The Bull Shoals Tailwater is a very dynamic fishery at the moment, with water levels coming up and down and covering a broad range of conditions nearly every day. A section of river might look and fish completely different in the morning versus the afternoon, creating both challenges and opportunities. The only thing that’s constant right now is the weather: bright, hot sun, little to no wind, and bluebird sky beaming down day after day. Floating on top of a large supply of 50 degree water is a pretty good way to stay cool however.
The transition from caddis to mayflies is still underway, with Sulfur mayflies #14-16 starting to outnumber caddis on the water. A great selection of mayfly nymphs awaits inspection at Dally’s, including the Jiggy Nymph, Dark Back Emerger, Crackback, Newbury’s Alt-Rocker, Tungsten Juju Baetis, and Super Sinker Nymph. These are all great choices when fish are responding to sulfur mayflies, whether the water is flowing at one generator or eight. On the lower water, combine these weighted mayfly nymphs with a midge pattern of some sort – Wotton’s Whitetail or Super midge, Ruby midge, etc. – for an effective duo to drift along riffles, tailouts, and the edges of deep pools. On higher water, look for fish elevated in the water column and feeding in deep, slow current seams. Throw the same mayfly nymphs mentioned if the fish aren’t rising regularly, and if they are rising, look to Film Critics, Sparkle Duns, and Half and Half Sulfur dries to bring you success.
Perhaps a more consistent way to put fish in the net with high water conditions, which we should expect every afternoon for the foreseeable future, is to nymph deep and heavy with big split shot and Mega Worms, or rely on heavily weighted big nymphs like Girdle Bug Jig and Jig Stone.
Streamer junkies also have the right sort of conditions to play with late in the day, when shadows are long and the water is moving fast and clear. Give Dally’s Twerking Minnow, CJ’s Big Johnson, and Lafkas’s White River Deceiver a swim.
Norfork has been shut down in the mornings, providing an excellent half -day wading option, perfect for a bright, hot June weekend. Root Beer midges, Pshycho midges, Hunchback Scuds, small Hare’s Ear and Pheasant Tail nymphs are all working great. Griffith’s Gnat and small parachute style dries work well on the surface.
Crooked Creek is running clear and beautiful, another fantastic option for staying cool and wet wading a scenic Ozark stream on a summer weekend. Hada’s Creek Crawler, Whitlock’s Near Nuff Crayfish, and various small poppers are all that’s needed for a good time.