Mountain Fork, Oklahoma
Not all my memories of the Mountain Fork River are pleasant. My barber (and now-former fishing buddy) staked out our tent one sleepy afternoon when I wasn't looking and drove the stakes through my brand new tarp. Said the tarp was too big. I slipped and fell hard at Presbyterian Falls back in 1995 and slunk back home a bruised angler. I've spent many a cold, wet day fishing on this confounding river and many more days when I could see three or four different hatches coming off but the trout were taking the no-see-ums instead. And I was always out of no-see-ums.
But the pleasant moments far outweigh the negatives. I recently took 12 students from my flyfishing class on a field trip to the Mountain Fork River to put into practice all the dry runs we'd had. They were quite the sight as they tumbled out of their half-ton pickups and big ol' SUVs. Neophytes to the sport, they were decked out in brand new flyfishing everything, from new wading boots and waders to shiny polarized glasses to off-the-shelf clean fishing vests.
They struggled to learn to mend in the slow, tricky currents of Section Two by the long island and shivered in the cold water. But in the upper section of the park, 11 of the students, ranging in age from 12 to"older" (it's not nice to guess someone's age if they are over 60, right?), caught at least one trout. Only Chase, a sixth grader who had at least 20 trout on his hook during the day, failed to bring one to hand. The Mountain Fork is a very forgiving river to so bless beginners.
The Mountain Fork River is an angling haven for flyfishing addicts in the south-central United States. The river has for years been a great year-round getaway for flyfishers in Oklahoma City, Little Rock, and Dallas who need an immediate trout fix. But the river is rapidly becoming a destination spot as the quality of its angling continues to improve, as anglers become more aware of this, and as more guides and flyshops serve the fishery.
The Kiamichi Range of the Ouachita Mountains provides a pleasant backdrop to fishing in the pools and riffles of this small, clear tailwater. In the fall and early winter, the trees and bushes are alive with reds and oranges, and this is when the fishing for rainbow and big brown trout is at its bestbut anglers can drop a line for trout in this tailrace all year long. Come spring, the trees burst out in a palette of greens and the waterway is lined with both pine and cypress trees. Flyfishermen will find a few hatches, but fishing under the surface gets the best results. A #16 Hare's Ear or Copper John floated 18 to 24 inches underwater usually gets strikes. For a searching pattern, try a wet, like the Partridge and Green, or a small spruce. When the trout are looking up, attractor patterns like the Royal Wulff, Adams, Humpy and House & Lot work well, as do terrestrials like a black ant and black beetle. In the slower areas below the Reclamation Dam, slowly stripped streamers and wet flies will draw strikes from the brown trout. But often, anglers will have to fish small flies like midges and small mayflies. Hopper patterns are a good bet against the grassy banks. If you like nymphing, bump crayfish patterns off the bottom.
In the lower sections of the river, the cypress trees belie the fact that this tailrace is an excellent trout producer. If the skies are overcast, the trout can be found in the riffles feeding on the surface. If the sun is shining, the trout tend to hide in the head and tail of the pools and off the numerous ledges in the river. Mountain Fork River has quietly become a popular trout-fishing locale for Oklahomans, Texans, and Arkansans, especially from November to March. While most anglers fish Spillway Creek, a diversion of Mountain Fork River, if you want to catch the big ones (or just a lot of trout) or fish the 100-yard wide stretches of the river, then fish downstream of the state park in Sections Two and Three.
A warning: This river is the slickest, slipperiest (is that a word?) river I have ever fished. You will probably fall down a time or two. Wear felt soles and, if you have them, cleats. Even then, you will likely fall. Wade slowly and patiently.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication