The White River is an ever changing fishery, and this week we’re back to serious change, with up and down river level fluctuations of up to eight feet. That magnitude of change is hard to deal with as an angler, but deal with it we can, and deal with it we must. It’s possible to successfully make use of heavy sink tips and streamers, deep water bobber rigs, and delicate shallow water nymphing tactics all in a day’s work.
Bull Shoals Dam has essentially been releasing big water from dawn until noon, and then off the rest of the time. With this sort of schedule, wade fishing is an option at the Dam and State Park access points in the afternoon, and there has been some decent action on warm sunny afternoons when early season caddis and midges are hatching – not nearly the level of insect activity known to occur from late March to early May – but enough to get some fish actively feeding on insects. Caddis pupae imitations like Holy Grail, Pupae Delectae, and Caddistrophic Pupae are quite effective, and midges of course are a standard low water pattern – some hot patterns right now include DW’s Super Midge, Tube Midge, and Craven’s Poison Tung.
For boat anglers, think of the big water released from the dam as a massive sustained wave making its way down the river at about 5-6mph. The very front of the wave, where the water is just starting to rise, can be fished effectively with streamers (Sparkle Minnow, CJ’s Sluggo, Dally’s Twerking Minnow, Lafkas’ Super Cougar) or drifted with dead baitfish patterns (AR Beadhead, Meat Whistle, Crystal Bugger Jig). The fastest rising part of the wave is usually too full of debris and floating moss to fish effectively. The crest of the wave is more stable and clear of debris, and is best fished with weighted streamers (CJ’s Big Johnson, Dally’s BFH Twerking Minnow, Lafkas’ White River Deceiver, Schmidt’s Viking Midge, Galloup’s Sex Dungeon) or drifted deep and heavy with baitfish patterns (Jig Sparkle Yummy, Lunch Money), or Mega Worms. The rapidly falling part of the wave is rarely any good, as fish tend to clam up on rapidly falling water. It’s best to wait for the water to drain out and stabilize, and then adjust to small streamers or nymphing tactics.
Norfork has been running two units steady the past couple days, and fishing pretty well for feisty rainbows. Deep drifting baitfish patterns (Meat Whistle, Crystal Bugger Jig, AR Beadhead, Sparkle Minnow) or Mega Worms or Blobs have all been effective. Dally’s Tailwater Jig or DW’s Super Midge both make nice additions to an attractor pattern such as a worm or egg.
Weather forecast shows some clouds and light rain Friday, then beautiful sunshine and pleasant temperatures Saturday-Sunday. It’s likely that the water release schedule will change over the weekend, as it usually does. Low water with less dramatic morning releases or none at all would be a decent guess, but only a guess.