Your one-stop website for fly fishing the White River, the Norfork Tailwater, and Lake Taneycomo
“This page contains frequently updated fly fishing reports submitted by top White River and Norfork fly fishing guide, Jeremy Hunt.Besides covering Arkansas trout fishing, there will also be updated fly fishing reports from Lake Taneycomo near Branson, Missouri. These types of detailed fly fishing reports help White River fly fishermen pick the best times to go fly fishing for large, wild brown trout and trophy rainbow trout. You will be privy to the best spots for White River fly fishing, what trout flies are currently producing, and the current water conditions on Ozark Mountain trout fisheries.”
One unit steady, makes for great streamer fishing on Taneycomo!!
Real quick, before I head out to do some serious fishing on the road. I have a few days off and I’m itching to hit all the Ozarks rivers in the next three days, but did want to get a report out. For the last week or so we’ve had steady flow and probably some of the sickest water you could burn streamers in from a drift boat, especially at night. While these browns will be on the move for the next few months the thing to do is take advantage of the type of water whenever you can. This is the type of water that can get some of these browns on the move, so right now is when you want to fish streamers, if that is your style of fishing. Now, with saying that, it is a tougher bite so don’t expect numbers, but do expect to catch different species of fish. We’ve been hooking more warm water game then trout, but I did have about a 24 inch rainbow that hit my streamer. The second it hit the water, which freaked me out and didn’t get a good hook set, maybe to early or wrong angle on how it hooked the fish, but it was a good ride while it lasted.
Guide Tip: Most the water right now is 2-4 feet deep from the dam down to Point Royale. And this water is key to keeping the fly (articulated streamers) in the “strike zone”. When you have water that is shallow all the way across the river then you can take total advantage of making longer cast and have a lot more time to strip the fly across the water column. Most of the time when the water is higher, then you have to concentrate more of your presentation along the banks, because you have to keep it coming from the shallowest water (which is along the banks) before it slopes into the drop and then in the deep water (more of the middle of the river). This water allows you to not focus all your attention on the banks. You can move big fish directly in the middle of the river and that’s where they are holding when the water isn’t running to hard. Easy current doesn’t move too many big fish along the banks so it’s better to focus streamers more in the middle of the river. Try to find the deeper channels and seams to get steady action, but I would recommend cover ground and stay in new water and fresh fish that haven’t seen your fly already.
To me, the streamer fishing is still a big learning curve at Taneycomo. I’m starting to realize that rainbows on Taney just don’t relate to these bigger articulated streamers like the browns do on the White. These rainbows are not predatorial like browns so they don’t chase, especially during the day. Now at night it’s a different story. The rainbows turn on like wild fire and the fish will hit just about anything if it’s a good night. For the most part what I have found out about Taney and this is what I tell most my clients who fish with me, these fish like size 6 hooks over any other size for overall success when fishing woolies, leech patterns or any streamer for that matter when fishing at night. Taney can be a hit or miss, but that’s what keeps night fisherman coming back for more, that and you always have a chance on hooking a quality rainbows that can be hard to do on the other tailwater we have here in the Ozark’s.
A funny little story I will share…………
Yesterday I had a cancellation due to heavy rains. I decided to call my dad and see if we could fish together and use his boat. I don’t get the time like I used to, to be able to fish with my pops. So any time I can I will, especially during the next couple of months because he gets just as excited as I do for this particular time of the year, big brown trout on the move! The plan was to only bring streamer rods with articulated streamers and see if we could move anything big in this type of weather we had. Some of my best days fishing streamers has been in steady rainfall with no thunder or lightning. I’ve done more of this type of fishing on the White, but dialing in Taneycomo is on my list of things to do and that is really all I want to do on my free time this year.
We put in around 10am. It was still foggy and we had a good rain coming down. I brought tippet and few leaders and one cliff streamer box. We went up river a little bit and started fishing. My buddy and I were both rigged with White Bottom’s Ups throwing 8-9wts with 400-450 grains. I’ll tell you…. we were in the strike zone baby. Everything was right, but no fish were really cooperating with our offering. I’ve been doing so good with white patterns and then all the sudden you get a day like this and not much is going on. We did manage over the course of the last week to hook some largemouth and white bass, but today it was a struggle. I thought it would be an awesome day of streamer fishing and my thoughts were set on catching some larger fish whether it was a bass or a trout. Well, to make a long story short, I told Phil to change up and put on a black streamer. He goes to open that box and there was nothing in it. I forgot the day before I changed out boxes and remember the bigger cliff box was the one I needed. A perfect day for fishing streamers and we had none to fish. It sure makes you laugh when you think back on it. I’m sure we all have stories like that.
Here's a podcast I did about this same time last year with Rick. I was listening to it today and thought maybe some of you who haven't heard it might find it to help you during this year's brown run.
Michael's Taneycomo brown caught at 10:30 at night!
September 17, 2011
Dry fly fishing continues to be HOT on both the White River and Taneycomo
Fishing has been steady and the generation has been to. With big water running on the White still (16,000 cfs around the clock), and one to two units at Taneycomo, you almost have to be in a boat for productive fishing. This year’s dry fly action on all three tailwaters has been some of the best that I can remember in the past few years. Maybe its also because I haven’t strictly focused on fishing dry flies as much as I have this year in a long time. Fly fishing continues to be a transition for me, and you go through phases on what it is you want to throw to the trout whether it’s streamers, nymphs or dries. The more I fish out of a drift boat the more I’m getting away from indicators because of how you approach rivers now. In a motor boat, it’s all about burning holes and going over the same fish which is fine, but in a drift boat you have to micro fish more of the river and you learn every inch of the river. I think it’s a huge advantage because you really get to learn the “good” holes where big fish hang out year round.
I’m sure some of you are scratching your heads wondering why we had low water for a month and now generation around the clock for no apparent reason. I‘m confused with it a little myself, but for whatever reason I don’t think it will be for much longer. I know the dissolved oxygen levels are down and some of this could be fish water coming through to keep the fish healthier. Keep in mind that you can rent boats if you get tired of wading along the banks. Phil, who owns and operates Lilley’s Landing Resort located 5 miles from the dam, has lots of boats you can rent for half or full days. And I can personally say your missing out on Taney if you are not fishing it out of a boat in this water we have right now. Most of the river is shallow enough to spot fish and cast to certain fish you want to catch. Fishing dries along the bluffs is probably the best bite going, hands down.
Also, the rumor is because of this cold snap, it’s getting the brown’s on the move. Chuck, who owns and operates Anglers and Archery, caught a decent brown just the other day and Michael Kyle, who used to own Backcountry Outfitters, caught a big brown at night just a week ago. He sent me the picture via phone. I would say these are good signs for what is right around the corner.
With only seven feet to go, they are also right around the corner for low water. We should go into these next three months having plenty of low water for the prime time fishing months. Make sure you book your trip early. You don’t want to miss out on these fisheries as we go through October and November. These are the two months I don’t sleep. I’ll be spending most my free time fishing at night when I’m not guiding.
And then the bad news….
For some of those who have been following the site probably have heard the name Gabe Cross. Gabe was a big part of the site, and without him none of this would have been possible. I owe a lot of the content on my website to Gabe. We built this site together, and because he has a degree in writing and was a true passionate fly fisherman, we decided to re-create one of the best fly fishing sites on how to effectively fish our tailwaters about three years ago. And this time I wanted a professionally written website because I felt that the content was important from the start. I’m not a writer, so having Gabe was a big help.
Gabe and I grew up fishing Taneycomo in 1994, and I actually taught Gabe how to tie flies, so we go way back. We spent countless nights in my home when I was in Arkansas putting the core of the site together. Well…I’m sad to say he is no longer with us. This really hit home for me. I really haven’t lost to many people that I was this close to. It’s still hard to deal with, and when I finished this last Newsletter, I felt this feeling of knowing it will never be the same. I just don’t know what to say. I will miss him.
With saying that, I’m sure the site will have a few changes along with the blog. And if anything, it’s got me motivated to continue where we left off. I will continue to make the site a learning resource and my specialty is the how-to-steps, so always be looking for that. I wish I had the free time I used to have, but with two boys, guide trips, tying orders, its hard to upload patterns, but you have my word that I will always add patterns because that’s my true passion. I really enjoy tying flies and teaching the sport. Fly tying classes should start back up in November and then you should start seeing the tying side of the site updated through the winter.
Click here to read Darren's latest fishing report.
Update for 8-24-11
Unfortunately, this is not a regular fishing report; in fact, the Ozark fly fishing community has been hit with some very sad news. It is with deepest regret that we must pass on that veteran fly fishing guide Don Adams has died after a relatively short battle with cancer. Anyone who has ever met or fished with Don knows that he was an excellent angler and a wonderful person. He is now in a better place, and we wish his close friends and family our deepest condolences. The White River Basin and the fly fishing world has lost one of its greatest attributes.
Good bye Don. You truly deserve to be out of pain, and we can only hope that we will meet again sometime down the road.
Jeremy Hunt and the rest of the staff at TaneycomoTrout.com
Updated Report for 8-20-11
From the heart and honesty is always the best policy: Water conditions on Lake Taneycomo have been ideal for August, but despite that bit of good luck, the fish have been fickle and the bite has been slower than one would expect.
***I want to apologize for the lapse in reports this month. This was a direct result of the fact that my August guide schedule was much busier than normal. As a one-man operation, I can only do so much, but I want to remind all my readers that I do not mind taking phone calls (preferably in the evening) or answering emails regarding current fishing conditions. So, if you are in need of immediate and up to the minute information, never hesitate to contact me. Because of the ever-changing nature of the rivers I guide on, coupled with the fact that we are within relatively close proximity to a number of large municipalities, I want everyone to fully understand that I will do my best to be accessible to answer any and all questions in the event that you want to know what to expect if a spur of the moment trip pops up.
Because of Table Rock Lake’s position in the geographical middle of the White River Chain of impoundments, when spring rains are excessively heavy like what was experienced this year, one of the Corp of Engineers’ first priorities is to drop the level this impoundment as quickly as possible. What this means for visitors is that while the lower White River and Norfork Tailwater in Arkansas are still releasing heavy water pretty much around the clock because the dams have had to hold back to minimize flooding last spring and the reservoirs are still high, Lake Taneycomo is right at power pool, so releases have been minimal or light every day for the month of August. This type of pattern should be great for fishing, but this has not really been the case on this enigmatic White River Basin tailwater trout fishery. In all honesty, the bite has been slow most days and success requires that anglers try many different flies and techniques until they are able to dial in on what exactly the fish are looking for.
The above scenario might be disappointing to some, but in actuality, challenging fishing is a good thing for those fishing on their own, guides and their clients. There are many places like trout parks and “pay-to-play” hatcheries where fishermen can go if they just want to catch one trout after another, but when it comes to learning and becoming an overall better fly fisher, it is in everyone’s best interest to have some tough outings sprinkled in with the normally action-filled days that occur quite often on the White River, the Norfork Tailwater and Lake Taneycomo. Plus, there is no doubt that the fishing will turn around drastically when the weather starts to cool in September. Not many people are aware of this fact, but September and early October are usually the best months in the Ozarks for fishing terrestrial patterns and a variety of smallish dry flies. Keep this in mind when planning a trip; most anglers think that October/November is prime time, but in my experience, the bite in September trumps those other months with respect to consistency, lack of crowds, good water quality and locating big fish on the move.
My contacts in Arkansas are lamenting about the excessive high water right now, and although the fishing is pretty much always good on either the White or the Norfork, flows will likely be heavy at least until October. Lake Norfork is eleven feet above power pool and Bull Shoals Lake is twenty feet above power pool – plus, these reservoirs are not dropping very fast due to recent storms that have dumped a lot of water across the region. Norfork will start offering up some wading conditions before the White, but regardless, Taneycomo will be the place for walk-in fishing for quite awhile. Currently, releases have been starting between 11am and 2pm and range from the one to three-unit level for the rest of the day. Table Rock Dam is shutting down around 8pm. I am seeing some really big rainbows, and there are also some browns making their way upstream; they should start staging from Fall Creek up to the Boat Ramp in the State Park over the next few weeks. The new moon is coming up very soon, so the brown run is likely to really get going around the end of September when the moon turns full. Because I don’t participate in the spawning foray up around the outlets, I will likely start heading down to Arkansas for the good part of October and primarily fish well below the outlets or at night if I fish at Taneycomo.
Another unique aspect to 2011 was how dingy the water was on Lake Taneycomo due to the incredible spring floods. The water is just now starting to really clear up, but that may make the bigger fish a little spookier. I do want to briefly talk about an interesting guide trip I had this month that exemplifies why ‘hey-day’ fishing isn’t always the in an angler’s best interest on a guide trip. During a multiple-day outing with a guy I guided down in Arkansas last year (when the fishing was spectacular), I had to start things out by explaining that Taneycomo was the best option, albeit, the fishing had been slow. He was hesitant at first, but over the course of his time on the water, he caught plenty of nice fish.
That is always good from a guide’s perspective, but what made the whole endeavor worthwhile was when he explained that it was a blast catching gaudy numbers of fish on the White and Norfork last year, but he was even more pleased with his time on Taney because he got to witness how a professional adapts to lethargic fish, and he also was able to learn a plethora of advanced techniques that we wouldn’t have had to utilize if the fish were extremely active. The whole experience made him more prepared when it comes to approaching other fisheries around the country, and he said he felt like he was a much better angler at the end of his stay than he was when we started. To me, that is what it’s all about, and there are always going to be times in the Ozarks (or any coldwater river) when suspending a scud, sow bug or midge isn’t going to produce very well. This is why it is so critical to do your homework and search for guides who spend most of their personal free time fishing on their own because these are the guys who know what to try when the standard patterns are no longer doing the trick.
Look for a newsletter in the next couple of days, and always remember that I am willing to split up your guide days based on weather and water conditions. Also, the night fishing opportunities for big fish are just around the corner, and I am privy to where there are a lot of pigs stacked up. As far as I know, I’m the only guide offering both walk-in and drift trips beneath the stars when the river is empty. Lastly, if you do find yourself on Taneycomo on your own in the near future, keep in mind that they are doing some weird things with the flows at the upper (Table Rock) and lower dams (Powersite) during periods of zero generation at Table Rock. There is almost no current, and if the wind blows upstream, the tailwater resembles a very skinny lake. It is still possible to catch trout using nymphs below an indicator at these times, but remember that you have to let your fly sit until a cruising fish finds it…if this is just too slow for you, giving your line a little strip every 15 to 30 seconds can incite a bite, and stripping flies like soft hackles, Wooly Buggers and Cracklebacks can also do the trick when upper Lake Taneycomo becomes a still water fishery. Understanding the unique dynamics of all the rivers I fish is a never ending process, and this is also why these rivers never gets boring…even after fifteen years of fishing these parts, I learn and see new things every day.
Updated Fishing Report - Minimal current makes for some challenging fishing!
I hope everyone is staying cool during the hot summer days. Fishing has still been really good on Taneycomo. The only difference since the last report is we are seeing lower water levels for longer periods of time. With it shutting down close to midnight and staying off until 1pm there is plenty of wading opportunities.
Is fishing better at night or during the day right now?
To me, fishing is better at night. To be real honest, because of the work they are doing down at Powersite Dam ( roughly 20 miles downstream from Taney) they have totally change the tailwater level anywhere from a low 703 to a high 702 range (normal pool is 701.3) which has made the current very slow and in some spots not at all. On top of that stagnant dingy water has made the D.O. levels low as well. So you better be on your “A” game to have a successful day. I think from them generating during the day and then shutting it off at night the water seems to have better D.O. levels, so the fish are thriving more and are willing to feed aggressively. Once the water has been off for longer periods is when I see a change in the fishing behavior. Fishing typical staple patterns that work everyday are not producing like they do on any given day. You have to switch up quite a bit and cover lots of water to stay on the fish. But if you know what you are doing there is one way to have a really good day. Just remember I said they want to chase stuff. Get rid of the indicators and strip in emerger patterns.
What else is working?
Terrestrials are still working in the right conditions. Find shallower water so they can actually see it. If you can’t see the bottom then the chances of the trout seeing your fly is about the same. We’re still having the best luck on beetles followed up with ants, cicadas, hoppers and dragonflies. If you can fish the rise and stay in the clean water the first hour, as the water is rising, you will be in the best conditions for fishing dries along the banks.
It’s real foggy at night and that’s what makes for some solid fishing conditions when fishing at night. Fish anything in a size six that has a little flash somewhere in the fly, but don’t over do it.
Just wanted to say Happy 80th Birthday to Russ. I had a great time with you guys.
No class as of right now. Should be back in full swing some time in the fall.
Still HIGH HIGH water for the most part. Hoppers are out, but the conditions could be better for averaging better results. We really need 3-5 units for fishing the banks, but you can still hook some browns. Who knows how long they are going to dump Bull Shoals, but I would say the high water will be sticking around. I have four trips there this week and I plan on fishing big streamers and dries so I’ll keep you posted.
July 28 2011 Updated Fishing Report for Taneycomo
It might be hot, but fishing remains “HOT” on Taneycomo
The last few days we have seen low water in the morning until noon. Who knows why, but I like it!! It makes for some great fishing and from fishing the previous floods I’ve started to adapt to all types of conditions. Anytime we have long periods of high water and then it shuts down these trout go on a midge “frenzy”. The river shrinks and the fish get condensed so trout are easier to catch because they are potted up in groups cruising along the banks looking for midges and terrestrials.
Here’s the rest of the report………
Has Taney changed for the better or for the worst due to the high water flooding?
From what I can see, it looks like it has become more of a river, all the way through the entire regulated zone, from the dam to Fall Creek. There is so much more to do down behind the house’s at Point Royale. The gravel as filled in this whole area for about 200 yards, which has made a lot more wading spots. From what I can see there is a lot more shoal water and faster runs for tons of trout to hold in. This definitely should give the fisherman more to do downstream, if they can find a way to get down there and fish it. And trust me, I would. I should have more info to share once we get lower water for longer periods of time.
Updated "LIVE" Report - 7-24-2011
Updated Fishing Report- 7-15-2011
Mini- Newsletter and fishing report
Right now I guess we all know it’s HOT so the trend for me is to get out early and finish before the high water gets here around noon. Not only that, but that is about the time it gets too hot and fishing becomes tougher and uncomfortable. That’s why I started offering my customers the “2 for 1” special that started the first of July and I will be offering until the end of August. It works out good for the customer because it frees up the afternoon so they can spend it with family. The best fishing is in the morning so why not take total advantage of that time to fish and not burn up in the heat in the afternoon.
How’s Fishing Been?
Fishing has been good on Taney, so for the most part I’m staying close to home. I’ve been down on the White occasionally, but water is a lot higher and that is more of a gamble because of how they are generating the water. Lower water is usually how I follow the trend for catching more numbers in the summer months. The beetles, ants and other terrestrials are on the move so make sure you fish along the banks. The fish will tell you, just watch for risers and a few splashes. Finding shallower water is crucial for them to be able to see it. Since we have dirty water from the floods we are only able to see about a foot down in the water column. If you do decide to stay out longer and fish the higher water levels look for broken water with minimal current,. The trout will be stacked in there. Those areas are prime time to strip wooly buggers or white streamers.
Other flies that are working extremely well are brown scuds, tan scuds, cerise worms and oversize midge patterns with a oversize bead so they can see it.
What is the “HOT” bite?
How about anything White. The dingy water has these rainbows chasing more then I’ve ever seen on Taneycomo. The other day I was doing a instructional video and decided to throw white Peanut Envy’s and caught some chunky rainbows. We only fished from the island across from outlet 2 down to the boat ramp. The best luck I had was when I was swinging in the rebar hole. I did a little short video that you can see right below this paragraph of a few we caught.
I’m sure white will be the meal ticket until the water gets clearer, but to be totally honest everybody throws white and these fish are always keying in on it.
What’s going to be the “HOT” bite for August/September?
Hoppers!! Yes, last year the hopper bite was explosive on the White River catching anywhere between 15-20 browns every time out. Water will be a factor on how successful each day will be because of generation. Make sure you book for this amazing bite that is actually starting right now.
River helping me paint bodies for the hopper bite!
Promotion that I’ve been offering my subscribers
And now I will offer this to the public! Book a full day rate which is 350.00 and split it into two half days which is a savings of 200.00. And the good news is we never end the trip in 4 hours, we usually go between 5-6 hours. So not only do you get more time on the water, but you get two good days of fishing when it’s prime. This offer is only good if I have the two days to be able to do it. If you are flexible and will be here for a while we can split the two days while you are here and not have to do two days in a row.
The White and Norfork Promotion
If we go down to Arkansas I will offer a streamer 2 day trip for 550.00 for two full days. If you give me two days instead of one the results of you hooking into a big brown are far much greater then trying to expect it in one day. There are no guarantees in hooking into a trophy brown so if you can justify it by getting a cheaper rate it just makes sense. We will hook 3-4 nice browns over 20 inches long each day, but you do have a shot every time out at a brown in the 25 inch class of bigger. I can put you on the fish, but it’s your job to bring ‘em to the boat.
Beginners that want to learn about streamers
This is also a good opportunity for beginners to spend the first day learning how to dial this whole thing in and the next day you’ll be in the zone. You could get it right off the bat, but if not you definitely walk away a better angler and take what you’ve learn and apply in the salt, warm water or anywhere else fish like streamers.
Rainbows will feed more on white patterns towards the bottom then up higher in the water column. So if you are fishing with a fly rod I would dead drift white on the bottom for more hook ups. The majority of the guides that throw conventional gear are fishing jigs on the bottom so that’s where the trout are seeing white mostly. All you have to do is think how fish are being fished to and how they see what is being presented to them by the fisherman. I’ve always been a believer that you can program fish to eat what they see the most of. It’s not just about what they truly feed on, but how they see everything in the water column. Yes, it does makes sense to fish flies to be presented how the fish see it, but more importantly it’s more important to think about what everybody else is doing.
Fishing sinking lines will also work, but being to high in the water column will cost you fish, but I always say, you never know. It only takes one trophy to change your life.
Glad you asked. I offered to do a tying class about the 13 year cicada hatch we had on Taneycomo that was truly amazing. It’s tomorrow at the Hatchery down below Table Rock Dam. Class will be held from 2-4pm ( for directions call 334-4865). We will talk about the fishing, go over the a few patterns and tie them and I will also have a little slide show on some trout we caught during the hatch. This will be a real educational class. See you there!!
If you can’t make the class I added two of the patterns we will be tying at class. One is the Japanese Beetle that is in full swing right now and the Cicada that was working great about a month ago. I started tying hoppers with this same design because of how good these lay down on the water, always on their belly whether you roll cast or false cast. This pattern always rides high on the water.
July 1, 2011 - Flys & Guides "Live" Reports
Taney is fishing good......... and I think some of it has to to do with "dingy" water!!
Updated Report for 6-22-11
An interesting day on Dry Run Creek in Arkansas and some other river information
I haven’t mentioned Dry Run Creek in awhile, but for those of you unfamiliar with the Ozark Tailwaters, Dry Run is a short fishery below Norfork Dam. Its waters are fed from pipes in Norfork Lake 100-feet deep before being run through the hatchery and then enter the Creek from a series of smaller pipes. Dry Run is restricted to anglers age 15 and under or to those who are handicapped (plus all fish must be released, and to fish there, fishermen can only use artificial and barbless flies, jigs or lures). Because of the nutrient-rich water in this small creek, coupled with the trout’s instinctive ‘urges’ to return to their nursery waters, Dry Run is absolutely loaded with fish that swim up from the Norfork Tailwater, and even though the ‘Creek fishes great all year long, some times of year are better than others.
So, I took the two young clients I had from the previous day down to Dry Run Creek because they started running heavy water early in the morning on Lake Taneycomo, and you have to expect the unexpected on all these rivers, so I thought it would be a lot of fun to take advantage of their young age – there is only so long before “old age” makes Dry Run a spot that becomes just a forbidden dream, and some people consider Dry Run the best trout stream, mile for mile, in the world. It’s hard to argue that assertion if your idea of a good fishery is a place where you can literally walk across the backs of the fish (some electrofishing surveys have shown that there can be around 20,000 fish in the quarter-mile of water that makes up this waterway…. Dry Run is not even ten feet in width in most spots). Of course, since there are so many restrictions on Dry Run, the fish get very little pressure over there, and we hammered plenty of nice fish, including several in the 20 to 22-inch range. Plus, we lost a pig that looked to be 25 inches. During prime times, fish from 25 to 30 inches are common, and I’ve seen browns in there that were over twenty pounds. None of these behemoths are stocked into the Creek; they all migrate up there from the Norfork. Many local fly fishermen and conservationists feel that the Norfork would be like a big version of Dry Run if it had restrictive trophy regulations like a slot-limit on all waters that are not currently catch and release, and if you are interested in joining the efforts to help with improving the fishery on the Norfork, (a river with perhaps the most potential in the world), feel free to drop me a line to discuss the issue.
The White was running a pretty hard six units when we drove over it in Cotter, but with all the water on its way into the Misssissipi River from flooding on the Missouri River in the upper Midwest, it’s possible that flows could be reduced at Bull Shoals Dam this summer to help with water-control issues, but I feel that the Corp will want to lower the Ozark reservoirs several more feet before backing off on the White. Keep an eye on this page for almost daily information, as I’ve decided to rekindle my commitment to keep the reports as updated as possible. For now, fishing is good somewhere every day, and with the ‘old’ ramp below Norfork Dam finally open for use (it’s best to be experienced before using this slab to gain access, as this is a tricky place to launch a boat if you haven’t done it there at least a few times before). I am excited about giving the ‘Fork a try soon and I may just find my way over there in the next few days, as I’m scheduled to be on the water through the weekend.
Brief Taneycomo Fly Fishing Update for 6-22-11
My readers deserve to know about the interesting dynamics coupled with the unique cicada fishing still going on at Lake Taneycomo
I know I promised not to write so many back to back reports, but I wanted my avid followers, along with southwest Missouri fly fishing locals to know that you can get in about five or six hours of excellent fishing before the high water starts in the afternoon on upper Lake Taneycomo. In fact, there is some good wading possible during the mornings off several Islands – yes, with boat access; there is actually an enjoyable wading bite at first light. After the big rains we had just the other evening, the cicadas became quiet and it was rare to see the trout crashing the surface. But an end of the magic is apparently not in the works, as we had a great time fishing big dries on Taneycomo just today, and Cody hooked into nice brown on the first cast. One would think that the local anglers would be talking all about the cicada hatch, but I have heard virtually noting, and I do my best to stay in the loop. If the lower water and big bugs are prevalent for the next month or two, it is going to be a summer that will be remembered for quite awhile. As always, call or email me in the evenings (as I’m out on the river almost every day) for daily information, and I love to chat with my fellow anglers.
Quick Report for June 17th
The cicada bite is on fire, and NOW is the time to fish our 13-year Ozark version of the stonefly hatch
Yesterday was one of those days that was hard to believe. After a morning thunderstorm, I took a client out on Lake Taneycomo. Rarely do I write reports back to back, but I just had to get this information out to my readers. My guides are tying cicada patterns at every free moment, so we are ready to get out there for some incredible surface action.
Those of you who understand how the White River hatchery system works are aware that there are basically two types of rainbows that inhabit Lake Taneycomo: Federal fish that come from a hatchery in Neosho (a town in far southwest Missouri). These trout are small, lack color and rarely make it over fourteen inches. Then there is what they call a “Missouri Strain” that is raised at Shepherded of the Hill trout hatchery right below Table Rock Dam. These fish resemble a wild trout with their vibrant colors, fat bodies, full fins and strong fighting abilities. It seems like the majority of trout we are catching on cicada flies are from the hatchery below the dam, and yesterday, almost all the fish we landed were seventeen inches and over…it was truly a memorable experience.
As mentioned in the last report, there is just no saying how long the cicada bonanza could last; it could end tomorrow, or we could experience amazing top-water action for another month or more. There are some guide trip openings, so if you are flexible with your time, it is in your best interest to get to Branson as soon as possible. And remember: even if you are unlucky and miss the bite, the fishing for fat, strong-fighting rainbows is as good as it’s been as a long time. Call or email me at any time for the latest updates regarding the cicada action at Lake Taneycomo.
Updated Report for 6-14-11
Hot cicada action continues on Lake Taneycomo, but the pressing question is: how long will this bite continue?
It has been an extremely busy time for me of late with a trip to Michigan to get my new drift boat, tying 100’s of flies commercially and a hectic guiding schedule; this is why I haven’t reported as much as I would have liked to. The 13-year Cicada emergence is in full swing on Lake Taneycomo, and the trout are taking big foam patterns off the surface with reckless abandonment. What I find interesting is that these massive bugs were all over the place on the White and Norfork Tailwater down in Arkansas just a few weeks ago, and the surface action was all but dead on Taneycomo. But now, it seems that the hatch is moving to the north, and the only reason I can think of for the reasoning behind this phenomenon is that these insects need specific conditions to come off, and since temperatures are a bit lower in the Branson area than in Arkansas, they may be following the slightly cooler air. Of course, we only get the chance to study the 13-year Cicadas every 13 years, so this prognosis could be way off base, and for all we know, the top-water bite could start back up in Arkansas at any time. The bottom line is that chasing a hatch such as this is risky from a fly fishing point of view, and we won’t know when it’s over until the fat lady sings…as of now, she’s quiet as a mouse, and the fishing is spectacular.
I’ve been on the water almost every day over the last week, and there is no doubt that the fish are looking up at Lake Taneycomo. It is a total blast to see nice trout crash your fly on the surface, but the fishing isn’t exactly simple. Accurate casts are in order, and it is critical not to spook the fish. This is why it is key to get into shallow water, and the guys using motorized boats are not doing nearly as well as the guys using drift boats unless they kill the motor and use an oar to get into position. This can be tough when there is even a breath of wind, and in the next newsletter (I promise, it’s coming this week) there will be a section that discusses the pros and cons of each type of vessel. I’ve also been using a special cicada pattern tied with an orange wing in lieu of a ‘natural-colored’ wing, and this seems to make a difference at certain times. This fly isn’t on my “Flies for Sale” page yet, but if you are interested in purchasing some, just let me know.
My recent trips have involved doing several shuttles in order to stay on the fish, and this little bit of extra work is well worth the effort, as it keeps us in the best big-fish zones for the majority of the day. June is a great month for fishing the White River, the Norfork Tailwater and Lake Taneycomo, and now that the lakes and rivers are stable, we are seeing some great conditions. The other day they ran only two units on Taneycomo all day long and that is perfect cicada water. Air temperatures are starting to cool down from that unusual heat wave we saw over the last couple of weeks, so it is very comfortable on the rivers. The water still has a slight tinge to it, but this can be an advantage because the trout have a more difficult time seeing you coming.
There is no telling how long the great fishing with big dries will continue, so if this type of bite is your type of thing, I would be trying to make it down here ASAP. Still, even if you don’t catch it just right, don’t worry; San Juan Worms are killing ‘em, and the streamer fishing for big browns is still respectable on the White. Flows have moderated significantly on all three of the rivers I guide on, as well, so it’s a great time to fish a bunch of different techniques. Please feel free to call me in the evenings for day-to-day reports, and I’ll be happy to let you know exactly what is going on. It has truly been a spring in the Ozarks like no other in the history of the dams, but I’ve learned that when conditions seem like they are at their absolute worst, it’s time to get on the water because you will likely be surprised by the remarkable angling.
Updated Report for May 27th
Despite extreme weather in the Ozarks, good fishing is expected to resume within a week
First of all, I wanted to send out my prayers and thoughts to all the people in Joplin and the other folks affected by the tornados that have plagued the Ozark region. It has been a rough time for many, but from a fly fishing perspective, the rains could have been a lot worse. Table Rock Lake has opened the gates relatively wide for the second time this month, and Bull Shoals Dam has followed suit with high releases of their own. Norfork Dam is still exclusively letting water over the top of the dam because of the work that is being done on its two generators, but flows over there somewhat resemble what it looks like when both units are running at full power. All of this water, coupled with the severe weather pattern that has persisted for most of May, has made fishing tough, and it just goes to show how drastically conditions can change on these rivers – it was just a month ago that fishermen were wondering how long the low water would last. Now, anglers are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach, and for all intents and purposes, the tailwaters where I take my clients are not fishable at the moment. Although this is a ‘worst case scenario’, once the water in the reservoirs stabilizes (which will hopefully happen in a week or less), I expect the conditions for using large streamers and bright nymphs to be perfect.
