Trip Report from Our Visit to Oklahoma
I just returned from a little family vacation to Oklahoma. Although the thought of visiting the Sooner State wouldn’t even occur to most folks from the Great Lakes region, we gave it a shot and had a blast. We fished, we took in the scenery, we ate chicken fried steak with fried okra, and we had fun spending time together as a family. In short – it was a successful trip.
Why Oklahoma? Well, as many of you know I’m on a mission to fish all 50 states before I turn 50 (check out this blog if you’re wondering about the history of this little quest or visit this link to see the map). After having fished all of the “well known” destinations around the country, I’m at the point where the more “obscure” states are the only ones left. I put those words in quotes because their use is subjective. For example, if you’re from Dallas, TX, you’re probably thinking, “what took you so long for you to make it to OK?” This is a big reason why it’s a goal of mine to fish all 50 states – to shed any preconceived notions I might have about a particular area and to learn more about our country and my fellow anglers spread throughout. Since the quest began, I’ve had nothing but positive experiences.
Okay– back to OK. Since I had some time set aside in early March to take a break before the spring madness back home, I opted to go to the southernmost state left on the list in the hopes of enjoying some warm weather. Although Mother Nature can be very erratic no matter where you live this time of year, I figured going south would give me the best shot at feeling something a little warmer than back home. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way, but I’ll get to that later.
When my 50 before 50 quest began, iPhones weren’t a thing. The internet was going strong but in order to get deep into research, I had to buy gazetteers and study the terrain. Although I enjoyed those good old days, it’s pretty sweet to be able to get deep into what a region has to offer in the palm of my hand.
Nowadays, I open google maps, type in “fishing in insert state name here,” and look for the clusters of red dots that indicate businesses focused on fishing. When I did this for Oklahoma, there was a dense cluster around the border of Texas and another one in the eastern portion of the state. That cluster on the border of TX was Lake Texoma. The cluster in the eastern part of the state was Beaver’s Bend State Park. I plotted the distance between the 2 locations (about 2 hours) and came up with a plan.
Although I ended up fishing the most well known parts of the state, I barely scraped the surface of what Oklahoma has to offer. The Sooner State has 11,611 miles of shoreline, more than the combined non-tidal coasts of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Check out this link for more – 100 amazing facts about Oklahoma. That’s a crazy number of lakes, ponds, and rivers – most of which are fishable. Bottom line, there’s a ton to see and do. Enough for me to think about going back after I accomplish my mission.
When coming up with the itinerary, I had to take into consideration that this was going to be a family trip. By family, I mean my wife and daughter and I, plus my friend Brian and his family – a total of 7 people. A group that large necessitated BnBs and 2 fishing guides. When traveling with kids (ages 10-12), I’ve learned it’s best to have a base and to stay there for a minimum of 2 nights before moving to the next spot to avoid running the crew ragged. With those considerations in mind, here’s what we executed:
- Day 1 – flew to Dallas, TX then drove to Lake Texoma.
- Day 2 – fished Texoma
- Day 3 – fished Texoma then drove to Beaver’s Bend in the PM.
- Day 4 – fished Beaver’s Bend
- Day 5 – fished and explored Beaver’s Bend and Broken Bow, OK.
- Day 6 – drove back to Dallas, TX and caught a flight home.
Here are the links to our guides. All were awesome – if you find yourself visiting these areas, I highly recommend you give them a call:
- Flywater Angling Adventures – Lake Texoma – Steve Hollensed – Guide Services
- JD Lyle – Lake Texoma Striper Guide | J.D. Lyle | Voted Best Guide 2019
- Beaver’s Bend Fly Shop – https://www.beaversbendflyshop.com/ – guide Peter Breeden
The pace was perfect. Travel was easy. Everyone remained in good spirits.
Reflections on Lake Texoma
When we pulled up to our AirBnb on Lake Texoma, it was the first time I had ever set foot in the state. Temperatures were in the 40s and the wind was howling out of the north. The forecast showed this pattern would persist throughout our stay. All I could think was, “Great – the cold followed us. Well, we’ve gotta bundle up and make the best of it.”
Cold fronts are generally tough to fish through. Fish, like us, prefer stability so they get finicky when temperatures drop quickly. I knew it was going to be a grind and had my fingers crossed that our guides would be fun and interesting to spend time with and that the kids would be able to endure the conditions.
In the end, it all worked out. Although it was certainly frigid and a grind, we connected to some quality fish and enjoyed the company of our guides. Lake Texoma is a crazy place – full of life. There was never a time the sonar was blank (there’s an insane amount of shad in that system). The fact that we were able to make things happen in crappy conditions is a testament to the richness of that fishery.
As I mentioned earlier, I knew it’d be dicey traveling to fish in March – but that was the only window we could make work so we went for it. My only regret is that we didn’t get to see the area at its best. Surprisingly, to me at least, there are a lot of big cliffs and trees around the lake but because it’s still winter, everything was brown and barren of foliage. In full bloom, the region would be beautiful. If I make it back there, it’ll be in the spring or fall.
Reflections on Beaver’s Bend
There wasn’t much scenery on the drive from Dallas to Texoma nor was there much to see on the drive from Texoma to Beaver’s Bend. In one word – it’s flat. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, you’re in the hills, surrounded by trees, massive rock formations, and creeks. I remember thinking, “Where did this come from? Are we still in Oklahoma?”
Eastern Oklahoma reminded me a lot of the Ozarks. We stayed in a multi level cabin in Broken Bow, OK – right outside the boundary of Beaver’s Bend State Park. It was a sweet location – lots of restaurants and little tourist attractions, but not so many as to be off-putting if you’re trying to escape the noise and congestion of the city. The crew loved it.
When we drove around the area to get oriented, we noticed that nearly all the license plates were from Texas. Clearly, many folks travel here from the Dallas Metro area for the same reason we did – to feel like you’re in the wilderness and spend some time outside enjoying nature. There are countless trails and miles of public access to creeks that hold fish.
The fishing was ok – after all, us humans played a huge role in shaping the region. Dams built by the Army Corps of Engineers created a huge lake and some tail water creeks that run cold enough to sustain a population of trout. Logging throughout the 1800s early 1900s stripped a lot of the old growth forests. Thankfully, much of the damage was repaired over the years with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Still, it’s absolutely gorgeous and was a completely different look at Oklahoma from our first couple days. Also, Beavers Bend Fly shop is a great little outfit – well stocked with everything you need to fish the area with excellent guides to put you on fish.
Looking back on the trip, the best part was covering new territory with my family and Brian’s family. Everyone had a great time and some tears were shed upon parting ways. Like I say after all of these little adventures – be bold, pick dates, come up with a plan, and make it happen. Something magical always happens when you’re there.
Stay healthy my friends – mentally and physically,