White River

Berry’s White River fishing report, March 28

Posted by John Berry on March 29th, 2014
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During the past week, we have had rain, warmer temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals remained steady at one tenth of a foot above seasonal power pool of 659 feet. This is thirty five and nine tenths feet below the top of flood pool.

Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell two tenths of a foot to rest at seasonal power pool and sixteen feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell three tenths of a foot to rest at seasonal power pool or nine and six tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we had no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell two tenths of a foot to rest at one tenth of a foot below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and twenty six and three tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we had precious 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. All of the lakes on this system are at or near power pool.

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 was the section from Wildcat Shoals 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 (ruby midge) suspended below it).

The Corps of Engineers have been running a bit more water than they have in the previous week and that has been an advantage to 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.

We have had a few reports of caddis hatches. Though sparse, the trout did key in on them, it is a harbinger of spring and a promise of what is to come. This is our best hatch of the year. Before the hatch, fish green caddis pupa size fourteen. You will often get more strikes at the end of the drift as the fly rises. When the move to the surface and begin keying in on emergers switch over to a green butt soft hackle size fifteen. When they start taking adult insects off the water’s surface, you should switch to a green elk hair caddis pattern size fourteen.

The Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are navigable 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 some wadable water on the Norfork but it has been very crowded. The most productive flies have been small midge patterns like zebra midges (black or red with silver wire and silver bead) and soft hackles like the green butt. 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 very small caddis (try a size 24 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.

With Spring Break and the Sowbug Roundup there has been a lot of action on Dry Run Creek. 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). While you are there be sure and take a tour of the adjacent Norfork National Fish Hatchery. It is fascinating. Be sure to remove your waders before entering to prevent the spread of aquatic diseases.

The water level on the Spring River is higher and stained. 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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