Updated Fly Fishing Report for May 27th
Despite extreme weather in the Ozarks, good fishing is expected to resume within a week
First of all, before you read the fly fishing report 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.
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