I was just 10 years old the first time I fished Dry Run Creek in north-central Arkansas. It was an incredible morning filled with catching really good rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout. It didn't take very long to realize that I was fishing some pretty special water, but I don't think it sunk in just how special until an absolutely beautiful 8-pound rainbow inhaled my Rebel Wee-Crawfish as it scurried across a deep pool. That fish remains as my personal best rainbow trout.

It’s been five years since I felt the excitement of holding that big trout in my hands, and it’s a little sad to think that soon I’ll be too old to fish Dry Run. I’ve been lucky to get the chance to fish this special-regulation stream for youth and mobility-impaired anglers every year even though I live in Georgia. I turn 16 soon, though, so my Dry Run opportunities have almost dried up.

When I hear about a youth-only fishery, I picture it as an uninteresting pond or maybe a little flat creek with grassy banks. Dry Run Creek is anything but that. It sits in a small, wooded valley beside the Norfork National Fish Hatchery. It’s a beautiful creek. Once you walk down the stairs to the water, you feel like you are standing beside a remote Ozark Mountain stream.

Few places have the feel of a wild mountain stream while providing easy access. With fully accessible fishing platforms at the lower end of the creek and good bank access all the way to the upper, fishermen of any skill level can get into position to make good casts.

Dry Run Creek on its own does not have a huge natural flow of water (which most likely explains its name). It’s fed by the Fish Hatchery outflow, so the creek bed stays full. The hatchery water actually comes through the Norfork Lake Dam, so it stays a perfect temperature and is full of nutrients.

Sure, it’s a pretty little creek, but that’s not what most people remember about seeing it for the first time. It’s the huge number of trout – I’ve never seen so many in such a small stream, or anywhere else, for that matter. It's the only place that I’ve ever been where you can see dozens of trout in a pool or a run. And, they’re nothing like the 10-inch stocker trout common to many tailrace fisheries. I don't think I have spent a single day fishing Dry Run without seeing at least a dozen 4-pound-plus fish.

Dry Run Creek fishing is strictly regulated. Only youth (16 years and younger) and mobility-impaired anglers may fish there, which means there is far less fishing pressure than you might expect. Additionally, you can only use barbless, single-hook artificial lures. A barbed hook can do serious damage to a trout, and anglers put too much importance on that barb holding the fish during the fight. If you simply keep pressure on the fish you’ll have no problem landing it.

There are some Rebel lures that I always have on hand for Dry Run. My personal favorites are the Rebel Wee-Crawfish, Teeny Wee-Crawfish and the Tracdown Minnow. These baits come equipped with two treble hooks, so before you fish Dry Run you have to change out the hooks. I remove both trebles from the split rings and replace the back one with slightly larger single hook. Then, I pinch down the barb with needle-nose pliers.

But just because you have the right lures and see all those big fish, it’s not “easy fishing.” You do have to work to catch the trout, especially the bigger ones. They’ve seen a lot of lures and flies, and the water is extremely clear.  

Much of the challenge is figuring out what the fish want any given day. I’ve seen people catch fish on tiny dry flies, but one of the most productive lures for me has been a 3 1/2-inch minnow bait. I carry a variety of lures so I have a lot of different things to show the fish.

Lure color can really make a difference on this creek. My experience on Dry Run goes against the grain of the old wisdom of “bright colors on bright days; subtle colors on overcast days.” I’ve caught plenty of big Dry Run trout on brighter colors when the sun is out, and in turn, had better success with dull colors on cloudy days. Bring a variety of colors to give yourself options.

I may get one more chance to visit this incredible fishery before I get too old, and I won’t lie to you, it’s going to be sad when I turn and leave this special creek behind. But I will have the memories and pictures to carry me through until I can bring my own kids to experience this incredible trout stream.

For Dry Run details, including complete regulations, go to the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission website at: www.agfc.com.