Most of the area resorts and guides based out of Arkansas are keeping their lips tight regarding the high water situation, but I always aim to be truthful and tell it like it is; I would hate for someone to plan a trip to the Ozarks based on sugar-coated or false information, only to find rivers that are above their banks and too dangerous to fish. Truthfully, Taneycomo and the White are running at levels that are rarely seen, but because the purpose of all the area impoundment projects is flood control, river levels are likely to drop significantly once the lake levels get below flood pool. When this happens on the White, I am expecting somewhat moderate flows in the two- to five-unit range to resume. I will keep everyone informed, and if this prediction plays out, the fishing should be just what I am always looking for with respect to big browns on the White River. Four-unit flows will be the ‘norm’ on Lake Taneycomo for quite some time, and it may take all summer before Table Rock Lake runs anything but maximum water through the generators. The Norfork and how it is going to fish next month is a mystery, as the river will be quite a bit warmer than normal with the flows feeding the trout waters coming from the top of the lake (not from the bottom, which is where the water normally originates when the generators are running), and my best guess (if they get both units fixed in June as predicted) is that it will take until August for the fishing to be its extremely productive self on the ‘Fork again. The ‘word on the street’ is that lots of white bass, walleye and stripers are being caught below Norfork Dam, which reflects the fact that the spillway releases have changed the fishery into one where warmer water species can prosper. Once cold flows resume, the lake fish will head into the White and go downstream until they find water that is suitably warm, but not before they gorge on lots of smaller trout.
Please do not hesitate to call me for up to date information, and there are going to be some wonderful trophy opportunities on the White River and on Lake Taneycomo starting in June and continuing through the summer. I will be heading to northern Michigan on May 29th and returning on June 3rd. The purpose of this trip is to pick up a new drift boat (I’m very excited about being able to take my clients out on a newer vessel), and I also plan on doing some trout fishing on the various rivers and streams in that area. My guiding schedule has slacked off since the flooding, so I’ve been tying flies commercially – be sure to check out my “for sale” selection (still updating the page) because you will not find better guide-tied patterns available to the public anywhere. Also, if you are interested in looking at some pictures I took when the floodgates at Table Rock Dam were open and dumping a lot of water into Lake Taneycomo, go to my blog. Sometimes, nature throws us a curve ball when it comes to fly fishing in the Ozarks, but I am committed to keeping a positive attitude. The dams (Taneycomo was affected the worst) have done their job of minimizing the impact of all the rain that the region has endured, and many lives and tons of property has been saved as a result. Natural, free-flowing rivers deal with flooding annually, and this process is good for both the fish and the river’s habitat. Sure, it may make the fishing a bit tough, but when it is all said and done, all the local tailwaters will be in great shape.
Bull Shoals Dam
5-22-2011 Updated Report for the White River System
Despite the recent rains, the chances of catching a big brown are as good as ever
The flooding in the Mississippi Delta has been making national news for weeks now, and considering that the White River is a major tributary of this country’s largest of waterways, it is no surprise that we have had our fair share of rain in the Ozarks, as well. In the upcoming newsletter, I will go into to greater depth into how the flood control system works on the White and its tributaries, but in a nutshell: the periods after flooding events often are marked with low and clear water right below the dams. This is because the White River System projects have operational priorities, and their main purpose is to hold water back in order to minimize downstream flooding. Once the lakes crest, then the Corp of Engineers will let loose and start lowering the reservoirs down to power pool. Of course, a massive flood like we had around the beginning of May requires the use of extreme measures like the opening of the flood gates for a few days, but during a typical spring flood period, Beaver and Table Rock Dams dump their excess water into Bull Shoals reservoirs slowly, and there can be periods where the water on the lower White River will run remarkably light. During these times, the fishing can be fantastic.
The first two weeks of May were excellent on the White River with releases in the one to three unit ranges. Now that the lakes are somewhat stabilized, flows have increased exponentially, and Bull Shoals Dam is running six units pretty much every day. Although the lower water earlier in the month offered up some good nymph and streamer fishing, now it is all about throwing large patterns that imitate baitfish, small trout and crawfish. The fishing for browns has been excellent from the dam down to Wildcat Shoals, but at that point, the water becomes pretty dingy and the bite gets tough.
Norfork is running the equivalent of two units through the spillway gates because they are in the process of fixing the generators. I am crossing my fingers that the water doesn’t become too warm over there before the air temperatures rise consistently into the 80’s, and I’m hearing that more walleye, white bass and stripers are being caught than trout below Norfork Dam. This is a shame considering how well that river was fishing in March and April. Taneycomo Trout will keep everyone updated on the situation, and normally the ‘Fork fishes really well in the summer.
Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming newsletter in the next day that will delve into greater detail regarding how flood control works on the White River tailwaters, and I will also be talking about what to expect over the next few months. There will also be several summer promotions offered and a slight policy change with respect to streamer fishing will be implemented. Even though there will be lots of high water this summer, that just means that the fishing for trophy browns will be out of this world. Most of my clients prefer to go after really big fish, and the conditions for this pursuit will be ideal if the flows remain heavy. If you are faint of heart, be sure to come prepared because there are few things in the world of fly fishing as exciting as seeing an eight pound (or bigger) brown trout chasing down a big streamer pattern. Please do not hesitate to ask me about any aspects of trophy fishing with very large flies, and I take great pride in teaching anglers of all skill levels the art of going after big fish. For a guy who loves to chase down and hunt large brown trout on the White, I am extremely excited about the upcoming late spring and the entire summer.
Updated Fly Fishing Report for 4/28/11
Unbelievable flooding hits the White River Basin, but the outlook for May fishing is surprisingly good
Flooding is common in the Ozarks, but there have been several major events in 2008 and 2011 that have brought new meaning to the designation of what a “100-year flood” actually means. The hardest hit areas over the last few weeks have been in northwest Arkansas and south/central Missouri, but the entire White River Basin got hammered with up to ten inches of rain over the course of just a few days. On most river systems across the country, serious flooding would mean that fishing would be all but impossible for a month or more, but the dams on the White and its tributaries are doing their jobs. This is not to say that perfect conditions will prevail everywhere, but more than likely, the White and Norfork will fish very well through May.
Bull Shoals Lake has 45 feet of flood control space, and it still has 15 feet of storage left. This means that once Beaver and Table Rock Dams shut down their flood gates, there should still be some storage left at Bull Shoals Dam.Flood stage releases at Norfork and Bull Shoals are dictated by water levels 130 miles downstream of Bull Shoals Dam, and as long as the gauge height is above 12 feet, flows will be as minimal as possible to allow the White River to recede in an area where farming interests are a major concern. What this basically means is that until levels at Newport drop below the 12-foot level, the fishing conditions on the upper White will be excellent. Look for two to four units to run most days, and the water will be crystal clear. This is ideal streamer water for hooking up with big browns, and the nymph fishing conditions will also be excellent. I know that some of you are a little intimidated about the prospect of throwing big streamers on a nine-weight rod, but it is not as difficult as one would think. I make my living teaching anglers a variety of techniques that will give them the best shot at hooking into a trophy trout, and I’ve seen many neophytes have no problems doing what needs to be done to fish streamers effectively. Of course, if it’s just a bit too much to grasp, we can always go back to using nymphs and catching plenty of good fish.
The Norfork drainage is in a bit more precarious shape than the lower White River drainage, and currently the reservoir can only hold four more feet of water. Since there is no dam upstream of Norfork Lake to control flows, another good shot of rain will force the Corp of Engineers to open the flood gates in order to lower the lake in a hurry. Hopefully, this will not happen, and if flood releases do occur as a reactionary measure to a deluge, there is a chance that river-changing flows in the 40,000 (plus) cubic feet per second could happen. Still, pretty much every free-flowing river in the world is subjected to yearly flooding, and this process does not typically hurt the fish or the river. What heavy floods do accomplish is that they clean out loose gravel which improves spawning habitat and reestablishes the river channel. Of course, floodgate releases will make the river unfishable for a week or so, but with respect to this current flood scenario took place in 2008, the fishing bounced back in a hurry. Plus, the White’s unique dynamics allow us to fish wherever flows are likely to be the most productive on any given and offer up plenty of spots that almost always offer anglers excellent conditions…somewhere in the chain.
At the moment, it appears that fishing below Table Rock Dam on Lake Taneycomo is going to be a no-go for quite awhile. When the gates were opened wide this week, the water inundated the parking lot near the outlets, and the river made its way all the way to the fence at the hatchery. This is probably the highest the river has ever been (or at least in recent memory) – only the top of the picnic pavilion below outlet number two was out of the water. Once the gates do close, the generators will still be kicking out the maximum amount of water that they can, and this will go on until the reservoir drops to 917 or 918 feet. This will be good for trout growth rates, but it will make for tricky fishing, perhaps all through the summer. Again, thank goodness for the White River below Bull Shoals Dam.
Another negative aspect of all the flooding is that it is unlikely that we will see any significant dead-low flow periods for quite awhile. This will put a dent in the plans of those who are restricted to wading only, but those with a boat will do just fine on the White and the Norfork. The fisheries will emerge in even better shape than they were when all the rain started, and by late summer when the water is likely to finally be low again, the fishing will be insane. This is something to think about as far as long-term planning. September and October will likely offer up some of the best wade fishing we’ve seen in years, and 2011 has already been remarkably good in that respect.
Even though Bull Shoals Lake is still in relatively good shape with respect to storage, and all the generators are in working order, the Norfork is potentially facing quite a predicament. Both generators are out of service over there, and all twelve flood gates are being used to mimic the releases that would be occurring if this was not the case. At the moment, water temperatures are relatively good (high 50’s to low 60’s), but the lake is warming up by the day. If the generators are not fixed soon, the river could face an influx of warm and poorly-oxygenated water, which could end up stressing out the fish. It’s not time to worry yet, but if we encounter a situation where flood releases are necessary three weeks to a month down the road, it could be a different story. Let’s all hope that the generators get fixed as quickly as possible, as it seems very unlikely that flood releases will not be needed at some point in the near future at the ‘Fork.
Another scenario that could put a damper on late spring and summer fishing is if Bull Shoals Lake fills to capacity when the surface temperatures on the reservoir get into the 80’s. The generators will keep the water on the river cool near the dam, but it will warm up quickly, and the stretch from Cotter to Buffalo City could be compromised. This potential situation is not as dire as what could happen on the Norfork, but it is worth monitoring. Browns should do fine, as they tend to prefer warmer water temperatures, but the rainbows and cutthroats could suffer.
A Silver Lining…
There is absolutely no reason to panic if you have a trip planned to visit the White River Basin at any time over the next few months. You may have to be a bit more flexible with your plans, but there should always be many good options worth exploring. Please give me a call if you have any specific questions or concerns.
Also, the didymo (aka ‘rocks snot’) had returned to the upper end of the White, and this invasive type of algae is both hard on the fish and the subsurface foods that they feed on. After the unprecedented flooding of 2008, didymo was becoming an annoying issue for anglers, and fishing rising water meant motoring (or driving) far upstream to get away from trashy flows. After the gates were opened at Bull Shoals, which was followed by months of maximum releases through the dam’s turbines, the didymo all but disappeared, and we experienced several years where the trout on the upper White grew fat and strong. As mentioned above, free-flowing rivers go through flood cycles virtually every year, as this is part of nature’s plan, but when dams are built for flood-control, it changes the downstream waterways forever. We are lucky that man’s interference in this cycle has created a world-class trout fishery like no other, but there are other places around the world where such activities have not ended up working out so well.
It’s been a pretty wet spring from the east coast to the west coast, and there are very few places where the outlook for quality fishing in the near future is good. We have been through all of this before, and I, along with my guides, know exactly what to do and where to go when such situations arise. I will be doing video and written reports as often as possible to keep everyone abreast of this fluid situation, and I welcome any and all questions. The next month is looking good, and the early fall should be excellent. Both rivers that I fish in Arkansas are choked with browns in the 18- to 26-inch range, and there are bigger ones out there. Sometimes, what seems like a bad situation can turn good in a hurry, and I think that this is the case with respect to what the Ozarks have been going through over the last couple of weeks. Look for a detailed newsletter in the near future.
Well…it feels good to get feedback about what the Miracle Fly is doing out there from some of my clientele who have fished with me before. I’m glad Eric had a good time! Here’s what he had to say.
Hey man hope things are going well with you. Just got back from my big guys trip and conditions were fairly tough on Norfork big time wind, huge rain Thursday night and all sorts of different water on Saturday. The White was a no go since we were below the blown out Buffalo. The Miracle Fly stole the show. Never have we caught the quality of fish we did over these two days (many more browns and nice bows). Spending a day with you learning how to fish this fly is key to the success users would be wise to do that.
Can you get me 50 of them in different colors and I will get you paid via Paypal?
We caught another 3 or 4 like the top one but the one on the bottom was the big’en for the couple days. All returned to fight again.
Updated report for 4/7/11
April fishing is living up to expectations…especially if you find the right water conditions
It has been a busy stretch for me over the last three weeks. I’ve been on the water guiding almost every day, and when I did get a day off, I usually ended up tying flies or preparing for the next trip. As I’ve said before, April is historically one of the best fishing months on the White River, Lake Taneycomo and the Norfork Tailwater, and this year is no exception. The action is especially good if the water is low, and if you are willing to be flexible with your plans, there has been dead-low water somewhere pretty much every day. All three of the lakes are around two feet below power pool, which means they have come up significantly in the last month. Releases at Bull Shoals and Table Rock Dams have been unpredictable, as the Corp seems to be in a pattern of running water for a few days on Lake Taneycomo, and then for the next few days, they run water on the White. So, fishing those rivers is a crapshoot if you are intent on wading. The Norfork has been steady recently with one unit running for a couple hours in the morning and a couple hours in the evening, but for the bulk of the day, the water is low. This type of pattern is ideal because the releases keep the fish fresh, and they are feeding heavily during low water, which has made for some excellent experiences over there recently.
Unfortunately, all good things eventually come to an end, and it will only take one decent rain event to push all three of the reservoirs that I fish below above power pool. When (or if) this happens, flows will likely vamp up and much higher water will persist until the lakes are drawn back down to the power pool level. This ‘vicious’ cycle is really only an issue if you are planning on wading; guides and others who utilize boats are used to the ups and downs of these fisheries. Many anglers prefer high water because that is when the biggest fish are caught due to the fact that the lunkers become less spooky and it’s possible to cover a lot more water in a boat. Still, if you want to get in on some of the best wade fishing that the area has seen in years, it is best not to dawdle because more than likely the spring rains are going to continue, barring some sort of miraculous ‘mini-draught’, which is highly unlikely to occur.
Last Friday, I took out the same writer/photographer from Eastern Fly Fishing Magazine that I fished with a few weeks ago on Taneycomo. This time, we floated for a half day on the White. Both of us were intent on throwing streamers to try and entice some big browns, but the conditions never materialized. On the float from Wildcat Shoals to Cotter, we faced light one-unit flows, so the bigger fish reacted much the same way they do when the water is low: spooky and scattered. It was still a fun day to be out on the river, and when going for big trout, not every outing is going to be a roaring success; especially when the depth and speed of the water is completely unpredictable. The following day I took out some of my regular clients, Zimm and Fritz, and we floated the Norfork on low water, which basically means that we used the drift boat to fish out of in the deep stretches, and then we would get out and wade in the riffles and shallow areas. It was a great time and both guys caught lots of trout. The Norfork is ‘back’ as a world class fishery, and because the White has been low for extended periods at times (which causes the water to warm up significantly near its confluence with the Norfork), a lot of nice trout will seek out the colder water on the ‘Fork. So consequently, the Norfork is absolutely loaded with fish from top to bottom. The following day I took Zimm and Fritz out again on a short, half-day float from Bull Shoals State Park down to Gaston’s Resort. It’s never boring fishing with these guys, so of course we had fun, along with catching some chunky rainbows.
Last Tuesday, Darren took a couple of my clients out on Lake Taneycomo in the drift boat because I had a prior obligation, and they caught lots of pretty ‘bows fishing the banks and eddies. There were two units running, so I know he worked hard to stay in the fish. The highlight of the trip was when one of the guys landed a nineteen-inch brown. This is not a common catch this time of year in the slot-limit area just below the dam, and it definitely made everyone’s day. I really think that Darren has what it takes to be a truly special fly fishing guide, and I have total confidence in his abilities. It’s nice to be able to work with such a diligent student of the sport, and I’m thrilled to have him on the Taneycomo Trout team.
My most recent trip was yesterday (Wednesday, the 6th of April), and I had planned on fishing Lake Taneycomo. But when I met up with my client, they were running water at Table Rock Dam, but the Norfork had been shut down. Although it took a little bit of driving, it was totally worth the effort to go down to Arkansas and hit the Norfork. My client’s name was Rick, and we had one of those days that we will both remember indefinitely. He caught lots of fish and some real beauties, including a seventeen-inch cutthroat, a seventeen-inch rainbow, couple of browns and a pretty brook trout to complete the Ozark Grand Slam. At one point, we were at the end of a long, deep pool, and Rick made a cast into shallow water that was beyond the deep lane we were trying to fish. His immediate reaction was to pick up the line and make another shorter cast, but I was able to show him that it’s easier and takes much less time to just gently lift the rod and pull the rig out of the shallows and then immediately drop the rod once his strike indicator was back out in the deep slot. Immediately after he lowered the rod and the drift started to unfold is when the big cutthroat of the day hit…if he had made another cast, he never would have caught that trophy, and it just goes to show how important it is to do whatever it takes to keep your line in the water. In fact, I’ve never seen one fish ever caught while casting. If you get a chance to fish the Norfork, the river is on fire, and there seems to be an abundance of cutthroats in the catch and release area. The next few weeks are possibly going to offer up the best wade fishing of the year on that river, especially if it continues to rain every four or five days and the lakes keep creeping up.
Here's what Rick had to say;
I recently fished with Jeremy Hunt on the Norfork River in Arkansas. I have used several guides, over the years, and Jeremy his hands down the best! My guided experience was one of the best days of fly fishing I have ever had! Jeremy put me onto a Norfork grand slam. In addition to catching close to 50 fish, we caught quality cutthroat’s browns and rainbows. Jeremy helped to supplement my repertoire with the Miracle Fly. This fly caught several of the bigger fish for the day. The Miracle Fly has a great sink rate that triggers many strikes on the fall, so be ready once it hits the water for some quick action. Another great feature about the Miracle Fly is that it doesn’t snag much, so you don’t lose many of these great flies.
I also learned a few important lessons on this latest slew of guide trips. First of all, it is always worth it to go where the water conditions are the best. This may seem obvious, but keep in mind that I live over an hour from the White and the Norfork, but Taneycomo is in my backyard. It would be easy to settle with staying close to home, but I want to do right by my clients at any cost, even if it means doing quite a bit of extra work. There are no shortcuts when it comes to fly fishing, and success will come to those who pay attention to the big and small details. It’s easy to cut corners, but that is usually when a large trout is lost or a great day is missed out on. I will never change my philosophy regarding meticulous planning, and I promise that no matter how the fish are biting, those who choose to go on a guide trip with me (or a member of my guide team) will have fun and be a better fly angler at the end of the day than they were when the day started.
***I am currently selling customized, hand-weighted hooks for tying the Miracle Fly. For those that are new here, check out this article for an introduction into how this phenomenon really got started. Then, go to the order page for information on buying the hooks or the finished flies. The Miracle Fly is a great pattern that will catch trout of all sizes on any type of water. It really doesn’t matter what level of fly angler you are – it is worth carrying this pattern with you wherever you are fishing because it can make or save the day.
Updated Report for 3-22-11
As the lakes start to creep up, water flows are becoming inconsistent on the rivers
What a wild last two weeks it has been on the White River, Lake Taneycomo and the Norfork Tailwater. Between driving back and forth from Branson to northern Arkansas for guide trips, while getting ready for my Sow Bug Roundup streamer presentation, I haven’t had much time to just relax…and I’m still producing commercial fly orders by the 1000’s. This is what being a guide is about, and in no way am I complaining. I love the busy season in the Ozarks, and compared to fisheries out East and out West, where they may really only have a three-month peak, we have good, clear water to fish almost every day of the year. That is one of the most unique attributes of these tailwaters, and because water levels vary so much from day to day and year to year, there is always something new to learn. Once an angler thinks that they know it all with respect to the sport of fly fishing, it’s time to hang up the waders and find something else to do; the constant learning and adaptations that accompany fishing any river, lake or stream are what being on the water is all about.
Although we haven’t had a lot of rain this month, the area has seen enough precipitation to cause the lakes to come up several feet - Bull Shoals, Table Rock and Norfork Reservoirs are still around four to five feet below power pool levels, but that can change in a heartbeat. With several notoriously wet months ahead of us, the Corp of Engineers is in a position where they can run water when there is electrical demand, and this March has been no different than any other March in the past where the water runs all day at one of the dams. But flow levels have not been excessively high during periods of generation. This year, releases have primarily toggled between Table Rock and Bull Shoals Dams. There have been several extended periods of low water below at each of these tailwaters where the water stayed low for days on end, but like usual, we expect the unexpected. Conversely, very little water has been let through Norfork Dam this month, so there has always been a place for those who are restricted to wading to go and wet a fly.
During periods of low water, the fishing has been outstanding anywhere on the White and below the upper boat ramp on Lake Taneycomo. There are not too many times during the year where it is possible to simply suspend a nymph below a strike indicator and catch one after another, but this is how I would describe the fishing when the water has been off during the first three weeks of this month. Of course, when you start getting into high numbers of fish, it seems like the amount of big ones that are encountered takes a nose dive, but this is to be expected, as high-water is when the most lunkers are normally hooked. This is reflected in the pictures I have put up; all the browns were caught on running water on the White (except for the one the youngster is holding up – that came out of Dry Run Creek after my presentation at the Sow Bug Roundup), and the chunky rainbow was landed on Lake Taneycomo when we were doing some wading with one generator running. Still, the low-water days were an absolute blast, and when my clients literally catch respectable trout until their arms are sore, it makes you forget about all of those tough days when the fish had lockjaw.
On Monday (yesterday), when I put the boat in at Wildcat Shoals, the water started coming up almost immediately. The Southwest Power Administration forecast, which is known for being inaccurate, gave the impression that one or two units were going to be operating, so this rise was not a big surprise. But when flows crested at the four-unit level, I wasn’t sure exactly what was going to happen. By the time we got rigged and headed downstream, the river was running a ‘nice’ shade of brown – this is not normally what you want. But in typical, enigmatic White River fashion, the browns were extremely aggressive, and we caught four that ranged from 20 to 24-inches, including a good one in the first twenty minutes, which started the day off right. Since the water had been low for four straight days prior to this point, the browns most likely had been lounging in the deep holes and did not feed a lot. Then, when the water came up, these predators turned on and became aggressive. Many fly fishermen think that black flies are the way to go in dark water, but we nailed all those big brown trout on Bucktail Rainbow Streamers.
After our White River float, I decided to take my clients over to the Norfork. We fished the upper end for a couple hours while the river was low and then the water started coming up around 5pm. The flow was extremely trashy because so many people had been wading over there for weeks on end, but just like on the White, this dynamic caused the bigger fish to start feeding, and we caught another trophy brown. All in all, it was a great day, but I am a bit concerned by the amount of didymo that was floating down the White. This invasive species of algae can form mats on the river bottom that suffocate aquatic insects, and didymo negatively affected the growth rates on the White River’s rainbow trout population several years ago. Long periods of really high water seem to flush it out, but I just hope that this isn’t a negative trend. Like always, I want to paint a realistic picture of the fisheries I work and play on. There are ways to avoid or minimize how didymo affects the fishing on any given day, and I will keep everyone updated on the situation. So far, there has been no didymo seen on Lake Taneycomo, and there is almost none on the Norfork. In order to keep it this way, anglers need to wash their waders whenever they switch from one fishery to another, and there are new, non-felt wading boots available that are designed to inhibit the transport of this nasty stuff. Everyone can make a difference when it comes to curtailing the spread of didymo.
I want to thank all the people who have bought one of my fly kits lately, and I also appreciate the large turnout for my streamer presentation at the Sow Bug Roundup – it was encouraging to speak to a standing-room only crowd. If you were not able to make it this year, there is a link below to the entire presentation (entitled “Part 2”. “Part “1” includes excerpts from last year’s event). From a fishing perspective, look for the action to continue as long as there are no big rains across the region. The bite is on, and late March through April offer up some very good opportunities to catch a lot of fish and big fish; in many ways, April is the perfect month to fish the White River Basin because of the mild weather and active trout. Please feel free to call or email me if you have any further questions.
Ozark reservoirs are rising slightly, but river fishing on low water is still excellent
Even though there have been some moderate rains across the region since the last report, all of the lakes in the White River System are still below power pool, and the fly fishing remains fantastic on the White River, the Norfork Tailwater and Lake Taneycomo. Some water has been running on the White, but not very hard (one or two-unit levels), but below Table Rock and Norfork Dams, the releases have minimal almost all day, every day, with the occasional spurt of “fish water” that lasts just a few hours in the early morning or evening hours. Anglers have plenty of choices when it comes to finding good spots to wade, although the wind direction is playing a major role in the quality of the fishing.
A good example of how blustery winds can affect the quality of the fishing occurred last week when I took a small crew of writers and photographers from Eastern Fly Fishing Magazine out on upper Taneycomo. This bi-monthly publication does a feature article in each issue, and several of these pieces are going to focus on fisheries in the Ozarks. Usually when the cameras are rolling, it puts a lot of added pressure on a guide, and the fish get lockjaw, but lucky for me, Taneycomo fished very well that day despite the strong upstream winds. Because this tailwater is technically a lake with a smaller dam (Powersite) some 22-miles downstream of Table Rock Dam, there are long stretches of water, even in the trophy area, that are extremely slow with respect to current. That current dies when the wind blows upstream towards Table Rock Dam, so fishermen must either seek out the areas where there is some moving water, or they must exercise patience when using a nymph in spots where the current slacks off. We fished both type of scenarios, and as long as a fly was kept suspended in the water, the wind chop on the surface gave an irresistible action to the pattern that would result in a bite on virtually every cast; we actually did best in the afternoon fishing some extremely slow water. There were some good pictures taken and video footage shot, and I am looking forward to seeing what the finished product looks like both visually and in print.
Several guys I fished with about a week and a half ago are coming back for another round this upcoming weekend. These were the fishermen that caught trout until their arms were sore on the White River at Rim Shoals, and they obviously recognize that when fishing is out of this world on these rivers, you have to take advantage because the dynamics can change quickly. It is always nice to be on the water a lot when the bite is on, and as long as the lakes don’t start coming up radically, the trend of a good morning bite and slaying fish in the afternoon will continue. You may recall from the previous report, when I took these last guys out last time, we prospered because the wind was blowing upstream (even though that direction of wind makes for ‘awkward’ conditions on Lake Taneycomo), and this just goes to illustrate how wind direction plays such a major role when the water is low.
Most of the fishing I’ve been a part of over the last two weeks has been on Taneycomo, and it is on fire right now. Tungsten beaded Zebra Midges are all you need if the water is low, but any number of weighted nymphs will work. The same flies will produce in Arkansas, as well, and we are getting closer to the time when bugs will start hatching down there, so don’t be afraid to try subsurface imitations of traditional spring insects. Reports are that the fishing on the White and Norfork is also smoking, so we are truly in a rare period when all the rivers I guide and fish on are in prime shape. Many of the fish we are catching are of respectable size, with the occasional trophy; and I’ve been spotting some pigs when fishing out of the drift boat, so there is no doubt that there are world-class fish still in these tailwater fisheries.
Special Guest Tier for This Week’s Class
As many of you may know, we are extending the fly tying classes at Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery below Table Rock Dam throughout the spring and summer. The upcoming class is on Saturday, March 12th from 2pm to 4pm. White River legend Tom Rogers (of TNT fly fishing in Cotter, Arkansas) will be the special guest, and you don’t want to miss out on learning from this extremely creative fly tier who is known for focusing on creating very realistic patterns that are also somewhat easy to tie. I know there will be plenty of stories told, and you won’t want to miss out on meeting such a character and learning the savvy tricks of such a passionate fly angler with over 20 years of White River Basin experience.
Updated Report for 2/22/11
Low water and windy conditions make for some awesome fishing on the White
A few days ago, I took a couple of my regulars out to fish on the White River at Rim Shoals. The water was dead low after over 24 hours of no generation at Bull Shoals Dam, and by the time we got to the ramp, the wind was blowing HARD out of the south.
We rigged up and got out on the water as quickly as possible. Since the wind was blowing upstream, I did not have to do much rowing to get up near the shoal at Jenkin’s Creek. We meticulously worked our way downstream, fishing out of the drift boat, and we were picking up quite a few rainbows on pretty much any nymphs we drifted below an indicator. There was no point in fishing the moving water areas during the middle of the day because they were packed, but by moving away from the masses, we were able to basically have hundreds upon hundreds of yards of prime water to ourselves.
After hammering fish just above the middle island, I snuck around the backside; rowing my hardest just to get downstream into an area that sees very little in the way of pressure because it is difficult to access on foot or with a heavy river boat. Throughout the rest of the afternoon, we caught as many fish as we cared to catch, and I know we were approaching triple-digits by the time we called it a day. We did get out and wade in a few of my favorite spots, but primarily, we used the drift boat to meticulously work every deep hole and cover as much water as possible. The guys I took out had fished with a different guide near Gaston’s Resort the day before, and although they worked harder with me, their productivity was two-fold at Rim Shoals – it always pays to get away from what the status quo is doing and stick with the patterns, spots and techniques that you know will produce fish based on the conditions at hand.
By the end of the day, we were all pretty exhausted from battling winds that were frequently gusting over 30 miles per hour, but the fishing couldn’t have been any better. The entire White River is full of chunky rainbows, and there are good browns everywhere, as well. Although it would have been nice if the winds were a bit more relaxed, it just goes to show how excellent the fishing can be when the water is low and the wind is blowing upstream. The wind-chop creates cover for the trout, so they almost always are actively cruising in search of food when conditions are like this. If the wind had been coming from the north, it would have affected where and how I fished, as the current would have been much faster. There are so many little tricks that one learns from spending years on the same stretches of water, and this is why hiring a guide pays off with respect to learning how to approach any fishery in the country based on the conditions and the type of water you are fishing. A lot of guys avoid the long, slow pools like a plague, but these are the areas to be when it’s windy; plus, most of the big fish will hang out in the deeper cuts when the river is dead low.
The fishing is amazing right now, and March is typically a better month than February, especially for larger browns. It will be windy most days, but as you can tell, that is a good thing if the water is low. The Norfork is also fishing well, and because that river is smaller and more protected than the White, it often offers a respite on days when the winds are absolutely brutal.
Some final points…
* I will be putting on an extensive streamer presentation at this year’s Sow Bug Round up on Saturday morning (March 19th). This annual event held in Mountain Home, Arkansas is like a small fly fishing convention, and it is a great chance to learn more about the sport, try all the latest gear and equipment, and to meet many of the sport’s luminaries.
Be sure to stop by and check out as many presentations as you can before hitting the water, and if the lakes stay low, both rivers should be perfect for wading during the entire event. My seminar is called “Streamer Fishing for Big Fish”, and it is designed to quickly help interested anglers become proficient at all the different ways that streamers can be fished, along with basic explanations on how to tie some of my most effective patterns.
For more information on the Sow Bug Round, check out their complete Web site at:
* There is still time to sign up for the on-stream skills workshop on March 12th , which is a full day of learning as much about fly fishing the Ozarks as possible. To check out more about what this value-oriented day is all about, please click this link.
* I will also be hosting one class a month during the prime time season of my guiding schedule because these classes are getting some great response so I feel it is important to keep them going all year. The classes are held at Shepherd of the Hills trout hatchery from 2pm to 4pm on Saturdays only. March 12th is our next class for the month of March, and it will be tied in to the on-stream skills workshop, as well.
Newsletter for Feb/March is out on the site. The full version is being sent out tonight for subscribers only. Enjoy!!
* Please give me a call or drop me an email if you need any more information about any of these fun, upcoming learning opportunities or if you have any detailed questions.
