Fishing Report White River, North Fork River, Buffalo River and Crooked Creek
Fishing Report Update 3/24/14 – The North Fork is fishing great during periods of generation. The fish are still keyed on shad imitations. I have not had any trips on the North Fork during low water as everyone has wanted to fish while drifting. The White is fishing…well less than stellar. I have been on the White several days where we have drifted the rise perfectly and we did not do nearly as well as I expected to.
Fly Fishers I’ve spent most of my time on the White River between Wildcat and Crooked Creek and have caught fish on #18 – #20 zebra midges in black or red. Streamers in 2″ – 5″ baitfish imitations, #12 – #20 sowbugs and #14 – #20 scuds. The little flies have been fished mostly under attractor flies such as egg flies, San Juan worms, and shad flies when up by Bull Shoals Dam or on the North Fork. I’ve seen the first of the Caddis hatch in the last couple of days. It is really, really late this year. I would imagine the usually cold spring has postponed the hatch. But, they will come…. eventually.
Fly Fishers, here is a pic of the shad flies I’m using. All are about 2″ in length and are tied up in varying weights for varying water levels.
Spinfishers, the only thing that has been successful have been jigs in white. I’ve used white marabou and white plastic with a marabou tail. I tie these jigs up myself, but any white jig will work. Since you nearly have to been on the bottom to get the bite your correct jig weight varies with the level of flow. 1/16 oz. on flows less than 3000 cfs (about 1 full unit) up to a 1/8 oz. on flows 4000 cfs and up (about 2 units). If fishing in slower water micro jigs are needed in wts. 1/32 oz and below.
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For Fly Fishers ~ The White River and the North Fork River are tailwaters and have a limited number of food sources, so its not like we are in the middle of a different hatch every week. The food sources are abundant, but not varied. The number #1 and #2 food sources are Sowbugs, also called Cressbugs, and Scuds, which is a fresh water shrimp. After that Midges, Crayfish, baitfish, Caddis, BWOlives, White Sulphurs, worms and terrestrials like ants, grasshoppers and beetles round out the menu. You will find a complete listing of the flies needed on the Fly Fishing page . Below you will find a listing of areas of the rivers that seem to be fishing better, and a list of flies that are taking fish right now. When anything changes, I’ll post an update.
For Spin Fishers ~ There is a complete listing of the most productive lures at http://www.whiteriverresort.com/fishing-the-white-river-arkansas/spin-fishing-on-the-white-river-in-arkansas . While what works among that list changes from day to day, those lures can be depended on to consistently take fish. Like all fishing, presentation is usually more important than lure selection. During periods that insect hatches become an important part of the fishes diet or when a lot of fishing pressure occurs, our trout are caught on flies a little easier than spinning gear. I catch as many or more fish using lures and flies than guides using bait. I do not use bait except for those who have difficulty casting lures or when fishing with small children. Our goal is to always to keep you safe and 90% of the time we are going to catch many more fish than your limit, so we are going to release a lot of fish. Because fish swallow bait so deeply it greatly increases the chance of released fish dying, and that is a waste.
We respond to 90% of emails within one hour, send us any questions right now! Got a question, just call me, 870 499-3056. Chris
On guided trips with me, all Brown trout, all Smallmouth Bass and any Rainbows 16″ or larger are returned to the river, even if they meet size limitations. Take pictures and have a replica mount made.
Largest Fly Fishing Show in Arkansas ~ Are you a fly fisher, or interested in the sport? Attend the best and largest fly fishing show in Arkansas. Plan a fishing trip to our area, and while your here attend the IFFF Southern Council Fly Fishing Fair in Mountain Home, AR this coming Oct. 3rd -5th, 2014. The show will have over 50 programs to choose from. Casting classes from beginner to advanced, over 50 Fly Tyers that you can sit down with and learn from, programs on fishing destinations, tackle and techniques. You will be able to find more info at www.southerncouncilfff.org .
The Fishing Report covering the White River, North Fork of the White, Crooked Creek and the extreme lower Buffalo River. When speaking about the lower White River, I’m referring to the section from Cotter down to Calico Rock. When I mention the upper White River I’m referring to the river from Cotter up to Bull Shoals Dam.
Fishing Report Update 3/3/14 - The Buffalo River and Crooked Creek - Last week it we had several days in a row that made it into the low 50′s and that got the water temps in the Buffalo River up into the mid to high 40′s. I love those Smallmouth and so I went at put in at Buffalo City to see if I could find a little Smallmouth action in the lower Buffalo. I had waited until the afternoon to allow the sun to warm the water and I found the fish in the deeper areas of the slowest moving water. You know, like eddies that are nearly dead still. The fish were still sluggish and they wanted the presentation slow, but they were catchable. For the spin-fishers use 2″ curl tail grubs on 1/16 oz. jig heads and just crawl it across teh bottom. Fly fishers should use about the same thing. I tie a fly with a set of 1/20 oz lead eyes, plastci curl tail and about a dozen strands of silly legs and fish it on a 250 grain long sink tip or full sink line. The fish don’tbang it, they just pick itup and you get that ‘heavyline’ feeling.
Fishing Report Update 3/3/14 - White and North Fork Rivers – The North Fork enjoyed great Shad action pretty much throughout Jan. , Feb. and March when generation was active above 3000 cfs flows. Things got a bit colder in Feb and we didn’t get as many warm/then snap off cold scenarios with slow the Shad Hatch down some,but the fish would still nail a shad fly, or a white jig, it just wasn’t as solid a bite. As things warmed up again in March the shad began coming through heavier and the fish are keyed on those patterns.
FLYFISHERS At this time you can enjoy wading water on the North Fork after 10am until dark and usually the whole weekends. The standard bugs will work fine. Scuds, sowbugs and midges under an indicator or small soft hackles close to the bottom.
SPINFISHERS You can catch lots of Rainbows using Blue Fox VibraMax 1/8 – 1/4 oz spinners in silver or brass. Large crankbait time is just around the corner as we begin to warm up.
Fishing Report Update 2/1/2014 -
Fishing Report Update 1/29/14 - The Buffalo River and Crooked Creek are 2 of my favorite Smallmouth places, but in the winter, especially as cold as the one we are having catching them would be a VERY slow process. With water temps hovering in the mid-30′s it’s best to just dream about Smallmouth right now. Plan your trip for late March if we warm up early or April – the first 2 weeks of June.
Fishing Report Update 1/29/14 - Sorry about the gap in reports, I lost the last 3 when I was updating the page!!
FLY FISHERS – Throughout Dec. and up until 2 days ago we were experiencing mostly higher flows on the White and high to medium flows on the North Fork but not both lakes have gotten out of their flood pools and varying water levels are back. At peak electric use times (in the winter, early morning , late night) flows will be to high for wading, but wadeable water can be found during the middle of the day. Bull Shoals may have some shad coming through but their is no real big feed on that anyone is admitting to anyway. The North Fork River has definetly had a few shad hatches and you can pick the fish up on shad imitations. The shad aren’t coming thru real heavy, but enough so that white is the key color. For the White the standard fare of scuds, sowbugs, zebra midges and smaller streamer patterns will prevail.
