You have to love this time of year. May is up there on the list of the most gorgeous months on the Ozark calendar and it has really been showing out in 2023.
Cool foggy mornings give way to comfortably warm sunny afternoons with temperatures hovering around the low 80s. The sweet fragrance of honeysuckle fills the air as we drift atop crystal blue water. Everything is a lush green and all seems right with the world trout fishing on the White River as we work our way towards the summer solstice.
June is upon us and those low 80s will become low 90s before you know it. At the risk of looking too far ahead, we will be tossing thick foam at the banks in no time.
The White River has had an interesting bite since our last report. The first half of the week saw long mornings of low flows, specifically in the 2,000-4,000 cfs range. As fish settled into this lower range, they fed heavily on sulfur and midge nymphs.
The upper river fished great. A long drift down the middle of the river, particularly as shoals fanned out and deepened, yielded a nearly nonstop rainbow bite with a nice mixture of browns for good measure. Egan’s Frenchies, Two Bit Hookers, Alt Rockers, and Bead Head Pheasant Tails have been excellent lead flies during low flow.
Trailing with size 18 Ruby Midges, Root Beer Midges, Wotton’s Super Midges in red, and Dally’s Tailwater Jigs in ruby is the way to finish off the setup.
Afternoons have seen big bumps in generation with some even reaching 12,000-14,000 cfs. Going from 4,000 to 12,000 cfs has usually meant trashy water, so staying ahead of the push has been advantageous. As of Wednesday, flows hiked back up to the 10,000 cfs mark with bumps up to 14,000 cfs in the afternoons. SWPA forecasts have been stereotypically inaccurate with bumps coming much sooner than anticipated.
Fish settled back into their routine on Thursday as water stayed in that 10,000 to 12,000 cfs range. With higher flows, we saw a transition from drifting the center of the river to working tight into the banks and overhanging trees.
Upsizing flies a bit, specifically throwing 14 and 16 sulfur/midge combinations, is best for these higher flows. Sexton’s Carotene Jig partnered with a size 16 Frenchie has been a winner. Lightning Bug Jigs in Pink, Alt Rockers, Two Bit Hookers, and Bead Head Pheasant Tails are on the menu when fishing tight to the banks.
The Norfork continues to push water in the afternoons, now at a 3,000 cfs clip. In fact, on Thursday, the Fork began this push late morning. Keep this in mind if you find yourself trekking out on foot. Pay close attention to rising water and always allow yourself ample time to get to safety.
As sulfur mayflies continue to thicken, continue to fish small sulfur nymphs and midges in the mornings. Swinging Dally’s Tailwater Soft Hackle in yellow will make for some fun action in low water. Ruby Midges and Root Beer Midges, along with Wotton’s Super Midge in red or black, will bring plenty of fish to hand.
During those afternoon bumps, Depth Charge Worms in Pink will become your best friend. Pairing these with Frenchies, Dally’s Tailwater Jigs in Black/Copper, Lightning Bug Jigs in Purple, and Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ears to have a great day on the water.
Little to no rain is currently in the 10-day forecast for our area. Beautiful days are ahead, so do not miss an opportunity to get out and play. Fish will soon be looking up once more as they transition from eating sulfur nymphs to sulfur emergers and adults. If you’ve been on the fence about booking a trip, June has all the makings of being one heck of an epic month.
This Saturday, the 27th, is our annual Fly Fishing Film Tour that will be presented at Big Springs Park in downtown Cotter. You won’t want to miss seeing the world’s best fly fishing films at the Film Tour’s coolest venue, so swing by the shop to grab some tickets. See you out there.
By Tadd Fore
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