Fly Fishing For Trout

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Five Rookie Mistakes to Avoid
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John Berry Fishing Report


During the past week, we have had one minor rain event and moderate winds. The Corps of Engineers continued their reduced levels of generation to prevent flooding downstream and lake levels continue to rise. The lake level at Bull Shoals Dam rose nine tenths feet to rest at thirteen and two tenths feet above power pool of 654.00 feet. This is twenty seven and eight tenths feet below the top of flood pool. Up stream, Table Rock Lake fell eight tenths of a foot to rest at two feet above power pool or fourteen feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell one tenth of a foot to rest at five and five tenths of a foot above power pool or four and one tenth feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we have had several substantial periods of no generation, which created some excellent wading conditions. Norfork Lake rose three tenths of a foot to rest at eight and six tenths feet above power pool of 552.00 feet or nineteen and four tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we have had limited generation with several significant periods of no generation that allowed for some excellent wading. It looks like the flooding has cleared downstream. I predict increased generation for the immediate future.


There were significant changes to trout fishing regulations effective January 1, 2010. The Catch and Release section on the Norfork River will be increased from it current size of 1.1 miles to a new total of approximately two miles. The new upper boundary will be the bottom of long hole and the new lower limit will be the Ackerman access. The new regulations will also allow for multiple hook points in Catch and Release sections on the White and Norfork Rivers. Up to three treble hooks will be allowed. All hook points must be barbless.  Of interest to fly fishers, is that the new regulations will allow the use of droppers, multiple fly rigs and articulated multiple hook streamers.


The caddis hatches have been greatly reduced. There are, however, some sulphurs appearing. This is our major mayfly hatch of the year. They are yellow to orange mayflies that are size fourteen when the hatch begins and will get progressively smaller as the hatch continues, generally ending at size eighteen. The best way to fish this hatch is to fish copper John or pheasant tail nymphs before the hatch starts. When the fish begin feeding on emerging sulphurs switch over to partridge and yellow soft hackles. When you observe trout taking adult insects, change over to sulphur parachutes. The key to success is a perfect drag free drift.


Most of the best top water action has been on the upper river from White Hole down to Rim Shoals. The hot spots have been Wildcat Shoals and Roundhouse Shoals in Cotter.


Rim Shoals has been another hot spot. The hot fly here has been copper Johns and prince nymphs. If you want to wade on high flows you can obtain the services of the water taxi at Rim Shoals Trout Dock. For a nominal fee they will ferry you to wadable water and pick you up when you are ready to return.


One of the most successful tactics has been to fish droppers. Rig a San Juan worm as you normally would. Then tie a twenty inch 5X tippet to the bend of the hook on the worm and tie a small nymph (try a copper John) on the tag end. Fish as you normally would. Most fish will be caught on the nymph.


We have a significant alga bloom on the White and Norfork. When the water rises a significant amount of it is washed down stream. This dirties the water and makes for difficult fishing as you must constantly clean the alga from your hook. It has significantly cleared out on the Norfork but remains a problem on the White.


Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are lower and clearer. The water is at a comfortable temperature and the small mouths are becoming active. Carefully check the water level before entering Crooked Creek or the Buffalo River. There are no dams on these streams. They both have large drainages and are prone to flooding during and following any rain event. The water can rise very quickly.


On the Norfork, we have received reliable wadable water almost every day and there have been some nice midge hatches. Fishing conditions during the week have been excellent. The hot flies have been elk hair caddis, parachute Adams (size 20 -24), green butts, bead head green butts and Dan’s turkey tail emergers. On higher flows cerise San Juan worms and peach eggs have been the hot flies.  Try a dropper here. Use a sow bug near the dam and a copper John on the lower river.

Dry Run Creek has fished well. The most productive flies are sowbugs and worm brown San Juan worms. With summer here expect more families to be fishing here. There are fish everywhere. Spread out and try new spots. The most successful technique is to fish a nymph under an indicator with a short line. There is very little room to cast here.


The water level on the Spring River is lower and a bit less stained. Be sure and wear cleated boots and carry a wading staff. There is a lot of bedrock that can get very slick. The hot flies have been olive woolly buggers with a bit of flash, cerise San Juan worms and pheasant tail nymphs. The hot spot has been bayou access.


