Fishermen from around the world love to visit Gaston’s White River Lodge in Arkansas for world-class trout fishing. But Hunter Taylor was not concerned about any of that. He was just happy to go fishing with his dad, Lawrence Taylor – not the famous NFL player.
Gaston’s White River Resort jon boats stretch 20 feet and are surprisingly stable. Hunter’s grin was visible from a long distance as the stout outboard motor cut across heavy currents before turning to push upstream. Soon they arrived at an area toward the dam and started drifting back down river with the current.
“We rigged him up with a lure and he cast it pretty well on his spincast rod-and-reel combination,” Taylor said. “He hooked up with a fat trout and battled it to the boat, where the guide netted it.”
Water conditions made the fish bite slower than usual, but Hunter patiently waited for his next trout to strike. The guide mentioned that a bank they were approaching always held a lot of fish. Hunter hooked another trout before the sentence was out of the guide’s mouth.
“Well, there sure are trout here,” Hunter said as the guide released the fish.
He’d hardly cranked the reel on his next cast when another rainbow hit and the battle was on again. His next cast made it three in a row.
The young fisherman with his ballcap pulled low over his brow caught rainbow trout on three consecutive casts on a Rebel Tracdown Minnow while his dad and Smith were trying to get their first bite.
Hunter laid down his rod, looked at his dad and said, “That’s how you do it.”
“He was excited about fishing, but he and his brother Michael excel in other sports,” Taylor said. “He and Nathaniel, fellow outdoor writer Jeff Samsel’s son, were out in the airstrip throwing a ball just after we arrived.”
Gaston’s restaurant is perched over the river’s edge with plenty of feeders that attracted birds, keeping Hunter occupied. Darkness soon fell, allowing the lights to attract flying insects and a bat performing acrobatics that apparently didn’t mind cool temperatures. Later, four raccoons showed up to raid the bird feeders and add to Hunter’s adventure.
Hunter quickly fell asleep the first night and jumped up as soon as the alarm rang. Lawrence had set their clothes out the night before. The young man dressed quickly and encouraged his dad to hurry up, it was time for breakfast.
“We had a guide to ourselves, and I told him that the day was for Hunter,” Lawrence said. “We rigged him up for bait fishing with a piece of shrimp and a little TroutKrilla on a bottom-bouncing rig.”
Lawrence made a point to throw back all of his trout throughout the trip. His intention was to let Hunter catch the six trout that would feed their family one meal. Hunter easily secured his four-fish limit the first day.
“You want to keep any trout today?” the guide asked as he unhooked the first of many.
Hunter looked at his dad.
“I knew the answer he would have given, so I said, yes, Hunter, you can catch and keep one for everyone in our family,” Lawrence said. “But remember, you only need two more. That way you can provide dinner when we get back.”
Hunter’s trip ended later that morning. The young angler was one away from his limit and the guide said he knew right where to go. They motored back toward Gaston’s on the downstream side of the dock, near the cleaning station.
Hunter cast into the current and the rig bounced once, twice, then BOOM! A good strike. The rod doubled and bounced hard as the trout shook its head. Hunter stood with knees bent, showing determination that all fishermen feel when a big fish strikes.
“It’s a big one,” Hunter yelled
A chunky 15-inch rainbow took his piece of shrimp and was providing quite a fight. Hunter’s tongue stuck out of his mouth and he cranked the reel and eventually worked the fish alongside. Soon the trout gave in and the guide gently slipped a net under the young man’s prize to fill his limit. Lawrence took a picture before Hunter slipped the beautiful rainbow into their live well.
“That one’s mine,” Hunter said. “I get to eat that big one.”
A couple of days later his mother, Susan cooked Hunter’s trout for the family. She made a big deal about Hunter catching the fish at dinner. Even his sisters were nice to him on that special evening, and all because his dad had the time to take him fishing.
The White River flow in Arkansas receives oceans of cold water released from Bull Shoals Dam. Rainbow, cutthroat and brown trout survive year-round in this forage-rich environment in the same stream that once held smallmouth bass and goggle-eyed perch when it was still a pristine stretch of warm water without dams.
Despite the high water, anglers on the White River are catching trout. Many claims state that this year the rainbow trout bite may be better than in past years. I’m ready to go sample some of this fishing and some of Gaston’s great food.
Gaston’s White River Resort brings in guests from all over the word to sample this world-class fishing and five-star restaurant, some arriving by airplanes that land on their grass landing strip.
For more information about visiting Gaston’s White River Trout Lodge, call 870-431-5202 or check their website at www.gastons.com.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.