The back of my SUV is packed with fly rods and Barbie dolls.
There’s a 14-foot raft on the trailer I’m pulling and a pink blanket cast across the back seat. Coffee and chocolate milk sit next to each other in the center console drink holders, and the Sunday morning country music countdown is playing on the radio.
It’s a perfect blend of family and fishing, as my 7-year-old daughter, Annabel, and I head south to Gaston’s White River Resort in Lakeview, Ark., for a three-day daddy-daughter fishing trip.
With two daughters only 13 months apart in age, it’s not often I get extended one-on-one time with either.
On this occasion, my 8-year-old, Bailee, chose to stay behind to receive a countywide conservation award for a poster she drew about soil and water. My wife stayed home with Bailee, so for the first time ever, Annabel and I were off on our own extended trip.
The first stop on our fishing tour was Dry Run Creek. This is a special destination. It’s located just below the Norfork Dam and next to the Norfork National Trout Hatchery near Mountain Home, Ark.
Fishing is allowed only for kids younger than 16 years old and individuals classified as 100 percent disabled. Adults can assist children with fishing but must remain in the direct presence of the child.
Annabel’s pink fly rod was put to the test. She’s messed around with bluegills in our pond, but she’d never caught a trout on a fly rod before. Changing that didn’t take long at Dry Run.
Within minutes of being there, Annabel was hooked up with an 18-inch rainbow. She shrieked with nervous excitement as she struggled to bring her fish to net. She caught five more in an hour and lost many more.
Dry Run is teeming with trout and is a must-fish destination for any kid interested in fly fishing. By itself, Dry Run is worth the drive to northern Arkansas. It’s one of many waters in the region that make the drive well worth it.
On our second day, we floated Crooked Creek near the town of Yellville. This little gem is regarded as one of the best kept secrets of smallmouth bass fishing in the country. Overshadowed by the Buffalo River and the White River, Crooked Creek is too often just driven past. Don’t make this mistake. Although the fishing was slow, Annabel and I really enjoyed the scenic beauty of Crooked Creek from the comfort of our raft.
The White River is the main attraction in northern Arkansas. It’s hands down one of the greatest trout rivers in the country. The river brims with fish and some gigantic, lunker browns. Gaston’s Resort sits right on the river, making it an ideal place to stay.
The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful on the morning Annabel and I fished with guide, Steve Lopez. I informed Lopez that we were after a large number of fish and weren’t concerned with focusing on landing a big one.
He didn’t disappoint. Annabel never stopped smiling as she landed trout after trout after trout. We culminated the morning with a Gaston’s shore lunch of fresh fish, chicken, beans, hush puppies, cobbler and more.
“I loved the shore lunch and I learned to fly fish. It was so much fun. And I liked our cabin right on the river,” Annabel said.
On our way home, I couldn’t help myself. I asked Annabel if she wanted to stop at Bennett Spring and fish a couple of more hours. She said, “Of course.” So of course we did.
I’m fortunate to take a lot of hunting and fishing trips to amazing destinations around the country. This one ranks right up there with my all-time favorites. I’ll never forget mine and Annbel’s daddy daughter fishing trip.
See you down the trail…
Brandon Butler’s outdoors columns appear Saturdays in the Daily Journal. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.