Updated Report for 2/17/11
Playing the numbers game on Lake Taneycomo, an important meeting regarding potential didymo problem in the Ozarks and an exciting new fly fishing opportunity in Missouri through Flys and Guides
Culling through ‘Federally’ stocked rainbows on Lake Taneycomo
Those who have fly fished on upper Lake Taneycomo have dealt with this ‘nuisance’ below Table Rock Dam for many years: the influx of small stocker rainbow trout that are periodically stocked on the tailwater from the Federal hatchery in Neosho, Missouri. There eight to 12-inch fish seem to be put into the river by the thousands several times annually, and the fact that the Federal stockers ‘bows don’t fight hard, lack color and have a tendency to ‘steal’ flies away from the bigger trout can make the fishing experience on Taneycomo somewhat annoying for everyone who is used to catching the chunky, uniquely-colored and exceptionally strong fish that are the ‘norm’ for most of the year. Unfortunately, the upper section has become inundated with these cookie-cutter stockers of late, as we recently found out on a guide trip last weekend.
It may come off as being spoiled to complain about days where my clients get a bite on virtually every drift, and in reality, such an experience can be a real confidence builder for those new to the sport, but for those anglers who have grown accustomed to the fantastic fly fishing on Lake Taneycomo, catching one stocker after another can end up being a bit of a letdown. Luckily for my customers that I had out last week, they did get into a few really nice rainbows in the 18-inch range, and we did end up having a wonderful day on the water. But I did want to forewarn the people planning on a trip down to Branson to take advantage of the daily low water that these small stockers are virtually everywhere. The best way to target the bigger trout that are around is to use large streamers and gaudy dry flies, as playing the ‘numbers game’ gets old when the sheer amounts of freshly stocked trout are so high.
I’m sure a lot of you are wondering why a river that is always loaded with tons of fish would need any more, and the answer to this question is somewhat complicated. Before the slot-limit was implemented on the upper three miles of the tailwater, Taneycomo was known for being a small rainbow ‘factory’, and the practice of dumping Federally-raised fish from the facility in Neosho has been going on for years to ensure a prolific put-and-take fishery. The trout that come from the state-run Shepherd of the Hills hatchery below Table Rock Dam are stocked at larger sizes; so large, that anglers wishing to take a few rainbows under twelve inches home to eat often have a hard time finding any that small. So, the Federal stocking program serves both an outdated and functional purpose, and there are some upsides to this practice. First off, this abundance of small rainbows act as a forage base for Taneycomo’s big browns, and this is one main reason that the brown trout grow so big so quickly. Another plus for the Federal rainbows is that they also grow fast because of all the scuds and sow bugs, and this makes Taneycomo one of the least likely places to get skunked in the world of trout fishing. On the downside, having so many fish in the river can put a strain on the habitat, but I am not a biologist, so I don’t know how much of a role this plays in the growth of the state-stocked browns and rainbows.
Usually, these periods of excessively small fish are only noticeable for several weeks to a month, depending on if the water is high or low and how much harvest is taking places. Regardless, the action is pretty intense right now, and I will keep my readers updated on the situation. We have started to see extended periods of low water, and this trend should continue with all the mild weather we are experiencing. If you like to wade pleasant days and catch loads of fish, the angling is hard to beat, and there are still plenty of big rainbows around to keep things interesting.
Learn about the negative impacts of didymo at a Missouri Department of Conservation open house
With more and more people travelling to fly fish different destinations, didymo is starting to become a serious problem on trout fisheries around the world. Didymo is an invasive form of algae that has the endearing nickname of “rock snot”. This is because it is a very slick substance that can literally suffocate the natural habitat of a river or lake and severely stifles the growth of underwater insects and other subsurface life forms. There is a long-running debate regarding how didymo is spread, but many biologists believe that it clings to waders, felt-soled wading boots and other gear that gets in contact with the water. Since this growth is harder to kill than a cockroach, it is imperative that anglers clean their gear before moving from one fishery to another.
Long stints of high water seem to help at eradicating didymo, but as soon the water slows and warms, it often comes back. In the mid 2000s, the Bull Shoals Tailwater became inundated with didymo, especially right below the dam. Although trout populations did not seem to decline, growth rates were negatively affected, most likely as a result of the dwindling numbers of scuds and sow bugs that were suffocated by huge mats of didymo – these food sources are what enable White River Basin trout to grow so fat. Midges seemed to fair pretty well, but over a three year period, catching a really big fish near the dam became a rarity. Several years of high water flushed the didymo out temporarily, but with this year’s impending low water, there is concern.
The Missouri Department of Conservation is holding several open houses in March and April to talk about the didymo issue, and all anglers who care about the future of our trout fisheries are encouraged to attend, if possible. Possible gear restrictions and other solutions will be discussed. If you cannot make it to one of these meetings, be sure to click this link to see the letter I received regarding this threat.
Flys and Guides is now offering hosted guide trips on the North Fork of the White River
I have had the opportunity to spend the last three days floating several different sections of the North Fork of the White River near Tecumseh, Missouri. This river offers the longest free-flowing stretch of trout habitat in the state, and it gives anglers the opportunity to see what the White River Basin Tailwaters looked like before the dams were built. At one point in time, the North Fork of the White was considered one of the premiere trout streams in the country, and it is still a magnificent fishery that receives very little in the way of fishing pressure.
The North Fork of the White is actually the headwaters of Norfork Lake and the Norfork Tailwater, and many of the river’s trout are wild – rainbows have not been stocked in years. It is possible to wade certain stretches, but the best way to experience this river is to drift fish while occasionally getting out at certain spots. Many anglers feel that the North Fork of the White fishes much more like a Western stream than its tailwater cousins, and water levels are only affected by runoff and spring influences. On our recent trip, we saw no other anglers, several bald eagles and we hooked into 18 inch (plus) rainbows and browns each day. It can be a challenging place to fly fish, at times, but the natural beauty and serenity of the surroundings make this river an extremely worthwhile fly fishing experience.
Over the next few weeks, I will be putting together two and three day package deals that include a day on the North Fork of the White River. The Bull Shoals Tailwater (White River) and Norfork Tailwater are less than an hour away, and there are several other trout streams within close proximity to the North Fork of the White. We will be staying at the lovely Dawt Mill Lodge, where they are known for their hearty breakfasts, comfortable riverfront accommodations and gourmet dinners. In the evenings, I will put on small presentations or fly tying classes after we enjoy a meal in a one of a kind setting. My favorite float on the North Fork of the White offers 14 miles of classic riffles, ‘diamond-chop’ runs and deep holes that hold browns upwards of 10 pounds. This takeout is right at the lodge, which makes for a convenient end to a day on a sparkling clear river.
Prices have not been firmed up yet, but feel free to give me a call for an estimate, and keep in mind that anglers will play a role in deciding each day’s itinerary. Utilizing Dawt Mill as our lodging headquarters gives us endless angling opportunities to the best trout water in the Ozarks, and there are even chances to chase after smallmouth and largemouth bass.
The Fly tying meeting at Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery is the Saturday, February 19th 2011
Spring is in the Air…Well, Almost
Start out the year with Taneycomo Trout’s on-stream workshop
The weather in the Ozarks has been frightful for the last three weeks, which has forced me inside to tie flies, but spring is definitely on its way. In facts, temperatures next week are predicted to be in the 60’s, and we usually see days warmer than that in February. To start the season off, we are going to be offering an on-stream workshop on Lake Taneycomo (click on the link for detailed information). We can accommodate up to twenty anglers, and this is a great chance to get on the water with [two] professional guides who are there to show everyone the “tricks of the trade” when it comes to catching trout on any of the Ozark tailwater trout fisheries.
This will be the only on-stream workshop in 2011, so be sure to reserve your spot early. The event will be held on March 12th, which is a Saturday. So, why not plan a perfect fly fishing weekend by applying all that you have learned on Saturday by fishing on your own on Sunday? We are expecting much lower water this year, and there is a back-up plan in place if the water is running unexpectedly on the 12th. The cost is just $60 per person, and newsletter subscribers will receive $10 off. Lunch is [not] included.
We hope to see everyone come out for this one of a kind opportunity, and please feel free to contact Jeremy Hunt for further details at (417) 294-0759. Also, look for an updated report to be posted in a few days, and a February newsletter is in the works. If you haven’t signed up for this monthly periodical, now is the perfect time; subscribers receive special offers and exclusive content.
One more thing to mention, if you are a streamer junkie, Jeremy will be holding another streamer clinic at this years Sowbug Round-up on Saturday morning starting at 9:30 am. Click here to find out the schedule and other details that will be at this years Sowbug Round-up. You don;t want to miss out on this!!
Updated Report for 1-18-11 It pays to be versatile when fishing the White River right now
I know it’s been a little while since my last report, and I do want to apologize to my readers and remind everyone that you are free to drop me a line if you need current fishing information at any time. My guiding schedule has been busier than normal for January and this is the primary reason for my lapse in reporting, but when the fishing is as hot as it is right now, coupled with so many dry days with above-average temperatures, it makes sense that a lot of anglers are making impromptu trips to fish the White River Basin tailwaters – arguably home to the overall best winter trout fisheries in the country.
All of my time recently has been spent on the White River below Bull Shoals Dam, as it’s always difficult to stay away from that place when hooking up with trophy brown trout is a daily occurrence. Water flows have been tricky to predict over the last few weeks, and this has made staying in the best areas a bit of a challenge. On some days, we are seeing heavy flows in the morning followed by a drop to the one to two-unit level in the afternoon, and on other days, releases stay pretty light from dusk until dawn. Also, there have been some extended periods of low water when temperatures are mild, so it’s important that people planning on fishing the White come prepared to wade, drift or do a little bit of both.
Streamer fishing is still the way to go when it comes to targeting large browns, but unlike in December and during the first part of January, water conditions are playing a huge role in the way these fish are reacting. If you can find ‘clearish’ water that is at or near its highest point of the day, you have likely located the right area for working the banks with shad imitations and other patterns that range from two to eight-inches long – using huge and gaudy streamers is the best way to ensure that every bite is going to be a nice trout, but it does take patience and work to fish this way for an entire day. White is still the overall best color for catching numbers of fish, but there have been times when changing things up has paid off big time; like the 24-inch brown a customer caught on a wild-colored, seven-inch articulated streamer on Monday.
Up until about ten days ago, my clients have been exclusively fishing with shooting-heads, heavy rods and big flies, but now that we are seeing more falling and low-water conditions, nymphs have started to really turn on. We are not just catching small trout when nymphing either; some very nice browns and rainbows are aggressively taking scuds, sow bugs and a myriad of other sub-surface flies drifted near the river bottom in riffles and in the deep, slow holes. Midges are also working well when flows are minimal in areas where the river has virtually no current. If you see fish rising in flat water, Zebra and V-Rib midge patterns tied with tungsten beads are producing one bite after another – just be sure to approach such spots with care, as these trout are easily spooked.
Fishing will likely continue to be consistently good for at least another month, unless something drastic like flooding or a prolonged draught seriously affect river dynamics; as long as the Corp does not leave the water low for days on end or start running six to eight-units around the clock, expect “brown trout madness” to occur at some point virtually every day. With such a nice mix of wading and drifting water, each of the tailwaters I frequently fish are offering up something for anglers of all types. Please feel free to give me a call if you are interested in discussing the best spots for fishing based on the type of action you are looking for. The White River Basin trout fisheries are known for testing the versatility of fly fisherman of many different skill levels, and do not be afraid to move around in search of areas that “fit your fancy”. It’s hard to remember a time when twenty-inch (and bigger) browns were being caught almost every time we’ve tried for them, and this upswing in the trophy fishing is most like related to the new brown trout regulations implemented just over two years ago. Considering how quickly the fish grow on the White River and the Norfork Tailwater (and to a similar degree on Lake Taneycomo) due to the prolific, nutrient-rich habitat, the best trophy fishing is most likely still years down the road – considering how good things are shaping up already, we could see a return to the hey-day fishing of the distant past when twenty to thirty-inch browns barely batted an eye. This prospect gets me excited every time I think about what the future holds.
***My fly tying classes at Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery (below Table Rock Dam) have been extremely popular of late – there were over twenty participants at the last get-together. This is the most tiers we’ve ever had show up for a single event. Everyone is learning, swapping fish stories, sharing information and generally having a great time, so if you are in the Branson area when next class is being held (see below), be sure to stop by… if you can pull yourself away from the fishing for a few hours. The next fly tying class will take place on Saturday, January 22nd, from 2pm through 4pm. Please contact me for further details, if needed.
Updated Report for 12-26-10 HOT brown trout action continues on the White
I hope that everyone has had a great holiday season so far, and it has been nice to spend time relaxing over this last weekend with my family and friends. Last Wednesday and Thursday I had the chance to guide a great guy named Dan from central Michigan in Arkansas. Because I only had one client in the boat, I also invited my friend and longtime White River guide, Tom Rogers, along for the trip. Although these two days on the water would eventually turn out to be some of the finest brown trout fishing I have ever witnessed on any of the Ozak coldwater rivers, it didn’t start out this way…
When Tom and I picked up Dan that first morning, I explained the options on the table: either fish the White for big brown trout, or go to the Norfork where we would likely catch lots of fish with the possibility of finding a lunker. Because many of my clients have caught plenty of small to medium-sized trout before, their usual answer is to go for the larger fish, but I make sure to explain that it will take plenty of work and perseverance in order to realize success. Dan was up for the challenge, so we put in at Wildcat Shoals Access with plans to float down to Cotter. Because Bull Shoals Dam had released light amounts of water over the entire previous night, I figured that the morning surge would just bring the flow up a few feet for a couple of hours, but since you never know what the water is going to look like on these rivers until you get to the ramp, I was a bit apprehensive. It turned out that my worries were well-founded.
Even though the river looked perfect from the bank, as we pushed off, I noticed that the water was actually quite trashy as a result of the morning increase in power generation. Had I made a mistake in putting in at Wildcat? Only time would tell, but I can say that the constantly changing dynamics of the White River System will always cause guides to second guess themselves. For the first hour of the float I was a nervous wreck, but at least we were able to somewhat adapt to the situation by focusing on the slower seams along the banks, and we did catch a few smaller browns to keep things interesting. Because we were using streamers and shooting-heads, constantly getting ‘river-junk’ on the fly was not as big a deal as it would have been had we been nymphing, but it was still annoying, none the less. Around 1pm, the flow started to clean up, and the action turned on in a major way. Both anglers were hooking into or catching browns consistently, and many of these fish were pushing 18 to 20 inches. We ended up doing the float from Wildcat to Cotter twice that day, and the experience was one I won’t soon forget. Over 20 brown trout (and not one rainbow) were landed, and despite the fact that the water was a tad murky for the entire day, it was obvious that the browns are feeding heavily right now as they put on the weight they lost during the spawn. Also, the fact that we are rarely catching rainbows could be a sign of the “new norm” on the White, which is likely a result of the minimum-size restrictions on browns implemented at the beginning of 2009. Look for an article covering this subject in the next few weeks that discusses in detail how these new rules are enhancing a fishery that was in need of some help.
Needless to say, a day of pounding the banks with shooting-heads and eight-weight rods is exhausting, especially if you are not used to fishing this way, so on the second morning, Dan was interested in possibly getting in on some more relaxing fishing with lighter gear. I’m the type of guide who always takes my client’s requests to heart, but I had to stress that you never know when another big-fish opportunity like this will present itself again on the White, so I told him that if he is truly after a trophy brown trout, our chances of making that goal a reality are far greater on the White than they are on the Norfork – plus, I reminded Dan that his sore arm will heal. That was all it took to make our decision regarding where to go, and the plan was to put in at Wildcat and float to Rim Shoals.
Unlike the day before, the water was crystal-clear and it was sunny. I was interested to see how these different conditions would affect the fishing. As it turned out, the bite was even better, and this just goes to show that when the fish are aggressively feeding, it doesn’t really matter how high (or low) the water is and what the weather is like. Of course, once these browns get their fill – which could take months – the dynamics of each individual day will start to play a bigger role with respect to how the fish are going to react. After the scare of the previous morning, I was far more relaxed on this day, and Dan ended up landing a 24-inch brown within the first hour and a half. Talk about taking the pressure off; even if we didn’t get another bite, the experience was already a big time success. After releasing that beauty, the fishing was very similar to the day before with steady action on browns of all sizes using streamers, although we did actually get into a few rainbows. The trick to effective streamer fishing is to have your fly land within inches of the bank, as this is where the greatest number of accessible big fish are holding right now.
Those two days on the White River just before Christmas will always be etched in the memory of Dan, Tom and I. In my modest estimation, over 50 browns were landed between the two anglers, and we had scores of other chances. Not all of the trout we caught were big, but many were, and there was the ever-present feeling that a monster could be hooked at any moment. Winter is truly a special time in the Ozarks, and the fishing for browns seems to get better each day that I am out on the White. Truthfully, this could just be the start of an epic season because if some shad really start coming through the dam, every huge fish in the river is fair game, and hitting the shad kill just right is like nothing else in the world of fly fishing. January should be amazing as long as the water keeps running on the White, and even though throwing big streamers is not for everyone, it is the best method that I have found for regularly finding and hooking big fish because you are able to cover far more water than is possible with a nymph, and most dinky trout won’t go after large flies. Once the word gets out about the number of nice browns that my clients (and friends) are catching, my schedule will likely get busier, so now is the time to think about booking a trip if you are at all interested in the incredibly enjoyable and unique fishing that is happening right now.
***Please feel free to give me a call or send off an email for any questions regarding the specifics of winter fly fishing in the Ozarks. Also, keep in mind that any of our promotions that we currently have running (scroll down this page to see all the deals) can be booked at the current rates with no time restrictions, as long as you make your reservations by the end of December, 2010…act now to take advantage of these rare price breaks.
December 21, 2010
Cloudy days and no pressure make for some great fishing on the White
I had an opportunity to get off the vise for a day and do some fishing down on the White River in Arkansas. We got a late start and didn’t get on the water until just after noon, but we made up for our tardiness by catching one brown trout after another – in fact, browns were all we hooked. It was one of those days where you “should have been here today”, and we only saw two other boats the whole time we were fishing. The overall lack of pressure most likely contributed to why we did so well. The majority of fish we caught were less than twenty inches, but we did manage to bring one into the net that did eclipse that benchmark size. The guys I was with definitely had plenty of chances on large browns, but when you are learning the streamer game, missing fish is all part of the process. Poor hook sets or when someone is not anticipating a strike almost always result in losing out on the fish of a lifetime. The positive aspect of going through the paces is when you have a day when anglers have multiple chances of hooking up with nice trout, the odds of someone realizing success increase substantially – especially when fishing complicated techniques involving articulated streamers. I know we had some really nice browns on throughout the day, but a lot of things need to go right before these fish are actually landed. That’s why they call it “fishing” and not “catching”.
We were actually planning on fishing the Norfork, but once I told my friends what the real options were: either having a chance at catching several huge browns on the White or playing the “numbers game” with the hopes of finding something large on the ‘Fork, their reply was, “We have caught tons of dinks through the years, but we haven’t had too many chances at trophy browns.” Plus, the fact that this was going to be their first time fishing down in Arkansas, they were eager to try the legendary White River as their inaugural experience. The water was perfect for streamers, and we couldn’t have timed our arrival any better. Bull Shoals was generating roughly 100 megawatts, which equates to flows in the 5,000-6,000 cubic feet per second range. These are ideal conditions for stacks of browns to hold close along the banks.
There was a big learning curve for both of my companions, and it did take them some time to grasp how to effectively cast eight and nine-weight rods with big streamers attached, but by the end of the day, they both were appreciative of their “baptism by fire”, and they were also happy that I was unrelenting in challenging them to succeed at a completely different type of fly fishing. Phil and Brody are both avid fly fisherman that like to fish Taneycomo at night, and they are used to throwing six-weight rods with big, single Wooly Buggers – their experience fishing ‘light’ streamer setups in Missouri helped immensely because they both understood how important it is to load the rod correctly – this made it possible for them to quickly start hitting the right spots using lines with shooting heads. Of course, this was a change that took some getting used to, but at least they knew the mechanics of distance-casting before we got started. Casting a floating line with a single fly is fine for low-water conditions, but shooting-heads are designed to spread out the weight of the fly and incorporate it into the head – this helps balance out the pattern from just the weight of a heavy streamer pattern and also aids in keeping the fly down in moving water.
The highlight of the trip was seeing Phil hook into his first brown over twenty-inches on an articulated fly he would have never thought to use in a million years. His biggest brown ever (10 pounds) was caught at Taneycomo fishing at night, but this was his only experience so far that involved hooking large browns during the day, and he was thrilled to have multiple chances at catching nice fish, many of which he could see chasing the fly. After the trip was over, he was already talking about getting back down to the White on his next day off. Brody did struggle a bit more with the casting, but he was still able to land a few browns, but the most important aspect of this trip for him was improving on his overall casting skills. This will pay off big time in the long run. One last thing that I want to emphasize is that it is always important to challenge yourself by trying different techniques and fisheries, and it never hurts to step away from the ‘norm’. This was exactly what my friends needed in order to start their progression and take the next step of advancement in the sport of fly fishing… I’m glad I had the privilege of showing them what it takes to make this happen.
I wanted to take this opportunity to wish everyone a festive holiday season and a happy New Year. This picture is of my beautiful family, and they are the reason that I work so hard as a guide and commercial fly tier. May you all be blessed in 2011.
Non-expiring gift certificate deal
Hopefully, many of you have come across my recent promotions in the newsletter and right here on the reports page. If any of you are like me, you tend to wait to the last minute to try and come up with the perfect gift, but I may have a solution that could save the day. My proposition is this: even though all of my current promos expire at the end of January, if you order a gift certificate before the month of December is over, the discounted rate will be good indefinitely until it is redeemed. If you know anybody who has expressed an interest in learning how to fly fish, a guided trip(s) is the best present one could give. All current promotions are listed below.
- Veterans and subscriber promo
Veteran’s Special: A full-day of guided fly fishing on whichever river is offering up the best fly fishing for $150 (Taneycomo) and $175 (Arkansas). There is no limit on the number of days that can be booked, and only one member of the party needs to be a war veteran.
- Newsletter pro that is also in the newsletter Promo #1: Three days of guided fly fishing on the White River, the Norfork Tailwater or on Lake Taneycomo (depending on where the best fishing is) for the price of two days. This is a savings of $350.*
Promo #2: Two days of guided fly fishing on the White River, the Norfork Tailwater or on Lake Taneycomo (depending on where the best fishing is) for the price of $500. This is a savings of $200.
***Please feel free to give me a call if you want to discuss this deal in further detail.
Free fly offer for joining the newsletter
It has come to my attention that there are many of you out there who have not received your complimentary fly for signing up for the newsletter. I apologize for not being clearer, but after you sign up, you must send me a brief email with your address so I know where to send the pattern to. Also, there are times when emails end up in my Spam folder or get lost during the busy season, so if you have signed up and not received your fly after emailing me, please send me another note with your mailing address at: email@example.com. This is my direct business email, so I will likely receive your request. Also, use this email if you are just now signing up for the newsletter to gain full access to special content and member promotions.
Tying 5600 flies will sure hurt your eyes
It’s been quite a strain getting fly orders completed, but I’m moving along rather expediently and at least tying is something I enjoy doing. The worst part about shifting into ‘commercial-tier’ mode is that I don’t get out on the water as much as I would like, but considering that Table Rock and Bull Shoals Dams are releasing heavy amounts of water pretty much day and night, I’m not missing out on a whole bunch considering that boat fishing has been quite chilly after the recent cold-snap. There are some low-water windows on the Norfork during weekends and in the middle of the day, but that’s about it for the wading crowd. It is quite surprising that the Corp of Engineers is running so much water considering that air temperatures across the region are not extremely cold and the lakes (which are all 5 to 6-feet low) are starting to drop pretty quickly. This scenario is setting the stage for plenty of upcoming low water, as long as a bunch of rain doesn’t start consistently falling. Also, the guys who are fishing from boats on the White River, Norfork Tailwater and on Lake Taneycomo are all reporting steady action on some very chunky fish.
Please give me a call or send me an email if you have any further questions regarding my Web site mishap, the gift certificate promotion ‘extension’ or for any other reasons. If you want a break from the snow and ice, come on down and fly fish the Ozarks this winter; everything is coming together perfectly to make this the best cool-weather fishing we have experienced in years.
Updated Report for 12-11-10
Rising oxygen levels have made for excellent fishing on the White River, Norfork Tailwater and Lake Taneycomo
I hope that everyone has had an enjoyable Thanksgiving, and look for reports to be updated more frequently as we make our way through the holiday season and beyond. Table Rock, Bull Shoals and Norfork Lakes started to ‘turn’ several weeks ago which means that the water stored in each of the reservoirs basically flips over. This is a somewhat dynamic process; in just a short period of time, highly-oxygenated water at the top of a lake quickly sinks to the bottom where the flows that feed the rivers originate. Although one would have to be a specialized hydrologist to know exactly how and why this occurrence takes place, the bottom line is that fishing has drastically improved over the last week after about three weeks of a tougher than average bite.
One of the most unique aspects of the White River Basin trout fisheries is that it is possible to catch high numbers of good fish in moderate weather 12 months a year (the average high temperature for Mountain Home, Arkansas is around 44 degrees in January); there is really no other place like it in the world. While most of the quality coldwater angling has pretty much dwindled everywhere else in the country, the Ozarks is just now entering one of its most exciting times of the year. After the lakes have fully turned over, many big fish become ‘energized’ due to the fact that the water quality has improved exponentially, and before long, the possibility of a shad kill will be imminent. This event occurs when millions of threadfin and gizzard shad get sucked through the turbines at the dams which create a feeding frenzy that must be seen to be believed.
Normally, the ‘kill kicks off sometime in late January or early February, but the timing is directly tied in to what air temperatures have been like. Shad will congregate to the ‘warmer’ water at the bottom of the lakes after long spells of frigid weather, and the best shad kill fishing will be during high or falling water. The way it looks for the rest of December and early into 2011, using white streamers will start to heat up a little later than average due to the fact that this fall has been slightly milder than normal. I will keep everyone updated on the shad kill via reports, and feel free to drop me a line if you are interested in discussing this phenomenon in greater depth.
Currently, fishing has been excellent on all of the rivers that I frequent, with standard nymphs providing the steadiest action, and we are starting to see some longer periods of low water on the White and the Norfork; Taneycomo has been a bit tougher when it comes to finding wading conditions, especially during the week, but this is likely to change in the near future. Because the region has been stuck in a high-water cycle for the previous three years, it will be interesting to see how things play out considering that all of the lakes in the system are around five feet below power pool. If there isn’t much in the way of rain over the next few months, expect for low water to be predominant, with the heaviest releases occurring in the early morning and right around dusk. Still, the Corp of Engineers likes to throw us anglers a curve ball now and again, so don’t be surprised if there are some periods where the water runs all day long. Predicting what will happen with regard to flows is an exercise in futility, and it is all about following generation trends, regional air temperatures and reservoir levels. Still, no one is right 100% of the time, but there is a system to figuring out what is likely to happen over the course of several days.
Please check out our calendar of events page for the dates and times of our fly tying classes. Whether you live close to Table Rock Dam and Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery and can attend one (or more) of these functions or if you just want to make it to a class as a part of a Taneycomo fishing trip, we would love to see you stop on by. Also, I am putting together a winter promotion that will be available to everyone…this is my way of saying thanks to all of my readers, as this has been my best guiding year ever on the rivers.
Promo #1: Three days of guided fly fishing on the White River, the Norfork Tailwater or on Lake Taneycomo (depending on where the best fishing is) for the price of two days. This is a savings of $350.*
Promo #2: Two days of guided fly fishing on the White River, the Norfork Tailwater or on Lake Taneycomo (depending on where the best fishing is) for the price of $500. This is a savings of $200.
*Also, at the end of the trips, anglers will have the opportunity to hand-select a dozen flies of their choice (excluding streamer patterns). This promotion will last until the end of January, but it may be extended if there is enough interest.
A lot of people don’t think about fly fishing in the middle of winter, but it is a different story in the Ozarks. Our rivers are loaded with fresh fish, crowds are minimal and perfect wading conditions are available virtually every day. Plus, winter is the season when fly anglers catch the biggest fish because of the ideal water conditions and overall lack of fishing pressure. Please don’t hesitate to let Taneycomo Trout help you make the most of this exciting opportunity.
Updated Report for 11-11-10
Happy Veteran’s Day – Taneycomo Trout and Flys & Guides Recognizes All of Your Heroic Sacrifices
As the Ozarks makes its transition into the cooler months of late fall and winter, all things related to fly fishing are starting to slow down, including my guide schedule. Fishing continues to be good most of the time, and we are just now starting to see some low-water days on Taneycomo and the White River. Releases below Norfork Dam are still inconsistent, with the best shots at extended wading opportunities coming on the weekends. If you are after a chance at a really big brown or rainbow, the next three months are going to be ‘prime time’, but come prepared for chilly mornings and inconsistent flows. Once the lakes turn over in December, a predictable release pattern will start to emerge, with the heaviest water running when the demand for electricity is at its peak – usually in the mornings, evenings and when the region is in the grips of unusually cold weather.
I want to announce a few seasonal changes with respect to how I am going to be posting information on my site. At this time of year, I primarily focus on fly tying – for both use on future guided trips and to supplement my income (orders are coming in by the 1000’s). I will not have the time to post reports as often as I do during the spring, summer and early fall. That said, please feel free to call or email me at any time for the most current trends; I’m always eager to point my readers in the right direction. There will still be occasional fly fishing reports posted for the White River, the Norfork Tailwater and Lake Taneycomo, but most of the comprehensive content will be in the monthly newsletters. There are plenty of openings for guide trips, and keep in mind that the Ozarks is a region that can be quite mild throughout the winter. This makes it possible, especially for those who live relatively close to southwest Missouri and northern Arkansas, to plan last-second excursions based on predicted temperatures and prevailing water conditions. Never hesitate to drop me a line if you get some time and think that you might want to get in on some of the least crowded trophy fishing of the year. Also, I will keep everyone updated on the shad-kill and other events that present unique fly fishing opportunities with respect to catching a lot of big fish.
From now until the beginning of February, I am going to try something a little different by offering several long-running guided trip specials for veterans and newsletter subscribers. I have become quite involved in Project Healing Waters, where guides donate their time taking wounded veterans out on the rivers, and these events have really opened up my eyes to just how much members of our armed forces give us all in order to secure America’s safety and stability. Please click on the link in the previous sentence to learn more about this wonderful way of giving back to those who sacrifice so much. I am also very thankful for those who have become actively involved in my Web site, as my readers are responsible for making 2010 my best year yet as a guide. Below, the special prices for veterans and newsletter subscribers are listed – this is my way of hopefully getting some folks on the water who could not otherwise afford the learning experience of fishing with a professional… or for those just looking for an added incentive to get out on our prolific rivers during the slower months as a cure for cabin fever.
Veteran’s Special: A full-day of guided fly fishing on whichever river is offering up the best fly fishing for $150 (Taneycomo) and $175 (Arkansas). There is no limit on the number of days that can be booked, and only one member of the party needs to be a war veteran.
Newsletter Subscriber Special: A full-day of guided fly fishing on whichever river is offering up the best fly fishing for $200 (Taneycomo) and $250 (Arkansas). Besides having access to exclusive newsletter articles, this is yet another reason to sign up, if you haven’t already – simply enter your email in one of the many spots throughout the site and you are all set.
***Both specials will run until February 1st, and you must make it clear at the time of booking that you are either a veteran or newsletter subscriber in order to get this substantial discount.
And for those of you who forgot… The second of our fall/winter fly tying classes will be held (Friday, November 19th) in the conference area at the Shepherd of the Hills trout hatchery directly below Table Rock Dam. If you can’t make it to this event, please check the site frequently for the dates and times of upcoming classes – they will be held once or twice each month, usually on the weekends.
Updated Report for 10-28-10 A productive day exclusively fishing streamers on the White
I just wanted to post a brief report regarding the day of guiding I had yesterday floating the White River from Bull Shoals Dam to Cotter. My clients were Bill Sergeant and Jim Kelly; frequent Ozark anglers who have fished with virtually every guide on the White over the years. They are also annual visitors and tiers at the fall Conclave in Mountain Home, Arkansas.
Our options for the day were to either wade the Norfork using dry flies and nymphs in an effort to catch numbers of fish with the hopes of finding a big boy or to drift the White on moderately high water (three to four units running) with streamers in search of that one perfect bite. It was their call, and after they saw my streamer talk at the Sow Bug Roundup last March, they were committed to giving this technique a try.
It was cloudy all day, which is definitely a plus when going after browns, and both anglers had multiple shots at fish over 20-inches. Fishing is fishing, and we only got one large female brown trout to the boat, but the action on smaller rainbows and browns kept things fun and interesting. White patterns were definitely the best color, and we stuck with shad-imitations pretty much all day long. The highlight of the float was when Bill landed a beautiful female brown that was well over 20 inches – his biggest trout ever caught on the White or Norfork after multiple tries with other guides and while fishing on his own.
