So you want to try your hand at trout fishing in Arkansas. That’s a broad subject, something like saying you want to go out to eat.
Where do you start?
Let’s limit our discussion here to bait and lure fishing, meaning not to include fly fishing, an extensive topic in itself and one that draws many anglers to Arkansas waters.
A strong recommendation for learning trout fishing is to make an investment. Yes, in addition to your equipment. Make the investment in the form of a day with a trout guide, a professional who knows the game. You can learn more from that trout guide in a day than you will in a month of Sundays fishing trout waters on your own.
If you don’t know a guide, and if you don’t hear of one by word of mouth, phone a trout resort on the White River, the Little Red River or some other stream you find interesting.
In most cases, the trout guides are independents, working on their own but connected to one or more resorts. They usually are not employees of the resort. Naturally, the guide must do satisfactory work for the resort to continue to schedule clients for him or her.
You’ll pay for this guided trip, part of which goes to the resort and part of which goes to the guide. The resort will tell you the cost on the phone, and usually this amount does not cover things like licenses, bait, fishing gear, drinks and snacks.
When you meet the guide, and after shaking hands, tell the guide what you want. "I have never fished for trout, and I want to learn how." The guide will take it from there.
If you bring your own rod and reel, load that reel with either 4-pound test line or 6-pound test line before you leave home. Trout fishing requires light line. In the boat at the dock, the guide may take your rod and reel and attach a leader of even lighter line, 2-pound, to it.
Unless you tell the guide otherwise, the bait will be something like whole kernel corn, live red worms, nightcrawlers or wax worms. Most guides will have two or three of these in the boat. They may also have mini-marshmallows or Power Bait, a soft manufactured item that comes in several colors.
If you lean toward lure fishing, tell the guide before leaving from the dock. There are any number of lures that entice Arkansas trout, and if you want to bring your own, think small, like small hooks. Trout have small mouths, and this requires small hooks to catch them.
Jigs are popular in trout fishing, and these jigs can be adorned with plastic skirts or tails, feather skirts or tails or trailers of other material. A bit of tinsel that looks like something off a Christmas tree can be used in some waters.
Most trout fishing is done in the moving water of rivers, and trout tend to feed on the bottom or close to it. This means your bait has to get down to the bottom or just above it. The guide may rig you with a swivel on your main line and two short lines leading from it. One goes to the hook and the other to a sinker or weight. The sinker bumps along the bottom, and the bait rides up just off the bottom.
Trout fishing is usually without a bobber. You detect a hit by a fish by feeling it through the line. Since you’re probably on a river, there is current, meaning the bait will float downstream so the line can be reasonably tight, not loose and floating on the surface like on a calm lake.
A hit by a trout is nothing like the hit by a largemouth bass that you may have experienced. Trout hit lightly. Raise the rod tip quickly, but you don’t have to slam it back as with a bass. A simple upward move will usually hook a trout.
Hooked, the trout may do several things — run downstream, run upstream, run toward underwater cover or jump into the air. They fight. If you get a trout of size on the hook, you will have a good scrap, a fun contest.
Much of the success of this learning experience from a trout guide depends on congeniality or at least respect on the part of both of you.
The guide knows how to fish for trout and wants to end the day with a satisfied customer. If you are smart, you’ll tend to listen to the guide much more than talk about your past exploits and expertise with bass, with walleye, with tarpons or with redfish.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.