Dally’s Fly Fishing Report 4/14/23

Line up your animals two-by-two, because we’re in an all-out flood. No doubt you have seen pictures and videos circulating social media depicting the intense floodgate releases on both of our treasured tailwaters. Last week, we predicted we would see a continued pattern of spillway release, but we grossly underestimated what came to pass.

Bull Shoals Lake currently sits at 13 feet above power pool, while the Norfork is within single digits at 9 feet above power pool. Slowly, but surely, lake levels are receding as we continue to anticipate a rainy spring. Word on the street is that four generator units are undergoing maintenance on Bull Shoals Dam and the large uptick in spillway release is meant to make up for this loss.

The White River has topped out at just over 30,000 cfs. This much water is certainly not unheard-of, but rarely do we find ourselves reporting that big of a number. What is even more incredible is that the bulk of this discharge is from spillway with around 19,000 cfs flowing out of those top gates.

Water is everywhere, including encroaching on boat ramp parking lots and riverside front lawns.

In other news, the caddis hatch is in full swing. It is hard to imagine that these small aquatic insects can force their way through a raging wall of H2O, but in the words of Jeff Goldblum, “life finds a way.” The bugs are the thickest in the afternoon and crazily enough we are poking a few on dry flies in big sudsy eddies. If this is your jam, you’re going to need to grab a handful of E/C Caddis and Davy’s Skating Caddis, mostly in size 14.

Brown trout from the White Davy Wotton Image

Dry flies aside, prepare to bring out the big guns if you want a full day on the river. Think heavy and long. A ten-foot rod is going to be advantageous as you seek to drop two tungsten flies 12 feet below an indicator. Slapping on a heavily weighted Mop Fly, Mega Worm, or coffee/black Girdle Bug and trailing it with a more seductive fly like a larger Ruby Midge, Root Beer Midge, or caddis is advantageous.

Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ear is a great trailer, as it has a great profile and lots of buggy movement. Ron’s Crusty is another fan favorite in these conditions, as it is a great-attention getter whilst keeping the caddis pupa profile.

Rick Henley with a solid ‘bow off Norfork with Morgan Guss

Earlier in the week, the Norfork was running about 7,600 cfs with supplemental floodgate discharge. Wednesday, around midday, the horn sounded at Norfork Dam and more spillway discharge was released. The grand total cfs that followed sat at 9,800 cfs – quite the spectacle to behold.

Sans any flooding from run-off, the water is tiptoeing the road at the confluence boat ramp. As of this writing, 9,800 cfs is still the new norm. Prior to and proceeding this bump, trout were readily feeding on Mop flies, Depth Charge Worms, and Mega Worms trailed by Sunday Specials, Fat Caddass, Jiggy Caddis Pupa, and Ruby Midges.

Phillip Rollins with a thick Norfork rainbow Steve Dally image

Focusing in on slower seams and shallower shoals has been productive. Attractor flies are key when all of this water brings discoloration and debris. Similar to the White River, the Norfolk caddis hatch is thickest in the afternoons. Rising is periodic and spotty, but almost always at creek mouths and eddies. 10K on the Norfork is moving at a pretty good clip, so take precautions and be careful out there.

Evan with a thumper smallie with Tadd Fore

Warm water temperatures have spurned the smallies into action on Crooked Creek. The pre-spawn bite is in full swing with many a smallmouth brought to hand being fooled by the venerable craft fur minnow. The cool mornings make the bass a bit sluggish, so slow your retrieve and focus in on the slower pools. As the day warms up, transition with the bass to faster moving water as they become more active and willing to chase.

Ozark Bass heading home, another fun species on the warmwater Steve Dally image

The next few months are some of the most fun here in the Ozarks. The caddis hatch, soon followed by sulphurs and hoppers, along with smallmouth and lake fishing, make us feel the warm fuzzies. With the onset of the warmwater season, variety becomes a luxury and the options are near limitless to have a fun day on the fly chasing multiple species.

Before too long, we will kick off our annual Dally’s All-Species Odyssey to celebrate the riches of our region and the many fish species that call the Ozarks home. Swing by or call the shop to find out more about this epic event or, as always, give the shop crew a ring for up-to-date information about the White and Norfork. See you out there.