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John Berry Fishing Report 9/02/2011

John Berry

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During the past week, we have had no measurable rain event and much hotter temperatures. The lake level at Bull Shoals Dam fell three and four tenths feet to rest at fourteen and nine tenths feet above power pool of 654.00 feet. This is twenty six and one tenth feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell three tenths of a foot to rest at four tenths of a foot above power pool or fifteen and six tenths feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell seven tenths of a foot to rest at one and nine tenths feet above power pool or seven and seven tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we have had fairly heavy generation around the clock. There has been no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell one and eight tenths of a foot to rest at eight and three tenths feet above power pool of 552.00 feet or nineteen and seven tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we have had a classic summer generation schedule with light or no generation at night and high generation during times of peak power demand. There has been little if any wadable water.

Based on the rate of the drop in lake levels on all of the lakes on the White River system and barring any major rain events I predict that we will reach power pool on Bull Shoals and Norfork Lakes in approximately four weeks. We could then expect lower flows and some wadable water.

The dissolved oxygen level has dropped below the state minimum standard of six parts per million on the White and Norfork Rivers. At Bull Shoals and Norfork Dams, the vacuum breakers have been blocked open to allow more oxygen to mix with the water. At Norfork, they are generating at eighty eight percent of generator capacity to increase the oxygen level in the water. Trout stocking has been eliminated on the upper Norfork River, with those fish diverted to the lower river.

The best place to fish was the section from Wildcat Hole down to Rim Shoals. The hot flies were pink San Juan worms with copper Johns and red zebra midges in size fourteen or sixteen as droppers. The flows have been fairly constant with little fluctuation all day. The key to fishing these flows has been to fish long leader/tippet combinations (twelve feet or longer), very heavy weight (AAA split shot) and a large strike indicator set at the top of the leader.

Another technique that has been effective has been to bang the bank with large articulated streamers. The hot flies have been Zoo Cougars, Sex Dungeons and Butt Monkeys. The trick to presenting these flies is to use a long fast sinking sink tip (250 grain or heavier). Don’t use a leader. Attach the fly to the line with a three foot 2X fluorocarbon tippet to prevent the fly from riding up. You will need a stiff eight rod to cast this rig. This is hard work but can be very rewarding.

Grasshopper season is upon us. They provide us with some of the best and most reliable dry fly fishing of the year. These are large tempting morsels that can tempt big fish. You need a nine foot 2X leader and a stiff rod (a six weight would be perfect). The trick is to bang the bank and imitate the action of a grasshopper that has fallen into the water and is struggling. Many takes occur when the fly hits the water. The most effective patterns are Dave’s hoppers or big western foam hoppers (both in tan). To increase your catch, use a small nymph as a dropper. Effective nymphs would be pheasant tails or copper Johns. The most effective section of the river for this technique has been the section from Rim Shoals to Buffalo Shoals.

Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are very low and gin clear. Navigating Crooked Creek is difficult due to the low water. Several anglers have reported success with Clouser minnows and crawfish patterns. Carefully check the water level before entering Crooked Creek or the Buffalo River. There are no dams on these streams. They both have large drainages and are prone to flooding during and following any rain event. The water can rise very quickly.

The generation pattern has changed significantly on the Norfork River. They are turning on the generator earlier, which has resulted in substantially less wadable water. On high water, the best technique has been to drift brightly colored San Juan worms (red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise) and egg patterns (pink and orange). Remember that the dissolved oxygen level is very low on the upper river (above the Ackerman Access). Land any fish hooked there quickly and carefully revive them before release.

Dry Run Creek has fished well. The hot flies have been sowbugs and various colored San Juan worms (worm brown, red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise). While you are there take a tour of the adjacent National Fish Hatchery. It is very interesting.

The water level on the Spring River is low and clear. This is a great place to wade fish. However, there are many canoeists this time of year, particularly on the weekends. If you wish to escape them, fish the upper section near the Lassiter Access. Be sure and wear cleated boots and carry a wading staff. There is a lot of bedrock that can get very slick. The hot spot has been the Dam Three Access. The hot flies have been olive woolly buggers with a bit of flash, cerise and hot pink San Juan worms and Y2Ks.

Remember that the White and Norfork Rivers are infected with didymo, an invasive alga. Be sure and thoroughly clean and dry your waders (especially the felt soles on wading boots) before using them in any other water. Many manufacturers are now making rubber soled wading boots that are easier to clean and are not as likely to harbor didymo.

Practice water safety and always check conditions before you leave home.

John Berry is a fly fishing guide in Cotter, Arkansas and has fished our local streams for over twenty five years.

John Berry


Fly Fishing For Trout




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