Dead Drift Fly Shop at Sunburst Ranch

Breaking Down the Sections of the North Fork River

The Blue Ribbon Section


The BLUE RIBBON secton of the NFoW is an 8 mile section of river running from the upper outlet of Rainbow Spring to Patrick Bridge.  In this area only 1 trout 18" or bigger is allowed per day.  This section primarily consists of  "wild" rainbow trout that have naturally sustained their population since last being stocked in the middle 1960's.  This genetic isolation has resulted in a strain of rainbow trout that is ideally suited to grow and survive in the habitat and water conditions of this unique river.  Rainbow Spring (private property) is the 5th largest spring in Missouri with flows of up to 137 million gallons per day.  These high volumes allow for excellent water conditions for trout throughout the year.  While these volumes are good for trout they present unique challenges for the wade fisherman.  Most fisherman who have not fished big swift rivers are not familiar with the techniques and set-ups that are required to consistently catch fish in these conditions.  Park fishermen, leave your 6X tippet at home, you will lose flies by the bucketful if you try that here.  The Blue Ribbon section is mainly a series of shallow fast moving  runs, riffles and islands with a few longer slower pools separating them.  Rainbow trout will be found in these riffles from top to bottom from the seam edges to the middle of the fastest water.  Each drift will present the fly in a slightly different manner, take your time, get the fly to the bottom, get your fly to the bottom, and yes get your fly to the bottom, and you will start to figure out where the majority of the fish are holding.  As you approach the end of a riffle usually the water begins to deepen, and a channel is usually visible.  This is a good place for fish to be holding, and oftentimes large browns are waiting to ambush your presentation as the water deepens.

Red Ribbon Section

 The RED RIBBON section of the NFoW offers a totally different experience from the upper section.  Running 7 miles from Patrick Bridge to Norfork Lake, this section primarily consists of brown trout which are stocked on the river once a year.  A two fish limit of 15" fish are permitted in this section, and if you must have a fish dinner we encourage you  to take these browns as opposed to our streambred rainbows.  As you fish the red ribbon section you will notice shallow fast riffles followed by longer deeper holes.  As in the blue ribbon section you will find fish from top to bottom in these riffles as well as in the "tailout" areas following the fast water.  These deeper slower tailout areas are  hotspots for browns of all sizes, and while sometimes hard to reach by waders, don't overlook swinging a wooly bugger or leach through this water.  As you move to the next riffle, throwing streamers on overcast days can be a fun way to fish the "frog water".  Browns seem to hold just about anywhere and streamer fishing allows you to quickly cover water oftentimes producing teeth rattling strikes from monster browns.  Getting brown trout to hit streamers is the easy part, getting them hooked consistently is still something I have yet to master.