SPINFISHERS – To match the shad you can use shad like suspending or sinking crankbaits, but 2″ – 2 1/2″ pearl colored shad plastics are better. I’ve found that the best match is a white marabou jig in a 1/16 oz. I tye my own for a closer match, but any white jig will do. The key is to keep it close to the bottom and moving along downstream at about the speed of the current. An occasional “raise and drop” action will prompt more bites when things get slow.
I’ve had clients out during these times and while the fishing was very consistent, we did not nail any big ones. We have caught lots of solid 16″ – 18″ fish that are weighing up to 2 1/2 lbs. We were having good streamer fishing flows with 4 – 6 units rolling down the White everyday, but it still a little early for peak streamer fishing. I’m looking for that to happen mid-Feb to April and I hope we get a little water back into the lakes to help get higher flows.
Fishing Report Update 11/28/13 – The Buffalo River & Crooked Creek – As we move into air temps in the 20′s and 30′s with regularity the water temps of our cool water streams get downright cold. This makes the Smallmouth bite pretty slow. Both of these streams are very low and the water temps will closely follow the air temps only the water temps will be about 15 to 20 degrees warmer on average. If you want to try for Smallmouth at this time, watch for a day with sunshine and temps in the 60′s and hit the stream at the warmest portion of the day. Use light tippets (4x) or 4 lb test line and keep the offerings small (#8 Clouser Minnows or 2″ curl tails grubs on a 1/16 oz jig) amd the presentations slow. Stay out of the water and on the bank as much as possible to avoid spooking the fish. You might also consider wearing a ‘hunter’s orange’ vest or hat because deer season is open and hunters will be near.
Fishing Report Update 11/27/13 - A summary of the overall picture for the fall season on the White and North Fork Rivers.
The White River has been at fairly consistent levels for the last 3 months. The White River Lake system is in it’s Power Pool and SWEPCO (the local electrical power broker to the National Grid) is calling the release shots and the Corp of Engineers implements them. When the lakes are within their Power Pools this is the protocol. Releases under these conditions will be timed to peak electrical demand, which in the fall, is usually the cool mornings and late evenings. In between times of minimum flow releases, water levels have been between 2200 cfs (cubic feet per second) and 7500 cfs. Minimum flow releases will usually be between 650 cfs and 1,200 cfs. Keep up with this info at these links – Bull Shoals Dam and Lake Norfork Dam. On the Dam Generation recording (870 431-5311) they will usually say 1 -5 generators are operating at Bull Shoals Dam and 1 or 2 at the Lake Norfork Dam. The website links are much more accurate with the cfs (cubic feet per second) listed. During period of generation, wadeable water has to be searched out but can be found. Since our winters are generally fairly dry, I would expect to see the pattern of early morning and late evening water releases to continue until the lakes go into their flood pools. You can check out that info at Lake Reports.
The North Fork River has ben offering up wadeable water in the afternoons for the last 2 weeks and is fishing well. Tiny egg patterns in orange or peach, zebra midges in black or brown in #18 -24′s have been taking fish consistently. You can keep up with what the releases will be via the projected generation schedule though (at the moment, they seem to be following it fairly close) and you can check that at http://www.swpa.gov/generationschedules.aspx. Current generation can be verified at http://www.swl-wc.usace.army.mil/WCDS/Reports/Data/Bulsdam.htm and http://www.swl-wc.usace.army.mil/WCDS/Reports/Data/Norfork.htm. You can also call 870 431-5311. Always keep in mind, the Corp is under no obligation to follow the projected scheduling. Keep yourself in a safe river position to be able to exit at all times. In addition the Corp has turned on the generators many times without updating the phone message. Stay aware of water levels at all times!
Fly Fishers: These varying water levels offer something for every method of fly fishing. Drifting a dry fly, swinging or drifting a soft hackle or nymph in the minimum flows up through 300 cfs, then throwing some large streamers when the flows get up over 4000 cfs makes for a great diversity of methods to catch fish. Right now here are my choices;
- Dry Fly – #20 dark grey caddis pattern and #22 zebra midge tied parachute style
- Soft Hackle – #18 – #22 with a dark grey or black body and a dark grey hackle
- Nymph – #20 caddis nymph or emerger pattern tied very sparse in dark grey
- Nymph – #16 Scud or sowbug in light grey
- Nymph – # 20 zebra midge in black, red, orange or brown.
- Streamer – #4 Sculpin pattern in dark olive with medium lead eyes
Wade safely, catch fish, but more than anything else, look around and appreciate the great place God has given us to practice our sport.
Spin fishers: If you are looking for numbers, bunches & bunches of fish, Rainbows can be taken on in line spinners such as Panther Martins & Blue Foxes, color hasn’t been to important, but brass or gold seem to do a little better along with a medium speed retrieve that allows the lure to run deeper. Blue Fox makes a great medium depth spinner that easily covers 6 – 8 ft depths. Buyoant spoons have been super hot on taking Rainbows, again gold seems to produce a little better. As usual the Browns seem to prefer crankbaits like Rapala Countdowns and Rapala Husky
Jerks.During lower water flows some of the shallower running baits have been easier to present correctly. Husky suspension baits in the 3″ – 4″ lenghts in dark green or green/brown color combinations have performed the best.
Fishing Report Update 9/29/13: We now have wadeable water on a daily basis somewhere within the river system, which is good news to the fly fishing crowd. Generation on the White varies from 1000 cfs to 4,000 cfs daily, so boating can be accomplished without tearing up your prop……as long as your careful.
The Browns are on the move toward their spawning grounds, and while I have yet to see any on redds, they are staging. I’m really not going to get very specific about how to or where to go about catching these fish when they prepare to spawn because they do become easier to target during this time and they don’t need every boat in the river on top of them. If you spin fish, you want some big water generation so you can go after them with big crankbaits. (Remember to smash those barbs down, and if the bait has 3 trebles on it, remove a set. We’re trying to catch these fish and return them to the water healthy, not mangled.) If you fly fish, your looking for low water to sight fish tiny nymphs to these monsters or if the high flows are present, get your 7 – 9 wt and sink tip line, get in a boat and throw large streamers along the bank side seams. Both methods work, but fly fishers have the edge because they can work high water and low water. Fooling these wary fish in low water with lures and spinning gear can be very difficult.
I fished a couple of guys that came in from CA to experience the White River’s trophy Brown Trout fishing. We had a great time over the 4 Half Days they fished, catching 4 Browns between 22″ and 24″ . They even made a little video of their trip. You can view it at Spectacular Trout Fishing on the White River . This guy also has an informative fishing website, www.howtocathanyfish.com .
Please remember that even though the law allows one brown trout in excess of 24″ to be taken per day, these fish represent less than 1% of the fish in the entire river system. They have made it to trophy size. Respect them enough to snap a few quick pictures, release them, and have a replica mount made. This past week I watched a 10 lb. female get held out of the water and handled for photos by an angler who had every intention of releasing the fish, but by the time the pictures were over, so was the fish. Fish breathe out of the water as well as you breathe underwater. Upon netting the fish give it a FULL MINUTE or more to regain it’s breath prior to any handling. That fish just completed a tiring fight and needs to recover under water. Once the fish has recovered from the fight, snap a few quick pictures and release it. OK, sermon over.
I’ll start off by apologizing for the length of time between reports. The summer vacation season is so busy at our little place, that every year my summertime fishing reports go missing. Summertime days are 14 – 16 hours of work each day and it’s hard to squeeze in fishing reports. but I’m not complaining! It’s been great and I’d like to say “Thank You!” to all the great customers who made it that way.
