The White River in Arkansas with Davy Wotton

by | Oct 14, 2020 | fly fishing in Arkansas | 2 comments

Davy-Wotton-flyfishingIt was exactly 34 years ago that I was last in Arkansas.  In fact that was my one and only trip to the Ozark Mountains.  It was 1986 and I was finishing up my outdoor education degree with Northland College.  Part of graduating was to plan, experience and survive three expeditions.  One of these for me was a two week canoe trip down the Buffalo River into the White River.  It was an exceptional journey and I did far more than survive – I absolutely loved it.


Jerry-ArnoldAfter that trip I couldn’t wait to get back, but boy does time fly.  There’s a big world out there and after college I aimed to see it all.  It wasn’t until a month ago I got my chance to return to Arkansas.  Jerry Arnold, manager and sponsor of all Team USA Flyfishing Teams, invited me to join him and my teammate Mike Sexton for three days fishing the White River.  Jerry has taken me on a lot of great trips over the years and when Jerry calls I always go with!


I flew down here yesterday and arrived around 4 PM.  Jerry picked me up at the Little Rock airport and we drove to Cotter, AR.  Jerry rented us a house on the river and brought up a heap of tasty food and beer from his home in Texas.  We rolled into our house at 7:30 PM and started right into the good life.


White-RiverMike didn’t arrive today until this afternoon so Jerry made plans for he and I to fish with long time Arkansas fly fishing guide, Davy Wotton.  Davy, originally from Wales, has lived here for nearly 40 years and calls Flippin, AR home.  Though today was the first time meeting Davy in person I’ve spoke with him a few times.  He’s been involved in World Fly Fishing Competition for many years and he’s a world renown expert on the technique of swinging flies.


ArkansasWe launched Davys boat (a style of boat unique to this river) at around 8:30 AM.  The area is called Rim Shoals Catch-and-Release Area.  It’s a short piece of water that protects trophy trout, particularly huge brown trout.  As strange as it sounds, the White River has produced some of the largest brown trout ever.  Many over 30lbs!


White-RiverUnfortunately, Davy was quick to inform us that the White has been terrible fishing of late.  There’s the Bull Shoals Dam about 20 miles upstream and its been fluctuating water levels like crazy. The issue with these inconsistent flows is the fish never get comfortable.  In addition, when the water rises heaps of debris get flushed downstream.  It didn’t matter what fly fishing technique you used today, you almost always got hooked up on weeds or leaves on every cast.


Jerry-ArnoldWhile the fishing was indeed tough, we didn’t get skunked.  Jerry and I each landed a handful of small rainbows.  When I say small, the majority were 12” with perhaps one or two hitting 13-14”.  Jerry caught all his with nymphs below an indicator.  I caught my majority on streamers.


Davy-WottonTough fishing doesn’t mean we didn’t have a blast.  Jerry is always good company and Davy was a joy to talk with.  It turns out Davy and I have many mutual friends from Europe to chat about and he’s also an encyclopedia for all kinds of fishing knowledge from Wales grayling to walleye fishing in Bull Shoals Reservoir.  It was a fantastic day.





As mentioned, Mike arrived while Jerry and I were out fishing with Davy. When we got to the house Mike had playoff baseball on the TV and the grill heating up.  As with all great fishing trips, we ended today with a few cold ones and a delicious feast of steaks and grilled veggies.  Tomorrow, Mike Jerry and I will hit the river together.


Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing


  1. Mike Stattelman

    Your mention of the 3 survival expeditions for your college major really caught my interest. What were the other 2? We have a friend who graduated from Northland maybe close to the same time and I’ll have to ask him if he had to do something similar. Really enjoy your writing and adventures.

    Duluth, MN

  2. Jeff

    Mike thanks so much for reading the blog! One of the other trips were 4 week canoe trip in the Quetico in Ontario starting at ice out till late May. Despite a 3 day solo right in the middle with no food, it was another outstanding and fun experience. And I fished my butt off on that one. The third was the toughest. On December 26 (remember this is northern WI!) I set out with 5 others on a ski/snow shoe camping trip through the Sylvania National Forest . Over 15 days and nights we covered about 50 miles. The first week was hell. I’m not going to lie. We had 25 below zero for a high one day. It was dangerous. Camping hell quite frankly. But the second week was up in the teens and felt like a trip to the tropics. I doubt your friend did the same degree that included Fall Block, Winter Skills and Spring Block which were away from Northland. But maybe. What was his name? Again thanks for reading the blog.

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I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!