Ever since Bull Shoals Lake has dropped within the top of “power pool” at 659ft above sea level, we have seen a return to a dynamic water release schedule for Bull Shoals Dam, involving some serious up and down tailwater elevation and volume. The general pattern right now is big release from dawn until about noon, then shutting down for a few hours, then cranking back up from dusk until a few hours after dark, then shutting down again through the late night/pre-dawn dark hours. Needless to say, this sort of constant change makes it a little challenging to stay on a consistent bite, but the angler that is mobile and adaptable can still catch fish.
The periods of high flow are topping 19,000-20,000cfs on a regular basis, and there’s no doubt this is a challenging volume for fly anglers to deal with, requiring fast sinking lines and weighted streamer patterns like Big Johnsons, Bait Fish Head Twerking Minnows, BFH Double Deceivers, and White River Deceivers, or for nymphing options requiring long leaders, weighed baitfish patterns like Jig Sparkle Yummy and Crystal Bugger Jigs, or the good old Mega Worm or Blob and split shot approach. It will become inevitable to fish in this heavy volume for a least part of the day during a full day’s outing, and sometimes the biggest fish are caught in the biggest flow, but it is also possible to spend a good part of the day on much lighter and more manageable flow, either by fishing downriver in the morning or upriver in the afternoon, on either side of the biggest volume.
Favorite streamers for fishing in lighter volumes of water include Dally’s Lapdancer and Tiny Dancer, Galloup’s Bangtail, Johnson’s Sluggo, Lafkas’ Super Cougar, and Schmidt’s Double Deceiver. Playing a smaller streamer game has been effective for maintaining some fishy action when big flies aren’t getting any love – try Mini Bangtails, Mini Dungeons, Micro Changers, and Sparkle Minnows. Indicator fishing in lighter volume of water is also extremely effective along slow current seams with attractor style nymphs such as Lightning Bug Jigs, Dally’s Tailwater Jigs, Rainbow Warriors, and Devil Jigs.
Frigid temperatures are in the forecast for the weekend and early part of next week, with temperatures dropping into the teens and single digits at night. While those conditions will present a test of will for anglers venturing out, the upshot is that this is exactly the sort of prolonged cold front that is likely to kill lots of thread-fin shad in Bull Shoals and Norfork Lakes, potentially kicking off some awesome trout fishing in the tailwaters in the near future when those dead shad come pouring through the turbines. Don’t wait until it’s already happening to buy your shad flies and tying materials – it will be too late. Stock up now on white and grey marabou, chenille, flash, white and grey hackle, etc. Popular shad flies include white Meat Whistles, Jig Sparkle Yummy, Crystal Bugger Jigs, AR Beadheads, DW’s Threadfin, and just about anything else 2-3inches in length and white/silver in color.