The 2014 summer fishing was the best I’ve experienced on the White in the last 10 years. The action was consistently good with 25 plus fish days per angler even through the heat and “blue bird sky” days.
Fly Fishers: The caddis hatch went strong through May and the White Sulphurs were good through June, with some still coming off in August. The fish have been been keyed on terrestrial patterns since April, grasshoppers with an ant dropper have worked well. A tip that Dave Whitlock once shared with me was to to really let that grasshopper smack the surface of the water. He said that a “grasshopper crash” was usually a loud thing and that the fish keyed on that sound.
Spin Fishers: Marabou jigs in Brown/Orange. Whatever weight it takes to stay very close to the bottom, 1/32 – 1/4 oz.
Fishing Report Update 5/5/13 : The lakes have finally filled enough to reach the top of the power pool and the COE and Swepco will be releasing more water on a regular basis now on both the White and North Fork Rivers. Wade opportunities will be limited but still available. North Fork is more wade accessible right now as the releases are 4 - 5 hours either in the morning or later evening.
Fly Fishers: The caddis hatch in the White River above Cotter is pretty much over. However there are now quite a few caddis coming off below the Buffalo River down to Red’s Landing. The majority of these caddis are a #16 -#18 with a dark wing and grey body. An Elk Hair Caddis works well if you’ll darken the wing with a colored marker. The heavier hatches have been late in the evening after a warm day. While the trout are eating them, they are not as keyed up aboutit as the fish on the upper White were. Dropping a Hares Ear soft hackle below your dry will get you a lot more fish. The cool spring keeps knocking back the grasshopper season, so those aren’t working well yet. While I’ve seen a few White Sulphurs in size #14 – #16 that hatch still seems to be several weeks away. Over on the North Fork things have been pretty consistent. Midges in soft hackles in black, brown, green with a pupa midge below have hammered the fish on certain days. The heavier the midges are coming off the better that combination works. If the midges aren’t active go back to scuds in light grey or light olive in #16 – #20′s . You can float it under a #16 Elk Hair Caddis becuase a few have been coming off . If you have a boat and a buddy to stay on the motor or oars you can work the heavier generation water for big fish by tossing big streamers. Black and orange rabbit tied in a Clouser Minnow style and fished on a sink tip can get you a nice Brown or Cutthroat.
Buffalo River and Crooked Creek: When water temperatures have reached 58 degrees fishing has been good, when water temps have gotten to 62 degrees, it been great. Our spring has been a cool one and especially the rain has been cold. This has made the waters temps seesaw from the high 40′s to the low 60′s . Obviously as we continue to warm up catching will become more consistent. (As will the pressure on the fish.) If you fish when the temps are below 52 slow down your presentation and work the slow water areas. I have not yet found the Smallies up in the fast water. When it warms up a little more that’s where they’ll be. 3″ curl tail grubs and gitzits have been working for spin fishers. Clousers tied with rabbit strips that provide a lot of movement when stripped slow have worked well for fly fishers.
Spin Fishers: Suspending stickbaits in the 3″ – 6″ size continue to work well when you’re looking for larger fish. Light colors on light days and dark colors on dark days. On days that the bite was sluggish, changing over to 1/8″ oz jigs in white, brown, grey or black has been a sucessful strategy.
Fishing Report Update 4/21/13: We’ve had a couple of good releases from Bull Shoals and Norfork in the past week and it’s been good to target larger Browns with big streamers and large stick baits. The releases haven’t lasted long and you have to get your boat in the right spot of the flow by using the SWEPCO projections or calling 870 431-5311 and catching the release downstream somewhere.
Fly Fishers: The cream colored Caddis hatch is definitely tapering off, but our more common Caddis in a #16 & #20 with a light brown wing and light green body is coming on. So the dry fly fishing continues.
Spin Fishers: We seem to pick up a few more fish when using slimmer bodied stick baits (not much larger than a #2 pencil) about 3″ long. These are Yozuri lures and are pretty light and must be thrown with ultralight rods.
Fishing Report Update 4/17/13: I spent a couple of days on the lower Buffalo River this week and the Smallmouth fishing is about to get going in earnest. Our first day on the water we had cloudy skies and greenish/clear water and the water temperature was steady at 54 degrees. The guage at St. Joe was at 5.5feet, which is perfect for fly fishing presentations. I thought conditions were near perfect but the fish must have thought it was to cold or something. The first day we averaged catching a couple of fish evey hour, which is far below average for when it is good. The second day the sun came out early in the morning and by 11am our catch rate was averaging 2 fish every 10 minutes. The fish were not in the fast water , but were in the slower currents in areas deeper than 6 feet. Those using spinning gear took fish on 3″ curl tails grubs with an 1/8 oz. jig head and the fly fishers took them on Clouser Minnows and Hada Creek Crawlers using short sink tip lines with a 5 foot leader ending in 8lb. fluorcarbon tippet. We didn’t catch any monsters but we had a 17″ and couple of 16″s and a lot of chunky 12″ – 14″s.
Fishing Report Update 3/8/13: Spring fishing is heating up. The weather has been traditional March weather here in Arkansas, 65 degrees for a couple of days, followed by 27 degrees and flurries.
Fly fishers; North Fork is fishing very well right now and has been for the last 3 weeks. Heavy midge hatches have the trout keyed on them. #20 midge emergers and #20 soft hackles in black or black/white zebra midges and gray or gray /black midges have been been the hot flies. The fish feed on whatever midge is comming off at the moment and many times this will be a bug in a size #32. While some of you may be into that super small stuff, I just wait until a set of size #20′s comes along, it happens frequently enough. On the White river above Cotter you can find very decent to really great Caddis hatches. The bugs coming off right now are size #14 and are light cream in color. While they can be taken with a standard Elk Hair Caddis, I’ve had better results using a fly with a white Antron wing and a cream dubbed body. Their is a second caddis also that is a #18 and has dark gry wing with a light grey body. I good method is to present both dry flies in tandem. This hatch has been good enough to being 20″ Browns to the surface to feed.
The Browns are looking to put weight back on now that have finished spawning and will take streamers well if the river has some generation, but Norfork has had very little generation in the past 3 weeks. It has had one unit run this week for 4 hours in the afternoon though. While you can catch fish using streamers anytime, it is more productive in higher water flows. That holds true for the White River too. Don’t discount the fact that midges do not attract large fish. In low flows a good fish will position himself to be right in the middle of a midge buffet. Look for those softer seam lines with 3 – 6 feet of depth. These fish are very difficult and your presentation will have to be soft or you will put them down.
Spin Fishers; The standard fare of VibraMax spinners in nickel and brass will being in a lot of rainbows. Recently the hot lure for Browns is a Rapala suspending stickbait 5″ – 6″. Different days , different retrieves, expierment with it and let the fish tell you when you’ve got it right.
Fishing Report Update 12/17/12: The water levels have stayed about the same since the last report.
I’ve spent the last 3 days guiding some great guys. The thing they repeated the most often was “I have never caught so many fish in my life.” Out of the 4 of them, 2 were spinfishermen and 2 did both fly and spin. The hot fly was a streamer, a zonker type with rusty orange over black. The best performing lure was a Smithwick Suspending Rougue in Black over Silver. (Remember to crush those barbs, please!) While we unfortunately did not land any really big fish, the guys caught quite a few Browns in the 18″ – 20″ range and rainbows up to 2 1/2 lbs.
