Norfork River Fishing Report

Norfork River stream report 04 April, 2013

Spring has certainly sprung; well at least I think it has! The Service Berries are in bloom, the Peepers have been at it for weeks and the May Apples are poking their heads up to see if its time.

Serviceberry 2 (Large)

They had forecast low generation for the day although on this occasion it didn’t happen and we were presented with higher water at Rim Shoals making wading “marginal”. We decided the White River Caddis would have to wait for another day and we headed for the Norfork tailwater as they promised to have its water off all day.

It seemed like everyone else had the same idea as the parking lot was rather full although most seemed to have concentrated their fishing on the lower section so a little walking found some less crowded water.

The water had been off for days and the lack of flow had evidently allowed that invasive algae Didymo (Didymosphenia geminata) or “Rock Snot” as it is descriptively called, to completely cover the subsurface rocks.

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Flies fished on the bottom come away with strands of Didymo and wading breaks away sections of Didymo which then float downstream, catching onto dry flies and fouling hooks. It’s a disgusting situation and quite sad that a once famous stream has been reduced to this. Norfork has been infected for many years now, along with the White River, although the White’s flows and lower temperatures upstream of it’s confluence with the Norfork seemed to have reduced its impact.

Didymo is an International problem being present even in the rivers of New Zealand and the country of my birth, so we are not alone.

Here is a video on the development of a Didymo bloom on the Gunpowder Falls River in Maryland. Filmmaker Jason DuPont spent many hours shooting underwater film through the bloom on his home water, a tailwater like many of our own trout rivers. It makes for depressing viewing although he does give us hope that the biomass is not as badly affected as we might suspect and even the reproduction of the trout population continues under the onslaught of this disgusting addition to our home waters.

If you didn’t need a reason to practice invasive species prevention, this video should give you a nudge! Felt soled wading boots should now be a thing of the past and sanitation between fishing trips should be normal practice unless we want this awful thing to happen on all our trout streams.

I know some will say “why bother” because it’s only scratching the surface and we will never get 100% compliance but I say “why not” we have to try!  Encourage others you meet to do “their bit” and maybe we might slow down its affect.

Boots wear out, so when they do replace them with rubber soled. I have been using this type of boot for many years now and a long time before they banned the use of felt on my home water.

The addition of a wading “Cleaning Station” at the main access point on Taneycomo was  welcomed and at least Missouri is “trying”, hopefully other States will follow suit.

Throwing your Gortex waders in the washing machine is beneficial and will actually ensure improved performance and increase their useful life, so why not do it! Here is link to Gortex’s site that gives care instructions: Gortex washing instructions

I am lead to believe that Didymo is also in some of our Ozark lakes, so maybe we should encourage our Bass fishing friends to wash down their sleek Bass boats and flush out their high powered motors!

So now I’m climbing down from my soapbox and moving onto how the fishing was on Norfork!

With the water flowing at 48 degrees and with an air temperature hovering around 45 the only insects making an appearance were midges. Fish were rising to take these on the surface although with all the foam and floating Didymo it was difficult to see any of my #22 midge adults. I solved this by tying on a #20 black “mini” soft hackle with a grizzly hackle and working the seams below one of the riffles. It nicely did the trick and provided about twenty fish in a very short time.  Although none were huge, a nice 16 inch Brown gave me a tussle and all fish seemed to be in good condition without any evidence of oxygen deprivation.

As the day wore on I began to notice Caddis making an appearance, first were some white winged olive bodied and then a tan winged species. In among the caddis were Craneflies which often fool the fly fisher into believing they are seeing either large midges or even Mayflies because of the Cranefly’s habit of trailing their legs as they fly.

The fish didn’t seem to be keying onto the Caddis and stayed on the midges and Craneflies.  They also reacted more favorably when the dry was given “action” on the surface imitating the active naturals.

I have some nice Cranefly patterns that I purchased in England last year although these were bigger than the natural on the Norfork.  I solved this by fishing a soft hackle which I dressed and fish as a dry.  It worked similar to what we often refer to as a “Spider” fly.

So at the end of the day the number of fish caught was pleasantly high and a few had been nicely proportioned.

The only down side to the day’s fishing was the increased amounts of Didymo particularly the floating sections which makes for an “ugly” stream.  One can only hope that the forecast rain for April will produce some “occasional” increased flows on the Norfork thereby scouring out the Didymo, although many people will be unhappy with that because it will reduce fishing opportunities!

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White River Fishing Report

White River stream report 27 March, 2013

Having almost come to the end of March we really didn’t expect too much in the way of Caddis action when we headed south again.

