Summer and Fall are wrestling back and forth again on the river canvas. Cool foggy mornings give way to hot steamy afternoons, which are busted up by evening thunderstorms, and finally smothered once more by cool fog and darkness. Looks like rain Saturday, then a return to summer heat and sun for the better part of next week. The prepared angler will need a jacket for the morning ride up the river, lightweight long sleeves for the midday sun, and a rain suit for afternoon thundershowers. If you don’t like the weather in the Ozarks, wait a couple hours, it’ll change.
Hopper-dropper rigs have been a really fun way to catch a ton of fish on something other than the usual indicator-nymph-midge setup. Sometimes keeping your hopper afloat is a frustrating task, especially when its got a tungsten beaded nymph tugging on its ass, and feisty trout on the line repeatedly drowning and saturating it. A few things can help with this dilemma. 1) Match hopper size to dropper weight. Shallow or slow water might call for smaller hoppers, which won’t hold up much more than a midge or light nymph. Deeper or faster water could be fished with a heavier nymph and thus requires a larger more buoyant hopper to hold it up. 2) Use quality dry fly floatant. I tried getting away with $5 Gink for my hoppers for too long – its a better product really for tiny dries, or to slow the sink rate of a soft hackle, or to help a struggling fly line to float. Then I broke down and bought a $15 tube of DryMagic – a small amount worked into the wing of the dry hopper works wonders. 3) After landing each fish, either shake the hopper off in a tub of desiccant (also worth the extra dollars) or false cast twice at high velocity, or both.
The pattern of water release has typically been around 2,500cfs for half the day, then rising a foot or two feet at a time every hour or couple of hours starting around noon, reaching 10,000cfs or more by late afternoon. The lower morning flows are producing big numbers of fish on nymphs and midges fished under indicators or hoppers. Some browns have also been caught on hoppers in these flows. Try Western Ladies, Grand Hoppers, and Chernobyl Ants in tan, pink, brown, orange. Popular nymphs include Pheasant Tails, Devil Jigs, and Copper Johns. Best midge choices are Rubies, Root Beers, and Wotton Whitetail/Super midges. Rising water in the afternoon/evening has given up some big fish on both hoppers and streamers. For big water, choose a large buoyant bug like a #6 Fat Albert or Western Lady, and on the streamer front, a large articulated streamer like Schmidt’s Double Deceiver, Johnson’s Sluggo, Dally’s Twerking Minnow, or Lynch’s Drunk and Disorderly.
Minimum flow until noon is the normal schedule, offering great wade fishing with a variety of midges, soft hackles, and scuds. Small terrestrials like beetles and ants are a hoot in the shallow riffles and can suspend a small midge or scud in the slow pools. High water in the afternoon/evening can be streamer fished with weighted flies like Sparkle Minnows and Ice Picks for a shot at a bigger fish, but deep drifting with eggs, worms, and nymphs will probably catch more fish.