The Browns continue their spawn, with a second wave of fish down here in the lower river that seem to be on the move toward the mouth of the North Fork River. I say ‘on the move’ because the Browns caught over the last 3 days were not in their normal haunts. (I know, that’s pretty tough to speculate on.) While our Rainbows aren’t as sucessful at their spawning, many we caught were in their brillant spawning colors and few even have some hook to their jaw. (That’s kinda’ unusual to see in this river.)
These guys released all of their fish and really handled the fish well. Please remember that the expression ‘like a fish out of water’ carries a rather dire connotation. Handle your fish gently, keep them in the water, lift them out for a quick photo and release them. Admiring a fish to long, just kills fish. The best fish handling tool I’ve come across is a Boga Grip , yes they are expensive little American made tools that cost $120, but they are worth it as a guide. You can get the same basic tool from Berkley in several models for $25 – $75 . You will never drop a fish again! I furnish the Berkley grips in all of my rental boats.
Fishing Report Update 12/5/12: The water levels have stayed about the same since the last report. Both wade and boat fishing can be done, but each requires vigilance. We really warmed up for a several days that started in the 50′s and went in the 70′s. The bite has been good and is very consistent. The Browns are in spawning mode in the upper river (Bull Shoals Dam down to Cotter) and we have a few that are spawning in the shallow gravel banks down here in the lower White too. (Cotter down to Calico Rock.) The catch & Release area immediately below Bull Shoals Damm is now closed to protect the spawning Browns. During the warm weather our small light grey caddis reappeared for a couple of days. Some fish were keyed on them and readily took Hares Ear soft hackles in #20. The midges have stayed about the same in this section of the river. We took several Browns in thsi section of the river this past week. All were taken on baitfish imitation streamers. About half of them were carying eggs and we carefully released them all. They were in the 16″ to 19″ range. Spin fishers continue to do well on small, slender baitfish patterns.
I would have liked to had an opportunity to go after Smallmouth this past week with the warm temperatures and the moderate rainfall. I’ll bet they turned on for a couple of days in both the Buffalo River and Crooked Creek. Both rivers are so low that they will really change day to day with temp changes.
Fishing Report Update 11/28/12: The fishing has been steadily improving since Sept. 1st . If you like to wade then this report brings good news as the river flows of both the North Fork and White Rivers have been low enough on most days to find plenty of wading water. If you like to fish from a boat, the good news is that most of the time the water is sufficient to allow that on the lower portions of the river, like from the Shipps ferry access on down. Most of the White River access points above there , allow for some boating, but you’ll really need to be careful and watch the water levels. The North Fork River is more difficult to fish either wading or with a boat. The Corp is constantly turning generation on or off and even when its on, the flows can change drastically. This makes for very dangereous wading condidtions and makes for difficult boat access. You go up the river in the morning while they are generating, then they shut it off and you are pretyy much ‘boat stranded’ if you don’t get back down the river before the water levels drop.
The North Fork
Fishing fair to good right now. I always have a hard time saying this river is fishing great becuase it is one of those rivers that can just occasionally get tough. So good is about as high as I ever rate it. The Brown trout spawn is pretty much over. The Browns were up in Dry Run Creek spawning heavily from Oct. 7th- 25th. Those fish are back in the rivers again and most of them seem to be in the North Fork. For Fly guys after Browns, streamers from 1.5″ – 2.5″ that have are streak of light gold and white are working well during periods of generation, the heavier the generation the better. For the Spin Guys, use CD3′s in Black/Gold or Black/Silver. Midge hatches are becoming heavier each day. The real bugs vary in size frrom #30 somethings to as large as #20′s. Flies that are taking them are Black Zebra emergers in #20 – down to as small as you are patient to use. The hot fly the othe day was a #20 with a very sparse CDC wing and a CDC trailing shuck. (I think it was different enough to get their attention and similar enought to get eaten….but who really knows??) A black or gray #20 or #22 tying as a soft hackle has worked very well. You can fish midge dries and get a taker now and again, but the steady action comes 3″ – 18″ below the surface. If you like to fish an indicator, midge larve imitations do nearly as well. If you are a spin fisher, the fact that the fish will be keying on these midges harder as the winter progreeses will lead to some frustration if you target these rising fish. It would be better to work deeper water with lures, or you could always use a ‘spinning bubble’ that will allow you to drift flies.
The White River
Fishing is good to great right now. Lots and lots of 12″ – 14″ Rainbows to be had on either spinning or fly grear. For the spin guys, Blue Fox Vibramax in gold or silver in the 5/16th oz – 1/4 oz sizes are working well. For fly guys the old standby Wooly Bugger in White has been a hot fly of late. The super abundant baitfish population of this summer is still swimming around and the trout are still very keyed on them. This abundant baitfish presence is something that is only in the lower portion of the White, say from Cotter on down and it just gets heavier as you go downstream. The midge hatches are on the increase and the fly guys can target the risers with the same flies I decscribed in the North Fork report. Other flies that are working are the regular scuds and sowbugs, with Ruby Midges doing well on sunny days. Brown trout have been scarce of the lower White for the past month. Those fish have either relocated in the North Fork and have headed upstream to spawn anywhere from Rim Shoals up to Bull Shoals Dam. I have not been guiding much on the White in the past 3 weeks and I’m hearing different reports about what/when/if the Brown trout are spawning up that way.
Fishing Report Update 11/13/11: After an extremely busy Oct. things are slowing down some. The fishing has been great. The Browns have begun spawning in earnest in the lower section of the White & the North Fork. Try not to fish over spawning fish, I mean would you want someone pulling you out of bed with your spouse with a hook while you were in the middle of your own “spawning act?”
Fly fishers: If you are wading please don’t step on the clean looking circles of gravel, these are redds, were the eggs lie just under the gravel. Both the White and North Fork have had plenty of wadeable water pretty much on a daily basis since mid-Oct. . The grasshopper bite seems to be over, however bright colored hoppers will still catch a few rainbows and I’ve been using them as a strike indicator to drop scuds, San Juan worms and egg patterns off of. Streamers have been responsible for catching more fish recently. With the lower flows the a lot of the fish have moved off the banks and are sitting in the deepest parts of the river in the swiftest flows. Using sink tip lines on 4wt – 6wt rods and working weighted sculpins patterns right on the bottom we’ve got some nice fish, no pigs, but good solid fish. Staging browns can still be found below the protected waters, please just take a photo and release the fish.
Fishing Report Update 8/22/12: The summer of 2012 has brought some of the most consistent trout fishing on the lower portion of the White in the 9 years I have guided. I believe this is primarily because of the drought conditions that dried up the smaller tributaries and forced the minnows into the White. The the lower summer flows on the White created water temps that were 5 -7 degrees higher than normal and those minnows spawned very efficiently again and again in the White River. So our trout had an abundant food source all summer long and they are still very keyed on baitfish.
