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The Best Trout Rivers South of the Mason Dixon

ftd-southfishing
Courtesy Billy Bob Bain

Trout thrive in these five southern rivers.

Fly fishing is one of my favorite things, hands down. But a trip to the Snake River or Estes Park isn’t in the cards for me. I think I’m not alone there.

Especially for the the young adults in our audience, who may not have much of a budget for vacationing, trips across the country to to fish for trout in their native streams aren’t really an option.

But that doesn’t mean we should give up on our local stocked streams. Trout are cold water fish, and thrive less as the elevation and the latitude drop. But some of these rivers become just as good as their native counterparts up north with the right stocking and management.

While technically below the line, the southwest has been left out because those rivers are already fairly well known. It would be a pretty cheesy move on our part.

The Guadalupe River in Texas

Courtesy Michael Brown.
Courtesy Michael Brown.

This beautiful freestone river gets too scrawny during Central Texas heat waves to support trout naturally. But the water coming out of Canyon Dam is cold enough to sustain rainbow trout for the next 15 miles of river. It stays cold enough for the trout to survive year-round.

The Guadalupe River chapter of Trout Unlimited is one of the largest in the country, and their decades of conservation and advocacy have created a world-class trout river.

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The White River in Arkansas

Courtesy Tanya Impeatrice
Courtesy Tanya Impeatrice

The White River is the state’s major contribution to the Mississippi. It’s also a trout river that rivals the best streams west of the Rockies.

Brown, brook, rainbow, and cutthroat live and spawn in the cool tailwaters of several of the White River’s tributaries. Those browns and rainbows often get above 10 pounds. All in all, the White River may be one of the best on this list.

The Mountain Fork in Oklahoma

Courtesy Thomas & Dianne Jones
Courtesy Thomas & Dianne Jones

There are a lot of successful stocked streams in Oklahoma, but the Mountain Fork beneath Broken Bow Lake is the most talked about. The river is a popular destination for whitewater, and its mountain scenery is reminiscent of some of the dramatic rivers of the Western United States.

It’s also notable for being one of the southernmost rivers where trout have started spawning.

The Smith River in Virginia

Courtesy vastateparkstaff
Courtesy vastateparkstaff

The Appalachians are high enough to chill trout streams even at Virginia’s muggy latitudes. But finding really good water can be tricky.

There are lots of good streams dotting the western half of the state, but the Smith River gets singled out for its trophy browns. Many of these fish exceed 10 pounds, and its ease of access relative to the Appalachian rivers makes the Smith River a trip worth taking.

The Sipsey Fork in Alabama

The Black River, which the Sipsey flows into. Courtesy Ted Major
The Black River, which the Sipsey flows into. Courtesy Ted Major

Like the Guadalupe in Texas, the Sipsey Fork rainbow trout benefit from the cold outflow of a large hydroelectric dam. The trout in the Sipsey Fork also manage to survive through the year. The river’s unruffled surface is more reminiscent of a chalk stream, but don’t go overboard with the dry flies. The best fishing is with midge imitations.

A lot of this is just scratching the surface. You’ll be surprised at what you might discover if you give dixie a little faith and a thorough Google search. And let us know if you have any favorite southern trout rivers!

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The Best Trout Rivers South of the Mason Dixon