Caddis, thunderstorms, gobbling turkeys, blooming “sarvice” trees – all the signs of spring are upon us, and with them comes all the anticipation of excellent spring fishing. A few nice browns have already been caught on dries, and the best is yet to come once the lakes get down low enough to allow more minimum flow. Powerful pre-spawn smallmouth will be hunting aggressively as the creeks approach 60 degrees, though the rain pelting the fly shop roof right now might delay the action a few more days. At any rate it’s time to fix the leaks in your waders, upgrade your rain jacket, stock up on caddis for trout and Clousers/Creek Crawlers for bass, and be ready when the weather breaks – we’re on the cusp of great fishing.
Water temps are still a little icy, but slowly improving. Fishing the high flows with streamers has been somewhat effective, with some quality browns coming to hand, and it would not be surprising to have a good streamer bite throughout the spring since the browns seemingly did not feed as well as they should over the bitter 2013-2014 winter. Try articulated Fatheads, Circus Peanuts, Dungeons, and Boogiemen in olive, tan, or brown. Caddis fishing has been particularly good on low water, when the sun’s radiant energy can really warm the shallows and stir the bug life. Nymphing pockets and drop-offs with Prince Nymphs and various caddis pupa is highly effective, but taking fish on dries is way more fun! To get it done on top right now, you’ve got to find the lowest, warmest water around, so take advantage of the windows of minimum flow. If the dam is shut off at night like it has been lately, there will be wadable water down river the next day.
High flows are very cold like the White, but can be fished effectively with small streamers, cone head woolies, or heavy nymphs like jigged Princes and Pheasant Tails with Ruby Midges or Wotton’s Whitetails trailing behind. Many of the rainbows on the Norfork are in beautiful condition – fat, brightly colored, and sassy, whether due to spring spawning activity or a high Daphnia diet, or both. Keep an eye out for caddis activity on the Norfork as well during minimum flow. Try dry-dropper with Elk Hair dries and Z-Wing pupa, or swing green colored soft hackles.