How wrong one can be!

Water had been down all night and was expected to be off during the day although there was supposed to be a slight blip at about 8am.  The air temperature was creeping towards 60 and the water flowing at 46 after a cold night.

One other car in the parking lot which was most surprising although once again the afternoon brought and influx of “fine weather” fly fishers to the stream.

We decided to cross at the main riffle and head down the east bank of the first island where I dropped off below the second riffle to fish.  My partner carried on downstream to the bottom of the island where we got such good action last week.  The whole run was deserted which at this time of day was rather nice.

A few small caddis were in the air and there were rising fish which had me reaching towards my Caddis box and a #16 Caddis adult emerger tied on a curved hook.  I tie these to match the small tan Caddis and keep the wing fairly sparse but with enough to allow me to see it on the surface.

The riffle I was working had a large deep pool at the tail-out with nice agitated runs scattered across its width.

The first rises were on the surface of the pool towards the tail and this was the area I targeted first.

The first cast brought a fish cruising up from the depths and after a short fight I had a 16 inch Brown to hand!

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Initially the action was steady without being hectic and I had to work my casts around the  pool taking actively feeding fish which were a mixture of average sized Rainbows and better sized Brown.

After about an hour the Caddis began to make more of an appearance which seemed to coincide with the sun breaking through the clouds.  As the Caddis appeared the fish began to move up into the shallow riffle water and feeding activity became very heavy with heads rising everywhere.

The first good Brown I caught was 19 inches although something later happened that made me realize that there are some even bigger fish hiding.  While I was retrieving a small Rainbow, a true “monster” emerged from the depths of the pool and attempted to remove my fish from the hook!  He made a couple of runs at my fish and I wondered if I would be contravening the fishing regulations if I was to take him on a size 12 (inch) Rainbow!!!

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I had to pinch myself as the action heated up and I looked around to see that I had the stream to myself.  Dry fly action combined with solitude on the White River, truly amazing!

My fishing partner had headed downstream to a favorite spot and appeared to be having fun although he reappeared about lunch time with a request that I join him downstream.  I tried not to boast about the fishing but when I told him how many fish had taken my Caddis dry and that about eight of them exceeded 18 inches he decided to join me in my “fishing hole”!

We spread out and by this time there were another half dozen other fly fishers in the run between the main riffle and the bottom of the first island.

His first fish was close to 20 inches and this was followed by a couple more only slightly smaller.  “Pretty crap here isn’t it” I said, “want to go downstream”?  His laughter was enough answer so we decided to stay put.

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The tan Caddis of the morning were now being replaced by the white winged olive variety and a quick change of flies made sure there was no pause in the action.

At one point we had almost a “blizzard” hatch and I was surprised to see that the return of the clouds didn’t affect the hatch. So much for my theory that it was the sun that prompted the hatch!

As we approached the end of the afternoon there was a short discussion on persuading our wives that the car had broken down and we may need to stay overnight!  Finally we decided that the needs of home were a tad more important than another day on the water, although both of us prayed that the Caddis would continue their mating ritual for another week – at least!!

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White River Fishing Report

White River stream report 18-19 March, 2013

I really must consider attending a support group for my Caddis addiction!

Although the weather wasn’t as promising as the previous week there was always hope that those wonderful fluttering insects would make another appearance so long as the generation gods were playing fair.

Our wives had granted us a two day furlough so off south we drove, this time taking the boat in case of higher water on the second day.

Monday morning started cold and windy with the water level at 450.5 and showing a 50 degrees temperature. There were no Caddis in the air so things were looking a little bleak.

The wind continued to blow coldly for the next couple of hours but the sun did began to break through and a few tan Caddis made an appearance on the water surface.

I tried a tan emerger Caddis tied in on a #18 curved hook with a swept back elk hair wing and it did the trick as I began taking fish in the water closer to the bank.

The white Caddis really didn’t like the conditions but thankfully their tan brethren took up some of the slack and provided good fishing till late in the day.

Only two species of trout this time although one was a healthy 17 inch brown.

The day was made special by the arrival of my great friend Jeremy who found the energy to fish after three hours sleep and a six hour drive from Texas.  So you see “Caddis fever” is really a powerful addiction!

Tuesday dawned frosty and bright after a night in Mountain Home and some catching up during dinner the night before.

The parking lot had been pretty busy on Monday and we had hoped that things would slacken on Tuesday but it was not too happen.  Of course everyone was getting the message about the Caddis so it wasn’t surprising to see more folks out on the water.

