Joey with a fat Norfork bow
Today I got the pleasure of working the Norfork with local artist and guide Duane Hada. It’s a nostalgic experience working with Duane, as he was instrumental in getting my older brother Ben started in fly fishing, and a few years down the road, me as well. Duane and my brother once built a rod for me as a Christmas gift back when my waders were twice as long as I was tall. It was a short, limber 6wt that flexed beautifully under the weight of longears and little smallmouth. Duane taught me to double haul with it when I was nine. This is all just to say that working professionally with the same guys that taught me how to fish as a kid is pretty cool.
Paul explores a back channel with Duane
Even more cool is the backwoods culture shock that we were able to produce for our Californian customers, who were not expecting to find so few people and such willing fish, and such great scenery all in the same place. These San Francisco boys have been around the block, fished some of the finest rivers in the world, but I think the simple beauty and productiveness of Arkansas waters gave them a pleasant surprise. Nothing out of the ordinary for us locals, just another round of pleasant November sunshine, bald eagles, sparkling riffles, mossy rocks and logs, and many hungry trout.
lunch at old Mcllelans
Recent rains have muddied the river below Crooked Creek (just downstream of Rim Shoals catch and release area), but that should clear up in a couple days and meanwhile everything upstream is fishing great. Expect a half unit with a 2-4hr pulse of high water in the morning. Avoid the pulse for best wading opportunities and most consistent fishing conditions. Drifting bead head nymphs and midges under an indicator is the most productive method but almost any approach be it dry fly, streamer, or soft hackle will catch fish. Micro Mayfly Nymphs, Copper Johns, Super Midges, Whitetail Midges, and Ruby Midges are perfect. Egg patterns and San Juan worms also make great attractors. Olive Wooly Buggers, Slump Busters, and Sparkle Minnows fished on the swing and twitch are a fun and effective way to bend your rod.
Flows are usually cut to minimum by 9 or 10am, providing ample time for wade fishermen, canoes, kayaks, and drift boats to get on the water. Hunchback Scuds, Wotton Sowbugs, Root Beer Midges, and little Zebra Midges are great in the slow pools and shallow riffles. Expect heavy midge activity in the warm afternoons, and perhaps try swinging soft hackles if fish start bulging the surface. Little black Wooly Buggers are also a great choice for any part of the river, any time of day.