White River

John Berry’s fishing report, February 1

Posted by Phil Lilley on February 1st, 2013
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During the past week, we have had a significant rain event (two inches in Cotter) warm then colder temperatures and extremely heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals rose eight tenths of a foot to rest at seven and two feet below power pool of 654.00 feet. This is forty eight and two tenths feet below the top of flood pool.

Upstream, Table Rock Lake rose five tenths of a foot to rest at nine and eight tenths feet below power pool and twenty five and eight tenths feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell rose one and nine tenths feet to rest at ten and two tenths feet below power pool or nineteen and eight tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we have had light generation with some wadable water. Norfork Lake rose six tenths of a foot to rest at twelve and nine tenths feet below power pool of 553.75 feet or thirty nine and one tenth feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we have had wadable water most days. 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 was closed from November 1, 2012 to January 31, 2013 to accommodate the brown trout spawn. The State Park was 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. Opening day, February 1, is here. The thought of fishing over spawned out brown trout that have not fed or seen a fly for three months is on the minds of many anglers. It is usually very crowded for several days. The hot flies are egg patterns.

On the White, we have had more wadable water. The most productive water has been the State Park with the lower section being the hot spot. 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 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). The trout have also been active on soft hackles like my green butt or the partridge and orange and Dan’s turkey tail emerger.

With the colder weather we begin to think about a shad kill. At this time, there are low lake levels, light generation patterns but much colder temperatures on the White and Norfork Rivers. While the colder temperatures are conducive to a shad kill, the lower lake levels and generation patterns are not. The recent rain is not enough to produce the higher generation levels for a good shad kill.

Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are a bit more navigable after the recent rains. 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 wadable water on the Norfork most days. The action has slowed somewhat and with the colder temperatures it has been a bit less crowded. 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. Some local dry fly enthusiasts have had great success by keying in on small mayfly hatches that are best imitated with a size 24 parachute Adams. There has also been a sparse hatch of caddis size 16. Olive woolly buggers have also accounted for a lot of trout. The fishing is much better in the morning and tapers off in the afternoon.

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. Dry Run Creek is much less crowded and now is a great time to fish there. Dress your youngster carefully and keep them warm. Handle all fish carefully and release them as quickly as possible.

The water level on the Spring River is a bit higher and stained from the recent rains. 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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