Several inches of rain have piled up in the White River watershed over the past few days, which will likely allow some wading opportunities on our tailwaters over the next few days as the dams hold back some runoff to mitigate any flood damage being received downstream.
While the SWPA projection shows minimum flow for most of today on both the White and the Norfork tailwaters, a look at real time data from USACE confirms that Norfork is currently at minimum flow and Bull Shoals Dam is releasing some light flow, about two feet higher than minimum. This observation is based on the tailwater elevation data, which currently is the only data available on the USACE chart, but also is enough information to get an idea of what the river looks like without having to lay eyes on it.
Both dams are projected to start releasing more water later today, and it’s hard to say what sort of release pattern will appear over the weekend, but most likely it will be an up and down sort of cycle, with periods of both low and high(er) water.
Right after a big rain event such as we’ve had, it’s normal for SWPA projections and USACE real time data to be a little out of sync, or even absent altogether, likely due to last minute re-calculations and adjustments to the plan in response to the parameters of the situation. So while it is a good time to dawn your Simms waders and jacket and wading boots, it is not a good time to trust the SWPA projection, or assume that once the water is down, that it will stay down.
Wade fishermen who know this river are apt to show up after a heavy rain event, knowing there will be low water available, but they also know to be vigilant while fishing, watch for an increase in flow, and refrain from crossing deep channels.
As the rain clouds part and a bit of sunshine returns over the weekend, expect good hatches of midges and tiny fall caddis. DW Whitetail and Super midges are awesome, and so are local favorites Ruby, Root Beer, and Redneck midges. #16 Sunday Specials are an effective caddis nymph, and so are #18 pupae imitations in tan/brown. Small crustaceans like Hunchback Scud, Tailwater Sowbug and DW Sowbug are working well on both tailwaters.
Low flow, even if it’s above minimum, will expose plenty of shallow flats where long swings with small Wooly Buggers or Tailwater Soft Hackles will catch plenty of fish. On warm sunny afternoons look for risers sipping tiny caddis in current seams. Throw small tan caddis dry flies #16-18 of the E/C, E/Z, and Elkhair variety.