A Guide’s Dream Day Up by Bull Shoals Dam
The only problem with yesterday was that I was not guiding, as I love putting my clients on insane bites like what we experienced on opening day up by Bull Shoals Dam. I’ll back up here and start by saying that the first mile of river below Bull Shoals Dam is closed from Nevember 1st through January 31st in an effort to protect spawning brown trout. It has become a tradition for many anglers to fish on February 1st up by the dam, as the trout have not received any pressure for three months. Because this year’s opening fell on a Monday, the crowds were way down from what they have been in the past.
I met up with Larry of Blue Ribbon Fly Shop at the boat launch on the Marion County side of the river. My friend Darren, who is an awesome photographer/video guy, also came along. We were all kind of slacking in the morning, so we got a late start to the day – Larry’s boat was launched at 10:30am. The snow on the ground really makes for a picturesque setting, and we were all looking forward to a great day on the water.
The river was ripping through at a seven-unit level, so naturally we started out throwing white streamers. This is the only sure-fire way to know whether or not the fish are hitting shad patterns. It was difficult for me to get my fly down deep enough, so I slid a tungsten cone head sinker onto my tippet. Although this rig was a bear to cast, I did pick up a few extra fish as a result of getting my fly deep. We all decided to change strategies since the shad bite had not yet materialized, and about this time the water started steadily dropping.
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I have had great success fishing falling water up by Bull Shoals Dam over the years, but many of the local guides hate this type of change in conditions. Each day is different, but I think the fact that the water is shallow and lacks structure up by the Dam has created a situation where the fish do not have to change spots frequently during falling water – so the trout will continue feeding up there during drastic reductions in flow. We decided to try my Miracle Fly. Up until today, I have kept this pattern pretty close to the vest, but now I am ready to share the concept with my readers. There is a link below to an article Blue Ribbon wrote about the history of this fly and my role in its development. Using a modified egg pattern is not for the purist, but as a guide, I need to have flies that produce for all skill levels of fly fishermen. The Miracle Fly has saved my day many times. Although this pattern simplifies fly fishing, there is an art to getting the presentation exactly right. I cover all aspects of fishing the Miracle Fly on my guide trips, so let me know if you are interested in experiencing this spectacular action.
Back to the fishing: We all rigged up with a Miracle Fly, and the bite was like something out of a dream. The fly would not usually drift for more than a few seconds before getting bit – these fish up there were swarming the fly. At this point, the water was fluctuating between two and three units worth of flow. Double hook-ups were common all afternoon, and we even had a couple of triples. The video that accompanies this report shows just how insane the action was up there. The biggest fish we landed was an 18-inch rainbow, but the majority of trout were thick and healthy. It seems like it takes a few weeks before the really big ones start hitting consistently after the opening, but it does look like the concentrations of fish are very high in the area.
The shad kill could commence any day, but it is hard to say, considering the fact that the lakes are again getting back close to power pool levels. They shut Norfork off in the afternoon yesterday, and as mentioned, Bull Shoals really pulled back over the course of the day. If we could just stay dry for a solid month, there would be more wading water with each passing day, but I doubt that will happen. Please click the link below to learn more about the Miracle Fly, and also check out the new newsletter. If you haven’t subscribed, be sure to do so, as there is an exclusive article in this month’s subscription edition about how to take advantage of the wind. There are also several special promotions running, so just sign up at the bottom of almost any page to start getting the loaded version of the newsletter.
February has started out very well from a fishing perspective, and the forecast is for steadily good fishing to continue. Look for more wading opportunities to pop up if the lakes continue dropping, and now is the time to start fishing shad patterns early in the morning when the dams crank the water up. My guide schedule is starting to fill in, but I still have plenty of openings. There are no other rivers in the country where you get so much bang for your buck, as even a slow day of fishing in the Ozarks is often more productive than a good day on other famous trout fisheries around the country. Yesterday was a day that most fly anglers dream about having, and I just wish I had been able to share that bite with one of my clients.
*There will be a fly tying class this Tuesday at Lilley’s Landing (7pm). Ask at the office for the specific room location. As always, bring your tools, and we will provide all materials.
**On Saturday February, 13th, I will be hosting a fly tying class at Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery below Table Rock Dam. The program will start at 2pm until 3:30pm.