Yesterday was a perfect example of the fact that you don’t have to catch ridiculous numbers of fish or a bunch of trophies to have a great day. We pulled out at Cotter an hour after dark, and although the guys were tired, they were also thrilled with what they had seen and learned. Considering that there will probably be quite a bit of moderately high-water days over the course of November, next month is going to be perfect for those interested in giving streamer fishing a try. Don’t worry if you are not equipped with heavy rods and all the other tackle needed to be successful for throwing big flies; I am more than willing to let my clients use the gear that I have, if necessary.
As always, drop me a line if you have any detailed questions, and I would love to show anyone interested how effective and enjoyable this type of fishing can be. When white streamers are the ticket, anglers have the chance to see almost every strike, so even missing a fish can get the adrenaline flowing. I’m off to fun-fish the White for a few days, so look for a detailed report early next week. This will be a blast, and it’s hard for many people to believe that I would head out for a marathon fishing session after all the guiding I’ve been doing of late. Passion for the sport will do that to a guy like me.
Newsletter is out and Flys and Guides subscribers will get the full version today!!
Updated Report for 10-26-10
Follow-up to yesterday’s report regarding the brown trout run on Lake Taneycomo
This morning I had the opportunity to chat with Clint, the man in charge of Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery below Table Rock Dam. He is the authority when it comes to every aspect of this fishery, and our conversation was enlightening, to say the least. Basically, it is likely that the brown trout spawning run on Taneycomo is over for this year, but there will still be a few stragglers making their way towards their nursery waters, so anglers still have a shot of hooking into a behemoth right below the dam. There is a lot of ‘local’ chatter going around that makes the assertion that the run hasn’t even started yet, but according to observations and statistics accumulated (and analyzed) by hatchery personnel from this year and year’s past, the peak of the spawn was several weeks ago, so the number of browns on the upper end is most probably going to be on the decline. This would explain the fact that most of the fish on redds are gone, and it also confirms what I witnessed yesterday when it appeared that the pods of staging and spawning fish had virtually left the area overnight.
I want to cover a few other interesting tidbits that Clint and I discussed, and hopefully this will put an end to the majority of hearsay and conjecture that is circulating across the Internet and in fly fishing hangouts throughout the Ozark region. First off, 2010 was the first highly successful year for the brown trout spawning run on Lake Taneycomo since 2007. This is could have a little something to do with the trout getting used to utilizing the new fish ladder (installed circa 2006), but the primary reasons for this year’s success is mostly a result of decent amounts of high water, which allows the browns easy access to the fish ladder, coupled with favorable water temperatures in the tailwater. 2008 and 2009 were both incredibly high rainfall years, and when the Corp of Engineers is forced to release heavy flows over consecutive months, the reservoir can literally run out of cold water. During the prior two spawns, water temperatures in the river (and in the hatchery) were over 60-degrees by October; this is way over ideal incubation temperatures of 52-degrees or less. Interestingly, there were periods over the last two years when surface water temperatures on Table Rock Lake were exactly the same as the temperatures where water is drawn through the dam and into the river at the penstock level, which is over 160 feet deep.
Clint also mentioned that over 200 fish have been collected in the ‘pond’ above the fish ladder and very high-quality eggs and ‘milk’ have been collected so far, with more cultivation planned for the immediate future. He said there were plenty of huge fish that made it all the way back to the hatchery this year, and 80 made it up there just this last weekend alone – this explains where many of the pigs went to – here today, gone tomorrow, so to speak. Finally, we both talked about ways to improve returns through possible regulation changes, including simple ideas such as limiting anglers to one fly during the spawn and more radical concepts like closing key spawning areas like the outlets during the peak of the run. These issues will be officially discussed at Missouri Department of Conservation meetings next June, but there is never a bad time for making recommendations directly to the agency or through organizations like Trout Unlimited. Also, feel free to email me any thoughts that you may have. If everyone works together and looks at the big picture, there is a very good chance that some slight sacrifices by fishermen during the spawn could result in the resurrection of year-round trophy fishing like what was enjoyed 10 to 15 years ago. If I find out what type of returns were observed during that time period, I will be sure to let everyone know; my guess is that they were exponentially higher than what we are seeing currently.
The Ultimate ‘Cure’ For Cabin Fever – Fly tying classes will be starting up again next month
A lot of people have been asking about when fly tying classes will be commencing for the late fall and winter, and after working out a bunch of details with John Miller at the hatchery, I finally have a definitive answer. The first class will be on Friday, November 19th between 2pm to 4pm at the hatchery, and this event will be an opportunity for everyone to share some big fish stories, as the meeting will start off with a mini-seminar discussing this year’s brown trout run. We will also tie up some of the most productive patterns, and this will likely be the only meeting of the year where a good percentage of time will be spent discussing fishing and flies in lieu of strictly tying. I know that many folks have to work on most Fridays (myself included), so starting in December, we will try and schedule the classes in the evenings or on the weekends.
The following month, the topic will be “Bull Shoals Tailwater [the White River] tactics, flies and techniques”, and this meeting will be on December 4th from 2pm to 4pm at the hatchery. Due to the popularity of these get-togethers, we will try to have at least two a month. I have also been talking to Phil Lilley about strengthening the Trout Unlimited Chapter here in Branson, and we are kicking around the idea of adding a fly tying component to those monthly meetings to encourage education and so that there is some time for relaxing and socializing after current business is conducted. I will keep everyone updated regarding our progress in this regard, along with posting dates and times for both the fly tying classes and TU meetings.
I’m excited about what I learned today from Clint at the hatchery, and it’s nice that these passionate trout gurus are so accessible and eager to talk about our beloved regional coldwater rivers. All trout fisheries go through their ups and downs, but the future for Lake Taneycomo looks bright, primarily because there is a renewed interest in restoring the upper end back to its “former glory”. Of course, the fishing right now is pretty spectacular, but there is always room for improvement. Tonight, I will be dreaming about the fun and excitement we had in 1998 and the possibility of being privy to that type of quality angling experience again in the near future. With a lot of work (and fun along the way), we will hopefully soon see another peak with big rainbows and browns stacked up literally everywhere below Table Rock Dam.
Updated Report for 10-25-10 Changes on the way with respect to the weather and fish activity
Although I haven’t been fishing Taney a lot through the brown run, I do have quite a few things that I want to share with my readers. First off, I fished for a short time yesterday (Monday) on Taneycomo, primarily to see what type of activity is going on with respect to the brown run. Well, I’m happy to say that there are very few browns hanging out in the shallows between outlets number one and number two. My enthusiasm may be confusing to some of you, but I want everybody to check out the picture below with the hoards of fishermen stacked up in the outflow areas. These are the type of crowds I’ve been talking about, and I would rather that our “unique” strain of Taneycomo brown trout not have to deal with this type of circus for any longer than they have to.
A lot of locals are saying that the brown run is late this year, but considering that there were fish stacked in the upper end just a few weeks ago, coupled with the fact that hatchery outlet number three (the one equipped with a new fish ladder) is still loaded with big fish all the way up to the man made “spawning grounds” located in the new facility, it tells me that this may be it for this year’s brown trout ‘festivities’ on the river. I’ve been wrong before, but there is no denying that excessive pressure right below Table Rock Dam has had a negative influence on trout behavior in this now-famous stretch of water. Ten to fifteen years ago, there would be browns up there for over a month (or longer), and the numbers of fish was far greater than what we are seeing nowadays. This is what happens when easily accessible fisheries get exposed via print articles and the Internet (and I know I’m at fault here, too, but I try my best to be as responsible and truthful as possible), and it was inevitable that Lake Taneycomo’s ‘hey-day’ of the mid to late 1990’s couldn’t last forever, especially from a brown trout perspective.
My theory on all of this is that the browns have adapted to the fact that they have to run “a gauntlet” of waders to get to their nursery waters, and it’s possible that there will never again be runs like in the past…unless there are some sweeping changes made in how the far upper end of Taneycomo is managed during the typical spawning periods. Considering that this fishery is ‘artificial’, there will always be very nice trout throughout the entire tailwater, but it would be great to see those “wolf packs” of brown trout make a comeback. The fish ladder at outlet number three is a great start (but it is only trout accessible when there are two or more generators running), and this helps protect the “pseudo” wild strain of fish that is cultivated through the process of collecting roe (eggs) and ‘milk’ from trout that spend the majority of their lives in the river. I have decided to become far more active in the local Trout Unlimited chapter, and I invite everyone to join up if they are interested in seeing some real positive changes. Some of the possible solutions to this dilemma will not be popular, especially amongst those with a commercial interest in Lake Taneycomo, but there has to be a better way than what is displayed in the picture. Perhaps, a seasonal closing of the stretch from the cable down to the Rebar Hole is a possibility, or even restricting wading in this zone during the typical spawning times could work wonders. Who knows, but for the sake of promoting an ethical and quality fishing experience while educating the general public about their potential impact on the fishery, something needs to be done. The scene up there has become an embarrassment for everyone who puts maintaining this amazing fishery over their own personal vanity.
Teaching right from wrong is every experienced angler’s responsibility, and improving trout habitat should be a high priority. Something I witnessed the other day exemplifies this need. I saw a guy catch a HUGE rainbow (near an outlet, of course) in the 26 to 28-inch range, and he must have dropped this fish from a standing position at least seven times on dry gravel/rock while trying to get the perfect shot. Perhaps I will do another write up about how to take photographs without harming the fish at some point in the future, but I already feel like I’m coming off as preachy. Anyways, after this fisherman and his buddy got what they wanted, this once in a lifetime fish was released, but it’s likely that it is no longer alive for another person to enjoy. It is ironic that this rainbow was put back to begin with because after enduring a long fight and multiple photographic ‘mishaps’, it probably would have been just as well to throw it on a stringer. At least then, it would not be a complete waste.
Opening the Vault – Fly Tying Tips
I’ve decided to write about tidbits of “inside” information in an effort to help my readers catch more fish, and this new feature will coincide with the “Guide Secrets” section exclusively available to those that subscribe to the newsletter. To start this off, I want to go back to that epic day I had while guiding on the Norfork last week. Mistakenly, I forgot to mention that we caught many of those nice fish in the catch and release section on dry flies. A lot of people think that surface activity peaks in the late spring and early summer, but the fact is, it’s possible to catch Ozark trout on dries any time of year when the water is low. True, the biggest bugs are out in the spring when temperatures really start to warm up, and this makes it much easier for anglers to catch fish on top because they can throw highly visible flies. During the fall and winter, most of the insects hatching are REALLY small which makes fishing the surface a much more difficult proposition for anglers of all skill levels.
A good strategy to realize some success when the hatches of midges and caddis are minuscule is to utilize “cluster” patterns like Cracklebacks and Griffith Gnats; both of these flies imitate groupings of midges that naturally cling to each other on all of the White River Basin tailwater trout fisheries. A lot of fishermen run into problems tying these patterns in such a way that will enable them to float high and dry, cast after cast. My tying solution is to utilize extra wraps of hackle and to pre-treat each fly with fly floatant or silicone the night before I plan on using it. The Cracklebacks that hammered fish on the Norfork last week were tied on a size #16 hook (the midges hatching were in the size #26 to size #40 range) and I used about 14 wraps of hackle – most fly tiers use half as many wraps. This fly was easy to see, even in moving and foamy water, and it took just a few false casts to dry it out for the next presentation. Even though it takes a bit more time to tie a Crackleback (or a Griffith’s Gnat) this way, it makes for much easier fishing in the long run. Little changes in how anglers approach the sport of fly fishing can make a huge difference in their success rates, and it makes little sense to tie dry flies that start to sink after just a drift or two.
Back to the fishing…
A few days ago, I had the rare opportunity to fish with Summer, so we pulled the drift boat down to the White River for a float from Bull Shoals Dam to Wildcat Shoals. The water was low when I put in at the dam, and we did fairly well fishing in the lower part of the catch and release area and in Bull Shoals State Park. At 4pm, several generators kicked on and we got stuck in trashy water. Summer and I don’t give up easily, and we methodically worked streamers along the bank and near structure until well after dark. The fishing wasn’t very good – in fact, it was downright slow, but we did hear some loud “crashes” on white patterns throughout the evening float. Near the end of our journey, I finally hooked into a big fish that turned out to be a 24-inch brown. This pig made all of the effort worth our while, and we both loaded up the boat with smiles on our faces.
There are plenty of good fish out there and almost always, it takes the patience of a saint to fool one. Every day is different on these rivers due to the dynamic and unpredictable nature how these tailwaters operate, but the fishing still remains excellent wherever one decides to wet a line. Although most of the browns on upper Lake Taneycomo have retreated back to their primary residences, there are still a few around, and some big rainbows are starting to stage for their upcoming spawning run. There will be many great days over the next month, and like I mentioned in my last report, “now” is still a great time to fly fish the White River, the Norfork Tailwater and Lake Taneycomo.
Report for 10-22-10
Slamming fish on the Norfork and a day on some different water
I guided a couple guys a few days ago on the Norfork, and I must say, that river is in as good of shape as I’ve seen it in a long time – especially with respect to the cutthroats. There are nice cutts everywhere in the middle section of the tailwater. The one downside to fishing the ‘Fork right now is that the boat ramp at the dam is closed (again) for some sort of construction, so we were not able to float the whole river. Luckily, the water stayed low all day and the trout were in a feeding mood, so everything worked out. And honestly, it’s nice to not have to mess with the boat in low water conditions all the time. The Norfork does not have a bunch of good spots to fish from a boat when it’s down, anyway, so we were going to be primarily wading, even if we had been able to put the boat in.
We started at the dam and the bite up there was pretty slow. This was likely due to the fact that the oxygen levels are somewhat low within a mile of Norfork Dam, and there wasn’t any wind blowing yet to help our presentations. It didn’t take long before I decided to try another spot, so we quickly packed up and drove to the Ackerman/Handicap Access. The best water is upstream of the parking area, and I must admit that we walked a pretty decent distance until we got to where I wanted to fish. But I had an escape plan if the water came up, and I called the dam ever 45 minutes to see if there were any changes being reported (do not trust the message to be “real time”, though). In general, it is best for those who are relatively unfamiliar with the ‘Fork to avoid walking up past the islands from the Ackerman Access. After that point, it’s a 50/50 proposition as to whether you will be able to get back to where you are parked and guys have had to climb tress before to avoid rising flows. So, always be watching out for any change in current speed during low water.
Our hiking efforts ended up paying off and it was a great day of fly fishing on one of America’s best trout streams – it’s nice to be able to say that again. Nymphs like scuds, sow bugs and midges proved to be the best producers, but we also threw some small dries and the occasional egg imitation. We primarily fished blind in some of the deeper runs in the catch and release area, and the action was steady throughout the afternoon. As mentioned above, the cutthroats were abundant, and they really fought hard for a species not known for always giving ‘it their all’ in battle. It was one of those days that can make up for several tough days, and in my fly fishing dream world, the Norfork would always offer up such prime conditions and active fish every time I made the trip over there; but since this river is known for its inconsistency, I relish the times when everything comes together perfectly on that special piece of trout water.
Yesterday, I decided to check out the Current River a couple hours northeast of Branson. The headwaters of this stream are in Montauk State Park, and like the other Missouri trout parks, there were plenty of stocker rainbows. A friend and I primarily fished the upper three miles on foot, and while the Current is a beautiful place to fish, there are so many better spots to fish in the Ozarks than this smallish waterway, so I doubt that I will be driving so far for trout fishing in the Show Me State again anytime soon. We were hoping to see some browns in decent numbers, but the water was skinny and we only spotted a few. Still, it was an overall fun day, and I always enjoy seeing and experiencing all of the unique fisheries that the Ozark Mountains have to offer. The bite was pretty good, and those who like to fish dries would really get a kick out of this water.
Look for the newsletter in the next day or so, and I do apologize for the delay. It’s been hectic around here, like always. There is good fishing to be had anywhere and everywhere in the Ozarks right now, and what an amazing year it’s been on the White, the Norfork and Lake Taneycomo. Beside the slight “lull” in the beginning of October, the fall action has been some of the best that I can remember. I don’t say this a lot because I want to remain credible at all costs, but NOW is the time to be down here (or up here, depending on your geography). Please don’t hesitate to call or email me if you have any other questions.
Report for 10-17-10
The browns are showing up below Table Rock Dam along with hoards of unscrupulous fishermen
Although mid October is generally considered a great time to wade right below Table Rock Dam on Lake Taneycomo for trophy brown trout because of the increased odds of hooking into a fish of a lifetime, the prospect of finding loads of easy-to-catch trout also brings out the worst in some fly fishermen with respect to unethical behavior. Now that the word is ‘out’ regarding the start of the annual brown run, and many big fish are beginning to stage near the hatchery outlets, such a seemingly tiny nugget of information has brought hoards of anglers out of the woodwork. A dramatic influx in fishing activity not only negatively affects the tranquility and productivity of the fishing experience, crowding and selfish behavior is also detrimental to Taneycomo’s fragile and limited spawning habitat. These are several of the reasons that the fishing below the dam has been slow over the last week or so.
Before the brown run became extremely popular in the mid 1990’s, it was not uncommon to have acres of prime water wide open, and 90%-plus of the trout found throughout the first mile of water below the dam were browns. This discrepancy was an example of how a large population of dominant trout is capable of ‘displacing’ the weaker, “egg-stealing” rainbows that congregate below the spawning beds (aka “redds”). It was common to see brown trout in the ten to fifteen-pound range caught [and often harvested], and twenty-pound fish were fairly common up until the late 1990’s. Most of the real big boys would hang out below the first three hatchery outlets, but pods of staging behemoths could pretty much be found anywhere from the Rocking Chair Hole all the way up to the dam. Over the last ten years, the dynamics of the brown trout spawn on Taneycomo has changed drastically, and even though there are still plenty of pigs just waiting to be caught, the fishing itself is not even close to how it was during the glory days of the past. The slot-limit regulations have worked ‘too’ well in many ways, as there are now so many nice rainbows below Table Rock Dam that the browns are not able to completely take over and spawn in relative peace. I consider the 1997 slot-limit a step in the right direction, but the improved rainbow trout fishing has subjected the fishery to greatly increased numbers of annual angler hours, and the year-round presence of rainbows seems to have made the browns much more nervous during the spawn. Consequently, they feed with far less frequency than what anglers became accustomed to before the “word got out”. Also, the fact that “triple digit” numbers of fishermen wetting a line right below the dam has practically become a daily (and nightly) occurrence, fishing during the brown run is just not as much fun as it used to be.
Of course, there are many “hero shots” of big, spawning browns being posted on Lake Taneycomo and White River Basin Web Sites, but many of these images are a result of unethical fishing methods and photography practices that put further strain on fish that are already stressed out from the trials and tribulations that go hand in hand with an over-publicized brown trout run. Try and pinpoint the exact area of these recently posted big trout pictures to garner an idea of the exact spot where these fish were caught. As I’ve mentioned quite a bit recently, fishing within 50 to 100-feet of the hatchery outlets number one and number two is not a sporting method of fly fishing. Rather, the fish are so stacked up in these small areas because of the increased current from the outflow coupled with the brown’s instinctual urges to make the annual return to their nursery waters. Many of us have gawked over the years at the site of so many big browns located in just s few small spots. Actually, fishing for these stacked trout is not part of a “fair chase” in the least, and repeatedly drifting nymphs through the same tiny runs quickly becomes boring. I’m not going to throw out any percentages that claim to be 100% factual, but I would bet that a high number of the obviously spawning brown trout ‘proudly’ displayed on some Web sites were indeed foul-hooked. Fish that are hooked in their fins, tails and the side of their bodies are forced to fight much harder than fish hooked in the mouth, and it does make me feel shame that so many folks think that crowding in the small areas in and below the outlets represents a sporting aspect of fly fishing in any way.
There is little that I can say or do that will stop visiting and local anglers from “shooting fish in a barrel” in the hatchery outlets on upper Lake Taneycomo besides trying to educate as many people as possible through my Web site; setting a good example as both a sportsman and as a guide is another way in which I try very hard to spread the word. You will never see my clients (or me) get caught up in the fray of beating up on these precious brown trout merely for personal glory. When I do fish the dam area during the day or at night, I mainly focus on the deepest water that I can find, and if I do venture towards the outlets, sight-fishing for cruising browns is the only way I’ll fish any area even remotely close to the outflow. There are no written rules when it comes to “how close is too close?”, but as a personal code, I look for areas where the fishermen start to thin out and are no longer wading right next to each other – then I will work well downstream from that point. But in general, I have been having much better results fishing below the boat ramp using my drift boat as a means of getting into areas that see almost no fishing pressure. This allows my customers (and I) to get into all-day action and escape the crowds at the dam.
It does disappoint me when I see other guides aggressively staking out the few outlet spots where the browns are stacked in “like cordwood”. These few areas are exponentially easier when it comes to hooking up with a decent brown than anywhere else during the runs, but teaching others how to fish the outlets is simply not the right way to create a new generation of conservation-minded and unselfish anglers. I could care less about the apparent ‘success’ and misleading posting of pictures proudly displaying all the big fish that a few guides and their customers are landing – there are always going to be ‘professionals’ who will do whatever it takes to make themselves look good while giving their clients the illusion of a benchmark achievement. What does bother me is that guiding is a privilege and not a right; so I do wish that everyone who utilizes a public resource for monetary gain would understand that they are role-models and stewards of their fisheries. It is important to always leave the river in better shape than you found it in;whether that means picking up trash or avoiding fishing for shallow-water trout that have become increasingly susceptible simply because of their reproductive instincts. Fly fishing is all about having a good time with friends, learning about conservation and new angling techniques, and catching some nice fish in the process. I can’t imagine that rubbing elbows with the masses while foul-hooking vulnerable trout in the outlets qualifies as a quality experience indicative of the wonderful aspects of our sport. For those considering hiring a guide on Lake Taneycomo , do yourself a favor and ask plenty of questions regarding where and how you plan on fishing. There are Ozark guide services well-suited for virtually every type of fly fisherman, so it is critical to let your prospective guide or outfitter know what you expect out of your time on the water.
***The Mid October newsletter will be sent out this week, and it is loaded with information on late fall and early winter fishing on the White River, the Norfork Tailwater and Lake Taneycomo. My goal is to educate anyone who is interested in learning about every aspect of these enjoyable and unique fisheries, and part of this process is reflected in my passion for sharing as much information as I can regarding seasonal changes in fishing trends, fly selection, old and new fly fishing techniques, and anything else that pertains to the ‘addictive’ Ozark fly fishing experience. Please let me know if you ever have an idea or topic that is of particular interest – it may just make the newsletter or possibly become an article on my site.
Updated Report for 10-10-10
A quick update regarding the fishing and a recent Pod Cast I was lucky enough to be a part of
This is just a short report to let everyone know that I took part in a Pod Cast with Rick Coffman, and it was quite an informative session. Check out this link for the entire discussion, and please let me know what you think. It was quite the honor to be a part of this entire process, and it shows me that I am making positive headway in the fly fishing industry. I love sharing what I know with other anglers, and it works both ways because I equally relish the knowledge I gain from talking with fly fishermen more experienced than myself. There is no room for egos in this sport because the bottom line is that learning how to have as much fun as possible on the water is the most important aspect of this pastime.
Fishing continues to be excellent and the best of fall may be yet to come. I’ve been taking my clients everywhere – Taneycomo, the White, the Norfork Tailwater and Dry Run Creek. It is amazing how many nice fish there are on every fishery. The browns have just started stacking below Table Rock Dam, so the next month on Taneycomo is going to be one for the ages. After three tough fall fishing seasons, it’s quite a blessing to see that patience pays off, as this October and November are going to be months that will be remembered for quite some time.
My guiding schedule continues to book up, so if you are at all interested in the chance of hooking into a massive trout, never hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have. I’m always here to help and my primary objectives with respect to guided trips is to have fun while educating my clients so that they can develop their own personal passion for catching fish on a fly rod.
I hope everyone is enjoying the cooler weather of autumn, and look for more detailed reports in the near future. The way things are looking, we may experience incredible fishing all the way through fall and into winter. There is really never a bad time to fly fish for trout in the Ozarks, but fishing is fishing, so it never hurts to be at the right place at the right time.
Updated Report 10-6-2010
The browns are here!!
Within the last day or two the browns have shown up in numbers, probably the best run we’ve had in sometime. The cold front we had that moved in a few days ago along with one day of full generation is what triggered them to come up all the sudden. I would expect lots of low water for wading opportunities and night time fishing should be prime time to hook several in one day. This month should be a month you don’t get a lot of sleep, I’m not. There’s lots of browns in the 25-30 inch range between outlet one all the way down to big hole. I’ve seen several caught, but not landed and that has a lot to do with light tippet when fishing scud patterns or anything that requires nymphing techniques. Good luck out there and make sure you tie a good knot. We’ll talk more about this when I get some free time, just wanted to let everyone know so you can make plans to get down here and hook one of these big boys.
Updated Fishing Report for 10-4-10
Two nights of drift fishing on Lake Taneycomo produces excellent results
I guided a couple of great guys from Kansas City this last weekend, and we ended up primarily fishing out of the drift boat below Table Rock Dam. On the first night, we began at 9pm; starting out by wading in right below the dam. The bite up there has been tough of late, and my guess is that this is a direct result of rampant fishing pressure in that area. Those fish only get a break when the water is running hard, and we were definitely not the only ones out there on Friday night. My clients still managed to land some decent rainbows, but the overall fishing was slow and there are not a bunch of browns hanging out in the upper reaches of the tailwater…yet. After a couple of hours, we decided to get the boat in the water, but the horn at the dam went off at midnight, and since my clients were tired, we decided to call it a night.
The plan was to hit the White on Saturday, but we would have had a very late start, so all of us decided to wait until evening and fish from the boat ramp down to Fall Creek on Taneycomo. We did give the dam a try for a short bit, but like the previous night, the fishing was slow up there. Because all of the water is pretty accessible in the dam zone, it is hard to find fish that haven’t been beaten down by the recent crowds coming to fish low water. On Saturday night, I only counted six other anglers out there, but there were at least thirty folks hammering that same stretch the night before. One of my clients did catch about five rainbows in that first hour, but the other guy was seemingly jinxed. The client having all of the success was using a crazy tinsel streamer I tied up to experiment with, but of course, I only had one of these flies which that guy ended up using for the entire night.
After putting the boat in, this trend of lopsided results continued. The guy with the crazy fly was hooking one after another, and it didn’t take long before the other client’s confidence started to wane. As we slowly moved downstream, I instructed the snake-bitten fisherman to make a cast into a deep little hole about 100 yards down from the ramp. He immediately hooked into something BIG and after a long battle, we brought a gorgeous brown to the boat. It’s amazing how one nice fish can change the overall mood of the trip, and after that big boy was landed, we started hammering one rainbow after another. In three hours of extremely slow drifting down to Point Royal, we got a bite or a fish on virtually every cast. It was truly the kind of fishing that most anglers only dream about and rarely get to experience.
There may be many reasons as to why Saturday was so much better than Friday, but I firmly believe the change in productivity had everything to do with the area we were fishing and the methods we employed. By getting into water that is rarely fished - especially at night - we were basically able to fish a completely different river than the night before. Most anglers tend to stick up by the dam because that is where the most and biggest fish are ‘supposed’ to be, but because of the fact that I am able to spend so much time on the water, I almost always know where the majority of nice and aggressive fish are hanging out. Downstream of the ramp has been the place to be this year, but if the fish move, you can bet that I will move with them to the spots where I think my customers will have the best shot at catching the highest number of big fish. Since the fall run is not yet in full swing on Taneycomo, most of the huge browns are staging in the deep pools below the ramp. Another reason that we were exponentially more productive the second night is that we were able to spend the majority of our time fishing from my drift boat. This type of vessel allows me to sneak up on wary trout because it glides virtually silently through the water. Smaller fish don’t spook as easily as large fish, so utilizing a stealth approach almost always pays off in a big way. Fly patterns and casting prowess are also components that contribute to a good day or night on the river, but without the drift boat, it becomes far more difficult to cover water and get a fly in front of the right fish during low water conditions.
Notice the redd (spawning bed), please pay attention to these areas and avoid with caution.
Please consider a nighttime drift fishing trip if you are interested in finding and hooking into a trophy rainbow or brown on Taneycomo, the White or the Norfork. I’m the only guide service offering this option, and it is truly magical to fly fish from a boat in the dark as one’s senses become heightened. This October and November are the perfect time to plan a midnight drift fishing trip and as of now, I still have some days and nights open – but I’m receiving inquiries every day, so it is wise to book now if you want to ensure a spot. Outside the box thinking is what I am all about, and I’m truly thrilled to have the chance to deviate from the beaten path and realize great success in the process. With the weather starting to really cool off (it never got above 40-degrees on Saturday night and this change in temperature may have also turned the trout on), expect more and more browns to start stacking up in the trophy area. I am predicting that this fall will offer up some of the best day and night fly fishing we have experienced in years because there are so many fish that held over and got fat during the near non-stop high water of the previous three years. The next six to eight weeks are going to be amazing, and this is the perfect time to see what Ozark trout fishing is all about.
***Many of you have noticed that my Web site has been looking a little weird lately, and this is because I am in the process of putting together a brand new site that will be more aesthetically pleasing and user friendly. Hopefully, everything will be done within a month, and I am really excited about this change. Once the new site is up and running, look for a bunch of new how-to steps to be posted in the near future and in the meantime, please “pardon our dust”.
Updated Report for 10/1/10
The fall transition is making for up and down fly fishing in the Ozarks
Fall is an interesting season in the Ozarks from a fly fishing perspective because there is so much going on with regards to diversified angling opportunities. The White River, Norfork Tailwater and Lake Taneycomo are all in good shape and there are plenty of really good fish out there for the taking…when they decide to really start biting. Unlike any other seasonal transition, the early stages of fall conditions on these rivers can often throw the fish into a funk. This is typically a result of changes in water flow, dropping oxygen levels and the fact that many of the really big trout are on the move – feeding is often the last thing on their mind, but you never know when you may chance into a trophy fish that happens to cruise into your area.
Compared to years past, dissolved oxygen levels are relatively high for the first of October. It’s such a relief to see the Corp of Engineers doing everything within their power to keep the rivers fresh (DO above 4ppm). This is all I ever I’ve asked for, and for decades, fish suffered on Taneycomo and the Norfork for no real reason. But the times are changing for the better, as low dissolved oxygen was the Achilles Heel of these two fisheries up until recently. Currently, the worst water is at night when the rivers are low. Norfork Dam will “pulse” the river by releasing a small amount of water for one hour when levels drop below 4ppm and Table Rock is equipped to pump liquid oxygen into the tailwater, which can really change the fishing in a hurry. This is why drift fishing is hot on Taneycomo, but low-water wading has been a bit hit or miss depending on the prevailing conditions.
I’ve been primarily guiding on Lake Taneycomo of late and the bite has been inconsistent. When the wind chop is right or a generator or two is running, it’s possible to hammer some decent fish, but if the river is slick, things have been a bit slower than I would like. That said, some browns are starting to show up below the dam, and there are reports floating around that detail some big fish encounters. It’s all about being at the right place at the right time during the fall transition, and the weather, scenery and good flow regimes have made for many enjoyable days on the water of late. Sure, there have been some slow periods, but considering that oxygen levels are in really good shape, there is no doubt in my mind that the best of autumn fishing is just around the corner.
My guiding schedule has been really hectic of late, and I’ve got a case of “lunker fever”, so I’m spending a lot of free time throwing flies in areas where I know some hogs are concentrated. Most of my personal fishing has been at night, and this is the time of year when ‘fishing by the lights of the dam’ can pay off in a big way. Although my guide days are starting to fill in for this month (but there are still some good spots available), my nights are wide open. Feel free to give me a call if you want to discuss night fishing in greater detail. As far as I know, I’m the only guide offering midnight float trips in Missouri and Arkansas, and believe me; the experience of drifting the rivers in the dark is unforgettable.
I’ll be out on the water for the next three days, so look for a report next week. Also, the newsletter and a new article will be coming out soon. Both of these pieces are educational and informative. It’s been a great year so far from a professional and fishing perspective, and truly, the best may be yet to come. Try and make time to visit the Ozarks this October or November for the opportunity to get in on some of the best trophy fishing we’ve seen in years. Fall is always a magical time, so don’t miss out.
