Fishing the Famous White River
Woodard Fly Fishing is a professional guide service in the Ozarks of Arkansas. With a home base of Cotter, Arkansas the White River is their backyard with a reputation of being one of the best tailwaters in the country for large brown trout. Woodard Fly Fishing also runs guided trips on the Norfork River and the Little Red River, which produce quality fish as well. The Kings River is the most sacred Ozark experience. Developing the fishery since 2018, Woodard Fly Fishing has established a smallmouth experience like none other in the country. Guides will pick up anglers from either two lodging options to fish a combination of these four amazing rivers based on time of the year, conditions, etc.
Woodard Fly Fishing provides lodging for singles, couples, and groups of all sizes at two great properties central to the White River.
Cotter Trout Lodge
The most iconic place to stay in Cotter. In business for more than 60 years, the Cotter Trout Lodge is central to town, across the street from the fly shop, and around the corner from the White Sands Café, where breakfast is served and guides pick up lunches for the day. From your room, you can take a short walk to the famous Cotter Springs Park, hop over to the fly shop, go for a walk on the Cotter Trail, or sit out back and listen to the train go by. You’ll find clean and spacious rooms in a variety of options for singles, couples, and groups.
Woodard Fly Fishing also partners with Riley’s Outfitters in Buffalo City to offer the biggest estate rentals on the river. Beautifully situated on the banks of Smith Island and across from the mouth of the Buffalo River, these houses are best suited to a minimum group size of four. You’ll have a more personable experience with breakfast and dinner prepared and served in-house or catered. This section of the river is best known for its historic towering bluffs, eagles, and low crowds. All meals are provided with this option.
Food and Beverages
Lunches, sodas, waters, etc are always provided on all guided fishing days regardless of lodging accommodations. When staying at the Cotter Trout Lodge, anglers can grab a hot cup of coffee and a country-style breakfast from the famous White Sands Café. The biscuits and gravy with hash is highly recommended! The café also makes the guide lunches for the day, with a menu specific for the boat. Cotter is also central to a local grocer, coffee shop, and liquor store. Breakfast and dinner are not included in Cotter Trout Lodge packages. Riley’s Estates packages include all meals, beverages, and snacks. Local chef, Nathan Buck, will cook all meals in-house with a customizable menu if desired.
Non-Angling Activities and Options
The Ozarks boasts a number of activities and day trips everyone will love. Take a hike in the Buffalo National Forest and check out the Buffalo River, the first designated National River in the United States. Explore Lost Valley State Park where you’ll find several waterfalls, caves, old pines, and large bluffs on a well-paved trail. The White River Visitor Center in Bull Shoals, where you can explore the history of the White River and see the multiple world and state record replicas. Blanchard Springs Cavern Tours and Mirror Lake are also tranquil destinations an hour south. An hour north, Branson, Missouri hosts plenty of live shows and a theme park. There’s plenty to do and see here in Ozarks for everyone!
Internet / Communication
Wireless internet is available at all lodging accommodations. Cell phones have service in the Cotter area, but there is no reception at Riley’s Estates.
How to Get There
The closest airport for guests to fly into and out of is the Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF) located Springfield, Missouri which is about 2 hours from Cotter. Guests can then rent a car for transportation.
Arkansas fishing licenses should be bought before arrival. Fishing licenses come in a 3-day, 7-day, or season. Anglers also need to purchase the required “Trout Permit.” They be easily purchased online before the trip by going to https://www.agfc.com/en/resources/licensing/
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At 100 miles of trout fishing with an average width of 200 feet, the White River has plenty of room for trout. It starts at Bull Shoals Dam, where the draw from the bottom of the lake comes out at cool 49-55 degrees year-round, making this fishery one of the healthiest fisheries in the United States. Anglers will experience hatches like the caddis hatch (April – May), sulphurs (May – July). With most of the White River undeveloped and lined with forests and trees, the seasonal cicada/hopper hatch is always superb (June – September). Brown, rainbow, brook trout, Snake River cutthroat, Bonneville cutthroat, and tiger trout are in the White River system.
