April fishing is living up to expectations…especially if you find the right water conditions – Updated report for 4/7/11
It has been a busy stretch for me over the last three weeks. I’ve been on the water guiding almost every day checking out the April fishing water conditions, 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.
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