Bull Shoals Dam began releasing 19,000+cfs on Monday evening, and held it steady through Tuesday. Yesterday the flow slowed to 12,000+, then 11,000+, then 4,000cfs. The projection for today shows a steady two generators’ worth of water, likely around 6,000cfs. The steady release of heavy volume for a couple days straight appears to be a “drawdown” effort by the authorities to optimize lake level to their standards, given the significant rain event that is coming this weekend, plus whatever factors of agricultural water control may be transpiring downriver. Whatever the reasons may be, the extended high volume release from Bull Shoals Dam has pulled at least some dead or dying thread fin shad through the turbines, as evidenced by the gulls scavenging the turbulent frothy outflow of the dam for the dead minnows, and by a few round-bellied, shad-stuffed trout recently caught in the river.
The combination of colder than average water temperatures and an abundance of food from the influx of dead shad can sometimes result in fish with satisfied appetites and little will to move after prey. However, the presence of shad in the water and trout with full round bellies means that fish are feeding and fattening up at least some of the time, and shad flies are on the menu. Some patterns to try include Todd’s Wiggle Minnow, DW’s Threadfin, Jig Sparkle Yummy, Crystal Bugger Jig, Croston’s Euro Jig Minnow, and the good old AR Beadhead.
Die hard streamer fishermen would do well to try downsizing to smaller patterns closer to the 2-3″ threadfin shad size, especially if flows continue to reduce down to low water scenarios in the near future. Meat Whistles, Sparkle Minnows, Micro Changers, and Lunch Buckets are all deadly takers of fish on the strip and pause.
With rain in the forecast for the weekend, it will soon be the worm fly’s time for greatness. Mega Worms, Dynamite Worms, Prism Worms, they’ll all be coming into play pretty soon. Stock up on some worm flies or buy your own chenille and hooks and get to whipping up your own trout spaghetti. The meatballs work too – check out Fulling Mill’s “Blob” fly as a daphnia cluster fly, as high spring flows are often full of daphnia on both White and Norfork tailwaters. Jigged Prince makes a perfect dropper to the worm or blob.