Year End Fishing Report – 2019

Reports From The Field - Flys

December 30, 2019

Year End Fishing Reports 2019

Let me start by saying, the website is finally done as you can see. Another thing I will mention is there are a ton of new fly patterns for sale, so make sure you check out the BUY FLIES section.

We added 1/80th ounce jig head hooks for sale and we put mega worms and miracle flies on them in a variety of some of the more popular colors. It has been a big game changer in the slightly heavier flows.

The 1/100th works great in low water but it doesn’t work well if the water comes up. The items will be updated as I’m getting patterns in every month, and once it updates you will see a scroll on the home page that says, “recently added products”.

One of my goals is to have the best selection of flies for fishing our tailwaters in Missouri and Arkansas. We are excited for the growth of the business and part of the reason I haven’t done much on the old site as far as updated reports or adding any new content knowing the old site would soon be deleted.

jim personal best

One other reason the old site seemed to be just sitting around was that I have devoted a ton of time building the fly inventory which is approaching the 85,000 mark.

It takes a lot of time and help from some really upstanding people to help get it all up and running like a well-oiled machine.

2019 Overall Fishing Conditions

What a year we had with rain accumulation, around 60 inches of rain for the year. It sure created another high-water year that kept wade fishing and low water easy nymph fishing tough for everyone.

Despite all the high water, we had some great fishing and one of the best shad kills I have witnessed on the White River.

It lasted three weeks off and on, but defiantly a steady bite for the most part right below Bull Shoals Dam. This happened in September the last three weeks of the month.

One thing I noticed different with this shad kill verses a few others I’ve experienced is the shad coming through the turbines were still alive as they spit through and had those trout fired up.

By the time they went down about three hundred yards, they weren’t kicking anymore and the bite slowed way down by the time you got into the state park.

With all this water we had it kept the fish growing steady and now we are seeing some bigger fish from the results of that. The biggest reason why is the fish are more protected from all the fisherman being able to catch them because they were able to spread out and not as easy to catch.

Taneycomo used to be known for hooking big rainbows, or for that matter the place if you wanted a big rainbow, but that isn’t the case anymore.

From the new regulations they implemented on the White River and Norfork, these rainbows are growing fast and we are already seeing a result because of that. Lisa hooked into a 26 inch bow and I’ve seen several more from other guides as well.

The fisheries are bouncing back in a big way from all the floods we’ve had over the last decade. Another thing to mention is the Corp has done a tremendous job keeping all the dams from really flooding out homes and keeping everything balanced which I hope we keep seeing in the future when we have these years of heavy rains.


Even though we had great water for hopper fishing I noticed a decline in the bite this year. The biggest reason why is pressure. A lot more guides and a lot more people doing it. We hype it up and the people come.

It’s just the nature of the business right. I’m not upset by it all because it is what it is, but the bigger fish that I’m used to catching just weren’t there this year. We caught a lot of nice brown’s, but usually I’ll have a few big takes in the 26-27 inch range.

The problem I think was every bank in the morning was hit in the first hour and anything big that wanted a hopper was caught pretty quick form all the banks being fished.

Then you’re stuck with what’s left that wants to eat a hopper.

You could still stick 17-20 inch brown’s throughout the day, but getting that big boy was tougher this year.


I also bank on the evening bite when the river becomes quit the last two hours of the day.

That is also a promising bite for a really big brown, but again, just wasn’t there for me this year.

So, all in all, still a great bite for catching brown’s on top.

I just hope next year is better, but we have to have higher flows to get those fish on the banks and desperately looking for a meal or taking advantage of opportunities.


white river caddis

WOW!! This hatch just keeps getting better every year!!

This year was definitely a great year for the caddis bite. We were catching anywhere from 10 to 20 brown’s a day. Not so much on the top, but the emerger was a big hit.

Adding a Soft Hackle underneath or the Sunday Special also producing some nice fish consistently. I’ll tell ya, I’ve never seen brown trout get so unwise to a bite that they become so easy to catch.

Probably my favorite way to fish now and I’m looking forward to this every year in May. You want a ton of brown’s in a day then book in May.

The only way this bite slows down is if the water is super low, but then again there are ways to catch them in that, like swinging soft hackles and fishing smaller dries. This hatch is pretty prolific from Cotter all the way to the dam.

There are sections for sure that have an abundance of caddis, to name a few is Cotter, Wildcat, Gaston’s stretch and the water in front of Copper John’s Resort.