The smallmouth have been really tough to catch. They are not hard to find, but getting bit is not easy, so we’ve been throwing everything. 2″ curl tail grubs in clear fluorescent green, pumpkin seed and motor oil colors on a 1/8 jig have worked. A 2″ shad on an 1/8″ jig also got a few fish. Crankbaits have not yielded a single fish. Flys that have produced have been crayfish patterns in #12 – #10′s in gray (molting shell) and dark orange, fish them under and indicator through the deep holes. Small, weighted rabbit strip streamers in white, brown or black fished with a long leader on sink tip lines have also caught some fish. I’m finding the fish deep, once the sun hits the water. If you get out really early or stay really late you’ll find them in the fast runs and riffles.
The high water has allowed us to catch some brown trout recently, nothing real big, around 20″ or so. The technique is to throw a large weighted streamer or crankbait next to softer seams, eddies, and structure along the banks. A lot of guides seem to make a big deal over what lure/fly is presented, but I’m really not seeing that to be the case, as long as the lure is big, like 3″ to 6″ . The key is the presentation. It has to be close and in precisely the right spot so the fish can ambush it easily. We’ve caught these fish with plastics, crankbaits, and large streamers. I do see the streamers catching a few more fish and I believe it is because a fly is quieter when it hits the water, therefore can be cast closer to the target without spooking the fish. This is not blind casting while you slip down the bank, you have to choose your spots to be successful.
Fishing Report Update 8/5/12: This is the warmest summer we’ve had since I moved up here 8 years ago. It hit 110 last week and 108 two days ago! I’ll bet I haven’t seen 100 degrees 3 times in the last 8 years. We still have seen no rain and the Smallmouth fishing is tough, especially for the better fish. Fly fishers need to downsize to small crawfish patterns or sparsely dressed Clouser’s in size 10 – 8′s, with tippet size in the 4x – 5x range. Spin fishers need to use 4lb test with 2″ curl tail grubs, clear flourescent green has been working well. Trout fishing in the White and North Fork Rivers continue to be about the same. Catch rates are 10 – 20 per angler per day. 85% of the fishing is done while drifting. Brown trout are tough to come by, especially the larger fish. Clear, cloudless days and lots of vacationing fisherpeople have made them nocturnal. The Cicadas I mentioned last month haven’t really produced but a few fish for me, although a hugh 30″ Brown was caught on one by another guide. They are becoming much less prevalent now, as I’m only seeing the occasional bug. Hoppers, beetles and ants are taking a lot more fish.
Fishing Report Update 7/1/12: We haven’t had a drop of rain since June. Floods all spring , now nothing! The Buffalo River and Crooked Creek are super low and super clear. That makes for very spooky Smallies. I’m still pulling a few from the lower portions of the Buffalo, but if you go to Crooked Creek you have to understand that after you catch a fish in a pool, it pretty much spooks all the others and you have to go on to the next pool. The White River has definitely gone into it’s summertime routine. Water levels vacillate greatly. You need to know where on the river to go if you want to find clear water, to avoid the ‘bottom trash’ of floating moss pieces that occur when the Corp ramps up the generators to supply electricity. Clear water is especially important for fly fishers because a fly doesn’t give of much in the way of vibrations via water displacement. The standard fair continues to produce fish. We had a hugh Cicada hatch this year. Cicadas are terrible at flying and many of them end up in the water. I tied up a few and spent a few hours on the water to see if they produced. All I got was small fish grabbing at the legs, but I know that if you floated one over a big fish he’d take it. I’m finding floating Cicadas in the eddies, so they’re probably on a trout’s menu right now. Just check out the ‘Fishing Pages” for the full list. Never hesitate to call or email if you think I might be able to help.
Fishing Report Update 6/15/12: The extreme high water is subsiding and I’ve been out on 2 trips in the last week. Fish can be found and caught in creek mouths and eddy locations. We have also fished for Smallmouth Bass in both the Buffalo River and Crooked Creek with a lot of success. Heavily weighted Clouser Minnows in chartreuse/white fished on long leaders with 2x tippet have worked for fly fishermen and spinner baits and suspending rouges and 3″ curl tail grubs work for the spin casters.
Fishing Report Update 5/27/12: The White is unfishable and really, if you have any sense, you shouldn’t be on it. I’m amazed that some resorts continue to haul people out on “fishing trips” when flows are 50,000 cubic feet per second, about double 100% generation flows. I did however catch a couple of trout in the campground area and the Red’s Landing boat ramp, which is about 10 feet underwater! If it stops raining the Corp should have things back to manageable by mid June.
Fishing Report Update (sounds like something Captain Kirk would say, huh? You have to be a Star Trek watcher to understand, you have to be old too! ) 5/9/11: Heavy rains are regularly muddying up the river, so spending most of the time fishing the upper portions of the White and the North Fork. Standard stuff is working. The Corp continues to hold water back in the lakes and we’re enjoying low water and lots of wading opportunities but the river clears slower after the rains. Fishing the creek mouths with large dark colored streamers has paid off with some nice Browns. This is a good technique during heavy rains that have colored water flowing from the creeks into the White River. The Browns hang just downstream of the creek mouth and are looking for a big meal getting flushed down the creek. THE FISHING INFO: The CADDIS hatch is on big time! Right now the fish are hard to catch on spinning gear and lures, but switch over to the fly rod with a #14 Elk Hair Caddis on top and a # 16 Hair’s Ear Wet below and the action increases about 10 fold. The fish that have come on spinning gear have been rainbows on in-line spinners like a Blue Fox in silver, copper, or brass. We’ve also caught some nice browns on Rapala Countdowns and Husky Jerks. Do you like to Smallmouth Bass fish? Now is the time! The smallies are on the bite about 45 days ahead of schedule, I guess due to the extra-mild winter. The best producing bait is once again a 2 1/2″ curl tail grub in pumpkinseed fished on a 1/16 oz to 3/8t oz jig head , depending on current strenght and depth. On a guide trip the other day, I fished 8 different baits, just to see if something else would be more effective…..nope, my 2 fishermen just continued to crank them in on curl tails while I caught one little smallie. Call me and let’s go ASAP.
Fishing Report Update 4/9/12: The warm weather has arrived! We hit 89 degrees yesterday…it was close to a record high. We had a big rain and the river went into spate for a few days. “Spate” …I’ve been waiting to use that word. It seems like its in all the Fly Fishing Mags these days. Like using a 15th century English word for ‘suddenly muddy water’ makes it cool somehow!! It’s muddy and the fish don’t bite and changing the word doesn’t change that. Anyway the river cleared in a couple of days and the fishing was once again great. The caddis are still coming off and the rainbows are super-keyed on them. My spinfishing clients have been a bit stymied because the fish aren’t hitting lures….they are just waiting for the caddis to come off. It has made for some converts to the fly fishing realm. I know these fishing reports look a bit like a broken record that say the fishing great each time, but I did have a really off day after the storm when a high pressure moved in. The water was really low and the wind was blowing 20mph plus and my 2 guys only caught 15 small rainbows in 5 hours. It seems like our fish are more affected by barometric pressure on low water flows. So, fishing is fishing, and even when you come at the peak times, it doesn’t guarantee success.
The Smallmouth fishing is red hot right now. I’ve had a trip into the lower Buffalo River and Crooked Creek and we caught lots of fish. Nothing big, but it was a lot of fun. Come soon!
When you’re on the water, take a moment to look around to appreciate the wonderful world God has given us to enjoy.
