March is an uncertain month in the Ozarks – the weather changes by the minute, and so does the fishing. It is a bit of a transition period in terms of fish habits, available food, and flow regimes, but always fishy nonetheless. Come prepared for anything, expect everything, and you’ll be ready.
Chuck and Laura Smith picked the right day to try trophy brown hunting with big streamers – high clear flows, cool overcast skies. This being their third year in a row to try this, with poor conditions the first two tries, I was relieved to see the conditions on the morning of the trip, feeling confident the third time would be the charm. Chuck smacked a mean gnarly looking 26″ brown in the first hour of the morning, and Laura got a nicely colored fat 18incher just before lunch. It was really great to find success with fantastic folks who have suffered through bad fishing to get to the good.
Looking ahead to the coming weeks, things are about to get very interesting. Caddis fishing should heat up as April approaches, and smallmouth, the gamiest fish in the Ozarks, will soon be venturing out of their wintering holes to gobble up errant minnows and crayfish. Those skilled with a canoe or kayak paddle can find solitude and wild fish on the waters of Crooked Creek and the Buffalo National River. Or if you want a guided introduction to Ozark smallmouth, talk to our staff about the possibility of guided floats on either river this spring/summer.
High water continues at 4-6 units round the clock. Big brown hunting with big streamers is still a worthy pursuit on the right weather patterns. Go early or late in the day, or look for overcast/rain/weather fronts in the forecast. Double Deceivers, Lynch’s DDs, Sex Dungeons, and other meaty offerings with good retrieve action are the ticket. On bright sunny days or windows of lower flows, step down your streamer size to 2-4inch flies like Zoo Cougars, BFH sculpins, and Craven’s Gonga. Or pick up the nymph rods and work your drift game. On sunny afternoons caddis have been spotted already, so now is the perfect time to start running Prince Nymphs, Fat Caddis, Graphic Caddis, and other pupae patterns. Trail your pupa fly with midges like Whiteails, Super midges, and Zebra midges.
A steady one unit offers perfect drift fishing conditions from a boat. Squirmy worms, San Juan worms, and egg patterns in pink or orange make an excellent attractor to help gain the fish’s attention in the stained water. Trail these with Hunchback or Kaufman Scuds in olive, tan, or UV varieties, as well as black Whitetail midges, black/silver Super midges, and Root Beer midges. Small flashy streamers like Sparkle Minnows and Kreelex Minnows can also make fish grabby in dirty water. On an overcast day, try throwing larger articulated streamers like Sex Dungeons, Double Deceivers, and Lynch’s DDs to entice a big brown, rainbow, or cutthroat.