White River

Berry’s White River fishing report, February 21

Posted by John Berry on February 21st, 2014
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During the past week, we have had a minor rain event (less than a quarter inch here in Cotter), much warmer temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals fell two tenths of a foot to rest at one and two tenths feet below seasonal power pool of 659 feet. This is thirty seven and two tenths feet below the top of flood pool.

Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell two tenths of a foot to rest at one and six tenths feet below power pool and seventeen and six tenths feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell one tenth of a foot to rest at one and eight tenths feet below seasonal power pool or eleven and four tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we had significant wadable water over the weekend. Norfork Lake rose two tenths of a foot to rest at one and four tenths feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and twenty seven and six tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we 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. All of the lakes on this system are below power pool. With the milder weather we are now experiencing, we should receive more wadable water, in the coming days.

The Catch and Release section below Bull Shoals Dam was closed from November 1, 2013 to January 31, 2014 to accommodate the brown trout spawn. The State Park was seasonal Catch and Release for the same period. There are numerous redds around the area. Please use care when wading to avoid disturbing them.

On the White, The hot spot during the low water over the weekend was the Catch and Release section below Bull Shoals Dam. For the rest of the week the hot spot was the section from White Hole down to Cotter. The hot flies were olive woolly buggers, 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 a bit less water than they have in previous weeks water during the week but that has not deterred the streamer fishermen. 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.

There have been reports of a minor shad kill on the Bull Shoals tail water below Bull Shoals Dam and conditions have been conducive on both rivers. 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 Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are low and clear. With the cool temperatures, the smallmouth are inactive. 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 more 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 on the higher flows to great effect. The siphon to accommodate minimum flow was damaged during a recent winter storm and is not functioning.

Dry Run Creek has been virtually abandoned. Now would be a great time to fish it. The weather has warmed substantially and it is more comfortable for young anglers. 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. While you are there, take a few minutes to tour the adjacent Norfork National Fish Hatchery. It is fascinating!

The water level on the Spring River is clear 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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