White River

Berry’s White River fishing report, December 11

Posted by John Berry on December 11th, 2013
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During the past week, we have had the worst winter storm in recent memory to include sleet and snow (sixteen inches here in Cotter), brutally frigid temperatures (single digits on several days) and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose four tenths of a foot to rest at six tenths of a foot below seasonal power pool of 659 feet. This is thirty six and six tenths feet below the top of flood pool.

Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell two tenths of a foot to rest at one and two tenths feet below power pool and seventeen and two tenths feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake remained steady at two and two tenths feet below seasonal power pool or eleven and eight tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we have had little wadable water. Norfork Lake fell three tenths of a foot to rest at one and five tenths feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and twenty seven and seven tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we have had wadable water every day.

The water level for the top of power pool has been reset lower for some of the lakes in the White River system. With all of the lakes in the White River system below power pool and the temperatures moderating, I predict that we will receive more wadable water, in the coming weeks.

The Catch and Release section below Bull Shoals Dam will close from November 1, 2013 to January 31, 2014 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, conditions have been treacherous. Several docks sunk under the weight of the ice and snow. Access roads and ramps were coated with ice and snow. Cancelled trips, stuck vehicles and jack knifed trailers were the order of the day. There have been very few anglers and most were fishing streamers like sex dungeons and circus peanuts with limited results. Other hot flies were Y2Ks, prince nymphs, zebra midges (black with silver wire and silver bead or red with silver wire and silver bead), pheasant tails, ruby midges, pink and cerise San Juan worms, and sowbugs. Double fly nymph rigs have been very effective.

The Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are low. With the brutally cold temperatures, the smallmouth are not very active. The most effective fly has been a tan and brown Clouser minnow. 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 every day. Due to the brutal weather and hazardous road conditions there has been very limited fishing pressure. The most productive flies have been small midge patterns like zebra midges (black or red with silver wire and silver bead). 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 fishing is much better in the morning and late afternoon and tapers off midday.

Dry Run Creek has been virtually abandoned. It would be best to wait for warmer weather. Numerous brown trout have moved into the creek.The hot flies have been sowbugs, Y2Ks and various colored San Juan worms (worm brown, red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise). Use at least 4X tippet (I prefer fluorocarbon) to maximize your youngsters chance at landing a big one. Carry the largest net that you can lay your hands on and do not forget the camera. While you are there take a few minutes and tour the adjacent Norfork 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 fishable. This is a great place to wade fish, when they are running water on the White and Norfork Rivers. 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.

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

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