It is a period of transition on Ozark tail waters. Weather is changing, fish are moving, and flows, though relatively high and constant in volume, are changing in clarity and oxygen level. Success requires flexibility, a variety of presentations, and probably a boat. More opportunities for wade fishermen will be present once the flows are reduced, likely sometime in November.
Chilly mornings and warm afternoons make for some of the most pleasant fishing conditions of the year. Just as it starts to get too warm, the breeze picks up providing relief. Warm, dry, breezy conditions are perfect for extending the terrestrial bite into the fall.
As the daylight hours wane and night time temperatures drop, trout are moving into spawning areas, which kicks off a good egg bite, but browns actively spawning should be left alone. Rainbows will often take up position just below active redds and feed aggressively. Some of these will even try to spawn, taking on the vibrant characteristics of spawning trout, though successful rainbow reproduction in the river is unlikely.
The Norfork has taken on its usual fall stained color, due to the churning action of lake turnover effect, but the darker water seems not to effect the fishing. However, low dissolved oxygen from lake turnover can create tough fishing in slow pools, and often better fishing in faster areas where the surface is broken and absorbing oxygen from the air. The White also can be a little dingy from lake turnover and also water release from sluice gates that scour the river bottom directly below the dam. These sluice gate releases might also carry shad and other baitfish through the dam, possibly creating a good streamer bite.
Numbers of trout are best caught on deep drifting rigs with lots of weight and large indicators to hold them up. Use an attractor pattern such as a large egg pattern or San Juan, followed by a more subtle offering such as a Pheasant Tail nymph, Micro Mayfly nymph, Copper John, or Wotton Super midge. Larger browns are best targeted with sink tip lines and streamers. You can go big with Double Deceivers, Buck Rogers, and Viking Midges to try and elicit a vicious strike, or go subtle with weighted sculpins and baitfish patterns for a slower bite.
Intense fishing pressure may be starting to take its toll on the fishing, but in no way has it killed the bite. Eggs and San Juans make excellent attractors to be followed up with Crusty Rons, Zebra midges, and Hunchback Scuds. Weighted baitfish patterns like Home Invaders, Double Bunnies, Barely Legals, and Sparkle Minnows produce quality fish over quantity.