Here we are mid-May already, peak of the caddis hatch, and as states are slowly re-opening various sectors of their economies, more and more people are willing to take a break from their stay-at-home quarantine routines to get outside and enjoy the fresh air on a fishing trip in the safe, calm, and quiet sanctuary of north central Arkansas. Local restaurants are offering take-out and even dine-in at partial capacities. Lodges are open for business and accepting reservations from out of state visitors. Plenty of fishing guides have availability in their schedules too. A sense of normalcy, well-being, and general ease pervades the culture of the small towns surrounding the White River, and the locals consider themselves lucky to live here.
The rain keeps falling and the lakes keep rising. Someday soon we’ll see more full bore release and spillway action, but for now both the White and Norfork tailwaters are relatively tame. The White has been steady around 6,000 – 8,000cfs, and Norfork steady at about 2,700cfs, but tomorrow’s projection shows a more up and down scenario. Looks like we’re about to have mild generation on the White until afternoon, with higher water released through the afternoon/evening, and minimum flow on Norfork until 11am, with one generator in the afternoon/evening. This scenario is great for wade fishermen longing to stretch their legs. Norfork will be prime for the morning hours, and White will be wadable at various locations for much of the day, especially further downriver. Now would be a great time to take advantage of improved walk-in access at both Roundhouse and Rim Shoals.
Caddis imitations in all stages, wet to dry, is the name of the game on the White. Mercer’s Jiggy Caddis, Z-wing Caddis, and Darkes’ Elk Creek Caddis are all excellent choices for weighted nymphs. They can be fished effectively at various depths single, in tandem, or in combination with a subtle soft hackle such as a Tailwater Soft Hackle Mother’s Day Caddis. The classic Elkhair caddis is still effective on top, and can even be used as a subtle indicator to hold up a soft hackle, perfectly imitating emerging caddis. Headlight Caddis is a newfangled fancy dry fly worth trying.
Norfork on minimum flow should fish great with Root Beer midges, Whitetail midges, Sunday Specials, Hunchback Scuds, and Tailwater Soft Hackles. Try Elkhair caddis dry flies in the riffles. When the water comes up, jump in a boat and drift an attractor (FM Blob, Y2K, Heavy Metal Worm) trailed by something realistic like a Hunchback Scud, Root Beer Midge, or Hare’s Ear nymph.
Buffalo National River Park will re-open for day-use beginning tomorrow, May 15. That means visitors will be allowed to float/wade/fish, but not camp, within park boundaries. After weeks of park closure, the river ought to be ripe for smallmouth bass fishing. Recent rains have kept Crooked Creek and Buffalo River at perfect floating levels to boot. Stop by Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher on your way to one of these warm-water gems and stock up on some effective bass flies like Duane Hada’s CTO Clouser minnow and Creek Crawler, the Stay Hungry Streamer, or the new Messy Craw.