Fishing Report Update 3/26/12: The great fishing has continued without hardly a hiccup. While there have been some slow periods during the day we’re still catching some nice browns. Yesterday we landed an 18″ and 21″ and lost 2 browns close to the boat that were a little larger. We are not catching as many rainbows probably for 2 reasons. The techniques we are using are for targeting larger browns, and the rainbows are keying pretty heavily on the current hatches. Yesterday we watched as the caddis hatched and had problems getting airborne because in the damp weather their wings were slow to dry. This resulted in seeing the rainbows and a few smaller browns push their noses through the surface and begin slurping down as many as they could. There were simultaneous rises in every 20 square feet of river surface for 200 yards in every direction! For the fly fishers, this was a little different bug than had been observed in previous hatches. It was cream winged with a cream body and was a size 14. In addition to the caddis hatch which lasted for about an hour, there was a slow, all day hatch of #20 Blue Winged Olives that were getting the attention of smaller rainbows. I love this stuff!
When you’re on the water, take a moment to look around to appreciate the wonderful world God has given u
Fishing Report Update 3/21/12 : The fishing was nothing short of amazing this past week. Besides catching a lot of fish, on Friday and Saturday alone we boated 7 Browns over 18″ and 2 in the 23″ range and a 20″ Rainbow. This is not just looking at the fish and calling out a number….this is measuring the fish!
The Corp of Engineers have been following the same pattern of water release now for nearly 8 weeks. On the White, we have medium flows on Tuesday – Thursday , dropping water on Friday and then “dead low” water on Sat. – Monday. The North Fork has been off nearly the whole 8 weeks. The lakes have been raised with the recent 2″ plus of rainfall, but so far there hasn’t been a change in generation patterns. Lots of wadeable water all over both rivers for the fly fishers and enough water to float boats down in the lower sections.
As always when we have low water flows catch rates are much better on cloudy days, but the fish haven’t been pressured for months now and the smaller ones certainly haven’t been difficult to catch. The low water conditions do make it more difficult to fool the larger fish. In our section of the river we have enough deep holes and structure for the big browns to stay hidden. When low water conditions prevail these fish tend to be nocturnal.
Fly Fishermen, the caddis hatch has started!! On the days that have reached into the 60′s with sunshine the bugs have come off in droves!! There a 2 bugs, one is a #12 with light tan/grey wings and a medium grey body and the other is a #16 with grey wings and grey body. Elk hair caddis patterns work great. Fish an emerger below your dry to catch more fish because the haven’t started going crazy on the surface yet…but they probably will in the next 7 days. Come up soon!!
Fishing Report Update 3/10/12
The fish are everywhere. For about 6 weeks now the water releases by the Corp of Engineers have been following a pretty tight pattern. We have low to medium flows on Tuesday – Thursday , dropping water on Friday and then “dead low” water on Sat. – Monday.
The catch rates are much better on cloudy days because of the low clear water, but the fish haven’t been pressured for months now and the smaller ones certainly haven’t been difficult to catch. The low water conditions do make it more difficult to fool the larger fish. In our section of the river we have enough deep holes and structure for the big browns to stay hidden. When low water conditions prevail these fish tend to be nocturnal.
The low water days have allowed for a lot of wading while fly fishing. On these days I have fished right out in front of the property and sight fished too small to medium sized Rainbows. You’ll disturb the fish a little when you first wade out, but just stand quietly for a few minutes and you will see them move back in. I’ve been catching them within 25 – 30 feet on #16 Scuds, #12 Egg patterns #10 Crayfish & #10 Wooley Buggers. Bouyant spoons in 1/6 oz. , Countdown Rapalas in size CD2 or CD3 small inline spinners like VibraMax , and small jigs in black have been producing for the spin fishermen. On the sunny days it seems to help to downsize the lure and use muted colors.
The weather has been very mild for the last 2 weeks with only a couple of light frosts and highs reaching into the 60′s regularly. Soon it will be Smallmouth Bass time….I can’t wait!
When you’re on the water, take a moment to look around to appreciate the wonderful world God has given us to enjoy.
Fish Humor ~ “I got a new fly rod and reel for my wife…..best trade I ever made.” Quote from a man who mysteriously passed away shortly after making the above remark.
Planning a trip to the White River? You can find a lot of useful info on our website.
Fishing Report Update 2/19/12
It’s been a winter of extremes! We are either really cold or it so mild I’m wearing short sleeves. The White is fishing good from Bull Shoals all the way down to Calico Rock right now. On the cold days you’ll see a lot of midge action in the slow flat sections below riffles, the go-to fly is a zebra midge in dark grey or black in sizes #18 – #22. I usually use a tungsten beadhead #18 grey zebra midge and drop a #20 black/white zebra midge off of that. If I see the fish eating just below the surface I’ll use a yarn indicator and keep the flys in the first 12″ of the water column. If you go to the North Fork River just below the Dam you can even use an ”in the film” emerger or a dry midge with success. On the warmer days the midges slow down and I use streamers, simply because I love to feel the strike! I’ve been experimenting with modifying my favorite sculpin pattern with a new product called “Frantic Tails”. I was disappointed in my first results, the tails are anything but frantic! On the other hand I tyed up some new shad patterns using them and they work great for a dead drift shad pattern….because dead fish don’t have frantic tails…I’m not at all sure why they named them frantic tails! I guess if I develop a dead drift sculpin pattern they would be good for that.
I took one of my favorite customers and his wife fishing on Wed. and the wind howled. It was only the second time she had fly fished but she did great, even in the wind! We fished the Buffalo Shoals area and did a little wading and picked up some fish on olive beadhead Wooley Buggers and then drift fished with egg patterns in pink or blaze orange. I think the blaze orange was just a little more productive.
The lakes are about 30% into their conservation pools (meaning they are down about 7 -10 feet from normal levels)and the Corp is generating moderately and wade fishing can be found if you know how to chase the flows up and down the river. On Thursday of this week the Corp shutdown Bull Shoals and it is still off as of this posting and I’ll bet it doesn’t come back on until Monday morning. This makes for very, very low water for the entire river.
You can find a lot of White River specific fishing info within our fishing pages on the website. For Fly fishing info go to www.whiteriverresort.com/fishing-the-white-river-arkansas/fly-fishing-the-white-river and for Spin Fishing info go to www.whiteriverresort.com/fishing-the-white-river-arkansas/spin-fishing-on-the-white-river-in-arkansas . We are supposed to snow tonight and tomorrow and be real cold until Friday, then a pretty weekend. Don’t ever hesitate to call, I love to talk about fishing and will help you in anyway I can. 870 499-3056
You can keep up with what the releases will be via the projected generation schedule though (at the moment, they seem to be following it fairly close) and you can check that at http://www.swpa.gov/generationschedules.aspx. Current generation can be verified at http://www.swl-wc.usace.army.mil/WCDS/Reports/Data/Bulsdam.htm and http://www.swl-wc.usace.army.mil/WCDS/Reports/Data/Norfork.htm. You can also call 870 431-5311.
Remember, The information is only as good as the person updating it. The Corp has turned on generators and released water without even updating the phone recording. The “projected scheduled releases” may not be followed. Be aware of your surroundings (water levels) at all times.