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

Five Rookie Mistakes to Avoid


In a recent column I wrote about making a rookie mistake, leaving my favorite fly rod on the roof of my car and then driving off and losing it. In that case, I was very lucky and got my beloved four weight Sage Light Line back. This is the kind of mistake that a rank beginner makes and generally does not reflect well on the angler that makes the error. The problem is that from time to time we all make them. The key to success is to avoid making them.


In the case of my lost rod, all I would have had to do was take a minute to break my rod down and put it in its case. This is my normal procedure but in this instance there was a thunderstorm moving in and my yellow lab, Ellie, who is storm phobic was a bit upset and I was trying to get her home. In the rush to go, I forgot to put the rod away. In that brief second, I caused myself untold heartbreak and several wasted hours walking the road looking for my lost rod. The lesson learned is to take one minute to properly store my rod no matter what is happening.


This is by no means the worst rookie error that one can make. That honor is reserved for forgetting to put in the plug on your boat. This is the one that I have nightmares about. Unfortunately I have also done it. I launched my boat recently and somehow neglected to put in the plug. I launched as usual and everything looked fine until I got in the boat and sat in my usual seat in the back of the boat. I looked down and saw water rushing into my riverboat. I immediately knew what had happened. I reached into my rear locker and grabbed a plug (I always carry a spare) and shoved it into the drain hole. I then spent the next five minutes bailing out the boat. My clients were impressed. I have since redoubled my efforts to always check the plug before launching. In fact, I am now a bit paranoid about it.


I would think that the next worse rookie mistake would be to run out of gas. The problem is that this situation could rear its ugly head in some inconvenient spot far from the boat ramp. In heavy water, it could quickly escalate into a life-threatening emergency. I don’t know if you noticed but there are no gas stations on the river. This is further complicated by the fact that I and most other anglers in the area use ethanol free fuel. There are precious few gas stations that carry pure gasoline in the area. The gauge on the gas tank in my boat is basically useless. I generally just lift it and estimate how much gas is in the tank by weight. When I get down to half a tank I refill it. I have found that I use much more gas per trip when I am fishing high water. As a result, I monitor it much more closely when boating on high water.


Then there is always, I forgot (fill in the blank here). At one time or another, I have forgotten to carry fishing just about every item of equipment that I own. That includes but is not limited to rod, reel, waders, net, rain jacket, fly box, leaders, tippet and lunch.  One of the biggest challenges that I face as a professional guide is to show up every day with all of the gear that I need to do my job.


In order to stay organized, I have developed the one bag strategy. I carry all of my gear in one bag. It has two major sides, a wet one and a dry one. In the wet side, I carry the stuff that gets wet on a regular basis my waders, wader boots and wading staff. On the dry side I carry my rain jacket, fishing vest, sunglasses, sun gloves and any other gear that I will need that day. At the end of the day, I will carefully dry my waders, and boots. I will replace any fishing gear that I used from my vest. I do not close the bag until all of my gear is dry, in the bag and ready to go.


Since I use different gear, in the boat, I maintain totally separate gear for fishing from the boat. This includes a separate fly box, net, forceps, tippet, lead, strike indicators, leaders and so forth. I store this gear in my boat at all times to ensure that it is at hand when needed.

The final rookie mistake is to wade to a spot where you should not be. I recently made this error. I was fishing the Norfork River with my yellow lab, Ellie. I wanted to fish a given run from the other side of the river. To get there, I had to wade through a very hazardous section of the river. If the water were to come up, I would be in trouble. Before I left the house that morning, I had checked the predicted generation on the South West Power Administration’s website. It said that generation would not begin until 5:00 PM. It was 2:00PM. I made a rookie mistake. I relied on a source of information that was not totally reliable.


Needless to say the water came up a few minutes later and I went swimming. Now I have learned my lesson. I do not wade into spots where I cannot vacate safely should the water comes up. Always plan your escape before you go anywhere.


This is by no means a complete list. It is just the first and most serious ones that come to mind. All are based on some memory lapse. Let’s be careful out there.   


Ask John


Zach B. asks: When do you expect higher water.


Zach the flooding has cleared down stream and I expect higher water now.


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

John Berry
(870) 435-2169


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