The water was a little higher today after about four hours of generation the previous evening, meaning the level was still dropping.  The additional flow had opened up some nice holding water so we were not in the least disappointed.

Caddis began making an appearance around eleven in the morning when the sun was shining and the water had reached 50 degrees. First it was the tan and then the white followed in slowly increasing numbers.

The tan Caddis emerger worked well as the hatch began although it wasn’t long before I could change to the olive “furry” foam pattern which produced some energetic rises in the riffles.

Action was fast and furious with fish rising to the fluttering white Caddis.  It was wonderful watching the Caddis emerge through the surface tension and then flutter across the water.  The trout would often drift up and lay below the insect before striking with deadly accuracy for the most part although I did witness a few missed takes with the Caddis escaping.

After about five hours of almost consistently good fishing it was time to head towards the parking lot, but not before tackling one more riffle which produced the best fish of the day.  Although not the biggest Brown I have caught it was certainly one of the strongest and nicely proportioned fish for a while.  This second day of our trips saw a return to three species with a nice heavy Cutthroat and the best Rainbow I have taken on the White for some time.

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Two days had vanished in a flash of fluttering Caddis and talk of trips to come and trips already completed.  We parted company in Harrison, us for the remaining part of our drive home and Jeremy for an appointment with his wonderful daughter Beth.

Now we are told winter is to return so we are hoping the Caddis will hunker down and be back in action once Spring time returns.

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White River Fishing Report

White River stream report 14 March, 2013

They say you can’t get enough of a good thing and we certainly took that to heart when we headed back down to Rim Shoals for some extra Caddis action!

The weather was forecast to be wonderful and so it turned out to be with balmy 60 degree temperatures and just enough wind to make casting challenging although on this occasion I was suitably tooled with my Helios 5 weight.

Once again it was a shock to find the parking lot almost empty of cars; maybe everybody had headed off for the Sowbug Roundup preparations in Mountain Home. Later in the day the stream did receive an influx of fly fishers although they seemed to prefer the upper reaches so we enjoyed solitude in our chosen riffle.

As we headed downstream I recorded a water temperature of a chilly 44 degrees although readings during the day showed and increase to 46 by noon and 54 by six in the evening.  The water had been on until around 11pm the previous evening, and had been off since so we were expecting a drop during the day with maybe a slight increase for a blip in release at 7am.

It was too early in the day to expect the Caddis to begin their flights upstream so I tied on a Greenbutt which immediately took a couple of smallish rainbows. My fishing partner had good success using a Red Ass so it looked like posterior flies were the flavor of the moment!

Steady progress downstream didn’t produce many more fish and when I finally reached the riffle I had been aiming at I decided to tie on a Caddis adult to “test the water”.

The time was 10.30 in the morning and the sun had begun to beat down on the stream so I had high hopes for some attention from eager trout awaiting their favorite food during the month of March.

I was rewarded with a hit on the first cast and so began one of the most productive seven hours of dry fly fishing I have ever had.

As the day progressed the Caddis began to make an appearance; the first being the tan and then the white winged insects joined them.

I had my “furry” foam caddis in a number of styles and the grizzly hackle appeared to be the fly of choice at the beginning.  Once these had all been chewed up I resorted to the brown hackled fly which seemed to be very acceptable to the fish.  Both of these flies were in size 16.

Initially the fish were low down in the run although they slowly moved upstream into the shallow water once the caddis were in larger numbers and I was amazed how many had slipped passed me into the upstream pockets.

Although on this occasion the real “monsters” eluded us, we both caught fish in the 17-18 inch range and ended up with three species; Browns, Rainbows and Cutthroats (some were “Cuttbows”).

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The “catching” really began to heat up as we moved into middle of the afternoon and on many occasions we were treated to “doubles”.

The fish were all in great shape and many had bulging bellies which was probably the result of the abundance of Caddis that was now available.  It was surprising how strong even the relatively small fish were, sometimes giving the impression of a much bigger fish until they were brought to hand.

There was never a break in the action and only the two hour drive home really put an end to our day on the water.

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I am not a “fish counter” although I know when I had a good day and when it’s been slow.  On this occasion I will let you do the math; I estimate that I caught approximately fifteen to twenty fish an hour and the fishing stayed hot for roughly seven hours!!!!!  And all on dry flies! An incredible day in anybody’s books and Caddis season has only just begun!

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“Fish on”!

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White River Fishing Report

White River stream report 12 March, 2013

Will Casting (1 of 1) (Large)

Well the chance of another Caddis filled day was just too much for us and we headed down to fish Rim Shoals even though the generation report was none too promising.

