White River

Berry’s White River fishing report, May 18

Posted by John Berry on May 19th, 2012
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During the past week, we have had no rain events, warmer temperatures and windy conditions. The lake level at Bull Shoals Dam rose five tenths of a foot to rest at one tenth of a foot below power pool of 654.00 feet. This is forty one and one tenth feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell six tenths of a foot to rest at one foot below power pool or seventeen feet below the top of flood pool.

Beaver Lake fell two tenths of a foot to rest at one and three tenths of a foot below power pool or ten and nine tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we have had little generation with significant wadable water. Norfork Lake rose three tenths of a foot to rest at power pool of 552.00 feet or twenty eight feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we have had reliable wadable water every day. All of the lakes in the White River system are at or below flood pool. We should receive more wadable water this week.

On the White, we have had significant periods of wadable water all week. The wade fishing was spectacular. The hot flies were zebra midges (black with silver wire and silver bead), pheasant tails, copper Johns and green butts. Other productive flies were partridge and orange soft hackles and Dan’s turkey tail emerger. We have had some lower flows that have been nearly perfect for drift fishing. Nymphs suspended below a strike indicator have been quite effective. The most productive flies have been caddis pupa (green or tan), copper Johns, prince nymphs, San Juan worms (hot fluorescent pink or cerise) and zebra midges (black with silver wire and silver bead in size 16). My favorite combination has been a cerise San Juan worm with a zebra midge dropper.

The hot spot has been Wildcat Shoals. Though the caddis are generally on the wane, many anglers have reported success banging the bank with size fourteen elk hair caddis. The trick has been to get very close to the bank and achieve a perfect drag free drift. Another hot spot has been Buffalo Shoals.

Be on the lookout for the Sulphurs, our upcoming major mayfly hatch of the year. These are yellow orange mayflies in size fourteen. Before the hatch use mayfly nymphs like gold ribbed hares ears, pheasant tails and copper Johns. During the emergence, switch over to partridge and orange or partridge and yellow soft hackles. Once the trout begin keying in on the adults, switch to the sulphur parachutes. Be sure and achieve a perfect drag free drift.

Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are low and gin clear. Both are navigable but you may have to drag your boat in some spots. Several anglers (including me) have reported success with Clouser minnows and crawfish patterns. The Buffalo has been fishing particularly well. 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.

There has been reliable wadable water on the Norfork every day. The most productive flies have been small midge patterns like zebra midges (black or red) and Dan’s turkey tail emerger or soft hackles like my green butt or the partridge and orange. 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). Here again banging the bank with large articulated streamers can produce some large trout. When the flood gates were open, warm water fish escaped from the lake into the river. This is a great opportunity to catch stripers, walleye, gar and other species on the river. You are encouraged to remove them, as they are all predators with a taste for trout. The ramp at Quarry Park has been repaired and is open for business.

Dry Run Creek has fished well. The weather has been mild and it has drawn lots of young anglers taking advantage it. Spring break is over and it is much less crowded during the week. 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. There is precious little room to cast and the most productive technique has been to high stick nymphs. Carry the largest net you can get your hands on as some of these fish are huge.

The water level on the Spring River is lower and clear. This is a great place to wade fish when they are running water on the White and Norfork Rivers. Canoe season has not started yet 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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