Rainbow & Brown Trout Fishing on the North Fork River

Tucked away in Missouri’s Ozark region is the North Fork of the White River. It is a stream which provides beautiful scenery, virtual solitude, and excellent fishing. Many coldwater springs create the perfect habitat for trout and the river’s reputation has spread throughout the midwest region.
Wild rainbow trout are the primary quarry on this “western style” freestone stream. These aggressive fish have not been stocked since 1964 and sport beautiful coloration. Special regulations have helped increase the average length, and fish to eighteen inches are common. Rainbows can be taken on a variety of nymph, streamer, and dry fly patterns.
Challenging brown trout are also available and are quick to learn the difference between imitations and naturals after being stocked each fall. They are a true trophy opportunity as fish over ten pounds reside in the river. Browns are especially fond of streamer and dry fly patterns.
Recommended tackle
9′ 3, 4, 5, 6 weight rod
9′ 5-weight quick action or
9′ 6-weight moderate action
Weight forward taper floating line to match
Single action reel
Leaders and tippet
12′ knotless tapered, 3x-6x tippet
9′ knotless tapered down to 4X tippet
#10 bead head Prince
#8 Crawdad
#8 Stonefly
#6 & #10 bead head
#12 Elk Hair Caddis
#10 Lime Trude
#12 Prince Nymph
#10 Green Drake
#14 Royal Trude
Olive Woolly Bugger
Black Rubber Legsfly chart north fork river

trout fishing north fork riverRated one of the five best rainbow trout streams in the USA by Outdoor Guide.

Missouri’s largest population of wild rainbow trout and trophy brown trout, located in the heart of the Wild Trout Management Area.

The North Fork of the White River is one of the finest trout streams in the Missouri Ozarks. A tributary of the world famous White River in Arkansas, the North Fork has approximately 13 miles of officially designated trout water extending from Norfolk Lake upstream to Rainbow Spring. One of the largest springs in Missouri, Rainbow Spring pumps 137,000,000 gallons per day into the White and, aided by smaller springs along the way, provides optimal trout habitat.

north fork river trout fishingThe North Fork is crammed with both rainbow and brown trout. The rainbow population is self-sustaining — stocking ceased in 1964 but browns are stocked annually in the lower reaches. Stocked or wild, these fish have two things in common: both species reach husky sizes and pull really hard. In fact, browns here behave like wild trout soon after they’re stocked. Twenty-inch fish are almost routine and occasionally a brown weighing over 10 pounds is landed. Expect to find the rainbows holding in quick-flowing riffles and the browns lurking in deep pools. And, oh yeah, hang on when you do hook one.

Nymphing is the most consistent way to catch North Fork trout. Be sure to carry bead-head Prince nymphs and brown Woolly Buggers in various sizes. Crayfish are also an important spring and summer trout food. In July, North Fork regulars tie on weighted hellgrammite nymphs. The light cahill hatch in May provides good dry fly action, but expect to see trout slash caddis or stoneflies at anytime. Skating an Elk Hair Caddis across the surface is the best way to trigger a strike.

You can wade or canoe the North, but some of the land surrounding the stream is private, so stay in the stream channel. According to Missouri law, if you walk on the streambed you cannot trespass. Public access is available at Kelly Ford, Blair Bridge, Patrick Bridge and Dawt. Because the bottom is slippery, felt soled waders are a good idea.

north fork river trout fishingIn local terminology, the North Fork trout water is divided into two stretches: The upper float and the lower float. The upper float extends from Kelly Shoals down to Trout lodge. The lower float extends from Trout lodge down to Dawt. Both can be waded at some points, but you will need a canoe to gain access and work the river effectively. If you try to drift the whole river in one day, you’ll fly by all the good water. Take your time and work the promising water with nymphs.

Three top hot spots: 
Rainbow Alley, The Falls, Jacks Riffle. 
All are part of our trout fishing float!

Float map of the North Fork River
Click here to view a detailed map of the North Fork River with a mile-by-mile description of the river.

Click here for Fishing Regulations. Please note that we are located in Douglas County.