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Early Spring Browns on the White River

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March 28, 2013
Published in News & Tips > Fishing > Trout
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The fabled White River, near Mountain Home, Ark., may well be the trout fishing capital of the world as claimed. The tailwater fishery of Bull Shoals Lake provides trout angling opportunities for the very young and the well seasoned.

EarlySpringBrownsOnTheWhiteRiver blog
Eight-year-old Will Shephard is a seasoned trout fisherman thanks to his dad, Scott, and guide Donald Cranor.

Donald Cranor laughed wildly as he turned towards 8-year-old Will Shepard, of Brentwood, Tenn., “Woooh, Will you’ve got a big brown trout on your line, “ Cranor coached. “Stick that rod between your legs for leverage and reel it it in.”

Shepard, a seasoned trout fisherman for his age, bent forward and gained line on the feisty fish. He lacked a few days being five years old the first time he fished the White River for brown trout. “I will never forget Will’s first trip,” guide Don Cranor said. “Will had exceptional patience for a little guy. I have seen him stick with it all day long in a steady rain. The boy loves to fish.”

Will battled his second brown of the day as his dad, Scott, looked on. “You are doing a great job with that fish, Will,” Scott encouraged. “Keep your rod tip up a little and keep your line tight. Thataboy. You will land this one, too.”

Don Cranor grew up on the White River and has been guiding longer than he likes to admit. His local charm and wit keeps customers coming back. The great fishing helps, too.

While February is one of the best times of the year to fish for brown trout, Cranor said, too, this time of year is a good time to be here, if you are after big browns. “I recently had a customer catch two browns, within 15 minutes of each other, that went over 7 and 8 pounds, respectively.”

It was crowding the spring solstice when I rode in the boat with Cranor and the Shephard’s. The fishing twosome drifted both live and dead Dusty Striped shiners, which Cranor had trapped from the river the evening beforehand.

Cranor rigged a bell sinker on a dropper about three feet above the shiners. “This rig allows browns to pick the bait up and not feel so much resistance initially,” he explained.

Cranor instructs his clients to leave the bail open on their spinning rigs. They hold the line on their index finger and drop it at the first tug. “I like to let browns run with the bait,” Cranor said. “It takes them a few seconds to commit to eating the bait. Once they take it completely in their mouths, I set the hook.”

The younger Shephard dropped the line from his forefinger and waited, patiently. “Set the hook, Will,” Cranor laughed. Will had another fish on.

“Wow, this one is bigger and more colorful," Will told us. The golden flashes soon materialized in the water and we three adults laughed and pointed as w Will brought the fish to the boat.

After Will boated his ninth brown, all of which any adult angler would have been proud of, he decided he wanted to catch some rainbows. Cranor added a few kernels of bright yellow corn to Will’s hook. In less than five minutes, he set the hook on the first rainbow of the day.

An hour later, I left the boat. Will Shephard continued to boat rainbows. The rain continued pelting down, just as it had done all morning. I desperately needed a hot cup of coffee.

As I walked up the bank, I heard Cranor ask Will if he would like to find a gravel bar and skip rocks for a while. Little Will’s voice echoed up the river. “Yeah!”

Cranor may be reached at www.whiterivertroutfishing.net or by calling 1-866-789-6271.

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Bill Cooper
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Bill Cooper is a 40-year veteran outdoor writer from Missouri. He is a Distinguished Military Graduate from the University of Missouri where he earned a Masters Degree in Outdoor Education. He is a member of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association and a past president of the Missouri Outdoor Communicators. Bill received the Conservation Educator of the Year Award from the Conservation Federation of Missouri in 2000 and the Conservation Communicator Award in 2008.

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