White River

Berry’s White River fishing report, May 16

Posted by John Berry on May 16th, 2014
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During the past week, we have had a couple of rain events (for a total of less than three inches here in Cotter), cooler temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals rose two tenths of a foot to rest at one and five tenths feet above seasonal power pool of 662 feet. This is thirty five and five tenths feet below the top of flood pool.

Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell one foot to rest at one and five tenths feet below seasonal power pool and sixteen and one tenth feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose four tenths of a foot to rest at eight tenths of a foot below seasonal power pool or nine and four tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we had substantial wadable water. Norfork Lake rose nine tenths of a foot to rest at one and two tenths feet below seasonal power pool of 556.6 feet and twenty four 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 higher for some of the lakes in the White River system. All of the lakes on this system are below power pool.

On the White, the hot spot was Rim Shoals. 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 caddis pattern (prince nymph) suspended below it).

The Corps of Engineers have been running much less water and that has been a disadvantage 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.

The caddis hatches are on the wane but with lower water the trout have been keying in on them. This is our best hatch of the year and hopefully we can get some more action in before it is over. Before the hatch, fish green caddis pupa size fourteen or prince nymphs also 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 warmer weather, the smallmouths are active. The most effective flies are Clouser minnows and crawfish patterns. 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.

The Norfork has fished a bit better of late. With substantial wadable water on the White, there have been fewer anglers on the Norfork. 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 (try a size 24 Adams parachute) and caddis (try a size 18 elk hair caddis).The fishing is 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.

With warmer weather, there has been a lot of action on Dry Run Creek. Now would be a great time to fish it. The weather has been perfect on some days 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 and carry the biggest net you can find, in order for your youngster to land these huge fish.

The water level on the Spring River is wadable and clearer. 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.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is making repairs to the Dam at the State Fish Hatchery at the Dam Three Access. During this process water may be diverted from the main channel to the north channel that runs alongside the parking lot resulting in a rise in the water level there of up to two feet. The access will remain open to the public although the parking may be limited to the lot on the North side of the railroad tracks during busy times. All users are requested to exercise extreme care when in the area.

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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