Everyone’s opinion of “safe” wading varies although personally I prefer to avoid water that is deeper than my waist while I am actually fishing particularly when you add flow to the equation. Moving across the stream I may tackle slightly deeper water although not much particularly when the water is fast flowing.

If you wade any tailwater fishery then you need to pay attention to water level so you can practice safe wading.

In the case of the White River there are a number of sources for information on water conditions that will give actual generation (number of units and level) in both voice and online format. There is also an “estimated” generation scheduling available online that will give you the generation forecast for the next twenty-four hours.

With no water release, Bullshoals tailwater is approximately 449-450 (tailwater height at the dam) and I generally consider a tailwater height of approximately 453 (3 foot increase in depth) as the maximum level for good wading.

Of course this level is the level at the dam so you need to calculate how long that water will take to get to where you’re fishing. For example it takes roughly 6 hours for the water to reach Rim Shoals from the dam. So if the tailwater level at 6am changes from 450 to 453 then you can expect that level change to arrive at Rim Shoals by noon. Of course there are all sorts’ variables like how many generators and the cfs (cubic feet per second) rate.

As generation reduces and the water level drops it takes far longer for the water at Rim Shoals to drop, so expect something in the region of 10 hours for the level to match that at the dam.

Well all that said, overnight it had been 452 and there had been an hour of 454 between 6 – 7am followed by a drop back to 452 so we expected so increase around noon to 1pm and probably would see a drop in level while we were there.

At the time we arrived the water was slightly above what I consider acceptable for some of the riffles to be fished, although there are spots where you can move out to cast. This didn’t stop us moving down and fishing each of the riffles where we caught fish on soft hackles including a 17 inch brown.

There were hardly any Caddis coming off and although the water temperature was in the bracket (46), the sun was hiding behind a bank of cloud during the morning.

The water did rise about 1pm and we decided to head further downstream to a nice run that is fishable even when the level is at my acceptable maximum.

By the mid afternoon the clouds had gone and the sun had brought the air temperature to a pleasant 60 degrees which seemed to encourage a few of the hardier Caddis to make an appearance.

Fish began to rise, albeit rather less than we would have liked, and I did notice a few bigger fish showing their heads.  The rises were positive and on obviously to the white Caddis that were flutering downstream.

It was time to tie on a new version of the olive bodied Caddis that I had tied using “furry” foam in #16. In the space of about an hour I had landed about a dozen fish including a nice plump 15 inch brown so the day had not been wasted.

About the only downside to the day was the wind (it hadn’t been windy when we started!) putting my little 4 weight Superfine through its paces, although it did a sterling job for the majority of the time.

The level stayed up at this for the remainder of the afternoon so we worked our way up the bank taking the occasional fish in the slack water eddies.

A couple of highlights of our day on the water included being serenaded by a breeding pair of Bald Eagles and being over flown by a huge flock of Turkeys.

It had been worth the drive south although the predicted generation for the next day was such that we decided to head home rather than stay overnight and fish the next day.

Maybe the generation gods will be kind to us and give us some more wadable water later in the week.

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Crane Creek Fishing Report

Crane Creek stream report 09 March, 2013

I guided a very pleasant father and son from Kansas City who wanted to learn more about our wonderful Crane Creek.

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We began the day with a walk along the Upper Wire Road access and Crane City Park so they would get an overall view of the available fishing access points.

The UWR access was certainly in need of some much needed rain although we did find fishable water and we only walked a short distance so there may have been more water available between the Old Wire Road Bridge and Crane.

The Crane City section had plenty of water and we spotted at least one fish that was in the fifteen inch range. It was sad to see all the trash though and next time I will bring a trash sack to haul some out.

Then it was a short drive down to the section I guide on, a little casting refresher and stroll to the bottom of the beat to began their adventure.

The weather forecast had been for possible showers and WIND! Well we didn’t get the showers but we did get the wind although on this stream anything that ruffles the water surface is a benefit.

The stream was running nicely with water temperature at a pleasant 56 degrees.

Nathan and David had expressed a desire to work with dries which I encourage on this section of stream so we tied on a Royal Wulff because apart from the occasional little black stonefly and those darned midges, there was very little insect activity.

Although the air and water temperatures were in the bracket, we initially experienced little interest in our offerings until we moved into the more riffly water.

Hits were swift and didn’t allow for any errors so the guys found that their usual line handling was a little lacking although they were very quick to change that after a few reminders.

Most fish were those wonderful little gems we get in Crane Creek that seem impossibly patterned and absolute works of art. We did have one nice fish rise to the fly although a little bit of over excitement resulted in smiles at what “could have been”!