Updated Report for 9/19/10
An all-night odyssey and a banner day on Lake Taneycomo
I made mention of my plans to float either the White or Norfork at night in search of big browns in my previous report, and I’m happy to say that the experience was an all-around success. We ended up putting in at Norfork Dam around midnight last Tuesday/Wednesday, and the fishing was absolutely incredible from the start until we finished at 1pm. The hot bite commenced in Gene’s Hole where it was literally a take or a fish on every cast; I would say we landed over 50 fish between the three of us before even getting past that first stretch of water. Pretty much every spot we tried produced steady action, and there are certain holes on the Norfork that are absolutely loaded with nice fish. The catch and release area was particularly good, and as night turned into morning, we were able to remain extremely busy, which made it hard to get ourselves off the water. Using a drift boat to fish the Norfork at night is quite an adventure, and it really felt like there was a chance of hooking into a huge brown with every cast. If there was one downside to this trip it was the fact that the trophy fish we were after eluded us, but we did manage to land scores of trout in the sixteen to eighteen-inch range. The total number of fish caught was truly gaudy, and it’s great to see the ‘Fork fishing so well after several sub par years. Night fishing on the White and Norfork offers up a great chance of hooking a big brown in a wild and surreal setting, and the next month is the perfect time for this rarely utilized strategy. I am more than willing to take anyone out on a guided night float, so let me know if this type of fishing expedition is something that is up your alley.
On Friday, I worked with another guide on Lake Taneycomo, and there were five anglers between the two of us. This day ended up as one of those ‘perfect’ outings where everyone caught lots of fish while having multiple chances at big rainbows. I fished my guys in some slow water right up by the dam, and we literally didn’t have to move more than 20 yards all day. The biggest fish landed was a rainbow over 21-inches, and we lost several other pigs, including one that tragically broke off when the client’s line got wrapped around his reel seat. This can happen to anyone, and it was nice that we at least were able to witness a breathtaking jump before that FAT ‘bow got away. The wind was sporadic and when it would give the water’s surface some chop, it would rarely take more than a few seconds before the guys would get a bite. During calm periods, the fish were not as aggressive, so I made sure that my clients made their drifts as long as possible. Many fish wouldn’t hit until the very end of the presentation, and this is why it is critical to have ‘enough’ slack line on the water in order to extend the time that the fly is in the “strike-zone”. Patience and making lengthy drifts turned a good day into a phenomenal day. Taneycomo is fishing much better than it was just a week ago, and guiding is the best job in the world on days like last Friday. When the water came up at three pm, everyone in the group was ecstatic with how many nice fish were landed. Days like this are the reason that many of us decided to make the Ozarks our home – a “trout bum” would be hard-pressed to find more productive year-round fisheries than the White River, Norfork Tailwater and Lake Taneycomo.
This month I am going to do something a little different with my newsletter. Because the subject covered (fishing during the spawn) is so important to the health of our rivers, I am going to post all the content – including the “guide secrets” section – on the site’s newsletter page and on the blog. Hopefully everyone will find this an engaging read, but be sure to sign up for the newsletter at the bottom of any page [if you haven’t already], as the “guide secrets” and certain promotions are normally just for subscribers. This fall promises to be epic with respect to numbers of big fish, as all the rivers I frequent are loaded with chunky browns. The newsletter will show you how to ethically and productively fish during the spawn, and specific spots along with detailed strategies are discussed with candor.
I’ve had a few days off to spend with my family, but I will be back on the water guiding and personal fishing next week, so I promise to keep everyone updated as much as possible. Prospective anglers are calling or emailing me about guided trips every day, so if you are considering a fall fly fishing trip to the Ozarks, please feel free to contact me with any specific questions about what to expect.
The browns are starting to move upstream on the Norfork and Lake Taneycomo
I’ve had the chance to float the Norfork and guide on Lake Taneycomo recently and there is definitely some good news to report: the browns are starting to show up in exceptional numbers. This is the ‘normal’ time of year for brown trout to start staging prior to their annual runs on these two fisheries. While fishing during the peak of the spawn (October) is a somewhat controversial issue, targeting pre-spawn fish is ethical and offers anglers the chance to go after these fish in a manner that does not negatively impact the rivers.
First off, the Norfork is in the best shape it’s been in since the massive flood of 2008. We put in at Quarry Park (Norfork Dam), and literally saw stacks of browns from start to finish; including about a half-dozen pigs just below the ramp. Fishing for all species was ‘on’ during this particular day, and it was nice to see so many beautiful cutthroats of respectable size. The biggest cutt we ran into looked to be in the six-pound range, and it was a gorgeous specimen with cherry-red gill plates – sure wish we would have caught that beast. Still, we hooked up with scores of fat and chunky rainbows and browns (with some cutthroats and a brook trout thrown in), so I would say that the day was a success.
The area where we saw the most and biggest fish was in the middle of the catch and release area. This zone was literally stacked with trout in certain spots, but most of these fish are only reachable via some sort of boat. My guide schedule is somewhat open for the rest of September, so if you want to experience some of the best fishing the Norfork has to offer, please give me a call for more information.
Lake Taneycomo is still fishing well, especially around the boat ramp area (and down) where crowds are less of an issue. I’ve seen several browns the last few times out, and I managed to catch one good one while out on my own. My dad hooked and landed a 21-incher just yesterday down by Fall Creek, which is definitely an indication that the browns on Taneycomo are starting to move up towards the dam. Within the next few weeks, brown trout will start to stack from Fall Creek all the way to the upper boat ramp, and the best strategy is to fish deep and slow. These pre-spawn fish are intent on gaining some mass before “doing the deed”, so the rest of September will offer up some excellent fishing for aggressive browns. The run will be in full swing by the start of October, but so will the crowds, so now is a great time to target huge fish in areas that are not easily accessible to the masses.
We are all very excited about the potential for amazing runs this year, as the White, Norfork and Lake Taneycomo are loaded with healthy browns. Look for a fresh newsletter this week that covers methods of fishing during these times without making a negative impact on these fragile fisheries. As a guide, I will never do anything that could possibly compromise our wild trout potential, and I feel it is my duty to educate others about how to approach areas where trout are actively spawning. This means avoiding the redds (spawning beds) while looking for holding water where pre and post spawn fish reside. Please feel free to drop me a line to discuss this issue further, and I look forward to a great fall season of [trophy] trout fishing in the Ozarks.
Updated Report for 9-8-10 Water conditions are critical when it comes to finding and catching big pre-spawn brown trout
Since my last report, I have been primarily fishing the White River and Lake Taneycomo. The action on the White continues to be excellent with regards to catching lots of nice fish, but the hopper bite has been dependant on water conditions for the particular day. If Bull Shoals Dam is not ‘on’ or just running one unit, most of the fish are feeding on nymphs below the surface. My theory is that the majority of hoppers get washed into the river when there are at least two units running and if you get lucky enough to be fishing on a day when flows are in the 3,000 to 5,000 cubic feet per second range (around two units), expect the top-water action to be incredible. In years past, the catch and release area below Bull Shoals Dam has been a great place to fish big terrestrial patterns, as the dynamics up there (shallow water/nice fish) make for perfect conditions when there is a decent amount of current. In fact, one of my best days up there occurred when there were four generators operating on a warm day in early October. A boat really helps anglers stay on active fish, but if flows are in the one or two-unit range, stalking big trout from the bank is also a very productive option on the upper stretches. Further down river will also be excellent during September, and for fishing on the surface, concentrate on fast water or “diamond chop” with plenty of drop offs where big fish feel comfortable feeding unabashed.
Big sow bugs, scuds, Zebra “style” Midges and San Juan Worms are doing the trick when nymphing, and this is the time of year when lots of browns start moving around in an effort to get closer to their annual spawning grounds. Even though brown trout on the White do not typically start to dig out redds until November and December, the preceding two months are excellent when it comes “chancing” into a behemoth making their procreation pilgrimage – browns often feed heavily before they spawn. The brown run on the Norfork normally occurs at the same time as it does on Lake Taneycomo (October through early November), and this means that right now there are big fish staging in deep water downstream of the spawning grounds. The catch and release area on the Norfork is a good place to hunt big browns, but please be aware that it is not ethical to target actively spawning trout. This ensures that these shallow-water fish are left alone to do “the deed”, thus increasing the wild trout potential on the river(s). Also, it is unfair to take advantage of spawning trout because they are in a vulnerable position as a result of their instincts – pounding fish on redds is far from sporting, so always be aware of where you are fishing. If you must fish near the traditional spawning grounds on any river, look for pre-spawn and post-spawn trout in slow pools adjacent to the beds. For those not familiar with the term, a “redd” (or bed) is typically a spot where the gravel has been cleaned by spawning trout in order to create ideal conditions for a successful spawn like egg survival, fry survival and nearby cover to protect small trout from predators.
In Branson, talk is already turning to what this year’s brown run on Lake Taneycomo is going to be like. Many folks are worried that any significant precipitation will make wading difficult. In reality, the absolute best time to run into a huge Taneycomo brown is while drifting from a boat. This is because power generation alleviates a significant portion of the typical fishing pressure below Table Rock Dam, and the bigger fish feed more consistently when they are not being hammered incessantly. So like with many things in life, one person’s nightmare is another person’s nirvana. If it were up to me, I would like to see a steady mix of high and low water during the brown run, as this keeps the fish from getting beat up on a daily basis, while still allowing those intent on wading the chance to see what all the fuss is about. With Table Rock Lake just two feet below power pool, the chances of steady water releases in October are about 50/50, but regardless of the prevailing conditions, the spectacle of Taneycomo’s brown run is worth checking out if you are interested in the chance of hooking into the “fish of a lifetime”; there may be no better place in the country to hook into a trout in the seven to twenty-pound range. Guide trips with Taneycomo Trout in October are starting to fill up, so be sure to book as soon as possible if the fishing this legendary brown trout run has piqued your interest. The action normally starts picking up in the dam area at the end of September, and all of October is “prime time”.
As a guide, I feel that it is very important to give back to my ‘home’ fisheries in any way I can, and it is always an honor to be involved in events where I have the chance to introduce people who have never fly fished to the sport. Several weeks ago I participated in “Project Healing Waters” which gives those less fortunate the chance to spend a couple of days on the water while learning the finer points of trout fishing with a guide. I took three guys out on Taneycomo for this event last week and we caught scores of chunky, hard-fighting fish. A seven-pound [plus] rainbow was the biggest trout taken during this outing (by Chuck who operates Anglers and Archery), and the Norfork and White are also loaded with trophy fish of this caliber or larger. Everyone had a great time, and I look forward to being a part of Project Healing Waters for many years to come.
Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions about the brown run and what to expect. Every tailwater I guide on is in great shape and a lot of anglers will probably break their personal best brown trout this fall and winter. The rest of September will definitely offer up excellent trophy fishing, and the rivers will be far less crowded during this month than they will be in October and early November.
***Also, for those expecting the newsletter, it will be coming out in the next week – look for a detailed article explaining how to have a negligible negative impact on the fisheries during the spawn, along with plenty of other pertinent and interesting material.
Click here to read what Darren has to say about his fishing.
Updated Report for 8-26-10
A late start turns into a night fishing excursion on the White River
I just wanted to put up a report about a guide trip that turned into a LONG boat ride yesterday. My clients were Fritz, David and Adam; all accomplished fly anglers who could throw an indicator rig 60-feet with remarkable accuracy. We didn’t put in until 1pm (Bull Shoals Dam) and we started our way down river. Guides are not perfect, and I decided to try and make it to Rim Shoals by nightfall – more on that miscalculation in a bit.
Well, the first issue we ran into was that the water was dead low, but three-units was on its way. We bounced back and forth between clear and trashy water, catching fist here and there, but it was slow going, and it was 8pm when we finally made it to Wildcat Shoals…..keep in mind that at that point, we were still twelve-miles from our take out where my vehicle was parked.
These guys were the adventurous types and they were ready to take on the challenge of night fishing on the White. The water was dropping, but there was still plenty of “tailwater”, so conditions were pretty decent for throwing streamers. I rigged up all the rods with sink-tips and lightly weighted, deer hair flies. I like using this setup because the fly doesn’t get hung up very often and it swings naturally towards the surface at the end of the presentation. A full moon was in effect, so it was eerily light out there, but as I’ve learned over the years, moon phases always play a distinct role in the quality of the fishing, and bright conditions are not always desirable.
What I found surprising was how much difficulty these good anglers had when switching to heavy rigs – it took awhile before anyone’s cast made it past the 25-foot mark. It is critical when using sink-tips or full-sinking lines that fishermen slow down their casts and the forward cast should not be initiated until they feel the “pull” of the line once it straightens out from the back cast. The distance my guys were capable of casting proved to be far enough, and we ended up landing a 20 and a 22-inch brown, along with many other fish. The biggest one came while we were anchored and swinging flies, and I utilized this strategy every time I was in an area where I knew there were big fish stacked up; otherwise, we would drift and strip big articulated streamers in an effort to cover lots of water. The area around the Hurst Hole proved to be the most productive zone. In fact, we hooked into something huge there. It was most likely a very big brown trout, and it ended up breaking the 15-pound test we were using. I would have loved to see what a fish capable of such power looks like, as you never know what you might hook into on the White River.
After a bunch of rowing, we arrived at Rim Shoals at 2am. It was quite an adventure, and this excursion gave me the idea to offer a “hardcore package” for guys who want a marathon-type experience where we fish all day and all night. It will cost more, but this type of trip is the best way to get a chance at a huge brown or rainbow.
On a separate note, I was guiding at night on Taneycomo a few days ago, and one of my clients landed a three-pound walleye. This type of catch is fairly common on the White and Norfork, but it’s kind of a mystery as to how this fish ended up below Table Rock Dam. It wasn’t big enough to be a product of all the flooding in 2008, and I’m pretty curious as to what the real story is behind this extremely rare feat. I’m heading down to the White to fish on my own tomorrow. The Southwest Power Administration is predicting that Bull Shoals will be running good drifting water all day, so I’m really hoping to get in on the hopper action I’ve been “forced” to watch from the “sticks” over the last few weeks. Days off have been rare of late, but I’m so addicted to the White River top-water bite that I can’t imagine a better way to spend my free time.
8-24-2010 Hopper ‘Madness’ on the White River
Spectacular top-water action continues and there is no end in sight
I’ve been spending most of my guide days floating the White, and in all my years of fishing the Ozark trout fisheries, I’ve never witnessed such consistent and explosive surface activity. Once the sun really starts hitting the water, most of the fish that are looking up to feed park themselves along shady banks, and with a drift boat, it’s relatively easy to sneak up on these aggressive trout – I really feel that stealth is one of the main reasons that my trips have been so productive. Of course, not every day is the same, but the biggest clue that the action is going to be incredible is when we are actually seeing splashy rises in all of the likely looking holding water.
It is interesting that almost all the fish we are catching on hoppers are browns, with the occasional “colored-up” cutthroat thrown in. The rainbows do not seem to be as keyed-in on terrestrials as those other species – in fact, it’s quite rare to even catch a ‘bow on top right now, so it is almost like the White transforms into a different fishery when there are hoppers on the water. We are basically using two different patterns: Yellow-J’s and Chernobyl Hoppers. I’ve been keeping these flies simple and patterns with a wing ride upright with much more consistency than ones tied without a wing. Check out the new “how-to” steps I’ve posted to get an idea of what is working for my clients. Color isn’t a major concern (yellows, chartreuse and other wild shades are all producing when presented properly), but of course, I have my personal favorites that I keep close to my “vest”.
Hoppers are working equally well from Bull Shoals Dam down to Buffalo City, and the best water conditions are when there is one or two units worth of water running. If the water is dead-low, look to fish riffles that have some depth to them or anywhere else where there is some current. A boat is the best way to experience this bite, but there are a few good wade-in areas if the drifting option is not a possibility. Not every fish we catch is big, but every one of my clients who has fished the White with me recently has had multiple chances at browns over 18-inches. The trick to landing these bigger trout involves paying close attention to where your fly line is at all times so it’s not under foot or wrapped up, and keeping strong pressure on nice fish is mandatory. I’m rigging up with eight-foot leaders down to 2x, and this makes putting ‘heat’ on a big brown trout much easier. Be sure to always strip your line in from behind your forefinger because if the line goes slack, the fish will likely throw the hook. This happened on a seven-pound [plus] brown just the other day, but these types of “tragedies” are just a part of learning how to fly fish.
During the heat of the afternoon, it is imperative that everyone stays hydrated and as cool as possible. I like to stop at good wading spots to let my clients wet-wade, and doing this every now and again is really helping keep us all comfortable. Conditions on the Norfork are not nearly as conducive to hopper action right now, as the water is staying low into the early afternoon and then heavy generation (two units) starts up almost immediately. I am really looking forward to the chance to drift one-unit or less over there, but that type of water is most likely to occur in a few weeks when the weather starts to moderate. It will be a blast fishing hoppers on the ‘Fork, but for now, the fun-factor of drifting the White is as good as it gets.
Dry fly enthusiasts should definitely take advantage of this unique fishing opportunity, and as I’ve been saying, this top-water bonanza should continue at least until the beginning of October. September is always a great period for hopper fishing when flows start to moderate. Never hesitate to give me a call for updated fishing conditions and any other type of advice. I have also posted several new articles and the August newsletter is online and has also been sent out to subscribers. The September newsletter will be a bit more substantial, but I think all the new content intriguing and interesting. With school starting up and the summer season winding down, the number of fishermen on the rivers is thinning out. In fact, during the week it seems like there are miles of open water that we have all to ourselves. That fact, along with the amazing fishing, is hard to beat anywhere.
Read what Darren is saying about the fishing this past week.
Updated report for 8-9-10
Insane hopper fishing on the White must be seen to be believed
First off, I apologize for the delay in the newsletter – things have been really busy of late, and my guiding schedule coupled with family obligations has put me a little bit behind. Rest assured, a new edition will be out soon, so keep checking the Web site or your email. The newsletter should ready in the next week, and if you are in search of more information before then, just drop me a line.
Last Thursday and Friday on the White were absolutely amazing. I guided down there for two days, and initially, I was planning on fishing one day on the White and one day on the Norfork. Well, things change, and like usual, my decision to stay on the ‘big’ river was based on the prevailing fishing. Bull Shoals is still running light to moderate flows most mornings before cranking things up in the afternoon, so it’s possible to fish really nice drifting water all day by staying ahead of the surge. For some reason, there are tons of hoppers this year and the fish are definitely looking up. On Thursday, I decided to start my drift at Wildcat Shoals, and the nymph fishing was decent first thing in the morning. As the sun gets higher in the sky, the surface action blossoms – the best hopper bite is going on from 11am until 4pm, and no one I’ve talked to can remember August terrestrial activity as frenzied as what is going on currently. Friday, I fished at Rim Shoals, and the fishing was a carbon copy of the day before – nymphs early and big hoppers the rest of the day.
Honestly, the top-water activity is rampant up and down the river, and on light flows, fish can be caught any place you cast…you know it’s good when drifting right down the middle of the river is producing strike after strike. Although we caught trout anywhere and everywhere, I would try and focus on shallow riffles, as this is where the fish were highly concentrated and extremely active. This is likely a result of the fact that the shoals offer up the most highly oxygenated water. If you like fishing BIG dry flies to really nice trout that are feeding unabashed, now is the time to hit the White, but if you can’t take off right away, don’t worry – on a normal year, the best hopper fishing is in September and early October, so it’s likely that things are going to stay the same or possibly get better (although better hopper fishing than what I witnessed last week is hard to imagine).
I did work a day over the weekend on Taneycomo, and the fishing there is still consistently good. The crowds at the dam are pretty crazy, and when the pressure gets heavy up there, the fish will often get tough to catch. This is definitely the case right now; I’ve found the best fishing to be from the boat ramp down to Point Royale, and there are some really big fish cruising the deep holes, including some double-digit browns. What a time to be a fly fisherman in the Ozarks, as we are finally getting the fishing that was inevitable when conditions stabilized. If you find yourself struggling to catch fish near the dam on Taneycomo, don’t be afraid to take a drive downstream to get away from the masses – I estimate that there were over 100 folks wading from the Cable down to the Rocking Chair Hole, but from the ramp down to Fall Creek, I only saw three other anglers. Sure, it helps to have a boat, but it’s also possible to get some space on foot – it just takes a little more effort.
SPECIAL: “Two half days for the price of one day” has been extended
Due to popular demand, I’ve decided to extend this “beat the heat” special until mid September when the weather should finally start to moderate. This deal offers up a substantial savings based on the normal price for two half days and it’s perfect for those who want to avoid fishing in the heat of the day when the flows are usually high. Drop me a line for more details.
Updated Report for 8-3-10
Water levels are consistent everywhere and the fishing has been remarkably steady
My apologies for the lapse in providing a detailed report - I have been out on Taneycomo almost every day for the past few weeks. Water levels have been virtually the same for pretty much the last month with low water at night and during the mornings, followed by high water in the afternoon. Because temperatures are always really hot in August, I have been offering my clients the option of doing half-day, low water trips on Taneycomo, and this scenario allows people to avoid fishing during the extreme heat of the day. It’s been two years since we’ve had steady low water periods during the summer, and as this trend continues, the fish we encounter are getting nicer and nicer.
Night Fishing Taneycomo
We have been getting on the river early [around 7am] and I have been focusing my guiding efforts on the water from the boat ramp down to Fall Creek. This stretch is best accessed by boat, as this gets us into areas that see very little pressure. The upper three miles (the trophy area) at Taneycomo basically fishes like two different rivers, and while we are doing really well on guided trips on the middle and lower end of the trophy area, anglers fishing the dam area are finding a much tougher bite. Crowds have been heaviest on the first mile, and most of the water up there is shallow. If you are going to fish this section, look for the deepest spots you can find and use very small midge imitations. Try and give yourself some room, and don’t be afraid to walk a little bit to get away from the masses.
My strategy for fishing the middle and lower end of the trophy area has been to work deep water first thing in the morning. This gives my clients a chance at hooking something really big before these behemoths stop feeding. Around mid-morning (10am), the best action shifts to shallow water, and midge patterns along with other standard nymphs are producing nice trout until the water comes up around noon. Most of the trips I’ve run over the last two weeks have been a blast, and five hours on the water is more than enough time to catch a bunch of hard-fighting rainbows, with the occasional brown thrown in for variety. We have been primarily fishing out of the boat in order to cover as much water as possible, but when it starts getting really hot, we will often wade, which gives everyone a chance to cool down.
Although we have been catching some really nice fish on Taneycomo – especially in the mornings – getting out there at night is the way to hook into those huge trout that are easy to see, but hard to catch, during daylight hours. Just the other night I hooked and landed a 26-inch rainbow on my second cast. I try to pay attention to where I’m seeing the biggest fish during the day and then I will work those spots thoroughly after dark. The generators have been shutting off around 10pm, and I like to wait an hour or so for the water to drop out before starting to fish. The strikes at night are HARD, and right now, it really feels like anything is possible with respect to hooking up with some of the biggest fish out there. I have posted some more pictures of the nighttime experience on my blog, along with a detailed article that describes the strategies and techniques that I have been successful with. Please do not hesitate to drop me a line if you are interested in learning more about the night-fishing experience, and there are plenty of openings for middle-of-the-night guided trips throughout August. If you have never been on Taneycomo at night, this is the perfect time to give this intense fishing a try.
I am guiding on the White and Norfork at the end of this week, so I will be sure to post some pictures and a report once I get back home. Water flows have been steady down in Arkansas, as well, and from what I am gathering, the fishing has been amazing. Release patterns on the Norfork have been basically the same as what’s occurring on Taneycomo; low water up until around noon and then high water in the afternoons. The White has been running water around the clock, but flows are only in the one-unit range up until noon. This means that good drifting water is available all day, as long as you stay ahead of the heavy afternoon flows. Hopper fishing has been exceptional during the hottest part of the day, and the action with big terrestrials patterns will only get better over the next two months. There is nothing quite like watching a trophy brown or rainbow gulp a large fly off the surface, and I am really looking forward to giving this technique a try when I get down there.
** For anyone interested in a guided trip experience on Taneycomo this August, I am offering a “flexibility package” for anglers wishing to just fish during the cooler morning periods. Just for this month, it will only cost $350 for two half-day trips – this is a savings of $200, and it allows for time to do other activities (and stay cool) during the heat of the day. Please feel free to give me a call for more details on this opportunity.
July 25 2010
Is low water here to stay
I really don’t know where to start, really good week of fishing. I was out every morning in the drift boat fishing low water until noon. I’m sure all of us locals are asking ourselves, is low water here to stay? It’s so hard to tell, but this is by far the most low water we’ve had in over two years. Since I’ve really been able to fish the entire wade stretches of this tailwater I can truly say how the fishing is in relation to the size of these fish. I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m seeing some BIG trout in Taneycomo, especially in the lower section (MDC boat ramp - Fall Creek) of the river. That is something I haven’t seen since the early 90’s.
Right now in a four hour trip it’s nothing to average 40-60 fish to the boat and most of our action is coming off midge patterns. Fishing emergers has been on fire and mainly focusing on shallow water when fishing this way. That’s where all the fish are when it comes to fishing zebra type patterns. Swinging soft hackles in the middle of the river on the swing will also produce fish on almost every cast, but don’t forget about WD40’s, Loop Wings, and trailing RS2 emergers. All successful patterns right now. If you are looking for bigger fish it’s really going to take some stealth. Not only that, it seems like later in the week the fish got more selective and this happens when the fish are in low water for longer periods of time. Especially in the summer time. I haven’t looked, but D.O. usually is the factor when the fish really don’t commit to the take.
The upper Section - From the dam to the MDC boat ramp.
I’m hearing mixed reports on this stretch, but I bet that downstream is fishing way better then up top. There are so many fisherman up there that it truly is like combat fishing. Nothing wrong with that if that’s your type of fishing, but you also have to keep in mind that those fish are seeing twice as many flies then down below. To fish up top you really have to know the true Taney staple patterns that locals depend on. So if you want an easier bite fish from the old KOA hole to Pointe Royale. If you have a boat most the fish I’m seeing that are big are hanging in the deep section of the river which is on the opposite side of the river across from the houses below Pointe along the bluffs. I’ve been fishing some dries, but nothing to get excited about just yet. I’m sure the dry fly action with terrestrials is right around the corner.
Every time I go fishing I’m seeing more and more people fishing Brad Wright’s sculpin he originated for Taneycomo. I think it’s lost its “mojo” just a little bit. I fished it the other day, don’t get me wrong, it still works but the fish don’t fight over it like they did. I’m sure when the browns move up it will still work like a jewel, but for average fish that stay up top they are getting wise to this type of presentation. It’s still hard to say if it’s still going to produce the big ones and only time will tell. I would still fish it if you see a big fish, but if you are not seeing fish chasing it down every cast you might want to switch up. It’s just not that go-to fly it once was in my arsenal of flies.
As I mentioned before the site you currently see will be changing in the up coming month. Hopefully this thing will launch sometime in mid August if everything goes right. I’ll keep you posted, but I’m excited about it that I can’t stop talking about it. If there’s something you would like to see added or changed please feel free to let me know. I appreciate everyone’s support and value what you say.
July 19 2010
Still having low water on the weekend
First things first, I’ve been getting a lot of calls saying they can’t get through to my email. I’ve been experiencing problems with hotmail for the past month so If you cannot get through to me via email please feel free to call 417-294-0759 if you have any questions whatsoever.
Still fishing Taneycomo and I haven’t made it back down to the White. For some reason this has been a slow month for trips. It’s weird because the next two months I’m almost full. I guess that is the life of a guide. With saying that I’ve been able to spend a great deal of time with the family which has been a real pleasure. Along with tying and working on this new site, it has kept me pretty busy so I‘m fine with this month being slow. I’ve updated the blog with some pictures, but that’s about it for the moment. Once I get the new site up and running you’ll see a lot more done with the blog. I almost need a full time webmaster just to keep up with updates.
Sunday I took Summer out, just her and I. It was nice to get out and teach Summer how to row the drift boat. The day was supposed to be all about her, but she insisted that I fish while she learned. I think next year she will start taking women trips and we are also in the process of building her a page on the new site. She will make a great addition to the site I’m sure.
I’ll keep it short since I keep fishing the same area. To me I still believe the KOA hole is the best stretch of river to fish right now. I’ve had the opportunity to fish up and down the river and if you are looking for big fish they are all downstream for the most part. Everyday is different when it comes to big fish and where they’re holding. But as far as where I’m able to hook them, every time I go out it has always been from the bend downstream from the MDC boat ramp all the way to Pointe Royale. I’ve seen some really nice rainbows in this stretch. I tried to fish to one that was 24 inches for about an hour having no luck. He was real spooky and wouldn’t let me get close at all. Every time I made a cast he would swim to the deep. He was only holding in about 12 inches of water and that is what made it so challenging. The two browns I caught came directly in the center of the channel where it is the deepest. I caught both relying strictly on the indicator and not sight casting to them, which is the way I like to fish if I‘m able to. Making extremely long cast away from the boat was key on targeting these bigger fish today. I was content on the first brown I caught since they are hard to come by on this river until the brown run starts, but to catch a second in the same day, and it was bigger was the highlight for both Summer and I. I decided to quit after that fish and it was up to Summer to land the next one. She wasn’t able to hook a brown, but she caught plenty of rainbows. I’m glad she was able to go out because it was long overdue.
July 14 2010
Low water on Taneycomo
We are still seeing low water periods, but to predict is still the question. As of recently, we we’re seeing the water off on the weekends and running during the week, but for some fluke deal they didn’t turn the water on until 2pm on Tuesday. Now they’re back to running. If it’s any type of trend I would say low water is a definite on Saturday and Sunday, but not all day. Night fishing opportunities can happen if you plan to start at midnight. Again only on the weekend will you have a chance.
I know I keep saying this, but Taney is fishing awesome. The trout are big and fat and are fighting hard. I’ll be honest I still think fishing downstream is better than upstream. Not just because of the crowds. But because of the size and numbers. We caught both fish you see in the pictures between Trophy Run (old KOA campground) and Point Royale. We’re hooking some 18-20 inch rainbows up top, but the hidden treasure is downstream. If you would like to know more about Darren’s 23 inch rainbow you can read it here. I also had the opportunity to fish with the other Darin and he also fished Dogwood Canyon if anyone is interested in fishing there.
Yes, I went ahead and did it again. I’m in the process of launching a brand new website that I think everyone will find even more user friendly. Once done you’ll find a new flame set off with me as far as getting serious about updating the fly tying side of the website. That’s another true passion of mine and I have so many more patterns I want to share. It’s still about a month or so out, but I can’t be more excited. It’s going to be INSANE, I promise you that. I’m finally putting my vision to reality.
I just got the newsletter done, if you didn’t get it here is the online version. It has all the same content, the only thing it doesn’t have is the guide secret content, you have to be a member to read the “good” stuff.
Fishing has still been decent, but we are still having some higher flows and the lakes are still hovering around 2-3 feet above pool on most of all four tailwaters. It really pays off to be flexible when hiring Fly’s And Guides, because we go where the fishing is best.. This past week we were able to hit the White during low water while Taney was running. Wildcat is loaded with small rainbows, but if your looking for some big browns they’re there too. I’m not seeing as many which leads me to believe the browns are on the move. One day you’ll see them and the next day you go back, they are not there. It’s fun finding big cruiser, but you got to be stealthy if you’re going to hook up with one of these.
It’s exciting to see these tailwaters in good shape and from what I’m hearing Norfork is getting better, but the dissolved oxygen will still be the big problem for the river and it’s going to take time to see it get back to the what it use to be. These next few months are going to be the better months for big fish migrating in from the lower White into the Fork. I’ll probably fish it next week before I take clients because I need to check it out for myself just to make sure.
We are still seeing some sulphurs on the White, but the cloud cover has kept most hatches minimal this week. This is the time to throw the dry fly side of this pattern because the fly won’t blend in with so many. We are having lots of luck fishing size 16 emergers just under the film as well. I haven’t had a lot in the way of hopper action, but I don’t think the conditions have been the best so we didn’t get into anything major in the way of big browns, but I know they are looking up so I’ll have to wait see it another day.
Taney is running two units for most of the day and to really get the best day in a drift boat we are keeping it to half days unless you can go down to fish Arkansas’ tailwaters. Catching lots of fish on midge patterns along with beadhead patterns like pheasant tails, scuds and sjw in cerise. Beetles haven’t been as good, but I haven’t fished up top where I’ve had the best luck. I’m hoping I can get out and fish this bluff with some bigger dries, but I need them to run one unit like they say they are in order to get the best results.
July 2 2010
Is low water on the way?
