White River - Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says, We're fishing the White River tailwaters of Bull Shoals Dam in the Arkansas Ozarks where we're still waiting for springtime to stick around and where the brown trout are biting! We've netted more browns than rainbows some days, and the trout we've netted have been healthy and are giving us some nice action. We've been treated to some fairly heavy generation from Bull Shoals but for most days last week the water remained a steady depth, which makes catching a little easier. In the deep water we hooked great rainbows with four-and-a-half inch Rogues, still working the orange bellied, blue-backed Rogue, but also had luck with the smoke-colored, suspending stick baits with silver bellies. Red wriggler worms work. Try also to snag a sculpin, tie it on a No. 2 hook, float it near the bottom of the stream and catch a beautiful brown or cutthroat. We're just starting to see a drop in generation, taking the water level down to minimum flow then sometimes increasing the flow to five generators or more. Challenging, and a test of your skills (and patience!), but always worth it. Time on the river is restorative. Come visit.
Sportsmans White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the river water level was normal, and the clarity was good/normal when 4 generators were running. Theyve had up to 8 generators running the past week. The trout bite is good. Naturally, the cool weather at the beginning of the week wasnt going to bother the trout. Anglers were using shrimp, jigs and stick baits.
John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said late last week that during the previous week, they had a minor rain event producing less than a quarter of an inch in Cotter, warm temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 2.1 feet to rest at 4.6 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 31.4 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 2.1 feet to rest at 0.4 feet above seasonal power pool and 15.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.1 feet to rest at 7.1 feet above seasonal power pool and 2.5 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we had heavy generation and no wadable water. Seasonal power pool has been reset for the lakes in the White River system. All of the lakes in the White River System are now above the top of power pool. With the quick rise in the lakes due to our recent heavy rains, expect heavy generation in the near future.
The White has fished better. There are some caddis coming off in the afternoon. The hot flies were olive Woolly Buggers (sizes 8, 10), Y2Ks (sizes 14, 12), prince nymphs (size 14), zebra midges (black with silver wire and silver bead or red with silver wire and silver bead sizes 16, 18), pheasant tails (size 14), ruby midges (size 18), root beer midges (size 18), pink and cerise San Juan worms (size 10), and sowbugs (size 16). Double-fly nymph rigs have been very effective (Johns current favorite is a pink worm with a size 14 prince nymph suspended below it). Use lead to get your flies down.
John added about the lake levels of late: When I got up this (Friday) morning, I followed my usual regimen. I brewed a large pot of French press coffee made with freshly ground Colombian beans and sat down to study the current lake levels and generation. I was pleased to see that the level of generation from Bull Shoals had decreased substantially. (Thursday) the Corps of Engineers was running around 23,750 cubic feet per second. This is the rough equivalent of about seven and a half full generators. They only have eight generators, so this is near the maximum level. Overnight they decreased the generation level to around 18,000 cfs, a drop of around 25 percent.
I checked the lake level at Table Rock and noted that it had fallen to within a few inches the top of power pool. They were cutting back on the level of generation at Table Rock and that meant that much less water would be running into Bull Shoals Lake. This would allow Bull Shoals to continue to drop with a lower level on generation. The Corps of Engineers typically drops the lake level at Table Rock first, then Bull Shoals and, finally, Beaver. It is important to remember that the lakes are linked. Table Rock is upstream of Bull Shoals and Beaver is upstream of Table Rock.
What does all of this mean? Well, with the reduced level of generation on the White, fishing from a boat should be a bit easier and more productive. With a reduction like this you will be able to fish shorter leaders and use less weight, which should make casting these rigs a lot easier. On this water level, I am fishing my nymph rigs at about 9 feet deep with two AAA split shots. I am using a double-fly rig with an egg pattern below a cerise San Juan worm (spaghetti and meatballs). At this level, wading is out of the question.
While I was doing this I noted an email from the North Arkansas Fly Fishers that gave me some up-to-date information on generation on the Norfork tailwater. I had noticed for the last few weeks that the generation on the Norfork was much less as a percentage of the total output than on the White. As a result, the lake level behind Norfork Dam was dropping much slower than Bull Shoals. The email explained that there was a generator down for ordinary maintenance at Norfork Dam (they only have two generators). As a result, they are going to open five flood gates 1 foot to increase the water flowing from the lake. The additional water will be about 3,500 cfs and will make the total flow about 6,000 cfs, which is the rough equivalent of two generators or maximum generation for Norfork Dam.
The heavier generation will make things a bit tougher fishing from a boat. You will have to get down deep and rig similar to the requirements on the White. Wading is out of the question at this level.
Based on the speed that the lakes are now dropping, I predict that all will be back at power pool in one month. This assumes no major rain incidents. Who knows? We may have some wadable water by mid-May.