I didn’t spend a great deal of time fishing the dry because I was getting so many on the bottom it was hard to switch to the dry and only catch a few a day verses how many we were getting on the nymph.

I think a lot of it had to do with the water being a little higher than normal for fishing dries, but every year is different so you have to adapt I have a really cool caddis kit I put together so you have everything you need to get the job done.

Make sure you have one the next time you plan on fishing in Arkansas during May.

Norfork Caddis Fishing

We had more low water on the Norfork than the White this year, but it was short lived and you had to take advantage of the windows for low water.

You didn’t get it all day, but when you did the dry fly bite was HOT! This is where I like to go if I’m strictly wanted to catch fish on top.

You can’t beat it, especially the cutthroat. You could catch twenty a day on elk hair caddis in the shoals and because this river will tear up boats in low water, it still remains a less pressured fishery once you get out of the first mile of bait water and all the pressure that comes along with it from the people renting boats that are staying at the resorts.

The middle section of the river is somewhat protected because of the regulations so that’s where the magic happens for sure. The abundance on shoals on this river is why I believe the dry fly bite is so remarkable!

Elk Hair Caddis Norfork Cutthroat - May 2018


Not much to say because I only fished it a hand full of times this year. It seems like this tailwater never sees low water anymore.

It’s just a dam that is stuck in the middle of getting water out of Beaver and the way the Corp is doing things now with regulating the flows and how they drain water is the main reason why.

From what I can tell, Beaver isn’t too worried storing water at flood pool stage. It’s almost like they just keep the lake above power pool.

The only time I saw them get worried is when it would crest and then they would dump water over the top using the flood gates.

Really weird why they are doing it this way and that’s why we never see low water at Taney anymore because they always have water to dump.

Even right now, this is when we should see low water at Taney, but because Beaver still has five feet of water to go before, they are at power pool instead of getting rid of it they are still keeping it.

This might be the new trend and the only way we see low water at Taney is if we are in a drought.

When it comes to the Corp, we will never figure out why they do what they do.

I like guiding Taneycomo, but if I’m going to deal with high water (anything over two units) I would much rather go play in Arkansas where you have a chance at big brown every day you go out.

Taney doesn’t support that up top where fly rod water makes more sense than below Fall Creek. The biggest reason why is we don’t have the abundance of brown trout like the White and we definitely don’t have them up top swimming around.

They really only come up top in late September through October and go back downstream and live under the docks in the deeper water where it is safe.

They would much rather eat guts than to get all that pressure from up top in my opinion.

They can’t naturally reproduce like they do on the White for one, and they aren’t pinned in shallower type of water for forty miles either. Taneycomo only has three miles of what I would call low water that keeps the trout pinned in and easier to catch.

They can go deeper and stay out of harms way. This is the biggest reason why you see more brown trout caught in Arkansas verses Missouri.

We had two records caught this year and both were caught using conventional gear and both were caught below Fall Creek.

One was caught right at Fall Creek and one was caught by the dock just up from Lilley’s Landing.

These brown’s really just hold different than how they do on the White.

Brown Run

What brown run?

I think it was the weakest run I’ve seen in the 23 years I’ve been fishing Taneycomo. It almost seemed like they didn’t even come up this year.

Of course, people reading this that fish outlet two would say otherwise, but if you were in a boat and saw what I saw, you would say the same thing.

I didn’t see as many redds and the one’s I saw where mostly rainbows. Another reason why I think is we had a lot of high water and we really couldn’t tell how many where up top and they didn’t get trapped, so you couldn’t really get a chance to fish for them.

Couple that along with the fish ladder they had plenty of chances to swim up in there and never get fished for. We also didn’t get low water for fishing at night just added to the Taney brown run letdown. I just hope next year tells a different story.

Monster brown caught on Taneycomo Night Fishing

In Conclusion;

We still caught a lot of nice fish, but you had to work for them. It was one of those years. We get what we get and we have to adapt and that’s exactly what I did.

I just did it in Arkansas and not in Missouri. I know Taney is my home water and people are probably missing my reports that I used to write for Taney, but hopefully this year will be different.

I love fishing Taney, but I have to do what’s best for my customers and the style of the way I like to fish. Let’s make no mistake about it, I love brown’s and that’s what I like to target. I’ve caught rainbows until I’m blue in the face and they keep your rod bent, but I want my rod bent with line screaming off my reel for the thrill of the fight.

I also hear people who are paying you do too!


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