It pays to be versatile when fishing the White River right now
Before I talk about the White River Fishing report updates, I know it’s been a little while since my last report, so I 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.
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