Your one-stop website for fly fishing the White River, the Norfork Tailwater, and Lake Taneycomo
Planning the Perfect White River Fly Fishing Trip
Unfortunately, the unpredictable nature of the White River Basin trout fisheries makes it difficult to plan a fly fishing vacation far in advance. There is no way to know exactly what will happen on any given day, so anglers must be flexible if they want to catch fish from sunup to sundown. Everyone is happy if the water is low because wading is easy and there are hundreds of good spots loaded with high concentrations of nice trout. But when the water comes up, the dynamics change and the most productive way to fish involves the use of a motorized boat. Since most visitors to the Ozarks are not experienced enough to safely rent a boat and catch fish, many beleaguered anglers spend a good portion of their time high-sticking from the bank while hoping the water shuts off.
Planning a White River vacation that does not involve constantly worrying about flows is possible, but it will take some effort and sacrifice. Just remember that good things happen when anglers are able to cast to fish all day long on these rivers. It is a shame when some people get shut out because the water comes up, but this almost inevitable change in conditions can also be an opportunity for those willing to think outside the box.
Use these tips below to ensure that you get the most out of your Ozark fly fishing adventure. Your experience will be greatly enhanced if you take the time to fully understand all the options available. Those who are flexible and roll with the changes in water levels will rarely be disappointed. The White River Basin is the best place in the country to test your adaptability, and the rewards are well worth abandoning a conventional approach when necessary. This philosophy not only applies to fly fishing techniques; it also can be utilized during the logistical stages of planning your trip.
Study the Web and then study it some more
There are countless resources, my Web site included, that are devoted to helping potential visitors learn about the inner-workings of the White River Basin trout fisheries. Start by searching the Internet for guide service sites and other resources where you have access to firsthand information. Try to gain an understanding of each tailwater you are considering fishing so that you can find the right dynamics for your needs. Low water is more likely to be found below Norfork Dam than Bull Shoals and Table Rock Dams during normal reservoir conditions, so it is important to decide whether you want to float, wade or do a bit of both. If possible, work with a guide, fly shop or lodge when nailing down your dates. This will keep you in contact with those who make a living out of understanding and taking advantage of the prevailing flow trends.
Once you get a basic understanding of the dynamics at work on these rivers, it is now time to make an assessment of what conditions you should expect. If your trip is still far off, try and garner any information you can regarding the particular time of year you will be in the area. If it looks like releases will be steady during your stay, do not panic. There are options, and fly fishing high water is not as difficult as it may appear.
The value of a guide
Many anglers struggle with the decision regarding whether or not to hire a guide. Cost is the most significant concern, and some folks would rather not hassle with doing the research necessary to find a quality service to utilize. It is important to realize that any guide worth his salt is going to know how to catch fish during all water conditions. This means that a neophyte Ozark fly fisherman will have far more opportunities to catch fish if there is assistance available. It is possible to rent a boat and do it yourself during high water, but many inexperienced boaters have found the task of safely running a boat while fishing overwhelming. If you want to be sure that you are going to be on the fish no matter what the flow conditions are, hire a guide - at least for the first day or two of your stay. It will be money well spent and be sure to ask your guide about fishing options for fishing on your non-guided days.
Each season is unique in the Ozarks, and the time of year can greatly influence water conditions. I love the spring, but those without a boat will find the normal high water of this season difficult to deal with. If the water is low, spring can be fantastic. Summertime is often characterized by low water in the morning and high water in the afternoons. This means that wading conditions can be found all day at times on the middle and lower sections of the White, but the Norfork and Lake Taneycomo will see the water come up between 10am and 1pm most days. Cooler temperatures coupled with low lake levels make the fall a great time for lower flows, but fishing can get tough later in the season as low oxygen levels become an issue. In the winter, low water can be prevalent if lake levels are at their typical depleted levels for this time of year.
Each season has its pros and cons, and there is no absolute perfect time of year to fish the Ozarks . There isn’t an absolute worst time of year, either. It is a good idea to figure out what type of weather and water you would prefer for your outing and go from there. The peak tourism season in the Ozarks is long, so crowds are a possibility every month except for winter. Fishing during the week or when the weather is poor is the best way to find solitude on these rivers.
Once you figure out the time of year you want to fish and whether or not you wish to go out with a guide, it is now time to look for the perfect place to stay. Regional lodging entities range from simplistic motels to luxury lodges, so there is sure to be something for just about everyone’s taste. If it looks like you will be fishing the White and Norfork, find a centrally located lodging establishment so that it is easy to jump from spot to spot and river to river. Cotter is a good place to start. There are many great places to stay right on the White River and Norfork Tailwater – please drop me a line at Taneycomotrout.com for more information.
Those planning a trip to Branson to fish Lake Taneycomo have a host of lodging options, as well. There are countless river and lake resorts along with scores of motels and hotels. Those interested in camping also have plenty of choices that range from primitive campsites to fancy RV pads with full hookups. Part of the fun of an Ozarks fly fishing adventure is in finding unique places to relax and lay your head after a memorable day on the water.
Even though it may be difficult to plan for all the variables likely to confront you on a White River Basin fly fishing excursion, it is worth the effort to meticulously make your arrangements. “Good” fishing on these waters blows away hey-day fishing on other famous rivers, and if you get a great day, the experience will forever be ingrained in your memory. Be sure to ask plenty of questions about everything and take advantage of all of the Internet’s informational resources. Once you get a taste of what is possible on these waterways from a trout fishing perspective, it is more than likely you will have found a place that you will want to return to year after year.