White River

John Berry’s fishing report, December 6

Posted by Phil Lilley on December 6th, 2012
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During the past week, we have had a rain event (less than an inch in Cotter), warmer temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals remained steady at seven and three tenths feet below power pool of 654.00 feet. This is forty eight and three tenths feet below the top of flood pool.

Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell three tenths of a foot to rest at nine and one tenth feet below power pool and twenty five and one tenth feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake remained steady at ten and seven tenths feet below power pool or twenty and three tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we have had light generation with significant periods of wadable water. Norfork Lake fell four tenths of a foot to rest at eleven and nine tenths feet below power pool of 553.75 feet or thirty eight and two tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we have had wadable water almost every day. All of the lakes in the White River system are well below flood pool and we should receive more wadable water.

The Catch and Release section below Bull Shoals Dam will close from November 1, 2012 to January 31, 2013 to accommodate the brown trout spawn. The State Park will be seasonal Catch and Release for the same period. All brown trout must be immediately released. In addition, night fishing is prohibited in this area during this period.

On the White, we have had more wadable water. The hot spot has been from the State Park down to White Hole. The best time to fish is early morning or late in the afternoon. Mid day can get slow. The hot flies were zebra midges (black with silver wire and silver bead or red with silver wire and silver bead), pheasant tails, copper Johns, pink and cerise San Juan worms, gold ribbed hare’s ears and olive scuds. Egg patterns have also accounted for many trout. Double fly nymph rigs have been very effective. Try a small bead headed nymph (zebra midge, copper John or pheasant tail) suspended eighteen inches below a brightly colored San Juan worm (hot fluorescent pink or cerise).

Despite the frost, grasshoppers are still working. These are terrestrials not aquatic insects. They are blown into the water by wind or fall in near the shore. They are large tempting morsels that can draw big fish. Use a nine foot 4X tippet and cast near the bank. Occasionally twitch the fly to imitate a struggling insect. Dave’s hoppers and large foam western hoppers are effective patterns. Use a small nymph as a dropper (a beadhead pheasant tail or a zebra midge is a good choice) tied to the bend in the hook with eighteen inches of 5X tippet to increase the takes. Make your connections with improved clinch knots. Other terrestrials like beetles and ants have also been effective. The best fishing has been late afternoon.

Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are low and barely navigable. You will have to drag your boat through several spots. With our colder weather, the water temperature has dropped and the smallmouth are much less 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.

There has been some wadable water on the Norfork every day and the action has slowed somewhat. It has received a lot of fishing pressure. Fish early or during the week to avoid the crowds. The most productive flies have been small midge patterns like zebra midges (black or red with silver wire and silver bead) and Dan’s turkey tail emerger or soft hackles like my green butt or the partridge and orange. There have been some small mayfly hatches that are best imitated with a size 24 parachute Adams. The fishing is much better in the morning and tapers off in the afternoon. Olive woolly buggers have also accounted for a lot of trout.

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. Large numbers of brown trout have moved up into the creek to spawn. Carefully handle and release all trout. With the cooler temperatures, Dry Run Creek is much less crowded and now is a great time to fish there. While you are there, take a few minutes to tour the adjacent Norfork National Fish Hatchery. It is fascinating. Please remove your waders before entering to prevent the spread of aquatic diseases.

The water level on the Spring River is low and clear. This is a great place to wade fish when they are running water on the White and Norfork Rivers. Canoe season is over and the few boaters still around should not prove to be a problem. The hot spot is the Dam Three Access. Be sure to wear cleated boots and carry a wading staff. There is a lot of bedrock that can get very slick. 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 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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