Paddlers go with flow when summer heats up
BEAVER DAM — A nearby oasis of cold, clear water awaits to wash away waves of heat on a sweltering summer day.
When it’s 95 degrees with humidity to match, the White River below Beaver Dam sings a siren song to kayakers, canoe paddlers and anglers. For paddlers, wisps of cool breeze waft from the chilly river to caress sweaty brows. Anglers in waders stand waist deep in the water that’s ice cold even in summer.
The stream, also called Beaver tailwater, forms when 50-degree water near the bottom of Beaver Lake flows through the dam and emerges from its base to once again become the White River.
The stream’s cold water is ideal habitat for trout that fly-rod waving anglers seek. Forested banks, bluffs and water clear as an aquarium make the White River below Beaver Dam a cool destination for floating.
Paddlers have options for floats of an hour or a day. A fine trip is to launch paddlecraft at an access 100 yards downstream from the dam and float to Bertrand Access. It’s a trip of about 3.5 miles. For a longer float, launch at the dam and take out at Houseman Access about 7 miles downstream. Or, float from Bertrand to Houseman for a trip of about 4 miles.
Floating from the dam to Bertrand Access offers the convenience of a walkable distance back to the dam to retrieve any vehicles after the float. It’s 1 mile from Bertrand back to the dam on a lightly traveled paved road. It’s uphill for one-half mile then all downhill from there.
That’s the float Keith Brashers of Rogers and his fishing pal picked for a trout fishing trip June 20, the final day of spring. Afternoon promised temperatures in the 90s. An early start to this shorter float would get the pair off the water by noon.
White River below Beaver Dam is unique among Ozark float streams because water is released through Beaver Dam to produce electricity. That raises the water level and quickens the flow. The water’s steady current carries kayaks and canoes downstream as if cradled in a gentle hand.
The trout fishing pair didn’t expect much current at all because, when summer arrives, power generation usually doesn’t start at the dam until midafternoon. Most anglers prefer the low water over higher flows.
What they did expect was to catch a few rainbow trout. Fishing is generally good on the tailwater. The pair normally go home with a few trout for the smoker. Some days anglers win and some days the fish win. This was definitely a day for the fish. Nary a trout was caught in four hours of fishing from the dam to Bertrand.
Rainbow trout pounce small black or brown jigs on most trips. Red and gold spoons the size of a thumb nail or little Rebel crawdad crank baits generally produce. The trout were there all right. The pair saw plenty cruising in the clear water.
“There goes a big one,” Brashers piped. “That looks like a 4-pounder.”
He would know. Brashers is a pro bass angler who fishes big league Bassmaster tournaments, plus local contests at Beaver Lake. He’s eyeballed thousands of fish during his tournament career.
Drifting down the lazy river, the two watched cackling kingfishers, squawking herons and whistling wood ducks. Fly fishers seemed to be doing best with the trout, catching an occasional fish.
“Yeah, but they’re all little ones,” one fly flinger said.
Brashers lobbed different lures hoping for a bite. His buddy even downsized from 4-pound test line that is standard on the tailwater to thinner 2-pound test. Nothing worked.
“These trout just aren’t liking what we’re throwing today,” Brashers said, but he kept casting until the canoe bumped the concrete ramp at Bertrand.
Zero fish is no big deal on a float trip that’s pleasant as a morning on the White River below Beaver Dam.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NWAFlip.