It’s really hard to say considering the way June panned out. Anymore you can’t rely on the updated schedule for the next days generation. The whole month of June the corp got it wrong. They would say one thing and totally do a different routine. Even the last two days at Taney they said it would be off longer than when they started. The good thing is we are definitely in store for longer periods of low water. The lakes are all almost back down to power pool and that says something considering we’ve had high water this same time for the last few years. Hot summer days and no rain have been the norm so I can’t see why we won’t have low water in the mornings before it gets really hot. But once it does they will probably run light units for power demand. It should be great drift boat water on all three tailwaters. And the fact that hopper season is in full swing, why wouldn’t you want to bang the banks for countless miles having chances hooking 16-20 inch browns. Streamer fishing should also be hot for the first few hours in the morning. Sounds like to me you should start planning your trip down to the Ozarks to do some awesome fly fishing. I would say there’s something to do for all levels of fly fishing. If you’ve never experienced some great hopper dropper fishing this would be the time to learn. Take my word for it, July is going to be a great month.
The “3D Reports” page is finally done and everyone’s bio’s are complete so you should start seeing some more reports from the field. Mostly Taney reports, but they also fish creeks and other tailwaters when they can. The newsletter will be sent out next week so be looking for that also. For those of you who have signed up for the newsletters and haven’t received your free fly in the mail make sure you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org your address and I’ll get those sent out to you. Thanks for being a part of Fly’s And Guides and never hesitate to drop me an email if you have any questions on fly fishing here in the Ozarks.
First of all, I want to apologize for the lapse in reports. I guess it’s safe to assume that when my reporting is limited, I’m either busy guiding or fishing…or both. Remember: never hesitate to give me a call or drop me an email if you need to know current conditions. I’m always more that eager to help fellow anglers have a fun [and safe] time when they fish any of the tailwaters in the White River System.
Because of “ideal” water conditions, I spent the majority of June fishing on Lake Taneycomo. This once beleaguered fishery is back in prime shape, and 20-inch rainbows are common again. The general pattern was that the water would be low until one or two pm and then they would run light water the rest of the afternoon. The fishing on low water was amazing, and it often got better once a little flow kicked in. All sorts of flies did the trick, and there was a very special terrestrial bite that we were able to take advantage of.
One day, out of boredom, I was climbing a tree, and I could not believe the number of Japanese beetles in the trees along the banks of Taneycom. Knowing that the trout must be seeing the buggers when they fall into the water, I went home and tied some of my best beetle imitations. The “experiment” worked better than expected, and I think big fish at Taney will take a large beetle pattern when conditions are right.
Phil Lilley, of Lilley’s Landing Resort thinks that the scud population near Table Rock Dam is on a definite rebound, and this is why the rainbows are so fat and colorful. It’s been nice to have such great fishing for a month close to home, but change is inevitable, and two days ago the dam started releasing four full units because Beaver Lake is drawing down. Although really high water is tough on everyone (I won’t fish Taneycomo on anything more than 3 units), barring any heavy rains, this will be a short period of constant releases. Hopefully, by the fourth of July Beaver and Table Rock Lakes will be at normal levels and we can get back to seeing some lower water – in the mornings, at least.
I still love fishing the White and Norfork, but I am thrilled to see that Taneycomo is in the best shape it’s been in a long time. Fishing the Ozarks is all about knowing your options on each individual day. It’s nice to see that Taney is finally a viable option again, but still, if you want a chance at a really big brown, Arkansas is the place to be.
The macro was on so this picture came out blurry, oops!
June 16th 2010 Still having low water at Taneycomo in the morning
It’s been hot, but fishing has been great on Taneycomo. I wasn’t able to make it over to the White River this past weekend. I decided to talk my client’s into fishing Taneycomo since this was a guaranteed for low water most of the day. I’m sure they were glad they did. Catching anywhere between 50-100 fishing before cranking on the generators is real common these days. And with most these rainbows averaging 16-18 inches, I’m getting more excited about what’s in store for this fishery. I’m hoping to see a big brown run this year and I’m pretty certain we will have one. I bet these browns are going to big in numbers and in size since they haven’t had much pressure in a couple of years. Even the browns at the White are a lot bigger in size on an average due to their heavy generation schedules in the previous years. All I can say is these rivers are ready to be fished so get down here ASAP.
I spent the day fishing Taney yesterday and was able to hook another decent brown in the lower sections. This makes two nice browns caught this past week. I haven’t heard of too many browns being caught in the18-20 inch range, but there are some being caught in the 12-15 inch range up top. To be real honest, I’m seeing a lot of the bigger ones down below about two miles downstream.
When I was fishing the falling water around 6pm I noticed a lot of dry fly activity, or should I say fish taking stuff of the surface with aggression. They weren’t really feeding on nymphs or anything on the bottom in this water, but dry fly fishing was hot. We managed to hook several on dries. This might be the pattern for Taney right now so don’t get frustrated if the bite is slow during the drop. Go to dries and see what happens. The bites already slow so you don’t have much to lose with experimenting with Chernobyl type patterns. There’s a lot of big rainbows to be caught and they do like big dries if you fish them right.
I should have a followed up “live” report sometime this week that will explain more in depth about dry fly fishing. It should be turning on for a couple of months, same with the White River. Hopper season is right around the corner, but we need lower water to be able to get their attention.
What’s NEW or the site
Like I said in the reports, I’m creating a new page called 3D reports. It’s built, but were still in the process of getting it complete. Also, the how-to-step fly that was recently uploading called the Peanut Envy will have the instructions completed real soon. You can go the Circus Peanut steps to get a basic idea because both are tied pretty much the same way. Other then that, I’m just to busy right now to do anything else. The one thing that always bothers me though is to do more with up loading new patterns for you guy’s to tie. Hopefully this fall I’ll be able to focus more attention on the tying pages. I haven’t forgot about you tyers, stay posted. My goal is to have another 100 or so by the end of this year.
Darren has also added a follow up report about the brown he caught last week.
Don with another solid Taneycomo rainbow.
The first rainbow Raudy caught was 19 inches. Not bad for the first feel of a trout on the fly rod.
June 11 2010 Updated Reports-Low water is what you want right now
Here’s another “LIVE” report coming “LIVE” at you. I like this new style and I’ve got a lot of emails from people encouraging me to keep it up. Doing an overall overview about the fishing as the week ends is probably the way to go, maybe I’ll record some of the fish their catching, but do the overall view on my own.
Our website is growing and we have a few more fly fishermen on board writing reports for us. So I’m in the process of building more pages so you can see what they are saying about Taneycomo. The funny thing is there name all start with the letter “D”. So were going to call this page “3 D Reports”. We will have Big Darren, Little Darren and Don contributing. It’s always good to read other opinions about the fisheries. It should be a great added bonus to the site.
Dale learning the sculpin bite!
Updated Report for 6-3-10 Unexpected hey-days as Table Rock Shuts Down
As a tribute to just how unpredictable the Corp of Engineers can be, the last few days have seen no generation at Table Rock Dam until 2pm. What surprised me is that Beaver Lake is pretty high, and all that water will have to make it through Table Rock Dam at some point, but Darren and I were too busy catching fish to ask questions as to the ‘why’ of this situation, so be sure to check out the videos of the experience on both my site and Darren’s. I would tell everyone to get down here NOW, but if I did that, the conditions would surely change.
We landed over 200 fish over the two days – it was pretty much a bite on every cast on standard midges during low water. While that whole deal was a blast, when the water did come up, we were treated to a dry-fly extravaganza on size #2 “Behemoth” patterns imitating the many wasps we see this time of year. The far bank opposite the hatchery was on fire with big rainbows [fish over 20-inches were common] aggressively smashing these oversized dries. I wish I could say how long this respite from continual water will last…I’m afraid it could be one of those “should have been here yesterday situations”, but I sure hope not.
Since Darren and I are on the water so much, we’ve decided to also utilize “live” reports that we record on the river. Please let us know what you think of this format compared to strictly written reports – hopefully a combination of both will enhance the whole Internet experience. I haven’t forgotten about the newsletter, and subscribers should look for the newest edition within 24 hours. We have an amazing special this month that combines fishing two rivers and FREEE GUIDE flies – be sure to check this out, as this offer is good for subscribers and non-subscribers alike.
Dan was the "man" this day!
Updated Report 5-29-10
I hope everyone is having a great Memorial day weekend and enjoying with family. On the other note, fishing has been great on the White and Taneycomo. It's late and I have to get up and do it all over again so I won't be able to get an updated report as of yet. Here's a beautiful rainbow Dan caught yesterday on the very last drift of the day at Rim Shoals. Way to end the day! Stay tuned for an updated "LIVE" report followed with Darren's as well.
Here's what Dan had to say about the stellar day we had...
Thanks for the great day out on the water. Paul and I had an incredible time. The knowledge that you shared will help us reach our goal of becoming fly fisherman that can adapt to fish any water condition. From dead drifting and dry fly fishing to nymphs and streamers, we hit them all, and it provided us with 60-70 fish day. And oh, by the way, the “Miracle Fly” really is a miracle. I’ve never seen fish follow and eat any artificial bait like that before. Thanks for everything, and we look forward to future trips.
John with another nice brown caught on the Miracle Fly!
Updated Report for 5-18-10
Spring rains finally hit the Table Rock watershed
It seemed like we dodged one bullet after another when it came to the heavy rains that peppered the Midwest through April and into May, but our luck finally ran out a few days ago. Several strong storms brought a large influx of water in Beaver and Table Rock Lakes, and as of this writing, Taneycomo is back to running at full power. As long as more rains do not hammer the area in the near future, it looks like there could be two or three weeks of high flows out of Table Rock Dam. The low water fishing had been awesome, but now it’s time to switch gears for awhile. For me, that means pounding the banks with big streamers for trophy fish.
Bull Shoals and Norfork Lakes are also both high, but flows have been low to moderate on the rivers, as the Corp is still holding back water in an effort to help farmers far downstream protect and harvest their crops. For any chance at low water in the near future, the White and Norfork are the way to go, but it’s only a matter of time before those dams start cranking, as well. Interestingly, many White River and Norfork bait guides lament that “real” sculpins stop working in May due to overexposure. Ironically, using a lively and well-presented sculpin pattern can produce the desired results. Yes, there really are times on these rivers when flies will out-fish natural and live bait; it’s all about the presentation.
I have added a new fly pattern to the site: Kelly Galloup’s “Peanut Envy” – this streamer is garnering a lot of attention in the fly fishing world, and for good reason. We also just posted the second installment of our “White River History” series – this type of unique information can only be found on Taneycomotrout.com, and I really do hope that everyone is enjoying taking a deeper look into the fisheries we love. There will be at least three more articles related to this series, and feel free to let us know if there is something you would like to see covered.
My weekends are still somewhat busy with guiding, and I spend any free time I get during the week either tying flies or working on the Web site. If you have wanted to try some big-water streamer fishing, the next three weeks will offer up plenty of varied opportunities. Anglers in the Ozarks have already caught an unprecedented number of big fish this spring, and that trend will continue when we start seeing consistently high flows. The low water was a nice respite from battling high releases for months on end, but I’m excited about the amazing streamer fishing that is just about to explode.
The early part of May, 2010, I had the pleasure of spending two days with Jeremy Hunt.
Having been with White River guides in the past, my hope for a fun and fish catching trip were quite low. Myself and best friend met Jeremy at Wildcat Shoals. Jeremy is a young man with a very personable demeanor. The three of us exchanged pleasantries for a bit. Soon after, we were in Jeremy's drift boat. Yes, a drift boat, not a Jon boat with a motor. Jeremy explained that he wanted to fish in a stealth manner.
Having very limited long fly line casting abilities made what Jeremy wanted me to do well, difficult. Jeremy is a very kind, funny, patient and considerate man in all ways. What a breath of fresh air.
We used his Miracle Fly for a good part of Monday, also using some Midge patterns. I brought to net thirty fish during that first day. Could have had a lot more if my casting was better.
I fished again the very next day with another best friend. I was asking Jeremy to help my friend use the same fly setup on his spin rod. Jeremy came up with the solution. Want to know, ask him. By the way, my friend and I together caught fifty+ fish again that day.
I honestly believe that I spent two days with a future legend in the sport of fly fishing. His casting and all other skills at fly fishing are of an awesome scale.
Years ago, I spent a day on the river with a guide from Wales. Three 3 fish (not really a big deal - expected more but oh well). Worst part, the trip was absolutely no fun at all. I was glad when the trip was over.
Okay folks, bottom line: go to North Central Arkansas. Hire Jeremy Hunt to guide you - - anywhere. You will have one of the very best times on the water you could possibly have.
One final comment - - this man is the REAL DEAL!
Updated Report for 5-10-10
Taneycomo is a model of steadiness and consistency: How long will this trend last?
For the last three days, I have been guiding on Lake Taneycomo. It’s hard to believe, but water conditions, fish activity and the weather were virtually identical on each trip. Considering how these rivers like to make liars out of guides, I will refrain from speculating about how long these steady conditions will continue, but I am hopeful that the month of May will truly be one to remember because of incredible action and manageable fishing flows.
The water was ‘off’ the last three mornings, and it would not start coming up until early afternoon. Midges were the ticket during low water – we worked deep holes with black or brown Zebra-Midges under a small strike-indicator. Change your depth according to how the fish are behaving - if you see quite a few trout feeding near the surface, it’s time to set very shallow. The action was pretty much non-stop on chunky rainbows the last three mornings.
When the horn would sound, I would row as hard as I could to get up to the dam, and that is where we would start. Flows have rarely been above the 1.5-unit level, and this is excellent water to slowly work down river using “light” nymph techniques. San Juan Worm and Miracle Flies are the ticket during the rise, and once the water stabilizes, pretty much anything and everything subsurface is producing fish. We spent the entire afternoon working our way from the dam to the boat ramp – there was never any reason to go further downstream.
If I were going to complain about anything over the last three days, it would be that the wind was a little strong in the afternoons, but the consistent fishing more than made up for having to work around a little bit of breeze. If you haven’t fished light water with the use of a drift boat on Taneycomo, you should definitely check it out. This is a very relaxing way to access areas that can’t be reached by foot, and there is something to be said about drifting in silence with no background motor noise. Almost everyone I guided over the last three days was a beginner, and there really are no better conditions for new anglers to learn and EXCEL on. There should be plenty of chances to drift upper Taneycomo over the next month, so drop me a line if you have any specific questions or are interested in a trip.
With my work schedule being heaviest on the weekends, I am going to take advantage of some ‘down time’ this week by adding quite a bit to the fly tying section on the Web site – look for several new “how-to” steps and videos very soon. I have also added quite a bit of new content to the articles page, so if you haven’t been to this section in awhile, there is probably quite a bit for you to catch up on.
Although there has not been as much dead-low water on the White and Norfork of late, flows have been generally light, and the fishing has been great. Prolonged rain events are not that common this time of year, but it is possible to get excessive precipitation during intense thunderstorms, and one major event could put the lakes back into flood stage at the drop of a hat. Hopefully, most of this year’s major flooding is over, and it would be nice if reservoir levels would stay steady from now until the middle of June. I’m not expecting that to happen, though, but we can all dream, right?
Check out the video on how to tie soft hackles for our tailwaters.
White River Caddis Hatch - Wild Cat Shoals
My dad's 20.5 inch rainbow caught at Taneycomo
Updated Report for 5-6-10 Chasing the lowest water around in search of the hottest bites
I just got through covering in my newsletter how this year’s May fishing is going to be different – and in a better way for fly anglers – than it has been in many years. Any one of the three dams that I normally fish below are offering up medium flows to dead-low water at any time, so in some situations, we find ourselves fishing two different areas on the White in the same day. By remaining in contact with the dam, we have been able to stay ahead of any water releases, and the fishing has been simply superb on all three of the tailwaters.
My guiding schedule has been swamped of late, and I find myself in the midst of another significant Taneycomo and Arkansas run of days. I love guiding when the fishing is this good – I still have some very good spots open right now, but I’m getting calls and emails about May trips daily. The word is out: we are in the midst of something special in the Ozarks this year, and in all honesty, the quality of the fish in the rivers will only increase as we go through summer.
The first day in this string was last Saturday, and I decided on Lake Taneycomo – water levels were in the one to two-unit level which is perfect water for slowly making your way down river in a drift boat. Fishing has simply been amazing on these lower flows, and this day was no exception. An afternoon thunderstorm cut things short, but no one was complaining. The following day was a virtual copy of the previous one – we fished light water on Taneycomo out of the boat. We caught and released scores of hard-fighting rainbows in the 14 to 17-inch range, and I have a feeling we hooked into a few bigger ones than that. iiAfter twelve very inconsistent years on Lake Taneycomo, it is a relief to see the fishery back into the shape that made it famous [again] after the slot-limit enactment of 1997. Midges were the most consistent producers on these days, but almost every nymph technique worked at one point or another.
On Monday, I headed back to Arkansas for a couple of days on the White. Currently, the dam is operating “12 hours ‘on’/12 hours ‘off’ – this regime allows for fishing falling and low water all day long. Wildcat Shoals had been hot, so we started out there…and we ended up there, if that says anything. This was one of those dream days when the fishing was as good as it gets. The morning started out fishing well with caddis nymphs – this seems to be a good strategy when the hatch is light. By early afternoon, the hatch quickly became too much, and we encountered literally blizzard conditions at times. When there is a ton of natural food available, it can be very difficult to compete with the sheer number of insects on the water, so I like to shift gears and show the fish something completely different. On this day, midge nymphs hammered nice rainbows and browns all afternoon. There was some decent wind-chop on the water, and this dynamic really allowed us to stay on top of the action. You know it’s a good day when your client’s complain that they are sore from catching so many trout.
It seemed like a logical idea to start at Wildcat again the following day, and this decision ended up showing us all how quickly trout behavior can change. Conditions in the morning were identical to the day before, but it was a struggle to catch fish – our production was down 70%. We hoped that some wind chop would develop during the morning, but when it didn’t, it was time to search out a new spot. I quickly relocated to Rim Shoals, and this move most certainly saved the day. The water was still falling slightly at Rim, and it was obvious that things were going to be different, as our first two drifts resulted in several healthy rainbows landed. We mainly drifted the main hole, but we also worked some of the shoal areas. Midges were still the ticket in the afternoon during the big caddis hatch.
Besides just showing me how well the White River and Lake Taneycomo are fishing, the last four days also illustrated how difficult it can be on these rivers to stay in tune with the fish – there are just so many different dynamics at play to try and predict anything. Even at times when conditions appeared perfect, the bite would end up being slow; and vice-versa. There is no such thing as a trout fishing “sure thing” in the Ozarks, and these rivers will keep a diligent guide on his toes all day. The caddis hatch also displays haw frustrating the timing aspect of fly fishing is. Right now is offering up insane caddis hatches, but they are so heavy that nymph techniques are pulling more fish than dries. There are only so many windows of opportunity in the sport, and there is such an element of luck when it comes to being at the right place at the right time.
Even though the caddis hatches are wild on the White, dry fly action should improve if something happens with the water or the weather that reduces the volume of this emergence – it’s all or nothing right now, so look for sulphurs to provide a more realistic chance of allowing your fly to compete with the naturals. There has been quite a bit of low water on the Norfork since my previous report, and we hope this trend will continue throughout the month. One of the many reasons why the Norfork is a dry fly fisherman’s dream-stream in low water is that the hatches are less thick than on the White. A perfect hatch on the Norfork will consist of a smattering of sulphurs, caddis and crane flies that hatch steadily throughout the afternoon in soft riffles. Again, the Norfork is just starting to pop, and there is a solid month ahead of unprecedented dry fly opportunities –barring any unforeseen changes, of course.
The heavy flooding of the Tennessee Valley did not bring us any rain, so we dodged a bullet on that one. Lake levels are just a few feet high, so be sure to understand that just about any type of water-release is possible. Brown trout are really doing well as a result of minimum-length regulations implemented last year, and reports of 5 to 10-pound fish are common. If anyone out there has been putting off a trip to the White River Basin because of high water over the last 4 years, start planning now for a quick-trip. The wonderful flow conditions are rare enough for spring; but anglers also will be fishing to trout that haven’t been this big – on average – in many years. As mentioned: trips for May and June are booking steadily, but there are currently quite a few good days available. If you have any questions, never hesitate to drop me a line. But seriously guys, we are in the midst of the fishing we had hoped would develop since a low-water spring looked like a remote possibility in early February. Opportunity doesn’t always knock on the White River System, but when it does, always answer the call.
High-water cycle may be waning, fishing remains good
I have been very busy lately completing fly orders – dedicated guides have to do what it takes when the guiding business slows down. Even though April offers some of the years best weather and fishing, for whatever reason, the guide business almost always slacks off. May is looking quite a bit busier, and with any luck, there could be some low water in the next week.
The Norfork and White are running water most days, but rarely is it at full-power. Float fishing has been excellent. Taneycomo has been running in the one to two-unit ranges, so both boats and waders are getting in on the action. If the area stays relatively dry, low water will become more predominant. The best dry fly action in Arkansas is usually in May and June, so there is still a chance of experiencing the incredible dry fly fishing that happens during low water periods this time of year.
If you are interested in any fly selections, please let me know, as my guiding schedule will be taking up most of my time in the near future. Look for more reports from the rivers this week, and I have heard of some great fishing taking place virtually everywhere. We will be putting a newsletter out in the next week, so keep an eye out for that. Everyone’s support is greatly appreciated, and I hope to see you all out on the water very soon.
Updated Report for 4-20-10
Hot spring fishing is in full swing in the Ozarks
First off, I apologize for the lapse in reports, but it has been busy around here, and I have also been helping one of my partners through a rough heath period. But things are getting back to normal, and look for plenty of updated reports on the Web site, along with a bunch of new blog posts.
On Monday the 12th, I took out Scott Moss out for a day below Bull Shoals Dam. At the time, the Corp was running about four-units worth of water through the sluice gates below the dam and four generators were also running. This created quite a wave of water which made the left side of the river unfishable, and the bite was pretty slow. Shad patterns were the ticket, and these flies are always worth trying when the rivers are running high. The big complaint on the White right now is that the river gets very trashy once you get a few miles down from the dam around Cane Island, so it pays to stay close to the dam. We did manage to catch some decent fish, including the chunk in the picture, and it was pretty cool to fish with the sluice gates open - that is pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime type of deal. The sluice gates have now been closed for a few days, and the White is running at about half power, which makes for great floating. Reports are that fishing has been good, if you can find clear water.
The Norfork is also suffering from trashy water away from the dam, which is somewhat alarming when one thinks about it: where is this junk coming from? Almost everyone is doing well fishing one unit on the ‘fork lately and a lot of nicer fish are coming out of the woodwork. This is “typical Norfork”; as soon as everyone gets convinced that the Norfork is dead, it comes back with fury. Lots of NICE cutthroats are also being caught all of a sudden, and the pictures of these big trout are spectacular.
Because I had some time away from guiding this week, I spent a bunch of time chasing white bass in the lake tributaries. This year’s run has been one of the best in recent memory, so it’s been hard to stay away. My buddy from Lone Star Restaurant and I limited out in just a few hours one evening, and the action has been non-stop almost every time. As you can see in the pic, every once in a while we will catch a spotted bass, which adds to the fun. Unfortunately, the run is about coming to an end. If anyone is interested in trying this out next year, let me know so that I can keep everyone updated. It’s a ‘hit or miss’ type of deal, but at least there are trout to have fun with if the bass bite is slow.
Lake levels are starting to drop, and Table Rock is now below power pool; currently, the water has been shut down, so there may be some wading available on Lake Taneycomo very soon. The White and Norfork are running nice, moderate flows, so right now is a beautiful time to take advantage of great water and great weather – and the fishing’s not too bad, either. All the dry fly fishing we’ve talked about in the last few months is still a big time possibility if the lakes get to power pool by early May. It could happen, so it’s worth keeping an eye on.
***A note on the Boise trips. My partner Gabe has been quite ill for several weeks (but improving), so we haven’t been able to get as organized as we hoped. We will be making a few exciting announcements about these trips which will add a level of flexibility, including the use of a historic cabin right below Owyhee Dam. If you are at all interested, please let us know. Our aim is to get six anglers together for five days of guided and unguided fishing with Gabe and I (we WILL NOT be the guides). We are shooting for the first couple of weeks in June. If we cannot get this together in time, there will be another junket in September/October. Please, if you have any questions, suggestions or feedback, let us know.
Updated Report from 4-11-10
Confronting the challenge of fishing the current conditions below Bull Shoals Dam
I took a family of three out on the water yesterday, and the significance of this event was that it was my first high-water guide trip with three anglers in the boat. My new Supreme is wonderful to fish out of, and I am putting the 5-feet of extra room to good use. Although fly fishing out of the boat with three people takes increased awareness and the willingness to share the space, these types of trips allow more friends and family to fish together. Plus, splitting the cost of a guide trip amongst an extra person will save some money. It is great to be able to offer the three-angler option to my clients.
David, Jeremy, and “Pops” we beginners eager to delve right into the sport of fly fishing. Before the trip, Phil, of Lilley’s Landing Resort helped me arrange the purchase of some good, beginner setups for my client’s upcoming experience. They were able to familiarize themselves with their equipment before going out on the water, which always helps. Waders were purchased on the way down to the area at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri. Both the TFO fly rod and reel outfits and the Simms waders they bought worked flawlessly.
I decided on Bull Shoals Dam because the water is quite high on all of the tailwaters I frequent. Since yesterday was a Saturday, I felt that the number of other fishermen on the Norfork stretch could be overwhelming for my neophytes, and if nothing else, the Bull Shoals Dam area allows for plenty of room to spread out. The water was running at the six-unit level, so it was rocking and rolling. We found some slower water and went to work there – the results were immediate. Every so often we would adjust our positioning, but for the most part, the action was so steady that we did not have to stray far from our original starting point…until our success started getting the attention of other anglers. Some folks just have to try and muscle in on you when everyone is having fun, so I let some other people move in, thinking that we could scrape up a few bites out in the main channel.
Drifting the big flows proved fruitless, which gave me a little bit of insight into why my previous spot looked so good to the other fishermen on the river. After awhile, we once again found some open slack water and went back to work. The total number of chunky rainbows landed was pretty gaudy, and my clients had a blast. It’s nice when everything works out. The upper White is fishing well on some pretty heavy water right now, and the crowds are thinning out from the spring rush. The typical high-water flies like San Juan Worms and Miracle Flies are doing the trick. I wish I had some pictures to show off, but I left my camera at home. This happens to everyone, and not having a camera is a great way to ensure a remarkable day on the water.
High water is going to be prevalent for at least another week, but Table Rock Lake is only a foot above pool, and flows have been cut back significantly of late. Beaver Lake is holding excess water, so dead-low water may not occur on Taneycomo until that reservoir is drawn down to pool, but you never know. Norfork continues to run at just over the one-unit level, and this river is fishing well for numbers. The water is clear compared to the White, but crowding has been an issue on the ‘Fork. On the White, the water gets pretty trashy just a few miles below Bull Shoals Dam, so keep that in mind if you plan on trying to drift some of the areas further downstream. This junky water should improve with each passing day. I will be guiding on the Norfork tomorrow, and I will let everyone know how it goes – hopefully we’ll have the place to ourselves on a Monday. Also, if you haven’t checked out the blog recently, be sure to give it a read. We have updated the theme and there is lots of new content available. Please let me know what you think of the changes and enhancements.
Updated Report for 4-8-10
Taking advantage of the many fly fishing options available in the Ozarks
Sometimes it pays to give one’s mind a break by exploring new opportunities that deviate from the norm. I have spent so many days guiding and fishing for trout recently that I was ready for a change of scenery. A few fishing buddies and myself were privy to several reports that the white bass run was in full swing on Bull Shoals Lake tributary streams, so we decided to head to Beaver Creek a couple of days this week. If you have not fished for white bass on a fly rod, you have to give it a try on a six or seven-weight at least once in your life. When you hit it right, it feels like you are hooking into a four to six-pound brown trout on every cast, as these fish can really pull for their size – most are in the 2 to 3-pound range.
Bull Shoals is around 8-feet high, so wading opportunities in the Beaver Creek area below Forsythe are pretty scarce. With the use of my drift boat, we were able to get around the corner where we found a perfect gravel bar wade off of. We hammered tons of fish, and I had one of my best couple of days out on the water in awhile. I hope we get the chance to hit the white bass run at least one more time this spring, but you know how these things go. At least I didn’t miss out this year, and I promise to let everyone know about this opportunity beforehand next time. Clouser minnows in white, purple and chartreuse worked fine (but these fish are not overly selective) fished on full-sinking lines.
The White River, Norfork Tailwater and Lake Taneycomo continue to be in the midst of a high-water period, but Table Rock is the closest of the three of getting back to power pool – this reservoir is just about a foot high. Yesterday, the Corp cut the flow way back below Table Rock Dam, so there may be some nice moderate water to fish for a little bit. Norfork is operating one full unit all day, and the White is running very high around the clock. Lake levels are dropping, but it will still be another week before Bull Shoals and Norfork Lakes are anywhere near power pool, and that is if the rains hold off.
There is no better time to come to the Ozarks than right now. The weather is gorgeous, the fish are biting and the Spring Break crowds of a few weeks ago are a thing of the past. My schedule is fairly busy, but if you are interested in a trip, let me know and I will explain all of the options. There is nothing like a productive float on a warm spring day, but at least we have two full months before summer is near. The best season of the year is upon us, and it is great to have such healthy rivers to fish.
Updated Report for 4-5-10 Searching for a good bite during a time of transition
The last five days I have spent on the water would make anyone considering being a guide give the idea a second thought. When fishing is good and water conditions are manageable, the White River Basin is one of the finest places in the world to fish for trout. Unfortunately, these rivers are always in a state of flux, and fish behavior can change drastically and frequently as conditions change. We did experience some good angling this last week, but we did have to work for everything we caught. Recent rains have brought the high water back, and the fish seem to have been put off by the recent changes. Most city’s residents will lament that if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute, and the same can be said of the fishing in the Ozarks. Our trout eat as much as any, and there will rarely be long periods of diminished feeding activity. I have a full week of guiding ahead, and I know that productivity will significantly improve as water levels become steady.
This ended up being one of those days where we could not catch a break. I guided a father and son named Chris and Shawn, and these guys were just as interested in learning as they were in catching fish. It’s nice to get laidback guys like this on a tough day. We decided to try the White, as water flows were not expected to be extremely heavy. Just two hours after putting my drift boat in at the White Hole Access, a heavy surge of water hit us, and it became obvious that we would be battling tough conditions for the rest of the day. They were interested in fishing streamers, and I commend these guys for putting in a lot of work, but the trout rarely react favorably when the river is trashy. We did manage to hook one brown that was in the 20-inch range along with several rainbows, so the day was not a total loss.
Hoping that April Fools hit us a day early, Shawn and Chris decided to give me another chance. I decided to try the Norfork because the flows had been at the one-unit level for almost a week; this is great floating water. Of course, with the way my luck had been going, I expected a change – and I got it; the river was up a foot higher than it had been the day before when we arrived. We floated the entire tailwater, and the fishing was tougher than I thought it would be. One of my clients did hook a 20-inch brown, and we had some other takers, but the overall fishing was slow. During the afternoon, I talked them into trying some streamers. This change definitely helped make up for lost time, as we did immediately start to catch fish after we started dead-drifting standard high-water patterns. Everyone still had a very good time, and these tough days make the hey-days taste all the sweeter.
On this Friday I took out a passionate streamer fisherman named Lee Johnston. Lee had a bunch of Kelly Galloup’s stuff, so I knew that we would get along just fine. Targeting trophy fish with streamers was on the agenda, and this guy was eager to do the work necessary to get that one big bite. I decided on the Norfork again, as this river is offering up the best conditions of the three places I normally fish. Again, action was somewhat slow. Streamers again were not the ticket, and Lee was willing to try some nymphs to get a bend in his rod. This switch produced results like it did the day before, and the two gorgeous browns Lee landed were the biggest of his trip. There are some decent fish on the Norfork right now, and this stretch usually heats up in April on all water conditions.
It was time to take a gamble, and since I was guiding Lee again, we considered trying the Little Red for some browns. I usually will not drive this far to fish, but flows had been good below Greer’s Ferry Dam of late, so I figured it was worth a shot. It rained the whole way down to Heber Springs, and we found the river muddy. There was also more water running than there had been the days before. This was not looking good – the story of my week so far. We threw streamers for the first five miles of our ten-mile float with just one brown hooked. I was forced to scramble again, so we drove to the Norfork to fish reduced flows until dark. Lee was committed to trying streamers for a trophy fish, and we did fairly well with some good ‘bows and a big brown hooked above McClellen’s. Towards the end of the day, a 25-inch brown followed Lee’s fly back to the boat, but it just wouldn’t hit. Although it was a frustrating couple days, this is how it goes sometimes, and that big brown we saw at the end will definitely get Lee back to the area for another try.