After about six hours fishing which seemed like five minutes we broke for what should have been lunch but turned out to be dinner. Then it was a drive down to the Lower Wire Road access to view that section of the creek.

Arriving in the parking lot we were greeted by Crane Creek’s own “Ghille”. For those who fish CC regularly a chat with Ray is almost a certainty and my guys were treated to stories about fly tying and weaponry.

The water in the LWR section looked good and we decided that it would probably be Nathan and David’s destination on Sunday after they had checked out the Crane City beat.

Fishing Crane Creek always produces some extra delights and this was no exception. A pair of male Cardinals were competing to see who could sing the loudest and a mating pair of Red Tailed Hawks circled above us filling the air with their cries. As we left the stream I spotted a tree with a most unusual twist to its trunk. We debated how it happened and David told me of the “Twisted Willow” although we decided this strange shape was probably caused by a vine.

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A great day with wonderful company and plans for a future expedition down into Arkansas to chase some of those White River fish.

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White River Fishing Report

White River stream report 08 March, 2013

After scratching my head and trying to solve the “midge problem” on Taneycomo for a couple of weeks, I decide it was time to tie on some BIG flies!

We headed down to the White River in hope of an early start to the caddis season.

On a whim I decided to check some different water at Buffalo Shoals so we drove down the western bank of the river until a friendly Park Ranger pointed out that there is no access to the river at Buffalo Shoals on the west side!  Bugger!  And I don’t mean the wooly type!

A little back tracking and then along Highway 62 to Buffalo City where we found easy river access, beautiful scenery with incredible river  bluffs but poor bottom structure and higher than desirable water level as the previous night’s generation was still passing through.

So back track again (or is that back back track!) and we headed for Rim Shoals.

It had been worth spending the extra time because the water at Buffalo Shoals has potential.  I intend to try it again after the water has been off for more than twentyfour hours which should give almost cross river wading.

The parking lot at Rim Shoals was practically empty even at eleven in the morning and with hardly a single boat trailer on the ramp we had high hopes of having the stream to ourselves.

The water was slightly up from the previous generation, although perfectly suitable for wading and was a cool 48 degrees with the normal crystal clarity.

It was immediately apparent that the caddis were in evidence and a swipe with landing net revealed that they were tan winged, olive bodied caddis at about #18.

A tan elk hair caddis adult with an olive body tied in an emerger style worked really well apart from being rather difficult to see in the chop created by the brisk wind that was blowing down the river.

Catching was steady for about an hour when it was obvious that the hatch was beginning to change and the white winged olive bodied caddis were replacing the tan.

A switch to my #16 CDC/bleached Elk hair olive emerger pattern was the perfect choice and the fun really began!

It wasn’t exactly a fish on every cast but pretty darned near.  My biggest problem was choosing the fish to cast too!  The takes were positive from the larger fish while the smaller fish were a little more exuberant.

After two heavy eighteen inch browns and couple of fat sixteen inch rainbows I was beginning to feel we had made the right decision coming down here rather than messing with those darn midges!

The hatch came in waves and the fish responded accordingly.  I’m not sure if the fish dropped back into deep water between hatches but they certainly headed back into the riffles once the hatch recommenced.  The number of fish rising was incredible and some of the heads breaking the surface were huge!

At one point there were so many naturals on the water that I really couldn’t spot my artificial!  Although these heavy hatches only lasted a few minutes, they were certainly some of the most concentrated I have ever witnessed on the White since I have been fishing it.

That kindly Park Ranger and his buddies were burning woodland downstream and slowly we suffered from a smoky haze which began to obscure the sun.  The air temperature dropped and the hatch began to slow down until it finally ceased at about four in the afternoon when the fish had stopped feeding on the adults.

I don’t think it was a coincidence that the hatch ended when the smoke haze started, because Caddis hatches are prompted by a combination of sunlight and water temperature.

After that it was time to tie on a “Green Butt” and swing it through the lower riffle.  Not quite as exciting as those mouthed dries but I wasn’t complaining!

Days like this don’t come too often and I can assure you that there was an idiotic grin on my face for about four hours that day which probably helped stretch out the worry lines from fishing those darned midges on Taneycomo!!

What I found amazing was that when we returned to the parking lot a few anglers were complaining that it had been a “slow” day! When I asked what they had been using the answer came back as “sowbugs”! How could they have missed all those bugs flying upstream and not figured out that today was not the day to use sowbugs! I think a copy of “Matching the Hatch” might be a good idea for somebody’s Christmas stocking!

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