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By Priscilla Willis | Photos courtesy of Gaston's White River Resort and Priscilla Willis

Gone Fishing' - Gaston's White River Resort

During the COVID-19 pandemic, fishing — fly fishing in particular — exploded in popularity as people looked to the great outdoors for relaxation and escape. Fishing allows you to explore places you’ve never been before, relax in the fresh air, be one with nature and escape from daily life.

At Gaston’s White River Resort in Lakeview, Arkansas, fourth-generation owner Clint Gaston said 2020-2022 had been the busiest years in the resort’s 64-year history.   

There are statistics to support this phenomenon in the 2021 Special Report on Fishing by the Outdoor Foundation and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. The report estimates 7.8 million people went fly fishing in the U.S. in 2020 — up a whopping 42% from 2010 and 20% from 2016 levels. In addition, the number of fly fishing trips surged to an estimated 97 million in 2020, up 27% from 2019. 

With more than 600,000 acres of pristine lakes and 90,000 miles of rivers and streams, fishing is part of The Natural State’s enduring allure and offers anglers countless opportunities to land a trophy or catch their limit. Many of Arkansas’ waterways are known nationwide by fishing enthusiasts. 

The White River is renowned for some of the finest trout fishing in the country. Its cool waters are home to four species of trout: rainbow, brown, cutthroat and brook trout, which the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission introduced in the 1950s after the construction of Bull Shoals Dam and Beaver Dam. Do a quick internet search of “where is the best fishing in Arkansas,” and you’ll find the White River listed as #1. Searches for “best trout fishing U.S.” returns the White River in the top 10, if not the top five, depending on the publication. 

In the words of John Ross in Trout Unlimited’s Guide to America’s 100 Best Trout Streams, the White River “is perhaps the longest and arguably the best series of tailwater trout fisheries in the United States.” Gaston’s premier location on the tailwaters of the White River below Bull Shoals Dam is especially well known for big browns. 

So, are you ready to catch a lunker or delve into the art of fly fishing? 

Gaston’s White River Resort is waiting to create the fishing experience of your dreams. Today, the resort consists of 400 acres of unspoiled natural beauty where guests can disconnect, unwind, and fish in style and comfort. The resort draws anglers from across the country for the ultimate White River experience. Many fly in on private or charter planes landing on the property’s 3,200-foot-long turf surface airstrip. 

Gaston’s airstrip is known as the best fly-in destination in the region. The airstrip is open to everyone, not just guests staying in the resort’s cottages. Folks fly in from all over the country to visit and experience world-class trout fishing or to enjoy a delicious meal with a fabulous view of the White River in the resort’s restaurant decorated with an eye-opening array of vintage boat motors, bicycles, and farm and household implements.

Whether you’re a first-timer, amateur or seasoned angler, creating lifelong memories is what Arkansas naturalist Jim Gaston envisioned when he took over Gaston’s White River Resort from his father, Al Gaston, at age 22.

When Al bought the resort in 1958, it consisted of 20 acres of White River frontage, a boat dock, six cottages and six boats. Jim often joked that he inherited “six cabins and boats and a lot of debt.” But he was the perfect man to make things happen. 

Following a philosophy to “simply make the world a better place however I can,” Jim transformed the rustic resort. He built it into a nationally recognized destination for trout fishing that now has 79 cabins, 70 boats, an airstrip, tennis courts, a restaurant, a private club, a 125-seat conference center, a gift shop, a playground, a swimming pool, a game room and two nature trails. Thanks to Jim’s guidance, his grandson Clint Gaston continues the legacy of Gaston’s with a passion for preserving nature and creating memorable family traditions.

Guests relax in riverbank cottages that offer a cozy place for two, accommodations for families or a lodge with 10 private bedrooms. Most of the cottages come complete with a kitchenette, an outdoor grill and firewood for the fireplace. Be sure to enjoy the many amenities at Gaston’s during your stay. Walk the two nature trails and see the peacocks. The river trail meanders along Gaston’s 1.5 miles of river frontage, and the Ozark Nature Trail and Wildlife Refuge are across the road at the entrance to the resort. Watch the small planes land and take off from the airstrip. Swim in the pool and volley on the tennis courts. Clint and the friendly staff at Gaston’s are waiting to welcome you as part of Gaston’s family and make your stay an unforgettable experience.

Many anglers have realized their dream in this scenic Ozark Mountain region while on a one-of-a-kind guided fly fishing trip. Need lessons? No problem. Attend fly fishing school with master fly fisherman, television and podcast personality Frank Saksa, lead river guide at Gaston’s. 

On a visit in February, this writer’s small fishing group had the opportunity to spend a few hours with Frank. The making of a master angler takes more than half a day, but hiring a guide is totally worth it. Fishing is not a static sport. Experienced anglers read the water and change their bait and methods according to the season, weather, water levels and so on. Due to the low level of the water in February, the group did what is called drift fishing and used cut-up shrimp as bait. 

The group came away with several rainbow trout and these helpful tips on spin reel casting for the beginning angler:

1.     Grip three fingers firmly around the pole, pinky finger below the reel foot

2.     Move the line roller to the top, place your index finger on the line

3.     Flip the bail, slowly bring the pole out to the side and back

4.     Stop, then cast overhead to 10 o’clock (45-degree angle), pointing your finger to where you want the bait to land and take your finger off the line

Now practice, practice, practice — like anything else. 

Wrap up your exciting day in the great outdoors with a relaxing meal overlooking the water at Gaston’s famous restaurant. Serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, Gaston’s restaurant serves a delicious array of sandwiches, salads, pasta, seafood, steaks and a selection of daily specials. Had a successful day on the river? The kitchen will even cook your catch for you. 


Gaston’s restaurant is a beloved Arkansas destination and, with the addition of Chef Rick Gollinger, offers the finest dining experience in the area. The diverse dinner menu has something to please every palate, including Southern favorites such as Chicken Fried Steak and Fried Catfish and, of course, trout prepared whole, fried, broiled or pan-seared with the sauce of your choice. Gaston’s restaurant is open seven days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., except in January when it undergoes a refresh and deep cleaning.


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