Dally’s Fly Fishing Report 4/29/20

Hard fighting brown trout took a big rubberleg nymph

If you fish often, fish will continuously surprise you. The wily unpredictable brown trout is one of the best examples. They will elude you when your confidence is highest, and end up on your hook when you thought your chances were slim. The experience of being surprised by a fish is an important one for the observant angler, however. Being surprised by a fish can humble those with too much confidence, or refresh the interest and excitement of those stuck in the same old routine. If anglers were only successful where and when they expected to be successful – that is, if fish and conditions were entirely predictable – then angling would be sort of like reading non-fiction – more utility than entertainment.

Dr Lance Lincoln 21″ Bonneville Cutthroat off Norfork with guide Steve Dally

Just yesterday a colleague and I ventured up a tributary of the White via jetboat in search of smallmouth bass. Finding little success, we returned to the main stem of the White and half-heartedly fished for brown trout. Our confidence was lacking due to the water being very high, lacking a bit in clarity, and on top of that a bright blue sky with considerable wind. Within the first five minutes I landed a broad shouldered 22″ brown, and within another five minutes my partner landed a thick brown nearly measuring two feet. Had we chosen to go fishing specifically for browns that day, we would never have chosen that area due to the color and debris in the water. Most other anglers have been avoiding the area for the same reason. The experience both humbled my so-called expertise and renewed my interest in fishing further downstream of the dam. Fish and learn!

Norfork fishing well with flood gates open

Floodgates are currently shut down on the White, and the river camera at Newlands is showing approximately two units. Though the current cfs is not accurately posted, that’s a huge reduction in flow from the 21,000cfs we had been fishing last week, offering a more manageable boating experience and more fishable banks, runs, and pockets. Bull Shoals Lake level had stabilized last week, but with the tailwater release decreased and a heavy rain last night, the lake level is back on the rise with little storage room left, so I would guess that tailwater release will increase and/or floodgates will be open again soon.

Editor’s Note: By 7pm last night the flows were up around 13,000 cfs

There has been a good but not necessarily consistent bite near the dam on shad imitations like Todd’s Wiggle Minnow, white Meat Whistle, white Sparkle Minnow, and DW’s Threadfin. Large rubberleg nymphs have been more consistent, and work well combined with a caddis pupae such as a Mother’s Day Jig, Sunday Special, or Nick’s Fat Caddass, and various other jigged nymphs like Dally’s Tailwater Jig, Prince Jig, and Devil Jig. The caddis and midge hatch is strong on sunny days, and fish can be found elevated in the water column and feeding in slower current seams and back eddies just out of the main current. Try targeting these elevated and feeding fish with E/C Caddis, Dally’s Tailwater Soft Hackle, or DW’s Whitetail Midge.

Norfork as of 10am this morning still had one turbine on and two floodgates open for a combined release of around 4,500cfs. Fishing has been excellent with Daphnia cluster flies like Fulling Mill’s “the Blob.” Orange egg patterns, Y2Ks, and Cheetos will suffice if “the Blob” is sold out. Trail these brightly colored attractors with something more muted like a Sunday Special, Mother’s Day Jig, DW Super Midge, or Hunchback Scud in tan/olive. For a change of pace, strip small streamers like Sparkle Minnows or sculpin patterns.