Fly fishing is one of southeastern Oklahoma’s most iconic outdoor activities. And in the fall and winter, Beavers Bend State Park’s jaw-dropping beauty makes it one of the most sought-after stops on Oklahoma’s fishing trail.
Whether you’re a regular or just casting your first fly, a trip to McCurtain County, Oklahoma is always more memorable with some river water in your waders. But the best trips have a little professional guidance.
We sat down with Morgan “Mo” Prater, a fly fishing guide at Beavers Bend Fly Shop, to fish out her tips on fly fishing this time of year and why she says “the tug is the drug,” plus a little advice for beginner anglers new to the sport.
Daylight’s getting shorter and the weather’s getting chillier. When’s the best time of day to cast your line?
Early mornings in the late fall can be good, as our water temps are still warm. But as the air and water temperatures drop, you can expect the bite to be good both mornings and afternoons — and occasionally midday, depending on the bug hatch.
The bite can turn on and off as the day goes on, so being out there is the best way to catch them. Can’t catch ‘em without your line in the water, and this time of year is prime time.
How’s the river lately? What can anglers expect when they’re wading out this fall and winter?
The river has become steadily busy over the years with fishermen, hikers, and just people out sightseeing. Although you’ll still find success amongst the crowds on weekends, it’s not uncommon to have sections of the river to yourself during the week, especially at first and last light in the fall and winter.
What species can you expect to reel in right now?
Depends on the section of the river you’re fishing. Zone One is the head of the river. It starts where Broken Bow Lake spills out (the spillway dam) and snakes its way all the way to Old Park Dam. The state stocks Zone One every other week with rainbow trout, and occasionally, brown trout. Both rainbows and browns reproduce naturally, but the majority of fish you can expect to catch are the stocked rainbow trout. You may also run into some palomino trout. They are the bright neon yellow rainbow trout you see every once in a while when we get a stocking. Aside from rainbows and browns, you’ll also see and catch the occasional bass or bream.
Regulations call for a daily limit of three rainbows, with only one being 25 inches or bigger. If you’re lucky and catch a brown trout, remember to handle it with care. The daily limit is one brown trout, which has to be 30 inches or bigger to keep.
Farther down river below Old Park Dam, you will find Zone Two and Zone Three of the river, where you can also catch trout. But once those water temperatures warm up during the summer, you’re more likely to catch your warm water species, like largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bream, catfish, and drum.
What’s in your tacklebox lately?
There’s an eclectic mix of bug life here in Beavers Bend State Park, so it’s best to have a wide assortment of flies at all times. Bug wise, lots of mayfly nymphs, tiny emergers, caddis galore, and a decent mix of stoneflies and salmon flies. When fish are rising, you can’t go wrong with dry flies, like Parachute Adams, elk hair caddis, and Griffiths gnats.
If nothing is rising, throw on a hopper or an indicator up top and run a bead head nymph, like a pheasant tail, Tung Teaser, and/or a Copper John with a small emerger pattern behind it.
Any gear or flies you’d recommend fall fishermen make sure to bring on a fall fishing trip?
The number one thing you’ll need to bring is a fishing license from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Then, you want some good waders and wading boots, preferably with felt, as portions of the river can be extremely slippery. You need a good net to help land the fish without harming yourself or the fish. Remember to practice proper catch and release techniques when letting fish go. Also, an assortment of nymphs and dry flies. I also recommend some polarized sunglasses.
A lot of people head down to McCurtain County to get a taste of the outdoors. What’s your advice for a first timer?
This fishery can be tough if you don’t know your way around. It’s a short stretch of river with fish that get a lot of fisherman pressure, so don’t be afraid to stop into the local fly shop and ask questions. Also, don’t be afraid to throw more than one fly at a time. And if you find a good hole with fish, don’t be afraid to change up flies or the depth at which you are fishing them.
Fly fishing ain’t just for the boys. What would you say to a woman looking to give it a go while she’s in McCurtain County?
I would tell her DO IT! What are you waiting for? From my experience, women tend to pick up fly fishing quicker than men. I would also say, don’t be afraid to stop into your local fly shop and ask questions — or even hire a guide to get you comfortable with general knowledge and how to read the water.
There’s no shame when learning a new sport. Don’t hesitate to watch YouTube videos to learn about everything from knots to casting to fly tying. It can be tough trying to teach yourself, which is why us at Beavers Bend Fly Shop take pride in teaching brand new anglers and getting them confident and comfortable out on the water. We all have to start somewhere.
I promise it could change your life. It did mine!
What got you into fly fishing?
There’s an old saying: “trout don’t live in ugly places,” and I would have to say the beautiful places fishing takes me is what has kept me in the sport.
I’ve been fly fishing the Lower Mountain Fork River since 2015. My husband was a big influence in sparking my passion for fishing when we started dating nine years ago, and it’s something we’ve always enjoyed doing together. Out fishing him is just a bonus.
Alright, alright. After a long day on the river, where’s your favorite local spot to grab a bite?
After a long day on the river, I’ll swing home, pick up my pups, and head over to The Eat Out for a delicious burger (I recommend The Nooner), sweet potato fries, and a yummy milkshake on their cozy patio.
Get Here Already!
Your next favorite fishing hole is just a short drive away. Book your Broken Bow cabin and download the Visit McCurtain County app to start planning your trip with park and trail maps, local dining guides, and even more activity ideas.