A thick blanket of snow covered the Ozarks early this week, preventing safe access to the river temporarily, but the natural beauty of the event and the nostalgia of playing in the snow as a kid in a region where this sort of winter doesn’t happen every year, makes the temporary inconveniences seem trivial. At the same time, it’s important to appreciate the privilege of living in an area with relatively ample electricity and access to wood-fire heating, when millions across the country are not so lucky. Thankfully, the end of this extreme cold weather is nearly upon us. Forecast for the weekend shows sunshine and temperature ABOVE freezing starting Friday afternoon and continuing into Saturday with highs in the forties over the weekend! Sunday looks especially good for fishing with a combination of overcast skies and temperatures above freezing the whole day.
There is quite literally a silver lining to all this extremely cold weather – the death of many thousands if not millions of little silver Threadfin Shad in the reservoirs, which become easy and important protein for post-spawn brown trout in the tailwaters. Wise fishing guides and fly tiers who have been snowed-in for a few days have been busy at the vice creating 2 to 3 inch white and silver offerings, preparing for the great fishing that is sure to come. White and grey Marabou, Palmer Chenille, and Craft Fur would be prime materials for creating some shad patterns of your own, or if you’re not into tying, check the fly bins at Dally’s for white Wiggle Minnows, white Meat Whistles, AR Beadheads, Jig Sparkle Yummies, white Crystal Bugger Jigs, white or silver Sparkle Minnows, and DW Threadfins. They will be needed soon no doubt.
Flows on the White have been high for the most part, and up and down with an element of unpredictability, as recent conditions have not always been reflective of SWPA projections. Today’s projection shows a big push of high water in the morning, an afternoon shutdown, and then a return to high flow around dusk. Fishing in drastically changing conditions such as these means that success is usually going to come during narrow windows of opportunity, because conditions simply won’t be the same for very long. Experience White River guides are accustomed to fishing on the move and making rapid adjustments to stay in the game.
On cold winter weekdays when the lake is within power pool, it’s typical so see extreme changes in power generation to meet hourly power demand – the flip side of that equation is that on weekends when power demand is less, it’s typical to see less power generation and therefore more stable water conditions. So ironically, weekends, which ratchet up the fishing pressure on the river, are currently the best times to be on the river because water conditions are more stable and conducive to good fishing.
If fishing streamers on high flows it usually pays to throw weighted patterns like White River Deceivers, Lovechild Sculpins, Viking Midges, Big Johnsons, and BFH varieties of Twerking Minnows and Double Deceivers. On moderate to light flow stick with neutrally buoyant patterns like Modern Deceivers, Twerking Minnows, Double Deceivers, Bangtails, or shake things up and “walk-the-dog” with erratic swimming, high buoyancy patterns like Sluggos, Super Cougars, and Lap Dancers. Moderate to light flow can also be fished effectively by downsizing the streamer game to play with slower sinking lines and baitfish patterns like Sparkle Minnows, Micro Changers, and Mini Dungeons.
Indicator fishing also has to be adjusted to the water level. High flow can be drifted with meaty offerings like dead shad imitations (see above paragraph concerning shad patterns), Mega Worms, and Blobs. Lower flow can be drifted with a variety of nymphs and midges, from Lightning Bug Jigs, Tailwater Jigs and Devil Jigs to DW Super midges, Ruby and Redneck midges.