is blown out again and very high, flowing at 1430 cfs at 3.90 feet. It will be
at least three or four days before you should fish it and maybe more. The past week was a
good one, with our customers reporting catching some nice rainbows. Winter stoneflies are
hatching along with lots of Blue-winged olives with the warm weather and cloud cover. The
Brown Sculpin continued to catch some big trout.
12/21/15 The weather for this coming week is very nice and warm with not much chance of rain
until Saturday. The river level is still high, running around 1000 cfs and needs to be about half
of that. You can fish from a boat. Be careful in a canoe. Streamers like our Brown Sculpin is
your best best. Midges and BWOs are likely to hatch as warm as it is.
01/04/16 The North Fork White is blown out big time, and in fact, flooded. The river is flowing
at 24,100 cfs and at 16.17 feet. It will be at least five days or more until the river drops down to
a level that can be fished. Sorry to have to report this. The warm weather would be nice to take
advantage of if it wasn't for the heavy rain.
01/11/16 The stream levels are still very high, too high to wade and even fish from small
pontoons or canoes. There is no rain in the forecast until Friday and then only one day, so it
should keep coming on down and be in good shape soon.
01/25/16 The stream levels are down but still too high to wade. Yu can fish the river in a boat.
The water is a little colder, but since there are many springs, it is still warm enough to fish.
Midges, winter stonefly nymphs and the Brown Sculpin are the flies we are recommending.
02/01/16 The stream continues to run high, too high to safely wade anywhere. You can use a
drift boat. The White Belly and Brown Sculpin streamers are good flies to use under these
conditions. Scuds and little size 18 and 20 BWO nymphs also work good.
02/15/16 The river level has been falling and in down near a norma level for this time of the
season. Scuds, sculpin and midges are the main foods to imitate. Fish the midges (creams and
reds) with the pupa and larva in tandem. Fish the adult imitations only when you see midges on
02/29/16 The stream levels are good and the water warmer than it has been, averaging about
42 degrees. Little Blue-winged olives are hatching along with Winter Stoneflies. Scuds and
sowbugs always work good. Midges are the staple food and you can't go wrong fishing the
Cream or Red midge pupa and larva in tandem.
03/07/16 The river is in great shape right now, with good stream levels and clear water.
Midges, both creams and reds and little Blue-winged olives are hatching. Things are going to
change. There is a lot of rain forecast for the next week, so make sure you check the levels.
03/14/16 Right now, the river is high and stained from recent rain but it is falling and will
continue to do so and be back in good shape very soon. There isn't any rain or snow in the
forecast for this next week. Several hatches - Blue Quills and Blue-winged olives, and little
Black caddis will begin if not already. Make sure you keep a check on our weekly updated
fishing report linked above.
03/21/16 The stream levels are down and the river is in very good shape. Midges, both creams
and reds, and little Blue-winged olives are hatching. Scuds and the Brown Sculpin streamers
are working good as well.
03/28/16 The river is running below a normal level for this time of the year with lots of little Blue-
winged olives and midges hatching. Scuds, sowbugs and damselfly nymphs are also working.
04/11/16 Stream levels are normal and the water clear with no chance of rain for the next few
days. Good BWO hatches are taking place.
04/18/16 The stream has been a little below normal, which is good, but most likely will be
coming back up. There is rain forecast everyday for the next week. BWOs, Midges, scuds,
sowbugs, sculpin, damselfly nymphs are the main foods to imitate.
05/02/16 The stream levels are still a little high but falling fast. It should be in good shape in a
day or two. There is little rain and warmer weather, so look out for Sulphurs to start hatching
05/09/16 Customers are giving good reports. Lots of hatches are taking place including
Sulphurs. The stream levels are up high but falling fast. Stained water doesn't hurt and often
05/16/16 The stream levels are back down in good shape and the water clear. Lots of insects
are hatching including Sulphurs, BWOs, Green Sedges, and Cinnamon sedges. It is a great
time to fish the stream.
05/30/16 The stream level is just a little above normal which is good. Lots of BWOs, and caddis
(three species), are hatching. Sculpin streamers are catching the larger trout as well as scuds
and damselfly and dragon fly nymphs.
06/06/16 Stream levels shot up a lot but they are falling out fast and should be in good shape
by tomorrow. Customers were reporting some good hatches and dry fly action.
06/20/16 Lots of school kids rafting/canoeing. Fish early and very late. Spinner falls and
caddis egg laying can produce more in a short time. Lots of sulphurs, Cinnamon Caddis,
Green sedges (caddis) are hatching.
07/05/16 The river is flowing high and fast, but otherwise, in good shape. Our customers have
been sending in some good reports as long as the water was low enough to fish. Sulphurs are
hatching good along with Cinnamon Caddis and Green Sedge caddis. Damselfly and Dragon
fly nymphs are working good.
07/25/16 The river has been in good shape most of the time. There have been some high
water times, making it difficult to fish. The number of recreational boaters can also be a
problem, so it is best to fish early and late. The weather is going to be very hot this coming
week. Terrestrials are beginning to work good.
08/01/16 The heavy boating recreational traffic is likely going to get much better with school
starting soon. The levels have been low and the weather very hot this past week. We didn't
receive any fishing reports. There was some recent rain which helped. There are still a lot of
08/22/16 Stream levels have been high but back down to 653 cfs, which is a little high but can
be fished with various size boats and canoes. Sculpin streamers, Damselfly and dragon fly
nymphs, Sulphurs and Blue-winged olives. Cinnamon caddis are hatching good.
08/29/16 The stream levels are down some but still a little high. You can fish it in vary size
boats including canoes. One good report came in Yesterday. Cinnamon Caddis are hatching
09/06/16 The river is still running high. It isn't too high to fish from a canoe or boat but it is to
wade in most places. Our customers are still catching some nice trout. Dragon fly nymphs,
damselfly nymphs, scuds and Blue-winged olives are the main insects to imitate.
09/26/16 The stream levels have been high for the past two weeks but getting down to where
small boats can safely navigate. We received two good reports this past weekend. There are
lots of Blue-winged olives and Cinnamon caddis hatching. Sculpin streamers are working good
10/10/16 The river is high right now but falling. It is too high to wade but can be fished from a
boat. It is falling and should be down in a couple of days to normal if the rain holds off. Brown
sculpin streamers, Mahogany duns, Blue-winged olives and scuds are the main foods you
should be imitating.
10/24/16 The stream levels is still staying above normal but not too high to fish. Lots of big
rainbow were caught this past week. There are some very good Blue-winged olive hatches
10/31/16 The stream level is down just a little from last week and flowing just above a normal
level. Imitations of Damselfly nymphs, dragonfly nymphs, Scuds, Sowbugs and Blue-winged
olives should all catch trout at this time.