During the past week, we have had several rain events (combined for a bit less than an inch here in Cotter), warmer temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals rose one and seven tenths feet to rest at eight and seven tenths feet above power pool of 659 feet. This is twenty six and two tenths feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell one foot to rest at one tenth of a foot above power pool and fifteen and one tenth feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose nine tenths of a foot to rest at six and nine tenths feet above power pool or two and three tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we have had no wadable water. Norfork Lake rose one and four tenths feet to rest at six and nine tenths feet above power pool of 553.75 feet and eighteen and two tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we have had more wadable water.
The water level for the top of power pool has been reset higher for all of the lakes in the White River system. Most of the lakes in the White River system are now above power pool. With the current lake levels, we can expect some wadable water on the Norfork.
On the White, the hot spot has been Cain Island. The hot flies were Y2Ks, prince nymphs, zebra midges (black with silver wire and silver bead or red with silver wire and silver bead), pheasant tails, copper Johns, pink and cerise San Juan worms, gold ribbed hare’s ears and sowbugs. Double fly nymph rigs have been very effective. Try an prince nymph with a size 18 ruby midge.
Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are high and off color. With warmer temperatures, the smallmouths could soon become active. The most effective fly has been a tan and brown Clouser minnow. 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.
There has been more wadable water on the Norfork during the day and it fished moderately. The most productive flies have been small midge patterns like zebra midges (black or red with silver wire and silver bead). Grasshoppers have produced fish, particularly when used in conjunction with a small nymph dropper (try a size 20 black zebra midge). Double fly nymph rigs have been very effective. Try a small bead headed nymph (zebra midge, copper John or pheasant tail) suspended eighteen inches below a brightly colored San Juan worm (hot fluorescent pink or cerise). The fishing is much better in the morning and late afternoon and tapers off midday.
Dry Run Creek has fished well. Spring break is here and the creek can get busy during the week. Weekends can get a quite crowded. The hot flies have been sowbugs and various colored San Juan worms (worm brown, red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise). Small orange or peach eggs have been very effective. Be sure and carry a large net, as most fish are lost at the net.
The water level on the Spring River is fishable. This is a great place to wade fish, when they are running water on the White and Norfork Rivers. Canoe season is over and the canoes are mostly gone. Be sure to wear cleated boots and carry a wading staff. There is a lot of bedrock that can get very slick. 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 and Dry Run Creek 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.
John Berry is a fly fishing guide in Cotter, Arkansas and has fished these local streams for over forty years.