Posted by Phil Lilley on February 7th, 2015
Upstream, Table Rock fell one tenth of a foot to rest at five and seven tenths feet below seasonal power pool and twenty one and seven tenths feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell one tenth of a foot to rest at six and nine tenths feet below seasonal power pool or sixteen and five tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we had brief periods of heavy generation in the morning and afternoon with precious little wadable water. Norfork Lake fell four tenths of a foot to rest at four and one tenth feet below seasonal power pool of 553.7 feet and thirty and three tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we had wadable water every day with generation most mornings.
The water level for the top of power pool has been reset for the lakes in the White River system. All of the lakes on this system are well below seasonal power pool.
The Catch and Release section below Bull Shoals Dam was closed from November 1, 2014 to January 31, 2015 to accommodate the brown trout spawn. The State Park was seasonal Catch and Release for the same period. There are redds in the area. They will appear as shallow clean depressions in the gravel. Please avoid them when wading or dragging chains to protect the eggs in them.
On the White, the hot spot was Catch and Release section below Bull Shoals down through the State Park. The hot flies were olive woolly buggers (#8, #10), Y2Ks (#14, #12), prince nymphs (#14), zebra midges (black with silver wire and silver bead or red with silver wire and silver bead #16, #18), pheasant tails (#14), ruby midges (#18), root beer midges (#18), pink and cerise San Juan worms (#10), and sowbugs (#16). Double fly nymph rigs have been very effective (try a flashback beadhead pheasant tail nymph with a ruby midge or red fan tail midge suspended below it). Egg patterns have been very effective.
Conventional wisdom states that hopper fishing ends with the first frost (we had several heavy frosts this past week). I reject this idea and fish them during the winter. I favor shorter leaders (seven and a half foot 3X) and a stiff six weight rod to proper deliver these weighty flies. My favorite flies are Dave’s hoppers (#10) and the western pink lady (#8). To increase hook ups I always use a dropper. I am currently using a ruby or root beer midge in size eighteen on a three foot or longer tippet (depending on the depth of the water I am fishing).
The higher flows on some mornings and afternoons have been conducive to fishing large streamers. You need a fast sinking sink tip line and an eight weight or better rod. This is a heavy lift that requires casting skills and patience. Streamer season starts on opening day!
The Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek have cleared and are navigable. With the colder weather, the smallmouths are not active. 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 River has fished poorly recently. With the warmer weather there was more fishing pressure on the Norfork. The most productive flies have been small midge patterns (#18, #20, #22) like ruby midges, root beer midges, zebra midges (black or red with silver wire and silver bead) and soft hackles (#14, #16) like the green butt. Egg patterns have also been productive. 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 #10). 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.
There was little fishing pressure on Dry Run Creek despite the warmer weather. It has been a great time to fish there. The hot flies have been sowbugs (#14), Y2Ks (#12) and various colored San Juan worms (worm brown, red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise #10). While you are there take a few minutes to visit the adjacent Norfork national Fish Hatchery. It is fascinating. Be sure and remove your waders before entering to prevent the spread of aquatic diseases. Take a break from time to time to keep your youngsters warm. Bring some cocoa!
The water on the Spring River has cleared some. This is a great place to wade fish, when they are running water on the White and Norfork Rivers. Canoe season is over and there are fewer boats on the river to interfere with your fishing. 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 (#10), cerise and hot pink San Juan worms (#10) and Y2Ks (#10).
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.
Don’t forget the White River Chapter of Trout Unlimited Annual Fund Raiser at the Elks Club on February, 7.
John Berry is a fly fishing guide in Cotter, Arkansas and has fished our local streams for over thirty years.
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