As the Bull Shoals Lake level falls near to “power pool” height, we can wave goodbye to stable water flow in the tailwater. We are now seeing fluctuation in flow with the low point being 13,000-14,000cfs and the high point being 18,000-20,000cfs. This rising and falling water scenario can make the fish a little tight lipped at times, forcing anglers to change where they’re fishing and when, but experienced guides know how to make adjustments.
There are basically three choices in terms of the type of water available: stable flow at 13,000-14,000cfs, rising flow as the volume climbs to somewhere between 18,000-20,000cfs, and dropping flow as the volume slides back down towards 13,000cfs. Rising flow can be found at the dam in the early morning and moving downriver rapidly at about 4-5 miles per hour. Stable flow can be found in front of the rise – further and further downstream as the day goes on. Dropping flow can be found at the dam around 11am and moves downriver a little slower at about 3 miles per hour. Stable flow appears again after the water drops – in the upper section of the river late in the day. All three kinds of water can produce fish on the right day, but usually one of the three is best. Undoubtedly, different anglers will find different patterns of success. There are no simple answers.
The streamer game is still working here and there during short windows of opportunity, say for example, rising flow on a cloudy morning. The go-to setup is a heavy sink tip line with 20-30ft of sink at 6-9 inches per second, a relatively short, stout leader, and a moderate sized streamer with plenty of swimming action such as CJ’s 5″ Sluggo, Dally’s Twerking Minnow, Lafkas’ Super Cougar, Galloup’s Bangtail.
The nymphing game is producing with fair to good consistency, especially on stable flows. Dredge 8-12ft deep over flooded gravel bars and grass beds with worm patterns, dead minnow imitations like AR Beadhead or Meat Whistle, and small sculpin imitations like Mike’s Pec or El Sculpito. Or, fish the same minnow and sculpin imitations tight to the bank at more reasonable depths of 4-6 ft.