After the last four days, I was not expecting much; rarely do good things actually happen when you have a defeatist attitude, but I had hit bottom, and there was no place to go but up. Because of potential flooding far downstream of Bull Shoals Dam on the White, flows were reduced on Saturday and Sunday. The water was only at the three to four-unit level when we started, and the action was good – if we could keep the wind from blowing us all over the place. Compared to the other trips I had done of late, we smoked some nice fish on this day, but nothing huge was landed. The best action was right on the bottom in slack water.
Updated report for 3-30-10
Streamer fishing on the White and a day on Dry Run Creek
High water is back in full-swing in the Ozarks, but releases are not at maximum levels on any of the tailwaters - as of yet, anyway. Norfork Dam has been operating the equivalent of one-full-unit around the clock, and the White is running steadily in the four to five-unit range. The Corp is aggressively dumping water out of Table Rock Lake, so Taneycomo is running the highest of the three rivers, but at least the reservoir levels have remained manageable – right now, Table Rock Lake is about three feet above power pool.
On Monday, I had something happen to me that will never happen again: I had to give up a three-person guide trip because my river boat is too short to accommodate that many anglers. This Thursday I will be purchasing a sweet, 20-foot Supreme, so three-person trips will now be a possibility during all water conditions. I didn’t want the day to be a total waste, so I took Summer’s brother down to Arkansas to do some streamer fishing with my friend John Holsten. It was supposed to be a great day for the weather, and we found the river empty when we got to the Wildcat Shoals boat ramp. This was going to be a perfect outing whether the fish cooperated or not.
All in all, the action was not great, but it wasn’t bad, either. We fished from Wildcat to Rim Shoals using only articulated streamer patterns (olive was best), and the high sun made the browns hesitant to commit to taking the fly. They seemed to swipe at it instead of following up from behind and inhaling the offering. A lot of this may have had something to do with the bright conditions. Still, I personally got takes from five big browns, but only one of them was landed – a healthy 22-incher that came from the docks along the airport stretch (above Highway 62). About twenty fish were landed overall, and we all had a wonderful time floating an unpressured river. What could be better than spring on the White?
Today I had the pleasure of taking a 15-year old to Dry Run Creek below Norfork Dam. This trophy trout stretch is exclusively for kids under 16 and for anyone with a disability; it is absolutely loaded with huge fish. Still, this micro fishery is not a pushover. The big fish can get spooky, and each day on the Creek fishes differently. We ended up catching tons of trout, but this young man’s apprehension to fully set the hook cost him three big rainbows. That is how we all learn, and hook-setting can be a tough concept to grasp in the tight quarters of Dry Run. Still, for his first time out he did a great job, and hopefully I will get him out again in the future. He did land a 20-inch brown, as well, which capped off a really fun day.
Times are busy right now, but I’m not complaining, especially since the fishing is so good on all of the rivers. Be sure to check out the blog when you get the chance. My good friend Gabe Cross will be contributing on an almost daily basis. It should make for some interesting reading about both Arkansas and Idaho. I will definitely post some pictures of my new boat once it is set up. Also, if anyone is interested, I am selling my 16-foot Supreme with the trailer. Call me for the specifics.
Updated Report for 3-25-10
Low water hopes once again dashed by heavy rain
For months, everyone involved in the White River Basin trout fisheries has been closely following the reservoir levels and water release schedules. Heavy fall rains, which are somewhat unusual for this area, pushed lakes up to extremely high levels by early December. The drawdown has taken over three months to complete, and that was without any heavy rainfall hitting the area. Last weekend, everything came together down in Arkansas, as the White River and Norfork Tailwater were dead-low for days on end. It was a great time to be on the water; the fish were eager, the weather was decent (until Saturday) and it was so refreshing to fish low flows again.
When you live by the sword, you die by the sword, and it was only a matter of time until some decent rains found our watershed. There have been several moderate to heavy rain (and snow!) events since last weekend, and the lakes are rising accordingly. As of this writing, Bull Shoals, Norfork and Table Rock Lakes are all about a couple of feet above power pool, but more rain pounded the region today, so it looks like the low water will be over for a bit.
The Corp of Engineers reacted swiftly to the recent deluge by releasing heavy water right away from Table Rock and Bull Shoals power plants. Norfork is running around the clock at the one-unit level – these flows are perfect for drifting over there, so get in on this dynamic while it is available because they could start cranking at any time. Hopefully, heavy precipitation events will be few and far between over the next couple of months. At this point in time, it will only take one serious storm to get the lakes really rising. If the area remains dry over the next few weeks, lower water could be a possibility once they run this current floodwater through the system – I will have a tentative timeframe on this after all of the reservoirs crest.
It is really starting to feel like this wet cycle may never end, but I must keep reminding myself that high water is much better for these fisheries than low water is. April is just around the corner, and this month is one of my absolute favorites for fishing all water conditions on our rivers. The winds of March fade into gentle breezes as April settles in, and the big fish – browns especially - just seem to get active. San Juan Worms in pink, red and brown variations will produce some very good trout when the water is up. Even though talk of the shad kill has pretty much died of late, I would not hesitate to throw a white streamer up by Bull Shoals Dam on the heavy water they are releasing. Shad may still be coming through, but I have not heard of any reports to confirm this.
My schedule is very busy right now – tomorrow I start six days of guiding in a row. Look for April’s newsletter in about a week, and it is going to be a good one. If any of you guys are flexible with your fishing plans, look at water releases over the next few days. If runoff into the White River starts to get heavy, look for a very small low-water window on the White and/or Norfork. With today’s heavy rains and subsequent flood warnings, I would not be surprised to see flood control operations take over. The Corp does not want to add to flooding issues by releasing heavy water into already swollen waterways.
Updated Report for 3-20-10
Low water and hot fishing combine to make for a memorable Sow Bug Roundup Weekend
It seems like I am never fully prepared to make that transition in my life from the slow pace of winter to the hectic business of spring – all off a sudden I will be consumed by work after months of very little activity. It feels great to be spending a lot of time on the water recently, and there is nothing better than having a somewhat full guiding schedule ahead when the fishing is this good.
I found myself in Arkansas the last two days taking part in the annual Sow Bug Roundup in Mountain Home. This event is basically a regional ‘convention’ with many speakers, guides, fly tiers, retailers and wholesalers showing off their wares. I always meet such great people, and it is always nice to reconnect with longstanding acquaintances. The water was low for the entire day on both the White and Norfork both yesterday and today – Bull Shoals surged the water for an hour Friday morning and since then, the generators have been off. This is the first time in quite awhile that low water and the Sow Bug Roundup have come together on the same weekend, and almost everyone was reported very productive fishing.
Because they ran water for one hour during the morning on Friday, I decided to take my clients far downstream from the dam so that we could enjoy steady water for the majority of the day. Rim Shoals seemed like as good a spot as any to try, and the water was likely going to be low. These clients of mine have gained a bit of a local reputation for the exuberance they express after each fish they catch. It is all in good fun, and in no way are they trying to show anyone up. Rather, they just really enjoy catching trout, and they definitely do not mind expressing themselves. There were many opportunities to hoot and holler for my clients on this first of two guided days, as the fish were aggressively feeding from start to finish. I would guess that triple-digit numbers were brought to hand, including an 18-inch brown hooked right above the main shoal. Midges were the most productive patterns, but Miracle Flies also worked well – honestly, any number of flies would have produced when the fishing is this hot. Even though the water was low, we did all of our fishing from the drift boat. I did have to pull up around the main islands at the end of the day, but it was worth this extra effort to get a large expanse of water to ourselves.
After Friday’s success, this morning (Saturday) we decided to give Rim Shoals another try. We did not start until noon because I had to give my streamer presentation at the Sowbug Roundup in the morning. There were quite a few fly anglers taking advantage of the great wading conditions, but since low water could be found virtually everywhere on the White and Norfork, everyone stayed pretty spread out. I had noticed several pods of very nice browns just above the main shoal on Friday, but there were quite a few people in that area today, so we wasted no time in getting to the lower section of Rim Shoals. One of the guys pulled in a 19-inch brown on our way down, and the other client landed a 21-incher below the shoal. Like the day before, we caught fish pretty much at will, and these will be two days of fishing that will not soon be forgotten. We had noticed several “golden” trout here and there over the two days on the White, and one of the guys desperately wanted to land one of these hatchery mutants. On the last cast of the trip, he got his golden trout, and that completed his unconventional trout fishing “grand slam” – a rainbow, a brown, a cutthroat and a golden all landed on the same day.
We have had a little bit of rain recently, but the lakes are still holding steady. Fishing rarely gets much better than it is right now, so if you get some free time over the next few weeks, definitely try and get to the Ozarks for some fly fishing. The rivers are in great shape, and it is obvious that spring is just around the corner.
Updated Report for 3-17-10
Low and high water: The difference between night and day
I spent the last two days out on the water guiding, and this recent experience clearly displayed how much of a difference water conditions can make. On Monday, we waded some low water at Lake Taneycomo and literally wore the fish out. Fly selection seemed to matter little, and the steady wind kept a nice bit of chop on the surface. Obviously, the trout on Taneycomo are really pigging out when the water gets low. Today, I found out what these fish are doing when the water is running.
The Corp of Engineers threw me a curveball, as the water came up unexpectedly on Taneycomo around 10am. Conditions were blustery, and it was a struggle to control the boat with so much wind. It is so frustrating to know that fishing could be great if the water would just drop a few more feet, but instead, we were forced to fight the wind and do the best that we could. I had one angler in my boat, and we worked very hard, as a team, for every fish that was landed. What a difference a day can make on these rivers.
What I find interesting is that just because the trout currently are turning on when the water gets shut down, it is totally possible that their behavior will change drastically at any time. White River Basin trout are often stimulated by changes in water conditions. After several weeks of primarily lower water, the fish will start to turn on every time the river rises. Because fishing these rivers is such a game, I never have issues with losing interest or burning out. Rather, I get more intrigued each day I spend on the water and I am passionate about figuring out these fisheries as deeply as I possibly can.
The Sow Bug Roundup is in Mountain Home this weekend. If you are in the area Saturday morning at 9am, be sure to stop by for my streamer fishing presentation. This event is always a lot of fun, and maybe the water will cooperate this year and some people will get to wade. I also wanted to mention that we are starting to generate some interest in our Owyhee River trips to Boise, and we are just now getting to work on all of the details. If you are interested in this unique angling opportunity, please drop me a line, and it looks like the first of these trips will be in mid June. I will also be posting an article about the Owyhee on my blog, and you have to check out the video of my friend catching one nice brown after another from the same wading spot. It will be such a blast to spend some real time on the Owyhee, and I think it will be good to fish other waters for the sake of experience.
The weather is getting nice – some days, anyway – and the fish are currently adjusting to so many changes going on around them. Once the flow patterns stabilize, the action will get more consistent, but for now, it is all about recognizing and finding the best water conditions on any given day.
Updated report from 3-15-10
Fishing cools off in Arkansas, while the action is just now heating up on Lake Taneycomo
A couple of days ago (Saturday) I took Darren and his father Dennis out for a guide trip. We decided to start out below Bull Shoals Dam, but I had a feeling that the White may be slowing down after so many weeks of great fishing. Experienced guides have struggled to produce fish on very good water conditions over the last week. Why would this happen? Well, fishing cannot be incredible every day of the year, especially when you consider all of the flow changes on our rivers along with constant angler and boat pressure. This tough bite will not last forever, and more than likely, the action will get back to normal this week. There is a good chance that there will be some low water on the White very soon, as Bull Shoals Lake is now six-inches below power pool and the lake level is dropping a little bit each day.
The action was pretty slow for us below the dam, but we did manage to catch a few here and there. It is amazing how spoiled we get when the bite is on. I mean, we probably landed somewhere in the ballpark of 20 fish in three hours, but the brutal wind made everything tougher – especially running the boat. There was only one other boat on the water, and I can see why – the trout have not been active in several days according to reports, so most anglers are fishing downstream of the dam or heading over to the Norfork. After some discussion, the three of us decided to head back to Branson and see what was happening on Lake Taneycomo. This ended up being one of those lucky situations where the water conditions played out in our favor.
The water was off when we got to Taneycomo, and the guys immediately got to work catching one nice trout after another. Instead of fighting the wind in the boat, we were able to use the chop to our advantage, and beaded midge pupa patterns were the ticket. If you have not read the TaneycomoTrout.com article about using the wind to your favor, check it out here as this is critical information. There have been plenty of days in the past where I would have been more than happy with the twenty fish we landed on the upper White, but we lucked out and were able to turn a good trip into an epic outing.
This day on the water with Darren and Dennis reaffirmed just how much it pays to be versatile when fishing the White River Basin trout fisheries. Many area guides only fish water they are comfortable with, which is fine, but it never hurts to have as many options as possible at one’s disposal. Right now, the fishing is tough on both the White and Norfork. By having Lake Taneycomo as an option, I am able to get in on hot fishing that most of the folks in Arkansas do not even know is happening. I do spend more on gasoline and logistical expenses but covering a large area, but it is all worth it when my clients have the fly fishing experience of their lives.
March 14th, 2010
Yesterday, I was able to spend some time on Lake Taneycomo with some friends of mine named Justin and Chad. These guys streamer fished on the White last year around this time and they did exceptionally well. The water was really high during their last visit, and Justin and Chad definitely showed the locals a thing or two. Hopefully, their expectations were not too high for this year, as it is so unlikely to be able to repeat such an amazing experience. They arrived right in the middle of the first slowdown in fishing on the White in quite some time, and I could tell that they had hoped for better fishing. After what my clients had accomplished the day before on Taneycomo, I invited Justin and Chad to Branson for a change of scenery and a change of luck.
The water was not all the way off on Sunday like it was on Saturday, but conditions were perfect for combining wading and floating. Streamers produced nothing on this one-unit flow, but all of the usual nymphs produced very well. We had a great time hammering chunky rainbows all day long, and I know that Justin and Chad now feel much better about their entire trip. I’m sorry for saying it all the time, but I’ll reiterate: anglers must keep an open mind when they fish these rivers. Sure, these guys would have loved to have repeated the big-water streamer action on the White of last year, but that scenario was not going to play out, so they rolled with it and had a great day using nymphs on Lake Taneycomo.
We are halfway through March, and I am constantly reminded of how two-faced this month really is. If the water is low and wading is possible, March provides heyday fishing because of the constant wind. March is the windiest month of the year in the Ozarks, and blustery conditions make for fantastic fishing if the water is low. On the other hand, if the water is high in March, it can be a real pain controlling the boat and staying on the fish. It also seems like the high-water bite in March is typically not that great – especially when compared to other months. At the moment, it is looking like more and more wading options are becoming available, and the entire Ozarks region has been dry for quite a long time. My clients and I are really enjoying these ‘new’ conditions, and I am looking forward to spending many days wading over the next month.
March 7, 2010
Family time on a jam-packed Lake Taneycomo
After going to church with both kids and my girl’s family, I decided to take Summer and her brother Corey out for an afternoon on Lake Taneycomo. Temperatures were near 70-degrees, but it was extremely windy – more on that later. It is such a treat to be able to fish with loved ones, so I was committed to making this day a great experience for all of us.
The nice weather coupled with the start of spring break has drawn people to the water in swarms, and the boat traffic was definitely worse than normal. Anglers should prepare for crowded conditions for the remainder of the month. It did not take long for Corey to hook and land a very healthy 17-inch rainbow once we got the river boat on the water. He was so happy with this catch, as this was only his third time fly fishing.
After the hot start, it became quite a struggle to battle the wind and to find open space. As a guide, I must be ready to adapt to any sort of conditions, including wind and crowds, so we pulled into the slack water below Point Royal and let the wind help us slowly drift downstream. All three of us caught some chunky rainbows on midges, and the outing was saved. Everyone had a great time, and I cannot wait until I can get out on the water with close family again.
Low water could be a real possibility over the next week, as the entire region continues to be unusually dry. Pretty much every drop of excess water in system lakes is gone, and anglers in Arkansas are enjoying low water every afternoon on the Norfork. The White is still running for most of the day like on Lake Taneycomo, but this pattern will likely change very soon. Let’s hope any rains hold off long enough for everyone to enjoy some wading.
As I touched on above, be sure to expect more people and boats on the water than usual in March. Upper Taneycomo can be a particularly dangerous stretch because half of the craft on the water are oversized bass and lake boats. The wake from these vessels will knock down waders and swamp the appropriately-sized river boats on the water. Lake Taneycomo’s banks also take a real beating from the constant traffic, and it will not be long before erosion will adversely affect fishing productivity. I would love to see 25-horsepower restrictions put in place on the section from Fall Creek to Table Rock Dam. Those of us who want to fish safely should have a place to do that, and I feel that operating a boat that is disproportionately large on a narrow waterway violates the state’s prudent boat operating statutes. The benefit of restricting motors far outweighs the negatives.
The weather is looking nice for this upcoming week and the water is running much lower than it has been – plus, the fishing continues to be excellent. Please keep in mind that I definitely consider how crowded a spot is likely to be before guiding my clients in that area. When at all possible, I opt for places where we can spread out and enjoy nature. Only rarely is it impossible to find plenty of open water, but it can take a little more effort to escape the masses during spring and summer weekends.
Larry's rainbow of the day.
March 6, 2010
Every silver lining has a cloud
I just wanted to post a brief report on the trip I did the other day. A really nice gentleman and I decided to fish Lake Taneycomo after much deliberation. Flows have been much lower at both Bull Shoals and Table Rock Dams, so it was a tough decision picking a spot. All in all, I think I made the right choice by staying close to home.
The water ran steady at the one-unit level all day – this may be the rarest of all flows to see with much regularity on Lake Taneycomo. Fishing is almost always good on one unit and yesterday was no exception. There was just one annoying issue that prevented us from having a hey-day: an over-abundance of federally stocked rainbow trout from the hatchery in Neosho, Missouri. We could not keep these little squirts off of our line, and I am convinced that these fresh trout will grab the fly before the larger fish get the chance to. Still, we did manage to land a few good ones here and there, and most of these larger fish were very dark purple in color. I love it when they take on this shade; I think it may be indicative of a fish that is either pre or post-spawn. Those that fish Taneycomo a lot know how cool these purple rainbows look in person.
All in all, we landed around forty fish, which I think is very good for someone new to the sport. Sure, the majority of what was landed was dinky, but he still had to do everything right to get the hook-up. The only guaranteed way to keep these stockers off of your line is to throw a fly bigger than they are, and I was close to trying that at points throughout the day. We ended the outing right by landing a thick and hard-fighting rainbow in the 17-inch range.
It does frustrate me that they stock so many tiny fish on upper Taneycomo throughout the year. Basically, no one wants these fish, so they have to go somewhere. But seriously, the trophy area on upper Lake Taneycomo never needs stocking, and if it does, why not use the trout with strong genetic traits from Shepherd of the Hills hatchery below Table Rock Dam? I’m sure this whole deal can be traced back to the times when the federal government was instituting stocking programs to mitigate the loss of warm water habitat below the dams. These swarms of stockers not only diminish the fishing experience on upper Lake Taneycomo, they also stress the habitat to its breaking point.
I did just hear that my dad was just checked by the game wardens while fishing today. It is good to finally see the enforcement officers below the dam on Lake Taneycomo again. They used to check fishermen for violations all the time, but the effort has slacked off in recent years. Poachers beware: the officers said that they will be patrolling the dam area far more frequently this year.
Look for lower flows on all the rivers this upcoming week, and dead low water is a strong possibility on the White and Lake Taneycomo. It hasn’t really happened lately, but the lakes are all below power pool, so I am expecting serious changes in generation patterns. Check out the Flies for Sale page – I have a new dry fly box offering a selection of patterns that can bring the big boys to the surface.
Fishing is great right now. Let me help you plan the perfect Ozark fly fishing getaway.
March 3, 2010
Is the high water finally winding down?
I haven’t been out on the water since my last report, but I do have a little bit of news to pass on. First of all, I am postponing my expedition trip down the White River. Fly orders have been coming in pretty quickly, and I do want to thank everyone who is keeping me busy. I also have the chance to fish with Summer on Saturday, and sine I rarely get to spend a whole day on the water with my girl, I had to take advantage of this opportunity. The White will always be there to explore, so waiting a week or two is no big deal. By then, temperatures may be warmer and who knows what the water levels will be.
Bull Shoals and Table Rock Dams continue to run at the 50% of capacity level, but Bull did shut down for four hours last night [first shut down in months], so changes are slowly occurring. Over the years I have noticed that during the month of March, it always seems like one or two units will run around the clock at one of the dams. In 2000, the Corp ran water on the Norfork all day long, even though the lake was five feet below pool. Usually, this load will be taken care of by Bull Shoals, and I’ve never seen a “predetermined” release at Beaver during this month. I know that after saying this,something weird will occur, but I do want people to understand why the water may be running water some days during March, even when the lakes are at or below pool. There are so many different scenarios that dictate how the Corp and Southwestern Power manage power production. I will be touching on this subject in an upcoming article.
The Norfork has been off most days from 10 or 11am through 6pm, so there is a definite window of opportunity to get out and wade over there. We may start seeing a similar pattern emerge on the White and Table Rock over the next week if the weather stays dry. With respect to the Norfork, remember that the water takes four hours to drop out completely at the Ackerman Access, but the area is shallow enough to wade within an hour and a half of the dam shutting down. This section is always popular, but you can get a little solitude by heading upstream while the water is still falling. Always be aware of the water coming back up – an increase in flow is difficult to recognize during the drop period.
In an effort to diversify and increase my Web site’s exposure, I will be posting partial articles on my blog up to five times a week. Some of these pieces will be similar to what I usually post, but others will be lighter or delve into the details of a very specific subject. The full versions of these articles can be found on the articles page.
I will keep everyone updated, and never hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions or just want to chat. Fishing will continue to get better through March, but keep in mind that our waters are more congested than normal this time of year. Try and be patient if someone accidently gets too close, and everyone’s experience on the water is better when boaters and waders get along. It can be hard sometimes – believe me, I know. Finding a little space away from the crowds will not only lead to productive fishing, it also helps maintain sanity. Low water is a novelty right now, so everyone wants to see what all the commotion is about. The “new” will wear off in a few weeks, but still, March is a month where a lot of families head to the Ozarks for spring break. The prospect of good fishing will bring people to the trout fisheries in this region, but I rarely notice the masses when the bite is hot.
***Don’t forget to check out my streamer presentation at the Sow Bug Roundup in Mountain Home on the 18th, 19th and 20th of this month. Let me know if you need more information. This event is like a fly fishing convention, and it is definitely worth the time. There will be plenty of great tiers to meet and lots of cool gear to try, so be sure to come to the Sow Bug Roundup if you get the chance.
Typical Norfork browny.
February 28 2010
Banging fish in Arkansas
I just got done with two days of guiding – it was only supposed to be one day, but the fishing was so good, the guys jumped at the chance to do everything a second time. We fished the White and the Norfork, and both places are still in very good shape with respect to numbers of fish, even though we did not land any lunkers.
We started out up by Bull Shoals Dam on the first day of this excursion. The water was running at about the five-unit level and the river was not nearly as crowded as it had been. Shad patterns worked pretty well, especially considering how there was no shad or bird activity whatsoever. We also caught fish on Miracle Flies and San Juan Worms. It was a very productive morning, but the action slowed down around noon. Since the water was not dropping as predicted, we decided to go wade the Norfork for the afternoon since the water had been shut off.
Because low water has been so infrequent over the last few years, it seemed like every fisherman within 500 miles was out on the river. I was surprised to find fishing pretty slow right off the bat. Trout were feeding on midges everywhere, but my favorite midge imitations were pretty much ignored. After trying Miracle Flies with limited luck, I got a little ‘tip’ and switched to micro red San Juan Worms. After that, it was on – we smoked fish the rest of the day and everyone, including myself, had a blast.
Norfork has been shutting off mid-morning, so we got a late start on the second day in order to be on the water right around the time that levels are dropping out. The river was even more crowded than the day before, but we had my drift boat - using a float strategy to escape the crowds was on the agenda. Amazingly, there were people pretty much up and down the entire river, but we found some good spots and caught a bunch of fish. I hate seeing our resources so congested, but things will thin out as low water becomes more common. The Norfork has changed so much due to the unprecedented flooding and high water of the last few years, and I found myself having to drag my drift boat in quite a few spots. I did not see a bunch of big fish, but they like to show up and leave with regularity on this stretch.
This upcoming week I am planning an expedition float trip on the White. A friend and I are going to start at Bull Shoals Dam and fish for three days out of the drift boat. We are not sure where we will end up. My intention is to experiment with some new streamer tackle. I really feel that I am on the cusp of figuring out how to consistently hook into really big fish. Upon my return, I will report on the experience.
The March newsletter is about to be sent out, so if you are not on the subscriber list, be sure to sign up – there are spots to do this on a few pages of the Web site (home page being the easiest). There is quite a bit of exclusive content in this issue and there is also a deal on a selection of Miracle Flies. My guide schedule is getting a bit busier, but there are plenty of good days available, so please let me know if you are interested in getting out on the water for a day or two. Right now is a great time to be fly fishing in the Ozarks.
Dennis with a nice healthy rainbow. I guess she's been eating.
Updated Report February 22 2010
Hot high-water action continues
All of the lakes in the White River System continue to hover at levels just above power pool, so the Corp of Engineers has been taking advantage of the situation by running lots of water over the last week. [UPDATE] As of this writing, Table Rock Dam has shut down at noon today. This is the first low water we’ve seen during the day over here for quite some time. Hopefully, a new trend is emerging, and arid weather is predicted for the next week. How ironic would it be to have a dry spring after an abnormally wet summer and fall? I know that there are a lot of guys out there who cannot wait to get into some wading water, and the time may finally be near.
I had a guide trip on Saturday that ended up going for just over a half day. We fished primarily in the catch and release area below Bull Shoals Dam on the White. The weather was gorgeous with temperatures climbing into the 60’s. I could not believe how many boats were on the water up there – it looked like a Jon boat regatta. Every guide in the Ozarks was fishing the area, and there were scores of rental boats zooming around with little regard for other vessels. Only a couple of gulls were sitting below the spillway, and shad patterns were not the ticket. It always amazes me how quickly things change up there. Still, I think the shad kill will pick up again through March, and I will keep everyone “in the loop”.
Despite the heavy river traffic and lack of shad on the water, fishing was very good on Saturday. We caught lots of chunky rainbows on various nymphs and the Miracle Fly was also a solid producer. Check out the picture of the 21-inch rainbow we landed – it’s great to see fish like this showing up again. Most people struggled on this day, as fishing is difficult when flows and pressure are heavy. Hopefully, the ‘new’ will wear off of this zone very soon and we can get back to sane numbers of fishermen on the water. The entire White is loaded with fish and the catch and release area below Bull Shoals is in amazing shape. When all of the attention shifts to the upper White, anglers tend to forget about the Norfork. I think there will be low water on the ‘Fork this week, and that river is always HOT in March. This is the next place I will be checking out, so keep visiting this page for a report.
Finally a brown trout caught on a streamer at Taneycomo.
On Sunday, I decided to fish for fun close to home on Lake Taneycomo because the weather was looking ‘iffy’. We got on the water early, and there were four heavy units cranking. The action was very slow, so we decided to get out of the rain and take a fly tying break. In the afternoon, the water had lowered to the two-unit level, and the bite was definitely much better after the flows slowed down. I decided to play around with some streamers, and I even threw a few tandem-rigs with a Zoo-Cougar and Circus Peanut. The action was surprisingly good, which leads me to believe that streamers will work well during certain flow conditions on Lake Taneycomo. Since there is so little structure available over the first couple miles of river below Table Rock Dam, there are very few ‘classic’ spots to throw a streamer, so the fish really need the right water to get into a chasing mood. I did even manage to land a respectable brown with this technique, and that definitely opened my eyes to more possibilities. It will be fun to play around with streamers when one or two units are running on Lake Taneycomo.
The next week should be characterized by wild water fluctuations, as this is generally what happens as the lakes approach power pool levels. I hate to make bold predictions, but I think that there will be some low water this upcoming weekend if the reservoirs continue to drop. When the lakes stabilize at or just below power pool, the best chances for low water below Bull Shoals and Table Rock Dams will be on the weekends, but there will be scattered low-water days during the week, as well – especially once the weather gets mild. Norfork will offer up more wading opportunities than the White and Taneycomo. I am giddy thinking about how the upcoming fishing is going to be on the Norfork.
Check out my blog to read my latest article about how the fish fight differently on each stretch of water. Every now and again, I like to cover interesting topics that do not relate to techniques, so I hope that everyone will enjoy this. Always feel free to let me know if there is an article that you would like to see. My guiding schedule is really starting to pick up, but there are still quite a few open dates in March. This is the month that really kicks off the Ozark trout fishing season, and there are always scores of big fish caught in March. Weather can range from hot to frigid, so anglers must come prepared for any weather conditions. I can remember when Arkansas received 16-inches of snow in early March, and this was immediately followed by two weeks of temperatures near 80-degrees. The weather and trout fishing in the Ozarks is never boring.
Jason wading behind the island just up from Lookout Hole.
February 16 2010 The fishing is really, really good right now. It’s time to come to the Ozarks.
I hope that everyone is doing alright. It’s been a busy past couple of days, as I fished for fun and had a guide trip. Water flows are still persistent, but releases are not nearly as heavy as they were a month ago. The way that the lakes are hovering just above power pool is getting annoying – we just want some low water to fish for a change. For the most part, heavy rains have held off in 2010, so at least we are not seeing really high lake levels. It’s been just wet enough, though, to allow the Corp to run steady water without much affect on the reservoirs.
Even though wading is still very limited, the fishing out of the boat is fantastic right now, and shad patterns are doing really well on the White. Last Friday (February 12th) I decided to fish below Bull Shoals Dam to see what was happening. The bite was steady all day long on white streamers. Dead-drifting a non-weighted fly was more effective than stripping a heavy pattern off of the bank, although I did tag a few nice fish using a Tungsten Dumbbell Double-Bunny in this way. I did meet an angler named Michael who I talked to after I saw that he had a 22-inch brown on, and it turned out that he fooled the pig on a red San Juan Worm. After we chatted for a bit, I got back into a drift, only to realize that the bite had slowed down just a hair. I decided to try something a little different. Since I was already set up for dead-drifting a shad pattern, I dropped a red worm from my streamer. This really worked well, and I caught fish all afternoon on both the shad and the worm. San Juan Worms are really producing, and red variations are what the fish want. Nothing really big was landed on this day, but most of the trout below Bull Shoals Dam are very healthy. The river was not overly crowded, and water levels fluctuated between 5 to 7-unit levels.
Michael's 22 inch brown
On Sunday (February 14th) I guided Tim and Jason on Lake Taneycomo. We faced tough conditions from the onset of this trip, but we did the best that we could. The wind was really howling, and the water was running at a 2.5-unit level. Luckily, the bite was steady all day, and we caught fish on a variety of patterns, including shad streamers and my Miracle Fly. Although we did have some success drifting in the main current, we got into the most action in slack and backwater areas. Below outlet #3 there was a hot midge bite, and my clients landed several gorgeous rainbows up to 17-inches. In the afternoon, conditions were right for wading around the islands, and both guys did very well. Another fly that worked was this “Jumbo” worm I am tying. This chenille is crazy looking, but the cerise version was quite effective on both the lower White and on Lake Taneycomo. The fishing has not been this good for years on Lake Taneycomo, and even with the wind working against us, and my clients landed a pretty gaudy number of chunky trout. The fact that they are good fishermen helped out a bunch.
It’s hard to imagine, but I think the fishing we are experiencing right now is just the tip of the iceberg. The really big trout seem to come out of the woodwork in March and April, and already, lots of guys are landing some true trophies. If the water does start to stay low, anglers will have the chance at once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, but it is unclear as to whether this will happen this spring. I have to produce fish regardless of water releases, and I am very much looking forward to whatever the future may hold for the next couple of months, no matter how the water scenario unfolds. There has been little news to report on the Norfork except: more high water. Usually, when people start to forget about the ‘Fork, the fishing will turn on over there.
Lots of browns this size chewng up shad patterns.
