Pay no attention to any grumblings you may hear about high water or lack of fishing. The trout are as happy in these conditions as pigs in mud, and feeding at a rather piggish rate. Fishing is dependable if not excellent on both rivers, and fishing pressure is at a low point for the year. If you’re the kind of angler who loves solitude more than fishing, December is your month. Sorry, you’ll have to put up with some pretty good fishing along with your solitude.
There are two obstacles to getting out there right now, weather and boating safety, both are easily overcome. Cold wet conditions can be beat with proper layering of wool or synthetic blends, coupled with a quality waterproof shell. If you’re cold and wet you’re probably wearing cotton and/or a leaky jacket – very fixable problems. Boating safety, while a very serious matter in high water, is simply a matter of gaining knowledge and experience. That’s a manageable hurdle in a place like Cotter where there are a whole lot of fishing guides and competent boat drivers. The smallest networking effort around this area wether within your own circle of friends or by inquiry at Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher will quickly connect you with someone who can show you how to safely handle a boat and catch fish in high water.
Merrily staying inside is of course a cherished tradition shared by all this time of year. ‘Tis the season indeed for fly tying, sports television, or reading by the fire. However, if you find yourself stricken with cabin fever and an inexplicable urge to get on a boat, know that cold wet weather and high water are surmountable obstacles on the path to great winter fishing. By the way, the weather report for Cotter looks beautiful for this weekend.
Read on for specifics on flows and flies.
The White is cruising along steady at around 26,000cfs. Many of the usual fishy banks are too fast and choked with tree limbs to make effective presentations with any fly; however, there are innumerable gravel bars and grass beds on soft slow inside corners and inside river bends that hold fish and are easy enough to cover either with the streamer (weighted Double Deceivers, weighted Twerking Minnow, Ice Pick) or the drifted protein offering (AR Beadhead, white Sparkle Minnow, big red/pink worm, Cheeto fly, large egg pattern). Helpful items for effective nymphing in heavy flows: big orange Thingamabobbers, AAA split shot, lots of 3x fluorocarbon.
Spillway release is the equivalent of about a unit and a half, or about 2,650cfs. Fishing is fair to good with the drifted shad pattern (AR Beadhead, white Wooly Bugger, Puff Daddy), pink or red San Juan worm, or orange egg pattern. Stripping bead head white Wooly Buggers, white Sparkle Minnows, and Ice Picks is also fun. Spillway release might be over with as early as today, setting the stage for some lower water access. If the water does indeed drop soon, keep trying white shad imitations until it stops working, then switch to eggs, Ruby and Rootbeer midges, Whitetail midges, and Hunchback scuds.