Fishing Report Update 2/8/11
I tried to go over and fish the Catch & Release Area below Bull Shoals Dam just after it reopened after being closed for the brown trout spawning season. While I usually stay away from this event (crowds), the weather was horrible and supposed to get worse, so I figured that would keep the crowds away. Well, the weather didn’t disappoint! I left my house in Norfork about 7am and it was 35 degrees, by the time I reached the top of Bull Shoals Dam it was 27 degrees and freezing rain was a 1/4″ thick on the trees and grass and the roads were beginning to ice up. I decided that there would be a good possibility that if I went DOWN the steep hill to the river, I might not make it back UP the steep hill to go home. So, I punted….no fishing. I’m sure there were several monster trout down there just ready to be stupid after not being fished over for 3 months! Since then I’ve been too busy with Resort maintenance and junk that I haven’t made it back over there. I did fish right behind the house here for a couple of hours this last Sunday afternoon. The water was very low and the fish were very uneducated…stockers. They hadn’t even learned that sowbugs and scuds were what they should be eating! But if you stripped a Wooley Bugger through them , they’d fight over it. These fish will learn to identify their most common food sources within a couple of weeks of being released and become a little more selective. However, their constant presence in our rivers does allow everyone to have the enjoyment of catching fish. Which makes for happy outings for folks who aren’t fishing fanatics, and for that reason, I like stockers.
You can find a lot of White River specific fishing info within our fishing pages on the website. For Fly fishing info go to www.whiteriverresort.com/fishing-the-white-river-arkansas/fly-fishing-the-white-river and for Spin Fishing info go to www.whiteriverresort.com/fishing-the-white-river-arkansas/spin-fishing-on-the-white-river-in-arkansas . We are supposed to snow tonight and tomorrow and be real cold until Friday, then a pretty weekend. Don’t ever hesitate to call, I love to talk about fishing and will help you in anyway I can. 870 499-3056
Fishing Report Update 2/1/11
I had a trip with a couple of guys from North Little Rock, AR on Sunday. Saturday had been one of those ‘false spring days’ in the middle of winter. It reached 68 degrees under sunny skies and it seemed like eveyone was on the river….I counted 19 trailers at Red’s Landing Access! Sunday was a little different, a front had blown in overnight and the high was expected to be 40 degrees. We started out at 7:00 am in 36 degrees and guess what? We didn’t have another boat on the river all day on the 5 miles we fished. My guys were new to trout fishing and had decided to make it a spincasting trip, but I bought along a couple of fly rods just in case. The fishing was very good and steady nearly all day. They landed about 60 fish and probalby had another 30 or so on for a short time. We didn’t catch anything big, the best were a couple of 18″ Browns. Just before the trip ended one of the guys hooked a nice rainbow of about 4 lbs. The fish struck very close to the boat and was on for only 3 or 4 seconds but we all got a good look at it. We caught the fish on Rapala Countdowns CD3 , 5′s and 7′s in deep water and used smaller Husky Jerk suspension baits in shallow water. The river was as low as I’ve ever seen it, I even had to push the boat up through one of the riffles to head on upstream, very unusual. Fishing Report Update1/20/11
I fished the North Fork River today. For about the last 3 weeks the Corp has released water between 6 am – 9am then turned everything off until the next morning, which makes for a lot of available wade water. It was a great day to be on the river. It was snowing, pretty heavy too, we received about 4″ in 5 hours. It wasn’t to0 cold and the wind didn’t blow much….sounds more like a weather report than a fishing report doesn’t it? Thats what my fishing reports sound like when the fish don’t cooperate! Well, I can tell you what the fish weren’t being caught on because I bet I changed flies 12 times in 3 1/2 hours. I picked up 2 small rainbows on scuds of different colors. The midges were not coming off at all….I saw one on the water all day. It was just one of those days when the fish were in a funk and weren’t eating, at least while I was there. There were even 3 guys fishing the little hole just below the River Ridge handicapped deck and they only had 6 six between them in 6 hours of fishing and they were using PowerBait. That little hole is usually full of cooperative stockers. Well, that why its called ‘fishing’ and not ‘catching’ . Show me a guy who tells you he catches lots of fish everytime he goes on the water, and I’ll show you a guy who needs ‘honesty management’ counseling!
Fishing Report update 1/10/12
The midge fishing is still hot, especially on the areas of the river that have slower currents, or when the damss are not generating much water. The White River releases right now seem to follow this routine. Light flows through the night, with increasing generation between 8am – 11am, then shutting down until late afternoon. the North Fork River has been off most of the time , with generation between 8am – 11am , then off again. So a lot of wading water is out there to enjoy! The fish away from the dams are feeding much heavier on emerging midges, while the fish just below the North Fork River dam are taking dries fairly readily. In areas that are not “flat water” scuds and sowbugs have been more productive than any midge pattern.
The other day I enjoyed standing in ankle deep water of the White River just behind my house, sight fishing to and catching 10″ – 14″ Rainbows with #24 midge emergers in 6″ – 12″ of water, using a little 3 wt.. No they weren’t monster browns, but it isn’t always about catching big fish. The turkeys were flying up to roost in the trees on the bluff across the river, it was cold, a soft rain was falling….and it was really, really quiet…man I love what God has provided us to enjoy!
Fishing Report Update 12/29/12
It is Midge time. I’ve come across quite a few pods of fish in the last week that were actually poking their noses out while sucking midges off the surface. The bugs were silver, with a black stripe down their sides….maybe a little different version of a zebra midge. They would not take until I got down to a size 24 and they seemed to prefer it smaller, but I didn’t have any, but I’m tying some up tonight. I used a #24 with a black thread body and CDC wings and greased the tippet down to within 6″. The smaller fish were actually chasing the midges across the surface and could be enticed into striking by letting the fly drag and skitter on the surface. The better fish were smarter than that and would be posted up in a feeding lane. The really good fish though could be seen sliding back and forth about 2 feet down as they ate the midges. Another good fly was a #20 -#24 Griffiths Gnat that imitates midge clusters.
Fishing Report Update 9/5/12
Business always slows down during the last 2 weeks of August so the family and I have been visiting friends and family in New York and Pennsylvania, Carol’s from that area. I did get a little bit of smallmouth fishing in, but not enough.
My neighbor, who was a local fly guide for 25 years has been fishing the North Fork during the last 2 weeks. The Browns are already staging for the spawn in this river. They are very spooky but he had caught several really nice fish. Like so many times on the North Fork it helps to have a little wind chop on the surface of the water. It allows you to place that fly in the water and adds just the right action to a fly under an indicator. He caught his fish on the standard stuff we use up here, black zebra midges, sowbugs & scuds. The Corp has been leaving the water low in the mornings and raising it around noon each day.
If you want to have a trophy mounted, please consider taking a picture of your fish, then releasing it, and having a “reproduction mount” done. These type of mounts are superior in every way to the old “skin mounts” . You get to release a good fish back to the water and have a mount too!!
The big caddis hatch has started on our section of the White River. They have a light tan wing with a green body in about a size #14. The hatch is coming off really heavy starting about 2 hours before dark and lasting pass last light. In the past this hatch has come off for about 3 – 4 weeks. The fish have figured it out and are feeding heavily on it. You don’t have to wait for wadeable water. We caught them from boats drifting close to the bank for the last 2 days during high water flows. Come enjoy the action .