I want to change gears a bit and discuss my intentions regarding sharing a few “close-to-the-vest” secrets. There are some things that I will never reveal on the Internet, but I do want to introduce my Miracle Fly. This pattern is an egg variation tied on a heavy jig hook, and nothing has been a more consistent producer over the last year – it’s really been amazing. I have decided to retail the Miracle Fly individually; along with introducing a new “Spaghetti and Meatballs” box that features the special San Juan Worms I use (including “Y” Worms), regular San Juan Worms and the Miracle Fly. This is the one box you will need to effectively fish high water throughout the year. Because I am not a fly shop, I am unable to sell the materials to tie the Miracle Fly at this time, but Blue Ribbon in Mountain Home has everything covered on that end. What I will say is that the hooks I use on the patterns I sell are hard to find because most jig hooks are very fragile – I need a stout hook to help keep the big ones from coming unbuttoned. Flies from Taneycomo Trout are all crafted personally by me and they are tied exactly like the patterns I use for guiding – I only deal in the real thing tied on the best hooks.
Please check out the Flies for Sale page for more information on my Spaghetti and Meatballs box, and I am also offering a new sculpin box. Shad patterns are hot, so let me know if you need a selection of those before heading to the river. Finally, look for an article to be posted in the next day where I am interviewed regarding the Miracle Fly – I think that this will enlighten a lot of people as to why this is the pattern I tie on when things get tough.
Fishing like what we are experiencing does not occur all the time, so be sure to get out and take advantage. I am here to answer any and all questions.
February 10 2010 Low Water Opportunity…
Days like today are why some of us have thrown convention to the wind and devoted our lives to fly fishing the White River Basin. I checked the updated schedule, and much to my surprise, the water was going to shut down at 11am. If you don’t take advantage of these “windows” when you are a local, much of the year’s best fishing may be missed out on.
It took me a bit of time to get myself together and drive to the dam, so I did not wet a line until 2pm. Since the water has not been low in awhile, I was not sure how the fish would react – it can go both ways. I’ve had incredible fishing and frustrating fishing on that first day of reduced flows after long periods of constant releases. The fish were ‘on’ in a major way, and I pretty much had a bite on every cast using a Rusty Midge set about 20-inches below a stick-on indicator. At one point, I landed a trout on twelve successive casts. There was steady midge activity happening all over the place. All in all, I touched around twenty fish in less than two hours. The water came up at 4pm.
The biggest fish landed was a 17-inch ‘bow that I have a picture of posted, and like most of these trout I had the pleasure of hooking up with, this creature was going to fight his hardest to get free. I did do some scouting, and I was not able to see tons of big fish, but the dark color of the river bottom this time of year can make it tough to spot trout. It is hard to figure out exactly why the water was shut off today. Perhaps, there was a technical issue at the dam, or maybe, we will start to see lower midday flows. Only time will tell, at this point.
I will be putting out a nymph article early next month that details the type of fishing I was doing today. These are bread and butter techniques for guides, so this article will probably only be presented to newsletter subscribers. This is just one more reason to sign up – you just don’t know when I may send out an exclusive article. Last week, subscribers received a dry fly article that has garnered positive reviews. This piece can be found on my blog, but most articles will not be posted there.
Look for an updated report on Monday. I will be on the water at least one time between now and then. Fishing is really incredible, and I’m not just saying that. I love these periods where new and exciting options emerge daily.
I guess you could say…these big crawdad are here to say. Look at all those eggs.
February 10, 2010
If everything goes right, they are predicting the water to be shut off at 11am today. Let’s cross our fingers and hope this will be the trend for awhile. Get out there and fish, see you on the river!
UPDATE: WATER IS OFF AT TANEYCOMO
February 9, 2010 Shad Kill Update – Shad are COMING THROUGH AT BULL SHOALS!!! Get down here NOW!!!
It is funny how there has been so much chatter on the Internet regarding the prospect of a decent shad kill up until a few days ago. At that point, the talk stopped.So, I did some digging around, and I received confirmation that there are shad coming through Bull Shoals Dam. Everyone clams up when the actual shad kill event gets going. Apparently, the shad are not coming through extremely heavy, which is very encouraging news. It can get really tough if the trout see millions of shad right off the bat – if that happens, the fish will get comfortable and lazy knowing that they have an easy meal available anytime they want it.
The fishing below Bull Shoals Dam is heating up with white streamers, and the trout being caught are mostly good size. Flows have been at a four to five-unit level for the past few days, and considering that all of the lakes in the White River System are just above power pool levels; flows are likely to be very unpredictable over the next week or two. This is actually a good thing for shad kill fishing, as it seems that the slightest rise in water can turn the fishing on. On the White we have a saying: “What goes down must always come up”, so fluctuating water means many small rises in flow will occur. Rarely will the shad bite last all day long. The current generation pattern should provide several good opportunities to hook into a huge fish throughout the day.
I will be out guiding for a few days over the next week, so I will have some first-hand reports coming out soon. It should be exciting, and my schedule will probably get hectic after the word about the shad kill spreads. If you have ever been curious about shad kill fishing, the next couple of weeks should be “prime-time”. Travelling to try and take advantage of any type of “hatch” is going to have risks involved, but the beauty of coming down to Arkansas or Missouri in hopes of hitting the insane shad bite is that even if the conditions end up not being conducive to the best action, the “normal” fishing will still be productive. This is not an “all or nothing” type of deal.
Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions regarding getting in on the shad kill. Shad will likely start showing up on the Norfork and Lake Taneycomo very soon, so things could get a little crazy down here. At a minimum, the fish will key-in on shad patterns for the next month, but I’ve seen good shad kill fishing go well into April. Every day and every year is different, so the only way to not miss the best opportunities is to spend as much time as possible on the water. I know I will be out there all the time.
There will be a fly tying class at Lilley’s Landing tonight (Tuesday the 9th) at 7pm, and there will be another session at Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery below Table Rock Dam on Saturday at 2pm. These classes are a lot of fun and they will be of benefit to fly-tiers of all skill-levels.
Updated Report from 2-7-10
Since getting out there on the first of February up by Bull Shoals Dam, I have not since found time to go fishing. This is because I have been busy paying the bills by tying flies, and as you have hopefully noticed; I have been spending a lot of time working on my Web site. The bite continues to be excellent on the White River, Norfork Tailwater and Lake Taneycomo, but the heavy snow of last week has caused the lakes to stop dropping as quickly as they were. It is so frustrating when little bursts of precipitation keep pounding the area right when the lakes are about to get to normal levels. Every reservoir in the White River System is around one foot above power pool. Generation has been nearly constant for the last week, but most of the water levels reflect light to moderate flows – this makes for excellent drifting conditions. San Juan Worms and egg patterns are winter fly staples. There has been little word on the shad kill lately, but I am thinking that the predicted upcoming cold weather should cause the year’s first significant numbers of shad to show up on the water. The heaviest shad kills will usually occur on the White, but the Norfork and Lake Taneycomo will almost always have a corresponding event.
At this point, pretty much everyone is crossing their fingers in hope if seeing some low water soon, but this frustrating pattern of heavy rains coming in just as the lakes get to power pool levels has been going on for almost three years. I guess this is “payback” from all the low water of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. The near-constant high water has helped the fisheries flourish, and the numbers of big fish being caught is simply staggering, but it would sure be nice to have some lower flow conditions so that everyone can get in on the fun. I feel like a broken record saying this, but here it goes: if the rains hold off, there could be low water by next weekend, as the lakes are starting to slowly drop again. Of course, there is rain and snow in the forecast for this week. As a guide, I enjoy the challenge of figuring out these dynamic rivers, and my approach is to do my best to productively fish the conditions at hand. Still, I feel bad for those people who just want a little bit of wading water, but there is no sense in getting worked up over things that are completely out of our control.
The fly boxes offered on the Web site and in my newsletters have been selling really well lately, and I want to express my appreciation to everyone who has made a purchase. I will be putting together an option to order customized boxes on the site very soon. This way, everyone will have the chance to create a selection based on personal needs and preferences, and the specialized boxes will also still be available. My next project will be to create a killer sculpin box. Look for this product to be introduced in the upcoming newsletter for March.
Be sure to sign up for the subscription version of the newsletter to receive bonus content and special promotions – we have been receiving scores of accolades regarding the quality of the exclusive articles. Also, be sure to check out my blog at http://troutdoctor101.wordpress.com/ . I have just posted a comprehensive article about dry fly fishing the White River, Norfork Tailwater and Lake Taneycomo on the blog, and this piece is a must-read, if you have any interest in learning about the exciting opportunities to fish for large Ozark trout with dry flies.
My guide schedule is starting to fill in a little bit, but I still have many openings for the remainder of February and beyond. If you have ever considered a guided fly fishing trip on the White, Norfork or Lake Taneycomo, the next month is the perfect opportunity to act on this desire. The flows will likely be constantly fluctuating, which is exactly what we want in order to take full advantage of the shad kill, but these conditions will make it tough on those intent on wading the whole time. With so many big fish around on all the rivers, the fishing over the next month, or so, will be remembered for a long time. Be sure not to miss out on all the fun, and never hesitate to call or write me if you have any questions at all.
February 2nd fly fishing report
A guide’s dream day up by Bull Shoals Dam
The only problem with yesterday was that I was not guiding, as I love putting my clients on insane bites like what we experienced on opening day up by Bull Shoals Dam. I’ll back up here and start by saying that the first mile of river below Bull Shoals Dam is closed from Nevember 1st through January 31st in an effort to protect spawning brown trout. It has become a tradition for many anglers to fish on February 1st up by the dam, as the trout have not received any pressure for three months. Because this year’s opening fell on a Monday, the crowds were way down from what they have been in the past.
I met up with Larry of Blue Ribbon Fly Shop at the boat launch on the Marion County side of the river. My friend Darren, who is an awesome photographer/video guy, also came along. We were all kind of slacking in the morning, so we got a late start to the day – Larry’s boat was launched at 10:30am. The snow on the ground really makes for a picturesque setting, and we were all looking forward to a great day on the water.
The river was ripping through at a seven-unit level, so naturally we started out throwing white streamers. This is the only sure-fire way to know whether or not the fish are hitting shad patterns. It was difficult for me to get my fly down deep enough, so I slid a tungsten cone head sinker onto my tippet. Although this rig was a bear to cast, I did pick up a few extra fish as a result of getting my fly deep. We all decided to change strategies since the shad bite had not yet materialized, and about this time the water started steadily dropping.
I have had great success fishing falling water up by Bull Shoals Dam over the years, but many of the local guides hate this type of change in conditions. Each day is different, but I think the fact that the water is shallow and lacks structure up by the Dam has created a situation where the fish do not have to change spots frequently during falling water - so the trout will continue feeding up there during drastic reductions in flow. We decided to try my Miracle Fly. Up until today, I have kept this pattern pretty close to the vest, but now I am ready to share the concept with my readers. There is a link below to an article Blue Ribbon wrote about the history of this fly and my role in its development. Using a modified egg pattern is not for the purist, but as a guide, I need to have flies that produce for all skill levels of fly fishermen. The Miracle Fly has saved my day many times. Although this pattern simplifies fly fishing, there is an art to getting the presentation exactly right. I cover all aspects of fishing the Miracle Fly on my guide trips, so let me know if you are interested in experiencing this spectacular action.
Back to the fishing: We all rigged up with a Miracle Fly, and the bite was like something out of a dream. The fly would not usually drift for more than a few seconds before getting bit – these fish up there were swarming the fly. At this point, the water was fluctuating between two and three units worth of flow. Double hook-ups were common all afternoon, and we even had a couple of triples. The video that accompanies this report shows just how insane the action was up there. The biggest fish we landed was an 18-inch rainbow, but the majority of trout were thick and healthy. It seems like it takes a few weeks before the really big ones start hitting consistently after the opening, but it does look like the concentrations of fish are very high in the area.
The shad kill could commence any day, but it is hard to say, considering the fact that the lakes are again getting back close to power pool levels. They shut Norfork off in the afternoon yesterday, and as mentioned, Bull Shoals really pulled back over the course of the day. If we could just stay dry for a solid month, there would be more wading water with each passing day, but I doubt that will happen. Please click the link below to learn more about the Miracle Fly, and also check out the new newsletter. If you haven’t subscribed, be sure to do so, as there is an exclusive article in this month’s subscription edition about how to take advantage of the wind. There are also several special promotions running, so just sign up at the bottom of almost any page to start getting the loaded version of the newsletter.
February has started out very well from a fishing perspective, and the forecast is for steadily good fishing to continue. Look for more wading opportunities to pop up if the lakes continue dropping, and now is the time to start fishing shad patterns early in the morning when the dams crank the water up. My guide schedule is starting to fill in, but I still have plenty of openings. There are no other rivers in the country where you get so much bang for your buck, as even a slow day of fishing in the Ozarks is often more productive than a good day on other famous trout fisheries around the country. Yesterday was a day that most fly anglers dream about having, and I just wish I had been able to share that bite with one of my clients.
*There will be a fly tying class this Tuesday at Lilley’s Landing (7pm). Ask at the office for the specific room location. As always, bring your tools, and we will provide all materials.
**On Saturday February, 13th, I will be hosting a fly tying class at Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery below Table Rock Dam. The program will start at 2pm until 3:30pm.
Updated Report 1-25-10
**Fly tying class to be held this upcoming Tuesday (1-26-10) at Lilley’s Landing Resort on Lake Taneycomo. Classes will be in room #22 or in the conference room – stop by the office upon arrival for information. Bring your vice and tools if you have them. Otherwise, we have some loaner equipment available. These classes are FREE, and all materials are provided. Beginners are welcome.
*** I will be coming out with a fresh newsletter in the next few days, and this edition is loaded with great material. If you have not already done so, please sign up for the subscription version of the newsletter – this month there are over 1300 words of content exclusively created for subscribers, along with exclusive promotions and discounts. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but the upcoming featured “Guide Secrets” article explains a way of fishing that most White River guides DO NOT want other anglers to know about. There are places to sign up for the newsletter throughout the Web site, including at the bottom of most pages.
January 25 2010 Taneycomo
Hello Everyone. I have actually been out fishing a few times over the last week, including spending a good chunk of time on Lake Taneycomo yesterday. The equivalent of one and a half generators was running, which is a great flow for both wading and drifting. I decided to use my motorized Jon boat so that I could repeatedly hit the productive spots. The bite was a little slower than I had expected, especially considering that we hammered some fish a few days earlier.
I started out trying all types of shad patterns and different presentation techniques. Dead-drifting non-weighted marabou flies was not drawing much attention, and the fish wouldn’t chase a stripped pattern very aggressively. Before I switched to a different strategy, I tried one of Davy Wotton’s floating shad flies to no avail. It seems to me that the shad bite is still a few weeks out, but you never know – things could change tomorrow. Right now, the flow is not high enough to pull shad through the dam, and it appears that most of the fish have not seen any shad recently. There are reports from the White and Norfork that claim that the trout are hitting shad patterns pretty hard on those rivers. As of this writing, no one has actually seen any shad down there. I will keep my reports updated, and when the shad kill officially kicks off, all of the important information can be found on this page.
After working shad patterns for a good while, I switched to a more subtle olive streamer and started catching fish right away. This just goes to show that the trout tell us what to do – it is never the other way around. My goal was to try out several different flies and techniques on this day, just to get an idea of what exactly is happening. Midges were productive behind the islands in some very slow water, and I also picked up a few nice rainbows while drifting a scud.
It is hard to say how much longer water flows will remain so up and down. Beaver Lake is still a week (or more)away from being drawn down to power pool, so look for more one or two unit days on Lake Taneycomo for a little while. The current flows are excellent for fishing out of a boat, and there are also plenty of good places to wade up near the dam.
Both Bull Shoals and Norfork Lakes are just a foot or two above pool, but recent rains have caused the lakes to hold steady for a few days. Both the White and Norfork have seen flows cut in half over the last week, but today they cranked the water back up to near full power. Hopefully, we will get some low water down there soon. Of course, we also want to see brief periods of power generation with shad pouring through. Rarely can you get everything you want on these rivers, but whether the water is high or low, fishing will be excellent over the next four weeks. I will be on the water quite a bit during the month of February, so check this page frequently for new reports.
I also wanted to let everyone know that I will be down on the White for the opening of the catch and release area below the dam on February 1st. It should be a great time, as I am meeting up with a fly club out of Oklahoma for an introduction and some camaraderie. These guys are big fans of the Web site, and they are interested in learning more about White River fly fishing. I will be fishing and socializing on the 1st, but I am open for guiding on the 2nd and 3rd, if anyone is interested. If a guide trip is not in the cards, but you are still going to be fishing the area on the 1st of February, please say ‘hi’ if you see me out there. If the water is up, I will likely be in my short all black Supreme. The fishing over first few days that the upper White opens back up can be hit or miss, as the trout often get put down quickly if the pressure is heavy. Still, these fish are fresh and haven’t seen a fly in three months, so there will definitely be some hot periods, but it is hard to say how it will all play out.
Please let me know if you have any questions regarding the upcoming fishing forecast, fly tying or anything else. It appears that many people are enjoying my new site, and be assured that Taneycomo Trout is devoted to creating one of the best fly fishing informational resources available on the Web. I am open to any comments or suggestions.
With all this talk of the shad kill and how amazing the fly fishing can be when everything comes together, I dug up this footage from New Zealand that I remember coming across - it shows what happens when there are tons of mice near a river loaded with big trout. This short video is very entertaining, and I was amazed at how these big fish will just gently slurp the mice down like they are a mayfly – the bites can get deliberate during the shad kill as well, especially once the trout become accustomed to feeding on the newly available food source. Hopefully, everyone will enjoy seeing this, and keep in mind that shad kill fishing can be similar to what has been chronicled in this film. There is no feeling like fishing a river full of aggressively opportunistic trout. I cannot wait for the shad kill to start – it could be happening any day now. And I would plan a trip around that “mouse hatch” if I could find out exactly where this video was shot.
January 19 2010
Fishing has been incredible on Lake Taneycomo over the last few days – whether wading from the bank or drift fishing, the fish are ‘on’ in a serious way. The lowering of Beaver Lake started today, so we are looking at all the lakes in the system being stabilized during the next two weeks. Of course, rain can delay the whole process, but we have our fingers crossed that we will start seeing widespread low water by as early as this upcoming weekend. The oxygen levels are very high right now on all of the tailwaters and the fish are feeding aggressively throughout the day. Reports from the Norfork and White are also reflecting a very steady bite with slightly lower flows on the Norfork (1 to 1.5 units down from two full units). You will be hard-pressed to find a more productive fly than a San Juan Worm at this time, but if the water drops out completely, look for Zebra Midges and dead scud patterns to get hot. It should be an amazing stretch of fishing over the upcoming month with both the prospects of wading water and a shad kill. These varying dynamics are what make the White River Basin so interesting from a fly fishing perspective – we have to always be on our toes because even the locals never know exactly what to expect. No matter which way the trends turn, fishing will be insane for the next two to four weeks – and probably for longer.
I want to announce that I will be holding fly tying classes at Lilley’s Landing Resort on two Tuesdays each month. These classes are FREE and everything is provided – just bring yourself. We have not quite worked out the details of exactly which Tuesday will be a class day, so keep an eye on this page until a set schedule emerges. I know it is very late notice, but the first class is TONIGHT (1-19-10) at 7pm at Lilley’s Landing Resort in Branson. Feel free to call me (417) 294-0759 for more information and directions. These classes offer a wonderful opportunity of all levels of fly tiers to get together and learn. There are also two classes a month on Wednesdays with a great tier named Duane. Please take advantage of this no-cost resource that will bring your enjoyment of fly fishing to a whole new level. Also note that there will be classes held at the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery directly below Table Rock Dam on two Saturdays a month. I will keep everyone informed regarding times and dates.
In addition to the fly tying classes at Lilley’s Landing Resort and at the hatchery, I will also be offering private fly tying classes through Lilley’s for groups and individuals. These will usually be weekend events, but special requests can be accommodated. There is a fee for these specialized classes. This program offers up a great opportunity to custom-design an educational activity that fits your specific needs. Corporate groups are welcome to participate and all materials will be provided.
January 12 2010 Small Report
I just wanted to let everyone know that I am continuing to improve my Web site and content. Please be sure to check out the shad kill article that I wrote. This event will be happening soon with the recent stretch of Arctic weather, and the bite will be insane when the shad start trickling through.
My newsletter has been receiving positive reviews, so if you haven’t signed up, please enter your email address into one of the sign-up boxes located throughout the site. The subscription-only edition contains special discounts and promotions, along with exclusive articles that delve into the thoughts and life of a White River fly fishing guide.
I will also be adding another how-to step on the fly tying page. The fishing has been…well, not many folks have braved the cold recently, so the trout are getting a rest. The chilly weather is supposed to break this week. I plan on getting out there once icing of fly rod guides is no longer an issue.
January 10 2010
Getting ready for the "Shad Kill"
Over the last week, I have been quite busy tending to my new boy and tying fly boxes that are being offered in my most recent newsletter. I haven’t had too many chances to get out and fish, but as I’m sure many of you have heard, the South is mired in cold temperatures right now. Although the frigid conditions make trout fishing a little uncomfortable, this recent snap should really get the shad coming through Bull Shoals, Norfork and Table Rock Dams. To learn more about the shad kill, check out this comprehensive article that I worked on with an associate: Understanding an Ozark Shad Kill . The heaviest shad kills occur below Bull Shoals Dam for a myriad of reasons, but all the other tailwaters can see an influx in shad from the lakes through mid-April. My favorite spots for taking advantage of this event are up by Bull Shoals Dam (which reopens in just three short weeks) and on the Norfork – on the ‘Fork, you never know what you might hook up with.
Water flows continue to be unpredictable on Lake Taneycomo, and recently the flows have been fluctuating between one and two units. Who knows when we will see prolonged low water? Still, fishing is great. Norfork and Bull Shoals Dams are operating at capacity right now, as they are just about done lowering those lakes. Once they draw the reservoirs down to power pool levels, there should be some wading water down in Arkansas. This could happen within a week on the Norfork – it’s only four feet high! The Corp can really dump a lot of water in a hurry. Bull Shoals still has eight feet to get rid of, and considering that Beaver Lake is still holding seven feet, it could take three weeks to a month before all of that gets sorted out on the White River Chain. If we can stay dry, there should be lots of wading on the Norfork over the next few months. I am excited about this prospect because the recent reports from fishing low water over there are fantastic.
Please drop me a line if you want more information on fishing the shad kill. This could be the best year in awhile for a prolonged kill, and the high numbers of big fish in both the rivers will make for some great memories. The first shad has not been officially sighted, but when the word gets out, I usually get very busy. I can say with a bit of confidence that there will be smatterings of shad come through over the remainder of January, and by the beginning of February, shad will come through the dams every time they run decent amounts of water. Hopefully, we will see a scenario where water levels fluctuate between high and low, as it can be tough when the shad come through heavy for weeks at a time during consistently high release periods. I like conditions that force the trout to be on the lookout for shad. Amazingly, I’ve seen shad pouring out of Bull Shoals Dam one minute, and then after they shut off the water, the fish started feeding heavily on scuds and midges right away. You never know what to expect during a shad kill.
January 3 2010
Midging Like Crazy!
I apologize for my lapse in reporting – Summer and I welcomed our new son into the world right after Christmas. His name is Fischer, and he is very healthy. We are extremely proud of this blessing in our lives.
There has finally been some low water on Lake Taneycomo and the fishing has been fantastic. Typically, this time of year is characterized by long stints of zero-generation, and this trend should continue for the next few weeks. Beaver Lake is still high, and the Corp keeps waffling on their dates to commence draining the reservoir. Considering that Table Rock Lake is approaching four feet below power pool, it is unlikely that water flows will change drastically as a result of the influx of water from Beaver. We will see what happens, but barring heavy rains, I look for low water conditions to prevail most days with generation limited to the early morning and dinnertime hours.
On New Year’s Day I attended the annual OzarkAnglers.com get-together near the hatchery below Table Rock Dam. It was a fun event with great food and plenty of camaraderie – it is nice to finally be able to put faces with the names I have become familiar with. What made this gathering perfect was the fact that we had low water and the fish were really biting. I really enjoyed meeting everyone, and there is no doubt in my mind that I will attend this function every year.
During the winter, our trout really key in on midges, and this has definitely been the case during the recent low-flow periods. Any type of bead head zebra-style midge has been killing the trout, and it really does not matter what depth you set the fly. Scuds are also working well, especially when there is a little wind-chop on the surface of the water. I’ve developed a new Ultra Violet (UV) dubbing blend, and this color seems to really produce when the sun is shining. This material is very visible, and I think the scud patterns I tie with it are functioning as more of an attractor type of fly. Dry fly fishing has also been pretty good considering the fact that it is January, and the best patterns for this bite have been Big Ugly’s and Cracklebacks. Who knows what the trout think these flies are, but the fact that they are working is all that matters. The best dry fly bite has involved twitching the flies while stripping them in very slowly. This added movement will cause the fly to sink slightly into the surface film, and for this reason, I think emergers like soft-hackles would have also been effective. If you are suffering from cabin-fever, now is the time to get out on Lake Taneycomo and experience the best winter fly fishing currently available in the Ozarks.
Don's catch of the day! These rainbows are plentyiful on Taneycomo
Streamer fishing has also been decent, and I had the opportunity to fish one unit a few days ago. I tried a myriad of different patterns, mostly of the “articulated” variety, and the “Peanut Envy” was by far the most productive. What I find so promising is the sheer number of 20”-22” rainbows I’m seeing. These true trophies have not been prevalent over the last few years, and the return of healthy fish should make for a very exciting year – let’s hope this trend continues.
After the heavy rains that fell around Christmas, the White and Norfork also had some low water days. Because I was so busy with the birth of my new child, I did not get a chance to get down there and fish, but I heard it was great. Unfortunately, that brief window has quickly shut, and now they are running heavy water once again. There have not been any reports of shad coming through the dams, but red variations of San Juan worms are producing lots of fish. If the region stays dry, we could see lower water within a couple of weeks, so keep your fingers crossed. Both the Norfork and the White are loaded with nice fish right now and there is very little pressure.
My guide schedule is starting to fill in for late February, but until then, I am wide open. Please check out my newsletter on the Web site for current specials. The persistent high water of the last three years has left all of the Ozark Tailwaters in great shape, and trophy fishing will be as good as it gets over the next two months. Winter is a great time to experience these rivers - most locals consider this season their favorite.
Another rainbow fooled by the "big ugly"
December 24 2009 White River and Lake Taneycomo Fly Fishing Report
I hope that everyone is enjoying the holiday season. We are having lots of fun with family, and I am eagerly anticipating the birth of my second child – the time is drawing near! It is amazing how everything else seems inconsequential when compared to our kids.
It rained pretty much all day for the last two days, but the really heavy precipitation stayed well to the south. The only lake to receive any significant runoff was Greers Ferry. Because of the flooding in central Arkansas, the Corp has cut back on flows at Bull Shoals and Norfork Dams. What is strange is that they have not shut the water all the way off. Rather, they have run the equivalent of an “easy” two units on the White, and Norfork has run at the half a unit level all day today. Fishing is probably excellent, as the fish will tend to turn on when the water drops to a steady level subsequent to a long stint of heavy water. If you have a chance to get over there, think about trying some size #16 to #18 tungsten zebra-midges in the slack-water areas. Micro San Juan worms in fluorescent red and worm brown should be hot, as long as the water stays low. At current levels, you can find some wading spots, but it is best to drift or wade near the boat.
It is hard to say how long this reprieve will last in Arkansas, but barring additional heavy rains over those same areas that were hit this week, flows will probably remain minimal for the next three to five days – but don’t hold me to that. Water levels have been all over the place on Lake Taneycomo since it started raining, but flows rarely exceed the two unit level, and there have been some periods when the river gets down to a “light” one-unit stage. Fishing has been good to excellent over the last week, ever since the amount of water released was reduced. I’m not crazy about the times when the flow seems to change significantly every hour, but the trout are going nuts when the water starts to come back up. It may sound like a broken-record, but San Juan worms are producing most of the nicer fish. Big sow bugs and zebra-midges are also pulling their share. During those periods when the river gets slow, I like to use a micro worm dropped from a size #10 scud or sow bug. Once the water comes back up, I will switch to a rig with a split-shot.
Taneycomo fishes a little differently that the White and the Norfork in the respect that the trout thrive on consistency. Since the water has been running for so long without any breaks, the fish are really comfortable and feeding steadily. Hopefully this trend will continue, although I would not mind seeing some low water, as it is nice to wade once in awhile. Even though there are numerous good places to wade on Taneycomo right now, it’s nothing like the freedom of movement we experience when they aren’t running a drop.
Fishing should be excellent over the holiday and the weekend, so it is definitely a good time to head down to Branson for some trout fishing. I have added several new articles to the Web site, so be sure to check those out, and I will be sending out a newsletter once or twice a month. There will also be an online addition of the newsletter available on the site – to receive the full version, sign up on the bottom of the Home Page, the Taneycomo Page, or the Contact Page. Give me a call of drop me an email if you have any questions.
Bull Shaols Dam (White River) Running all flood gates today, 12-8-09
White River Basin Fly Fishing Report 12/18/09
First of all, I want to apologize for the lapse in reports, but things have been hectic with the holidays coming up, along with all of the enhancements and changes I’ve made to my website. Never hesitate to call me or email me if you are in need of updated fishing conditions or any other information. I love talking to all of you, and I enjoy helping everyone out.
I really focus on my fly tying this time a year, and a major project I am working on is putting together different fly boxes for each of the fisheries in the area. There will be a Taneycomo box, a White River box, a Norfork box, and a Roaring River box to start with. I have also been tying streamer boxes, crawdad boxes, and nymph boxes, so be sure to check out the “Flies for Sale” page over the next week to see all of these new products listed. In the winter, when the guide business slows down, I also do commercial tying for Blue Ribbon Fly Shop in Mountain Home. If you are down in Arkansas doing some fishing and you want to try some of my flies, be sure to stop in and let Larry take care of you. Please keep in mind that I am always willing to do custom orders and boxes, so if you ever are in need of quality, locally-tied flies for the White River Basin fisheries, just drop me a line.
The fishing has been all over the place pretty much since the beginning of December. As you may or may not know, the Corp of Engineers has cracked open the flood gates at Bull Shoals and Norfork Dams in an effort to improve oxygen levels and to drop the lakes as quickly as possible. The additional water has only been equivalent to an extra generator or two, but when you add more water to full generation; it makes for pretty heavy flows. For this reason, very few people have been fishing the White and Norfork over the last three weeks, but those who have are catching some fish. Streamers are working in and around any sort of current-breaking structure, and be sure to do whatever is necessary to get the pattern deep and in a hurry. Nymph fishing has been surprisingly productive, but it does take more weight than normal to get the fly down to where it needs to be. Focus on submerged gravel bars with nymphs. Soft current areas near the banks are also holding lots of nice fish. San Juan Worms, eggs, and large bead head nymphs are doing the trick. This time of year, with respect to worm imitations, it is all about fluorescent red and bubblegum pink. Look for the gates to be closed very soon (the Norfork gates are already closed), but heavy generation will still persist on the White and Norfork for at least three more weeks. Once the lakes get closer to normal levels, water flows will decrease dramatically. Barring heavy rains, this should occur sometime in mid-January.
Over the last few days, flows on Lake Taneycomo have been cut in half. Now they are running two units pretty much around the clock. This reduction has made for some really productive fishing around the outlets and near the islands in the Point Royal area. These are perfect levels for drift fishing, as you will get bites just about anywhere when using standard high-water rigs and patterns. Worms and eggs are to go-to flies right now. It is hard to predict exactly what will happen on Taneycomo over the next few weeks, but it would not surprise me if the water did get shut down at some point very soon. The Corp is making room for the water in Beaver Lake, but at some point, they will have lowered Table Rock Lake to a desirable level. Regardless, the fishing is “on” right now, and the rainbows are in excellent shape.
As some of you may know, Summer and I are expecting our second child sometime in January, so please wish us luck, and we are both very excited. I promise to keep everyone updated, and I will continue to post reports as often as I can. It looks like 2010 is going to be a great year for fly fishing in the Ozarks, and I am very excited about the prospect of catching many of the trophy fish that are prevalent. All the trout fisheries are reaping the benefits of the extended high water we have experienced over the last two years.
***For those of you that received my recent newsletter/email update, here is the picture of the shad pattern fly box I am offering for $36. Also, if you are interested in receiving my newsletter or hearing about upcoming promotions, there are several places on the site to sign up: at the bottom of the home page, on the bottom of the Taneycomo page, and on the contact page.