In the winter months, the river takes a different tone. Fighting butts dig into our sides as we float down on an overcast day while managing sinking fly lines, and ducking in-between casts. “Streamer Season” (October – March) is a time on the White for breaking out the 8-weight rods and demands a little more from an angler’s cast. Brown trout start putting on weight for spawn in these months and they will chase down and annihilate any streamer that an angler puts in their way.
The Norfork River is called the “princess” to the White River. At only 5 miles in length, this steep shoal-filled river is full of feisty fish. Technically part of the White River system, this tailwater also pumps cold water from a hydroelectric dam. This adds a crucial shot of cold water into the White River 44 miles down from the bull shoals dam, allowing the fishery to remain cold for close to 100 miles. The Norfork boasts an impressive count of 3,000 fish per mile.
The Little Red River is ideally suited for beginners with usually lower water and a shallower depth. The Little Red is a true Ozark River, with its emerald color and old crags and bluffs – this tailwater is always scenic. Known for Rip Collin’s world record brown trout at 40.4lbs, anglers from all over come here to try and beat the record. At 40 miles in length, this river is great for anglers who are getting into the sport and prefer to fish with indicators.
Kings River is an 86 mile freestone that holds the Ozark’s native fish – smallmouth bass. The Kings winds through the countryside of NW Arkansas an hour and a half away from Cotter. This is a river that time has forgotten, but anglers won’t. However, Woodard Fly Fishing is not going to give too much away on this fishery as they are the only guide service on the Kings. The Kings River is seasonal starting in mid-April and is fishable through October.
The White River, Norfork River, and Little Red River are year-round fisheries offering anglers a diverse experience. Fishing different hatches and using multiple methods as they travel to each river with their professional guides.
Boats and Equipment
On the White River, most guides operate custom-made jetboats. The boats are spacious and provide ample casting room and seating. On rivers like the Little Red, and Kings River, guides use drift boats. Guides will provide everything needed to fish – rods, reels, flies, tippet, leaders, etc.
Rates and Terms
Remember that Yellow Dog’s services are completely free! When you book a trip with Yellow Dog, you never pay more than when you book directly with the lodge.
2023 Pricing (based on double occupancy)
Cotter Trout Lodge (includes lunch)
3 nights / 2 days = $998.00 per person
4 nights / 3 days = $1,467.00 per person
5 nights / 4 days = $1,936.00 per person
6 nights / 5 days = $2,405.00 per person
Riley’s Estates (includes all meals)
3 nights / 2 days = $1,823.00 per person
4 nights / 3 days = $2,637.00 per person
5 nights / 4 days = $3,451.00 per person
6 nights / 5 days = $4,265.00 per person
- Guided fishing
- Meals as outlined above (cooler lunches, waters, sodas, etc on all guide trips)
- Beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages as outlined above
- Rods/reels, flies, terminal tackle provided by the guide
- River shuttle fees (if applicable)
- Airport transportation (rent a car)
- Fishing licenses
- Spirits (BYO)
- Wader/boots (BYO)
- Gratuities for guides and staff
- Lodging taxes (will include upon invoicing)
Terms & Conditions
A refundable deposit of 50% per person is due at the time of booking for all trip packages and reservations, and final payment if due 90 days prior to arrival. All trip cancellations must be received in writing, sent to Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures, LLC. For all cancellations outside of 30 days of scheduled trip date, a refund or full trip credit (minus a $100.00 per person Yellow Dog cancellation fee) will be issued. For cancellations inside of 30 days but outside of 14 days from start of trip date, a full trip refund or full trip credit (minus a $150.00 per person / per day outfitter cancellation fee) will be issued. For cancellations inside of 14 days from start of trip date, no refunds or trip credits will be issued. If a cancelled package is resold by either the lodge or by Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures, then a refund will be sent minus a $100.00 per person Yellow Dog cancellation fee. In the case of cancellation by the client, both deposit and final payment may be transferred to another guest or angler for those same (original) dates if facilitated and arranged by the client. Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures strongly recommends that anglers and guests purchase travel insurance for this trip.