By Christian Toews
If you ask any fisherman, the sport holds more than catching fish. There is something peaceful and refreshing about the entire process. The company or the solitude. Time spent in nature’s glory. The excitement of catching a new personal record fish. Although fishing can seem simple, there are many reasons people get hooked on the sport.
People have enjoyed fishing for centuries. Although there are many ways to catch fish, one of the most challenging and rewarding ways is fly-fishing. This method involves a specific type of lure called a fly. The fly is attached to a very long line and rod. The goal is to impersonate a small insect and trick the fish into biting the fly. The fisherman (also known as an angler) will cast his line over his head in a beautiful rhythmic motion that will imitate an insect flying and landing on the water. Even if you don’t fish, watching someone fly fish is a mesmerizing experience. Watching the fly go back and forth over the angler’s head and then finally rest on the water and flow downstream.
The angler decides what fly to use and how to make his gear mimic an insect. Most anglers will agree, catching a fish is simply a bonus to being on the water and practicing your skills.
While you can fly fish on lakes and ponds, most fly-fishing is done in streams and rivers. If you are familiar with fly fishing, your initial thoughts might go toward Montana, Idaho or Alaska. But as many people are discovering, world-class fly fishing is right here in Oklahoma. In the far southeastern corner of the state, just a 30 minute drive from the Arkansas border, sits one of Oklahoma’s hidden fly-fishing gems.
Beavers Bend State Park holds 12 miles of excellent fishing. The Lower Mountain Fork River offers year-round trout fishing in a beautiful location. The river runs through the Ouachita Mountains, and even driving through Beavers Bend State Park to get to the river is gorgeous.
Jeff Preddy is a fly fishing guide on the Lower Mountain Fork River. Fishing is in his blood. Jeff’s father is an outfitter and a guide, and he grew up fishing and hunting. Preddy has guided fishing trips across the country and said the Lower Mountain Fork River is one of his favorite spots to fish because it’s a challenging river.
“I have fished all over the United States, several big saltwater fisheries, and the Lower Mountain Fork is the toughest river I have ever fished. It tests you as an angler,” said Preddy.
Although he has fished with all kinds of equipment, Preddy said that fly fishing is unique and challenging as a sport.
“I feel that it (fly-fishing) really is an art. You have an abnormally long fishing rod; you have a different line setup than any other type of line there is, you have a reel that’s not like any type of convention reel. To learn the cast, it takes an extreme amount of patience. To learn the timing takes an extreme amount of patience. I have been fly-fishing for ten years, and I am still learning how to improve my cast,” he said.
Many people love fly-fishing, not only for the challenge but also for spending time on the river and enjoying nature. Preddy said that this is one of his favorite fishing aspects, and he finds the river to be relaxing.
“You’re standing in the river. Listening to the sounds of the river, you’re watching nature at its finest,” explained Preddy. “You’ll see deer cross; beavers swim through, ducks; you have a ton of outdoor activity surrounding you. There is nothing more therapeutic to me than standing in a river and listening to nature.”
Maybe you want to fish for trout for the first time, or perhaps you’re a long-time fly-fisherman who wants to try the Lower Mountain Fork. Either way, hiring a guide is a practical way to get familiar with the area and learn a thing or two. Preddy said that hiring a guide is a great idea no matter where you choose to go fish.
“It helps in several ways. A guide already has the proper gear; they are paying attention to the weather, paying attention to the river; they are going to know what flies are in season. A guide is already going to have all that stuff figured out. If you don’t come in with a guide and without doing your homework, you’re guessing. We take the guesswork out of your day,” stated Preddy. “I have been fishing my whole life; if I’m going somewhere I’m not familiar with, I will hire a guide,” he continued.
Fishing might seem like a summer sport, but winter is one of the best times to fish for trout. Preddy explained that during the warmer months, the trout would find the cooler water deeper in the river, but you have a better chance of catching large fish during the winter months.
“You get into your larger fish during the winter months because they will get up in ankle-deep water and hang out and sunbathe,” said Preddy.
Whether you are a beginner, experienced angler, or anything in between, Beavers Bend State Park in Southeastern Oklahoma has something to offer you. If you are looking for beautiful scenery and big trout, now is a great time to visit and try your luck on the water.
If you would like more information about the Lower Mountain Fork River, from water level to regulations, visit wildlifedepartment.com/fishing/wheretofish/southeast/lower-mountain-fork. To learn more about Beavers Bend Fly Fishing Guide Service, visit their website at www.beaversbendflyfishingguideservice.com.