Dry Run Creek near Mountain Home, Arkansas has been called “the best quarter mile of trout fishing in the world.” However, you won’t find the world’s best fishermen here – you’ll only find kids! A true gem of a fishing location, it only takes one walk along the banks of Dry Run Creek for every fly fishing adult to wish they were a kid again, if only for a day.
We recently spent three action-packed days fishing with the kids on Dry Run Creek and now consider ourselves totally spoiled. Not only is it an absolutely gorgeous area with lush canopies and easy access to the water, but the fish were giant! My fly fishing obsessed five year-old caught his fill every day, each bigger than the last. Dare I say, he may have even got bored after a while from catching so many fish! Even the three year-old got in on the action and netted a few, although it was hard to pull her away from feeding the fish in the hatchery and chasing butterflies.
About Dry Run Creek
Flowing from Norfork National Fish Hatchery, Dry Run Creek is .75 miles of spring and hatchery effluent fed, ice-cold, highly-oxygenated water (32 million gallons/day) coming up from below the surface of Lake Norfork. Located alongside the hatchery (home to 2.5 million brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout), Dry Run Creek contains significant numbers of large trout trying to migrate from whence they came. Amazingly, despite its proximity to the hatchery, Dry Run Creek is not stocked by Arkansas Game & Fish. Instead, all the fish living in the creek have found their way out of the Norfork River and jumped “the waterfall” to access this trout-nirvana.
Until 1988, Dry Run Creek had been closed for 30 years to all fishing. The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission decided closure of the stream was unnecessary and re-opened it as a catch-and-release, single-hook, artificial-lure fishery for kids under 16 and the handicapped (an Arkansas handicap fishing license is required). Handicap wheelchair-bound individuals may fish from the newly built decks and ramps.
Designed for ultimate fish habitat and growth, Dry Run Creek is open year round to anglers and host to many fishing events and school field trips each year. Children not only have the chance to learn more about trout, but also have a great opportunity to fish for the monsters that lurk in the depths.
Skill & success
As you can imagine, Dry Run Creek is hog heaven for the fishing-obsessed kid and a great place to get them hooked on fly fishing. The number of trout in the creek is astounding and it’s common to see fish lined up so thick it looks like you could walk across the water using them as stepping stones.
The cold, clear, shallow water allows amazing sight-fishing opportunities, but there are still nooks and crannies to allow the bigger fish to hide. Just because there’s an abundance of fish, doesn’t mean they’re all easy to catch! These fish don’t get this big being careless and fishing here still takes patience and skill.
The fish in Dry Run Creek thrive on all-natural food sources – sow bugs, scuds, midges, aquatic worms, leaches and an abundance of terrestrial insects. No protein pellets here! Essentially, Dry Run Creek contains everything that you would find in the Norfork River, but more concentrated. Therefore, the fish are well-fed and have very little reason to ever leave! The creek also contains populations of beaver, mink, muskrat, and other animals that use or live in the stream and add to its biodiversity.
Because the stream is well-fed and strictly catch and release, the fish have the chance to get massive. There are scores of rainbow and brown trout over five pounds and trophy trout are the norm here. In December 2005, this “little stream that could” gave up a rainbow trout that may have been bigger than the Arkansas state record (estimated somewhere near 25 pounds) to an 11-year-old angler from Kansas!
Grand slam of trout
The creek has one of the thickest populations of trout in the world and is possibly the best fly fishing stream in the country for young ones learning how to fly fish. Dry Run Creek is absolutely teaming with rainbow and brown trout, but it also has some brook and cutthroat trout. This means your little one could catch a Grand Slam, all in one location!
Sorry mom and dad, but Dry Run Creek is strictly for kids. All kids must be with a licensed adult and do the fishing themselves. A certain level of parental teaching is permitted, but only in the direct presence of the child.
The kids fishing should be able to cast, hook up and fight the fish on their own, with limited parental guidance and interaction. Parents can rig the rods, coach the youngster and net the fish, but it is really important that the child actually catch the fish. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission officers frequent the creek and will issue tickets to adults fishing.
But don’t worry, parents – even though you can’t fish, you won’t get bored. There will be so much action with your kids catching fish that you won’t have time to think about all the fish you could be catching. Non-stop fish after fish (and tangle after tangle) will keep everyone in the family entertained, busy and excited for the next one.
As for fly fishing equipment, a standard 9-foot, 5-weight rod is the ticket. Light enough to enjoy the pull of the smaller fish and sturdy enough to help control the lunkers when they decide to go for a run. You’ll want to be careful with your leader and tippet size though. When the water is stained, you can get away with heavier leaders and tippet (3X and 4X); however, most days the water is crystal clear so consider using the smallest tippet you can get away with.
As for flies, use anything to mimic the trout’s natural diet. We had success with midges, San Juan worms, scuds, and terrestrials, as well as attractor patterns like eggs and stimulators. A strike indicator and split-shot will be necessary when nymphing, and it’s always important to have floatant for your dry flies after they get hammered several times. Make sure you also bring the biggest net you can find. We lost quite a few giant trout at the net because our biggest net wasn’t quite big enough!
What to pack
If your child has waders, bring them. The water is cold and while there are plenty of spots to fish from the bank, with waders they can fish virtually the entire stream. Parents may also want to wear waders and boots in case you need to get in and release hung up flies and more effectively net the big trout.
Feel free to bring snacks, lunch and a cooler. The stream is less than a mile long, so you’re never too far from your car in the parking lot. There are picnic tables and trash cans scattered along the paths and walkways, so you never have to get off the water.
Finally, bring a camera! Dry Run Creek definitely provides opportunities to catch a once-in-a-lifetime fish and you’ll want it documented. Just remember, when you’re taking a picture, handle the fish carefully. Dry Run Creek is a catch-and-release stream and trout must be released immediately after they are caught. Leave the fish in the net, suspended in the water, until you have removed the hook and have the camera ready. Handle the fish gently and as little as possible when photographing. Also, be sure to fully revive the fish before release.
When to go
Dry Run Creek is open year-round, from sunrise to sunset. There’s never a bad season for the fishing and there’s lots to do and explore any time of year you visit. The paths and walkways along the creek were recently remodeled, are well-kept, shaded and a very beautiful in any season.
While you’re there, make sure to check out the Norfork National Fish Hatchery. Feed the trout and take a tour. It is truly a great experience and the kids will love the break in action.
For more information
If you’d like to find more information on Dry Run Creek and the surrounding area, check out the Friends of the Norfolk National Fish Hatchery’s website:
If you’re looking for an awesome place to go fishing with kids,
Dry Run Creek in Mountain Home, Arkansas is definitely worth the trip!