Dave Ruetz’s PB river brown trout, images by guide Steve Dally
IF you are a fly fisher in this part of the world, or perhaps want to visit, the coming winter is setting up to have a little for everyone.
Temperature and water flows will hold the key. As it stands right now, warm days and weekends should hold wadeable flows. Cold days bring the big water and the streamer addicts.
For the second time in 2017 we are in drought, broken by the monster flooding in April/May. The floodwaters have worked their way down through the system to the Gulf.
The uphill lakes, Beaver and Table Rock, are holding 90% of flood pool _ the water allocated for power generation _ the much bigger Bull Shoals is at 80%. We are better placed for water reserves than 12 months ago but what will the winter bring, wet and cold, or mild and dry: both models are out there.
So come prepared for every eventuality: the fishing has been a treat.With that, let’s talk about what’s been working.
Flows on the White have been up and down like a fiddler’s elbow. Big flows (between 3-4 units) morning and evening with gaps of low water, even minimum flow, in between.
It sounds like the best of both worlds but these types of flows have their own headaches. Constant up and down flows dirty up the high flows with both sediment and trash, and the big pushes “shrink” the windows of low water. Incidentally the low water is clean and clear.
Adjust your tactics with brighter flies for the dirty high water and plan your movements to wade fish the windows which might involve car hopping down stream.
One thing we have been noticing is goodly numbers of Baetis duns floating on the surface for the past two months, perhaps a sign that the bugs are returning with the regrowth of weed, and the scarcity of didymo.
These tiny mayflies are a mainstay, even feature, of many Western fisheries and it would be nice to see them come back in numbers, sufficient to tempt the odd brown to the surface. These are small bugs, 20s or even 22s. Run your nymphs from size 18 down, a flashback Pheasant Tail is always solid, but try Micro Mayflies in black or red as a dropper behind your regular fare.
Devil Jigs and other euro-jigs are popular lead flies but if you are chasing numbers its hard to go past David Knowles’s Y2K. Even when the Y2K isn’t getting bit, you still seem to catch more on the dropper when its in the water.
Streamer wise Double Deceivers, Twerking Minnows and Viking Midges are worth running.
Norfork is bouncing around like a jumping bean as well. Finally thought the flows are starting to clear a little after months of dealing with the North Fork of the White Flood in spring.
With that said, there’s still good numbers of fish to be caught. When nymph fishing, be sure to run bright colors under an indicator. The best combo’s are either egg patterns or San Juan Worms ahead of a scud or sowbug pattern. Also, don’t rule out a Ruby or Rootbeer midge.
Down into the catch and release zone has been fishing better than close to the dam, though there are still some good striper, hybrids and even crappie coming to hand.