Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine, Online

Enjoy a stay at Gaston’s, with or without casting a line

Enjoy a stay at Gaston’s, with or without casting a line

Enjoy a stay at Gaston’s, with or without casting a line 

Guest writer Robert Huston offers a
recommendation from personal experience

Article Images
Even people who are never once going to wet a hook can enjoy a stay at Gaston’s White River Resort in Lakeview, Ark. After discovering the onshore comforts, the landlubber in a couple or a family may become the one who suggests a fishing trip.

Gaston’s is one of America’s premier trout fishing destination for good reason. The White River is teeming with trout, which is how a resort-lover may easily lure their significant angler into a getaway. In a fishery that full of huge trout, you cannot not catch fish. One of Gaston’s professional fishing guides will even do most of the work while you hold the rod.

When your angler asks what you will do while they’re fishing, just say you’ll think of something.

You might join your partner by sitting on the bank, enjoying the peaceful quiet and beautiful fall colors. You could even sit in the boat with him or her while an experienced guide takes you on the White River and you take photos of the scenery. Or you could actually fish, which a guide will make into a wonderful experience even for beginners.

But a fully non-fishing guest can get off the hook and have a fantastic resort experience.

Enjoying morning coffee while overlooking the river, as fog lifts off the water, might work for you, followed by an easy walk to Gaston’s restaurant for the breakfast buffet.

Watching the takeoffs and landings of private aircraft bringing fishermen and celebrities to experience Arkansas trout fishing is fun.

Gaston’s also sports a nature trail where a quiet walk may reveal wild turkeys, peacocks, guineas, a ton of indigenous birds, squirrels, chipmunks and deer. This hardwood-abundant area is so popular with wildlife, there are strategically-placed lawn chairs facing common animal gathering areas.

The setting was much more rustic in 1958 when Al Gaston bought 20 acres of river frontage below Bull Shoals State Park, built six small fishing cottages and bought six boats.

Today Gaston’s has grown to more than 400 acres with two miles of White River frontage, 79 well-appointed cottages and more than 70 boats at state of the art docks. It also has a world class restaurant, private club, gift shop, tennis court, swimming pool and game room. It employs a staff of 80.

Gaston’s massive growth took place under Al’s son Jim Gaston, who was a perpetual supporter of Arkansas tourism. Jim saw the broader picture. He figured, regardless of whether they stayed at his resort, if people just came to Arkansas for the fishing they’d be hooked.

Jim served on Arkansas’ Parks and Tourism Commission with Fort Smith’s beloved Polly Crews. Both were forces to be reckoned with. He advocated strongly for preserving Arkansas’ wild beauty and protecting its rivers and streams.

In honor of his service, a nearby state Visitor Center was named for him. The $4.7 million facility overlooks Bull Shoals-White River State Park and has an environmental education center.

After Jim Gaston’s death in 2015, the fishing resort is sailing on smoothly under his grandson. Clint Gaston, 27, has a down-to-earth, relaxed demeanor much like Jim’s that immediately puts you at ease. Clint says his philosophy is to enhance, not change, what has worked for almost 60 years.

To invite a new generation to explore Gaston’s, Clint plans to establish some running and athletic events, playing to the lifestyle interests of a younger, health-conscious demographic. Maybe they’ll try a little fishing after the race.

The appeal of superbly fresh brown and rainbow trout to people who have adopted “clean” eating or Paleo diets is obvious.

Although the restaurant at Gaston’s is already legendary, Clint has brought in Chef Rick Gollinger to burnish the opulent fine dining menu with his experience and creativity. Outdoor writers from all over the country have attempted to describe the chef’s dishes of duck confit venison with bearnaise sauce. The best way to experience his cooking is to taste it – words fail.

But we thought it would be fun to show Chef Rick’s culinary magic. You can watch Chef Rick talk about and prepare pan-seared duck breast with wild mushroom brandy cream sauce, step-by-step, at Entertainment Fort Smith’s Facebook page, or at the link. 

Chef Rick and other Gaston’s cooks are also renowned for preparing an outdoor “shore lunch”?of freshly-caught trout, fried to perfection and served with sides and delicacies baked in a campfire Dutch oven.

Whether it is chef-prepared cuisine, a country breakfast or campfire cooking, Gaston’s satisfies every guest’s taste.

Beautiful cabins, gorgeous walks and delicious, chef-prepared meals – three reasons a non-fishing visitor can enjoy Gaston’s.

All four seasons offer different reasons to visit. Fishing styles shift between shore fishing, drift boat fishing and at fewer times, wading. The Gaston’s website includes an expert fishing report offering daily reports and seasonal projections.

The hospitality is equally splendid all year round.

By Robert Huston

This story appears in the October 2016 issue of Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine.

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Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine, Online