Beautifully clear blue skies, mild temperatures, Bald Eagles everywhere, bent fly rods everywhere……that’s what October is about. The temperature thing is a big deal. It’s so nice to be outside on the water fishing when temps are between 50 and 70 degrees….it significantly elevates the enjoyment of the angling experience. You can drink hot coffee from a thermos all through the chilly morning, then you can shed your cozy Simms jacket and switch to cold Octoberfest from the cooler all through the pleasantly warm afternoon. Even without the caffeine or alcohol, you would have to really try hard to not enjoy yourself out there right now.
Pretty soon we’ll all have something else to enjoy: the fall colors. You can see the fall color in the fish before you see it in the foliage – the deep glowing orange of a spawning brown trout’s flank or the intensely red stripe of a spawning rainbow. The leaves are only just beginning to turn, starting with Sycamores, but soon the maples, hickories, and oaks will join, and lots of yellow, orange, and red will dominate the river vistas. The next 2-3 weeks should be the best of it.
The fall spawn is on in Dry Run Creek at Norfork Fish Hatchery, and lots of smiling young faces can be seen around those parts. Dry Run Creek in the fall is every teenaged and pre-teen fly fisherman’s dream come true: a small stream just for kids that’s full of big willing trout. If you have a child or a grandchild interested in fly fishing, there’s no better way to spoil them forever than to pay for a half-day’s guide trip on Dry Run Creek. They will receive an introduction to fly fishing they will never forget.
Read on for specifics on flows and flies.
Flows are still stable around 12,000cfs, with some minor fluctuation here and there. Recent rains temporarily stabilized the falling lake level, delaying the onset of lower flows in the tailwater, but the lake level is falling again and hasn’t far to go before we will see a change in the dam releases. For now stick to high water nymphing techniques with Rubberlegs Jig, Dally’s Tailwater Jig, Pheasant Tail Jig, Hare’s Ear Jig, and as always on high water – eggs and worms. Streamer junkies should try the usual fare (Sluggos, Twerking Minnows, Double Deceivers, Modern Deceivers) early in morning, late in the evening, or on cloudy days.
Flows are fluctuating between about 2,000cfs when spill gates are closed and 3,800cfs when spill gates are open, a difference in river height of a little less than 2 feet. Expect the water to come up between 9 and 11 in the morning and go down around 5-6pm. The spill gate releases are an effort to continue drawing the lake level down while maintenance is performed on a generator turbine(s), and there is the added extra benefit that the water falling over the face of the dam adds oxygen to the river and boosts the energy level of trout downstream. The higher flow is also a bit off-color, so the best flies are still brightly colored San Juan worms (pink, red), Cheeto fly, egg patterns (orange, pink), and AR Beadhead shad imitations.