Oh, the highs and lows of streamer fishing for trophy brown trout. One day you’re a hero; the next, zero. As a fishing guide, aligning one’s identity too closely with the results of the day can start to feel like a ride on an emotional roller coaster. It’s clearly not healthy. Perhaps it is better to take a step back in perspective, take the longer, wider view, be satisfied with the balance between good days and bad days.
The appearance of shad coming through the turbines at Bull Shoals Dam intermittently is a welcome sight and offers a new game to play to help mix things up. The “shad kill” usually occurs around late February to early March but is also notoriously unpredictable. So far the amount of shad coming through has been light, but with the cold temperatures this week, more could be coming soon. It is definitely smart to be prepared with white flies to cover various parts of the water column. Wiggle Minnows work well on the surface – these will get bought up quickly but Dally’s also carries the white foam cylinders needed to tie this easy pattern. Or, pick up some white foam sheets and create your own floating minnow pattern. AR Beadheads and Puff Daddies are classic subsurface shad patterns to fish under an indicator at various depths. The popular white Meat Whistle can be stripped at various depths with the use of floating lines, intermediate sink tips, and heavier sink tips used more commonly with the large streamer game. Sparkle Minnows, white Wooly Buggers, Whitlock shad patterns, and various other small white streamers can all work wonders when the bite is on.
Another wrinkle to consider this week is changes in water flows. Today starting at 1pm Bull Shoals Dam cut flows drastically for a few hours, down as low as 1,700cfs briefly before returning to 17,000cfs around dusk. Whether this was part of an effort to relieve downstream flooding or simply a maintenance issue on a turbine, we don’t know, but the question to ask is whether it will happen again. Seeing as how today’s weird water drop was not forecast, it’s anyone’s guess. Tomorrow’s projection calls for stable high flows at 215mwh – that should translate to about 13,000cfs, slightly less than the stable 17,000cfs we’ve been seeing recently. Assuming flows remain stable, fishing large streamer patterns should continue to produce. Dally’s Twerking Minnow and Tiny Dancer, CJ’s Sluggo and Big Johnson, Lafkas’ Modern Deceiver and Lovechild Sculpin, Schmidt’s Double Deceiver and Viking Midge are all good choices. As an alternative to streamer fishing, try dredging San Juan worms on long leaders – the recent rains should have washed in a batch of worms for the trout to eat.
One more consideration relevant to wade fishermen: Norfork was shut off today as of 1pm, and is scheduled to be off tomorrow as of noon. If this flow schedule holds, there should be good wade fishing opportunities at Quarry Park and Ackerman Access in the afternoons. This weekend the weather is supposed to be quite lovely with highs in the fifties – could be a recipe for fun. Be prepared with egg patterns, San Juan worms, Hunchback Scuds, Root Beer Midges, DW Whitetail midges, Cracklebacks, Griffith’s Gnats, and perhaps some Puff Daddies or white Wooly Buggers as shad imitations.