The natives are growing restless over the persistence of high water conditions, yet the White River continues to give up quality brown trout week after week. Perhaps the autumn season on the White is more typically a low water scenario yielding quantity more so than quality. Lots of people have been spoiled in the past by low water, wade fishing opportunities, and easy fishing during the fall. It’s these easy and familiar fishing conditions that people are missing, but the reality of the current high water situation is that, given a competent boat handler and knowledge of the river (a guide), the fishing is still easy, the quantity of catch is still there, and your chances of finding willing brown trout may even be better than if the water was running shallow and slow.
These are simply the opinions of a fishermen based on observation and speculation, but it is possible that the persistence of high water well into the fall season (like this year) delays the brown trout spawn, since brown trout like to spawn in relatively shallow gravelly water of moderate current speed. While the spawn is delayed, it makes sense that brown trout would continue to feed with regularity, spending more time getting meals and less time performing the physical acts of spawning (fanning redds, sparring and fighting for positioning, and laying/fertilizing eggs). Thus the scenario of high water and delayed spawn in the fall may translate to better brown trout catching through the fall season.
The high water is still positioning plenty of fish on flooded grass humps, moss beds, boulders, logs, and any other structure that slows the current enough to make a comfortable spot for fish to lie and wait for food to come. The browns don’t bite every day, but there have been some very strong outings recently, and even on days when browns are staying hidden, the herds of rainbows out there are keeping rods bent.
Combine bent rods with the pleasantries of fall – steep hillsides saturated in yellow and orange, morning mist and cackling eagles sharing the rocky outcroppings overlooking the river, the intense blue sky of a clear afternoon – and you have a top notch fly fishing experience.
A stable flow of 10,000cfs-11,000cfs is being intermittently interrupted by conduit release from Bull Shoals Dam, adding another 3,500cfs to the volume when conduit is open and adding a little more than a foot of river level rise and fall. The churning waters at the foot of the dam plus the up and down of the river level plus a bit more light runoff from recent rain are all contributing to a bit of color and debris in the water. The trout don’t mind however and are happy to bite on reliable high water flies such as DW’s Prism Worm, Dynamite Worm, and regular old San Juans in pink, red, and natural. Egg patterns are strong choices also and pair nicely with a DW Super midge or Whitetail midge in silver or pearl. Large Rubberleg nymphs are still taking good browns at times. Cone Head Wooly Buggers, Sparkle Minnows, and other small streamers are good twitched around bank structure and accompanying eddies.
Expect a little less than one unit of water, slightly stained in color. Experienced kayakers and pontoon drifters can safely float and stop at various places to try their luck, just be aware there are places with fast water over shallow rocks. Eggs and worm patters are producing well, as are pink and/or orange scuds, Ruby and Root Beer midges. Stripping small dark streamers and sculpin patterns in olive or black can be fun.