Well here we are a week away from November and still looking at 11,000+cfs pumping down the Bull Shoals tailwater. In a normal year (no such thing on these waters), by the end of summer the lake has been sufficiently drained as to allow for at least intermittent periods of low flow in the tailwater. The lake elevation is now within two feet of power pool, so close to the level at which we will likely start to see some low flow on the White. However, with a little more rain coming our way over the next couple days, it appears the onset of low flow will be delayed a few more days.
If that sounded vaguely like a complaint, that’s because the White River fishery is predicated on changing water conditions, and when conditions don’t change for extended periods of time, anglers of the White River tend to get a little restless or anxious. After months of fishing the same bank runs, the same drift lines, using the same bugs, we long for a change of conditions to mix things up, change the game, to present a new set of challenges and opportunities.
Imagine the joy, for example, after weeks of high water and lead shot this, tungsten bead that, and hideous orange Thingamabobbers to boot, the river level drops three feet – exposing shallow shoals and moss beds. The change in conditions triggers hatches of fall caddis and Blue Winged Olives, and fish are feeding on emergers in slow shallow water. To be rid of one’s heavy clumsy nasty six weight nymph rigs, finally, in exchange for the light and airy grace of a dry-dropper on a four weight? Makes me smile just thinking about it.
The day is soon coming when you can wade out into the White and swing a soft hackle, but for now boat fishing and high water nymphing tactics (longer leaders, bigger flies, more weight) that have been working all summer continue to produce both quantity and quality of fish. Rubberlegs, egg patterns, and San Juan worms make good attractors, to be accompanied by something more subtle like a Dally’s Tailwater Jig, DW’s Whitetail Midge, Iron Lotus, or Hare’s Ear nymph. Add 4x Rio Fluorocarbon tippet and #1 or B split shot until you hit the bottom. Alternatively, strip Cone Head Woolies and Sparkle Minnows on 2x tippet around bank structure.
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 generators. It’s unclear right now wether high water temperature from spill gate releases has the trout feeling a little sluggish. When the fish are biting, they’re biting egg patterns, San Juan worms, Hunchback Scuds in pink and orange, and DW Super midge in silver or pearl.