To say that the White River is up and down this week would be an understatement. The tailwater elevation is currently fluctuating each day by as much as eight feet. The reasons for the drastic fluctuations are complex, but it is safe to say there are two main forces at work in this release schedule: flood control and electricity demand. The periods of low water during the night might be an effort to relieve downstream flooding, but the periods of heavy release in the afternoons would seem to contradict that effort. Obviously there must be a plan to draw the lake elevation back down out of flood pool, which could be accomplished with a steady rate of release, but based on the timing of heavy releases – during the hottest hours of the day – what we are likely seeing here is a strategy by the Southwestern Power Administration to produce the most electricity during the hours of peak electricity demand, and therefore make more money.
This pattern of water release presents a unique set of circumstances for the angler. There is in fact wadable water to be found, whether it’s minimum flow or one generator, and that water level can be enjoyed at least until lunchtime if one is positioned at Rim Shoals or below. The angler with a motor boat can basically decide what water level to fish and stay in that flow as long as possible. If the lower water is desirable, don’t linger too long in one area and quickly work in the downstream direction, skipping a mile here and there to stay in front of the rising water. Once the water starts rising, there is a stair-stepping effect as the flow continues to increase throughout the afternoon. If there is some in-between water level that is desirable (not too low, not too high), that positioning can also be maintained by steadily moving downriver in front of the rising water. If the rising water becomes clouded or choked with debris, the motor boat angler can move multiple miles downriver to regain a desirable position in front of the rise, or head in the upstream direction until the flow is clear again (that would mean committing to fishing high volume water).
It’s a fast paced game when you’re constantly on the move to run from big water or dirty water, and at times it can feel like you’re motoring more than fishing, but in this fishery staying on the move can be the difference between 2 hours of good fishing and 6 hours of good fishing.
Read on for fly choices.
Low water scenarios are fishing really well hopper-dropper style, using Fat Alberts or Chubby Chernobyls as indicators and Pheasant Tail nymphs or Tailwater Jigs as droppers. During minimum flow periods midges are consistent producers (Ruby, Root Beer, and DW Whitetail). Parachute Sulfurs, Comparaduns, and Silverman’s Stacker will take fish on top as well, during low flow and high flow alike, as the sulfur mayfly hatch continues. Pat’s Rubberlegs, Jigged Stones, and other large rubber legged nymphs are fishing well on higher flows, as are big dries like #4-6 Western Ladies, Fat Alberts, Juicy Bugs, and Rainy’s Hoppers.
Two full units all day will continue for the foreseeable future, which provides a haven for streamer addicts to scratch and claw with Sex Dungeons, Viking Midges, Twerking Minnows, and Ice Picks. Using split shot to dredge big San Juan worms on the bottom is also effective. Jigged Pheasant Tail nymphs and Jigged Stones are also great choices as compact, heavy flies to sink in the fast runs and pockets. Look for drop-offs behind flooded grass beds and try the slower water below islands.