White River

Berry’s White River fishing report, January 8

Posted by John Berry on January 8th, 2014
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During the past week, we have had a polar vortex that included snow (about two inches here in Cotter), brutally cold temperatures (it fell to 0 degrees here in Cotter) and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals fell one and two tenths feet to rest at three tenths of a foot below seasonal power pool of 659 feet. This is thirty six and three tenths feet below the top of flood pool.

Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell eight tenths of a foot to rest at five tenths of a foot below power pool and sixteen and three tenths feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell four tenths of a foot to rest at three tenths of a foot above seasonal power pool or nine and three tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we have had no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell one and two tenths feet to rest at two tenths of a foot below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and twenty six and eight tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we have had little wadable water.

The water level for the top of power pool has been reset lower for some of the lakes in the White River system. They have been generating on all of the lakes on the White River system to respond to the increased power demand due to the brutally cold weather. All of the lakes on this system are at or below power pool.

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, The hot spot has been the section from the State park down to White Hole. The 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 (try a cerise or pink San Juan worm with a midge pattern suspended below it).

The Corps of Engineers have been running significantly more water and that has benefitted the streamer fishing. To do this you need at least an eight weight fly rod, a heavy sink tip fly line and large articulated streamers. The idea is to bang the bank and strip the fly back to the boat. This is heavy work and requires advanced casting skills. Some effective patterns are sex dungeons and circus peanuts.

The Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are high and off color. With the cold temperatures, the smallmouth are very inactive. 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 very little wadable water on the Norfork. 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). There have been reliable hatches of small midges and caddis (try a size 22 Adams parachute).The fishing is much better in the morning and late afternoon and tapers off midday. Some anglers have been fishing heavy articulated streamers on sink tip lines to great effect.

There have been reports of a minor shad kill on the Norfork tail water below Norfork Dam. This is a natural phenomenon where threadfin shad in the lake die and are drawn through the generators at the dam. These bits of shad produce a feeding frenzy. This usually occurs during extremely cold weather and high levels of generation. Watch for gulls hitting the shad as they come through the generators. The best flies are white shad patterns. The conditions are promising for a shad kill on both the White and Norfork Rivers.

Dry Run Creek has been virtually abandoned. Now would be a great time to fish it. 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. Take great care to dress your children properly for the cold weather. Take frequent breaks to warm them up.

The water level on the Spring River is clearer and quite 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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