It’s been a very interesting start to the week, with a big change in water flow over the weekend from what we’ve grown accustomed to for the past few weeks. If you read this report weekly or have fished the White recently then you’d be expecting to hear more about fishing and flows in the 12,000cfs-18,000cfs range. However, significant rainfall over the end of last week and through the weekend created some minor flash flooding in tributaries like the Buffalo River and sent enough water down the White River watershed to the delta farmlands to warrant Bull Shoals Dam to cut flows as a flood mitigation effort. The result is that for the past few days we’ve been fishing water as low as minimum flow and as high as 8,000cfs, with the majority of the time the flow being around 2,000-3,000cfs.
The fish did not need much time to settle into the new conditions, and the lower water has been quite productive with both dries and nymphs. The slower current speeds and decrease in river depth makes it much easier and less energy demanding for bigger trout to rise to the surface to feed on a terrestrial bug. Mornings are often the best, but focusing on shady banks late in the afternoon is productive as well.
It’s hard to say how much longer the lower water will last. SWPA projections have not been entirely accurate over the past 48 hours, but there appears to be a trend developing in that average flows are gradually increasing. There’s no rain expected for some time, which means the high water in the delta to the east will soon be receding, which should translate to Bull Shoals Dam returning to a schedule of heavy releases. Tomorrow’s projection shows lowish water until mid-morning, and then steadily increasing flows throughout the afternoon and evening. Moving toward the approaching holiday weekend, it would be smart to bet on afternoon flows being higher than morning flows, regardless of what the baseline is.
A number of different nymphs are highly effective in catching fish of all sizes and species right now. Some Jig Flexi Stones and other large rubber-legged nymphs should definitely be in your selection – they work alone and as a weighted attractor. Combine them with some kind of mayfly nymph (Dally’s Tailwater Jig, Devil Jig, Pheasant Tail, Hare’s Ear, Micro Mayfly) or midge pattern (DW Super Midge, Whitetail Midge, Redneck Midge). The terrestrial dry fly bite is of course what everybody is talking about – when executed properly, it’s a quality over quantity experience that produces good brown trout. Fat Alberts and Western Ladies are shop favorites that produce every summer; carry them in #8 tan, black, or pink. Also try Wiley’s Ant, Evan’s Baby Foam, and Crossland’s Klinkhopper.
There is once again a wading opportunity on the Fork early in the morning. Much like the situation on the White, this lower flow is a temporary condition that is unpredictable and the SWPA projection should not be fully trusted, so be flexible and plan your escape. That being said, the water has been off until midday the last two days, allowing for some morning wading, and the nymphing is solid with old reliables like Root Beer Midges, Zebra Midges, DW Whitetail Midges, Hunchback Scuds, Trout Crack. Small dries such as Griffith’s Gnat and tiny Parachute Adams are also fun, as are little soft hackles or wet flies like Anna Ks, Dally’s Tailwater Soft Hackle, and DW’s Catchall. After the water comes up and stabilizes, dredge deep with eggs, San Juan worms in red, pink, and natural, and the infamous Cheeto.