I just finished a stretch where I guided 11 out of 13 days. It was a lot of fun, and a lot of effort. I’ve guided 6 years now and I have never seen a March quite like this one. 8 of the 11 days my clients caught what is normal for March….lots of fish. During that time I fished 25 anglers and all but 3 caught well in excess of 50 fish per day. Of those 3 anglers who fished the slow days we struggled to catch 5 – 7 fish during the day. Normally in March even the weather has a hard time slowing the bite down, but each of the poor days happened on a high pressure system following a low pressure system. In addition heavy rains muddied the waters and forced us to fish close to the both the North Fork and extreme upper White to find clear water. All the other anglers were doing the same thing and the fishing pressure was fairly heavy, but I’ve had successful days in those conditions before. I guess it just comes down to the fact that some days, even in our best season, the fish aren’t going to cooperate.
The fish are in very good shape, nice and chunky. During the days when a low pressure system was coming in on us and the clouds were heavy we caught a lot of Browns. One day our catch was 25% Browns, that’s usual given the fact that they are only 10% of the fish population.
The flies that worked the best for the Browns were sculpin patterns on a sink tip line. We caught them mostly over solid bedrock bottom in 6 to 10 feet of water. Rainbows responded well to nymphing with maroon San Juan Worms with a Soft Hackle dropper in a size #16, and a black Zebra Midge in size #18. While the Caddis hatch seems to be strong on the White from Rim Shoals up it really hasn’t gotten going down on my section of the river. I see a few come off on the warmest of days but only the small fish are feeding on them. It has been my experience that the heavier hatch of Caddis occur in my section of the White in mid-April through the end of May.
I fished the trophy catch & release area below Bull Shoals Dam for a couple of days and
while we didn’t catch a lot of fish we did catch some very nice rainbows.
The fishing has been good. The “Shad Hatch” came off a few times up in the Catch & Release area below Bull Shoals Dam. For the benefit of those readers who haven’t fished the White River much, our “Shad Hatch” is when Threadfin Shad in Bull Shoals Lake die or become so weak from extreme cold snaps they are pulled through the Dams electric generators and into the river below. It’s a fish feeding free for all. If it lasts for several days a lot of really big fish migrate up river to the area just below the dam. This year the shad came & went, off & on and I don’t think it was ever consistent enough to draw a really large number of fish. I fished it several times and we caught some fat rainbows to 20″and a 27″ brown but we never saw any really big fish. Also the action was spotty. Maybe the shad came through heavy at night and the fish were already full…hard to know. Of course the boat traffic got fairly heavy at times.
Down on the lower portion of the White things have been very consistent for the last month. We’ve been looking at 5 – 6 generators from Bull and 2 from Norfork. The river has been running full big its very fishable. The big water has concentrated the fish in areas the current is not as strong. Another plus of the level of water is that the big browns are feeding during daylight hours. We’ve caught quite a few browns in the 20″ plus range all through February and last week we caught and released a 27 1/2″ brown. Remember that our new size limit on German Browns is 24″, with a limit of one. Please consider taking a photo and releasing the fish. Replica mounts are superior in every way to skin mounts. To back that up, if you are lodging or fishing with me, I will pay you $50 toward your replica mount. I do not keep trophy fish. There are only so many of them, think about it.
This 27″ German Brown was caught by friend and customer, Edwin S. . Edwin is pretty much a “Trophy Hunter” and he’s good at it.
Both lakes are very close to returning to normal power pool levels after our recent rains,which were then followed by an eight inch snow!! I was lucky enough to have a
chance to go fishing by myself just before the snow. At this time of the year you can find
quite a few trout up in the tributaries of the White River system. Some won’t hold any fish, but some will hold a lot of fish. I’ve fished different ones over a period of 30 years and I’ve learned which places will have fish given different river conditions within the White. Most of these streams are springs creeks and some are very small. I always feel
like I’ve snuck out to the west when I’m on these little freestone streams, they remind me of Colorado or New Mexico. A lot of the time you can enjoy sight fishing to these trout, but that day they were hiding in the fast water and the deep holes. They were a little finicky, but you can expect that with water temperatures holding just above forty degrees. After being refused on Wooly Buggers, a Hares Ear nymph, and a zebra midge, I began to score with a 1/2″ San Juan worm. The banks of the stream are eroding badly still from the floods of ’08 and I’m sure with each rainfall these fish find earthworms that have washed into the creek…..hmmm….should have started with the San Juan. Honestly I really wasn’t even thinking. I was by myself and just out to watch the water flow by and until I didn’t catch something for 20 minutes I wasn’t really considering why. Its nice to fish like that sometimes. When I’m guiding its all business. 2 days ago the North Fork River was at dead low levels and I went over to see the changes made by the constant release of generation water for the last 6 months. (We had one of the wettest summers on record.) I went to scout more than fish but I took a rod, you know, so I could confirm a “fishy” spot. (All work, no pleasure. Ha!) The gravel banks and bars had shifted and some fish holdings spots had been gained and some lost, but the river looked good! I stopped several times to drift a black #20 zebra midge through different spots and was rewarded with a fish every time but one. The North Fork was off again today for the morning hours. I expect to see slots of time each day where the generators are shut down and wadeable water will be available on this river beginning now. Come up and enjoy!
We are running some great Winter Specials and some March & April packages with free boat rentals!
The Corp continued to release very heavy flows throughout December, until we had a 3″ – 5″ rainfall on Dec. 26th, which was widespread across the state. As river levels down in the flat delta areas rose to minor flood stages the Corp backed off the water releases on both the White and North Fork Rivers to allow the waters down in southern Arkansas to drop. During a short period between the 27th and the 30th our section of the White River fished really, really well. This is usually the case after heavy flows for a long period decrease dramatically. The fish seemed to be everywhere and would take just about anything. It was one of those times when they were very easy! The lakes are getting close to reaching levels where the Corp will back off the really heavy flows. By the end of January we will see good fishable water, and I’m looking forward to it. While some large fish can be caught on higher flows, boat handling is constant and must be flawless or you can be swimming very quickly. Cold water & air temps can be a very dangerous combination. To look at what flies or lures to use in our waters checkout the “Fishing” pages in this site.
Well the time has come for the Corp of Engineers to lower the lakes until they have reached the bottom of the flood pool. Generation began on Dec. 1st with Bull running 7 units around the clock and Norfork running 2 gens around the clock. If we do not receive any significant rainfall during December, the North Fork River will have great wading water by Jan. 1st. The White River below Bull Shoals Lake will take longer, my estimate is between Feb 1st and the 10th. Until then expect heavy flows and fishing from a boat. This is the time of year and the right conditions to catch big fish. You will not catch as many fish as when the water flows are lighter but the heavy flows limit where the big fish can hold. It takes patience and persistence but they are there.
I had the pleasure of running the bottom 20 miles of the Buffalo River recently with my 11 year daughter, Audrey. We put in at Rush and floated down to Buffalo City. The river was beautiful, running clear with the perfect amount of water. The smallmouth fishing was good. While we didn’t get anything over 15″, we caught quite a few, enough to keep an 11 year old excited! Audrey was using light spinning gear with 3″ curl tail grubs in various colors and I used my TFO 7 wt with streamers in crayfish patterns. The fish wanted the presentation to be really fast, which was a little unusual for the cool water temps we had. We’d float down the river until we came to a good wading spot then we’d slow down and work the area thoroughly. We camped on a gravel bar, had a campfire, watched the stars and had a great time. The next day was overcast and the fishing was even better. If you’d ever like to go on a smallmouth trip, give me a call!