What an exciting (and exhausting) time it is to be an angler in the Ozarks. Whether it’s getting up early to catch a white bass or hybrid, or staying out late on an evening caddis bite, good fishing tends to leave your spirits high and your energy low. The last three days I’ve fished three different bodies of water for three different species. This time of year all fisheries are firing!
Tailwater trout are gorging on caddis and midges, flows are relatively stable and clear, and fly fishermen are showing a lot of smiling faces. Warm weather and sunshine combined with lowish water has brought on peak caddis activity. There’s not a better time of year to wet a line.
Temperate bass (whites and hybrids) are spawning full throttle, and can be found wherever larger tributaries enter Bull Shoals and Norfork Lake. A floating line and Clouser Minnow can be all you need when the bass are up shallow in the back of a lake arm, or in the shoals above the lake, but often the largest whites and hybrids are caught in deep water near the creek mouth, on sink tip lines and various minnow flies.
Smallmouth bass creeks like Buffalo and Crooked are heating up as well. Some bass are bedding or defending newly hatched fry, and others have already moved off the nest to hunt crawdads and minnows. Water levels are low and clear, offering perfect conditions for wade fishing and floating a canoe or kayak, if you don’t mind a bump here and there.
White River :
Flows are steady at about one unit most of the day and sometimes higher at night. As long as you’re on stable water that is not rising or falling, the green algae stays mostly confined to the bottom, and allows for fairly clean drifts. Indicator fishing with various caddis pupae and midges is very productive, and dry fly opportunities are there if the wind doesn’t whip up too strong. A huge variety of flies will work when trout are feeding as heavily as they are now, but for starters, look to Prince Nymphs, Tailwater Soft Hackles in Caddis Green, Sunday Specials, Ruby midges, Super midges, E/C Caddis, Lawson Caddis, Hi-Tie Caddis, and small Olive Wooly Buggers.
Flows have been off most days until lunchtime at least, sometimes later. There is good wade fishing on low water with midges, caddis, and scuds. Root Beer midges are a favorite, Sunday Specials and Hunchback scuds are staples too, and a variety of soft hackles work great as caddis emergers. It’s a hoot to fish a bushy caddis like an Elk Hair with a midge dropper through the riffles.