Dally’s How To: Winter

Even the popular spots are vacant in winter _steve dally image

THERE is a lot to love about winter fly fishing in the Ozarks.

Less people, mild temps and low flows or cold days and big water, hungry fish and that gorgeous winter light. Winter is the time for the serious fly fishers, fair-weather fly fishers and the tourists are awaiting spring or fall. Winter fly fishing takes a little more intent in preparation and commitment to the task.

But for the committed winter fishing is incredibly rewarding whether wading the low flows or high water trophy hunting. Here’s a run down to help you dial in to winter fly fishing.


Our tailwaters, below Bull Shoals and Norfork Dams, offer some unique opportunities for winter fishing. Deep draw dams like these exhaust relatively stable water temperatures year round in the 50s, a very happy place for trout of all species.

This means you can throw out most of the winter advice in fly fishing mags and blogs, which are written for waters where the temperatures plunge down in the to 40s. In these conditions trout metabolisms slow, and fishing slow and deep is the game. Most years on the White River system you will have actively feeding trout in 50degree plus water.

But that doesn’t mean temperature wont have an effect on the fishing


  • Water gets colder the further from the dam you travel in winter.
  • Generation warms things up and get’s fish feeding
  • Cold nights and low flows will cool down the river.
  • Bug life will start moving on the sunny bank first in the mornings.
  • Mild winters and low levels in the lakes mean plenty of low winter flows for the waders.


Dennis with a 27″ shad kill trophy steve dally image

Midges are a year round mainstay, but if anything become more dominant in winter.

Your fly box needs to include David Knowles’ Ruby, Rootbeer & Redneck Midges, Davy Wotton’s Super Midges and Whitetails and Steve Dally’s Tailwater Jigs. Comboing these flies according to water speed and depth and be a great way to pattern in on this prolific food source.

Non-descript or caddisy attractors like Sunday Specials and Crusty Ron’s are worth having around as too some weighted egg patterns.

Pack some buggers, sparkle minnows and coneheads like slumpbusters for searching on low flows any time. Gulls hovering over shallow shoal water in winter can be a sign of fry and small streamers are a solid bet .

You can read plenty of stuff here about trophy trout on streamers but for many people a shad kill can be the best way to find a winter trophy. Last winter’s shad kill was ridiculously good and went on for weeks.

Meat Whistles, Hippy Chicks and Arkansas Bead Heads under wiggle minnows is a solid package. Wait for the cold sub-freezing nights before the kill gets triggered.


  • LAYERS keep you warmer
  • Simms gloves keep you fishing longer
  • don’t wear your fishing socks to the river in your truck with the heat on. Dry socks are warmer socks.
  • Use a winter neck gaiter from Buff
  • pack handwarmers and a thermos of something warm
  • Get one of our guides to show you how much fun winter can be. They will do hot lunches on cold days