- Looking over the cliff as you wind down the road above the White
River offers the feeling of building excitement similar to a
child's first view of Disneyland for any trout fisherman.
Anticipation of matching wits with the rainbow,
brown and cutthroat trout in the clear, cool waters below makes it
hard to keep focused on the winding road.
This north central Arkansas town has several
fishing guide services and one restaurant and is surrounded on
three sides by the river. After the small green sign announcing
the town's population of 921 is a larger one that declares,
"Cotter, Trout Capital USA."
Cotter used to be a big railroad town in another
era and then like the rest of Arkansas's Ozarks it became trout
country. These fish aren't native to Arkansas, but were introduced
several decades ago when new dams on some of the state's major
rivers wiped out the native bass, bream, catfish and crappie below
the dams. Cold water released from the dam made the downstream
rivers too chilly for the native fish, so trout were brought in.
And that has brought in fishermen like John
Berry, who operates Berry Brothers Guide Service along with
brother Dan. After ending one life as an accountant he began
another as a fly-fishing guide.
"I'm four blocks from the river and fishing,"
said Berry as he finishes off a pancake at the White Sands
restaurant and prepares for a day on the river. "That's hard to
beat. I walked down with the dogs the other day and saw an eagle
flying. ... There's a lot of potential here."
A couple of antique stores and a hair salon have
sprung up in the downtown. Home and Garden TV came to town
recently to film a segment.
"There are things for those rare people in town
like me, who don't fish," said Jane Flowers, who moved from
Memphis with her husband Chuck to help run White Hole Resort two
years ago, with a laugh. "I'm an artist and the scenes here, with
the bridges over the water, are fantastic. It's a great small
That small-town feeling and great fishing lured
outdoor artist Duane Hada into opening the Rivertown Gallery,
which features all types of realistic artwork of trout and other
"It's nice because people can come in and watch
me work," Hada said. "The pace is very nice here. And you can fish
Berry said the fishing has been good, even in
the cold weather with midges and nymphs. Soon the shad kill will
bring even more fishing excitement. Shad get through the dam
turbines and then into the water, which send the trout into a
feeding frenzy for anything white.
"Everybody knows it is coming," Berry said.
"We're just waiting."