White River

December 1, 2011 Fishing Report

Posted by John Berry on December 1st, 2011
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During the past week, we have had cold temperatures and windy conditions (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals Dam rose four tenths of a foot to rest at two tenths of a foot above power pool of 654.00 feet. This is forty and eight tenths feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake rose four tenths of a foot to rest at at two tenths of a foot above power pool or fifteen and eight tenths feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose one and five tenths of a foot to rest at five tenths of a foot below power pool or ten and one tenth of a foot below the top of flood pool. On the White, we have had more generation with significantly less wadable water. Norfork Lake rose one and three tenths of a foot to rest at one and one tenth of a foot below power pool of 552.00 feet or twenty nine and one tenth of a foot below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we have had little generation with substantial wadable water.

The Catch and Release section below Bull Shoals Dam will close from November 1, 2011 to January 31, 2012 to accommodate the brown trout spawn. The State Park from the bottom of the Catch and Release section down to the wing wall will be seasonal Catch and Release for the same period.

The dissolved oxygen level has dropped below the state minimum standard of six parts per million on the White and Norfork Rivers. At Bull Shoals and Norfork Dams, the vacuum breakers have been blocked open to allow more oxygen to mix with the water. Trout stocking has been eliminated on the upper Norfork River (above the Ackerman Access). Those fish have been diverted to the lower river. Stocking has also been eliminated on the upper White River (above White Hole) with those fish diverted to the lower White River. If you are fishing on the upper river of either the White or Norfork River, be very careful when handling trout. Land them quickly and revive them fully before releasing them.

The best place to fish was the section from Rim Shoals down to Buffalo Shoals. The hot flies were pink San Juan worms with copper Johns and black zebra midges in size fourteen or sixteen as droppers. Y2Ks and beadhead hare’s ears were also responsible for some nice fish.

Wildcat Shoals has been particularly hot. The hot flies have been partridge and orange and hare’s ear soft hackles on low water. On higher water, egg patterns with midge droppers have been the key to success.

Grasshopper season is still with us. They provide us with some of the best and most reliable dry fly fishing of the year. These are large tempting morsels that can tempt big fish. You need a nine foot 2X leader and a stiff rod (a six weight would be perfect). The trick is to bang the bank and imitate the action of a grasshopper that has fallen into the water and is struggling. Many takes occur as soon as the fly hits the water. The most effective patterns are Dave’s hoppers or big western foam hoppers (both in tan). To increase your catch, use a small nymph as a dropper. Effective nymphs would be pheasant tails or copper Johns. The most effective section of the river for this technique has been the section from Rim Shoals to Buffalo Shoals.

Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are high and stained. Several anglers have reported success with Clouser minnows and grass hoppers. Carefully check the water level before entering Crooked Creek or the Buffalo River. There are no dams on these streams. They both have large drainages and are prone to flooding during and following any rain event. The water can rise very quickly.

The Norfork has fished well. On lower water the hot flies have been red zebra midges (size 18 and smaller), Dan’s turkey tail emerger, hot pink worms and chamois worms. Soft hackles like the partridge and orange or the green butt have accounted for a lot of fish. On higher flows the best technique has been to drift brightly colored San Juan worms (red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise) and egg patterns (pink and orange).

Dry Run Creek has fished well. The hot flies have been sowbugs and various colored San Juan worms (worm brown, red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise). Small orange or peach eggs have been very effective. The browns are stacked in the creek like a cord of wood. While you are there take a few minutes to tour the adjacent National Fish Hatchery. It is fascinating! Be sure and remove your waders before entering to prevent the spread of aquatic diseases.

The water level on the Spring River is high and stained. This is a great place to wade fish. Canoe season is over and we have much less traffic on stream. Be sure to wear cleated boots and carry a wading staff. There is a lot of bedrock that can get very slick. The hot spot has been Bayou Access. The hot flies have been olive woolly buggers with a bit of flash, cerise and hot pink San Juan worms and Y2Ks.

Remember that the White and Norfork Rivers are infected with didymo, an invasive alga. Be sure and thoroughly clean and dry your waders (especially the felt soles on wading boots) before using them in any other water. Many manufacturers are now making rubber soled wading boots that are easier to clean and are not as likely to harbor didymo.

Practice water safety and always check conditions before you leave home.

John Berry is a fly fishing guide in Cotter, Arkansas and has fished our local streams for over twenty five years.

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