White River

Berry’s fishing report, March 30

Posted by John Berry on March 31st, 2012
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During the past week, we have had no rain, warm temperatures and windy conditions. The lake level at Bull Shoals Dam rose three and four tenths of a foot to rest at seven and nine tenths feet above power pool of 654.00 feet. This is thirty three and one tenth feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake rose two tenths of a foot to rest at two and nine tenths of a foot above power pool or thirteen and one tenth feet below the top of flood pool.

Beaver Lake rose three and two tenths of a foot to rest at five feet above power pool or four and six tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we have had light generation early in the week when there was flooding downstream and much heavier generation later in the week once the flooding had cleared. There was no wadable water. Norfork Lake rose seven and five tenths of a foot to rest at eleven and two tenths of a foot above power pool of 552.00 feet or sixteen and eight tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we have had light generation during the week and no wadable water. The runoff from the significant rain event of the prior week continued to raise the lake levels on all lakes on the White River system. We should have high water conditions for the foreseeable future.

The Catch and Release section below Bull Shoals Dam was closed to fishing from November 1, 2011 to January 31, 2012 to accommodate the brown trout spawn. It was opened to fishing on February 1, 2012. When you are fishing there you should avoid the use of drag chains to prevent damage to trout redds and the brown trout eggs in them. On low water, you should wade carefully to avoid them. They will appear as clean depressions in the gravel bottom.

Early in the week, the water flows on the White River have been low and constant. While this water level has not been conducive for streamer fishing, the water levels have been near perfect for drifting small nymphs. With the lighter flows, we have been able to use less weight on the leader and we have been required to use lighter tippets (5X or even 6X). Productive patterns have been zebra midges (red and black with silver wire and silver bead), sowbugs, copper Johns and egg patterns.

The caddis hatch is getting more active. It is our most reliable and prolific hatch of the year. It starts as a solid size fourteen green caddis. Before the hatch, fish green nymph patterns like the fluttering caddis. When you begin seeing top water action but no insects, you should switch over to my green butt soft hackle. When the fish begin keying in on hatching adults, you should change over to green elk hair caddis.

The hot spot has been the section of the river from Wildcat Shoals down to Cotter. The caddis have been reliably hatching in the early afternoon. It has been more effective to fish nymphs like the fluttering caddis or emergers like the caddis pupa emerger. My green butt soft hackle has been quite effective.

On the much higher flows that we received later in the week, the key to success has been to drift brightly colored San Juan worms and egg patterns below an indicator. You should use a leader/tippet combination of twelve feet or longer and heavy weight (AAA split shot or heavier). To increase the takes, suspend a dropper fly beneath the lead fly. Productive choices would be copper Johns, sowbugs and fluttering caddis nymphs.

Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are lower and clearing. The water temperature is at the temperature for the Smallmouth to be active. 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 White River below Crooked Creek and the Buffalo is very muddy. Move upstream to find clear water.

There has been generation continuously on the Norfork. 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 been productive. The weather has been mild and it has drawn lots of young anglers taking advantage of their spring break. There is plenty of water to fish and there are trout everywhere. 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. Be sure and take your camera to capture the photograph of a lifetime.

The water level on the Spring River is lower and clearing. This is a great place to wade fish when they are running water on the White and Norfork Rivers. 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 the Dam Three Access. The hot flies have been brown woolly buggers with a bit of flash, cerise and hot pink San Juan worms and Y2Ks.

Remember that the White and Norfork Rivers and Dry Run Creek 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 thirty years.

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