White River Fly Fishing Report – February – 20 – 26 -2022 – The Shad Return

Reports From The Field - Jeremy Hunt

February 27, 2022

Hey everyone, Jeremy here, finally able to take a breather and getting you fishing reports on a regular basis. I love the journey this sport has and is taking, but sometimes you have to give a little on one end and suffer a little on the other. Now that the website is up and running and the shopping cart has most of our merchandise uploaded for you to purchase, I can start focusing on newsletters and fishing reports.

One other thing I want to try and really focus on is adding a lot more bargain sale merchandise that we have accumulated over the years. When we took over Copper John’s we inherited all the old inventory and fly-tying materials. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, but it has shelf life and packaging has been changed throughout the years with certain vendors.

So, we want to pass on the savings to you. Please make sure you always check out the “closeout” page at the bottom of the menu bar on the “shop” page for awesome deals, we actually have a few over there now so if you are looking for some Rio tippet or fly-lines we have a few for sale for a really good deal. 

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Shad Kill –


In the last couple of weeks, we have had some smaller shad spit through the dams. I heard Norfork had a shad kill yesterday.

It seems like the shad bite has been steadier as of late with almost experiencing a few each day. What I mean by this is, is actually seeing shad and watching fish regurgitating them when handling them in the net.

Also, the seagulls diving in the water is a good sign that shad are coming through the dam.

When this happens, the trout will actually key in on the top and take surface flies so make sure you have another rod rigged up with a dry and dropper.

Tiger Trout

The staple patterns that the trout like are yep, you guessed it, anything white.

But for real, the “local” patterns that these trout really see a lot of are the Arkansas bead-head in a couple of sizes depending on how big the shad are.

Size matters so make sure you keep that in mind when rigging the bottom fly when fishing deep.

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Another popular fly is the Tom Rogers “Blow Fly”, the fly has really great undulation as it sinks when fishing split shot, but sometimes I like to fish it under the Wiggle Minnow or Zoo Cougars with no split shot and set about five feet deep from the top fly, but remember to always focus on how deep the water is so you can adjust it. I do want to go a little in depth about the Wiggle Minnow and how sometimes you can miss a lot of hits. I believe that the hooks aren’t correct with dead drifting this fly, this fly was created for stripping it back more that floating it and it was also designed for bass which have a bigger mouth which makes sense


I would also agree that depending on how the trout takes it and whether it has a bigger mouth could have better hook ups, but for the females and smaller fish I can tell you from experience that you will miss more fish than hookups.

This can be frustrating for sure and that’s why we don’t fish the Wiggle Minnow as much as we used too.

The other patterns that are pretty popular are the Super Jigs, Davy Shad, Meat Whistles and tiny marabou jigs. You can also junk some bigger streamers along the bank and don’t forget, you can throw streamers all the way down the river if you don’t want to deal with the crowds below the dam. 


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What I do Different – 


It’s better to have a fly that has a straight shank hook in my opinion, and that’s why I have switched over to Galloup’s Zoo Cougar. I have been fishing this pattern since it came out when fishing a shad kill. The only downfall to this fly is it won’t stay riding high on top because it isn’t strictly foam, but don’t let that deter you from fishing it. What I have found is the fish like it somewhat submerged and also with the dropper being close to the other fly I think it creates more reaction bites and mimics more of a “shad kill”. If you fish, this set up then I would say don’t fish a dropper with a bead. If you want to fish a bead then I would go deep, but if you fish up top then I would think more on the lines of lethargic patterns that don’t drop and prevent the current from doing what it does to make patterns look like wash if that makes sense. If you want the Zoo Cougar riding more on top then only fish it single and either put some floatant on it or you can cast it according to drying it off when needed, but keep in mind that the trout need to be going nuts on the surface before I fish it that way.

Going Forward –


It’s not normal for the shad kill to be happening in February as much as it has been in the month of March. I’m not sure how long this will last so getting here now is key for getting in on this super cool bite. If they keep generating bigger water then the shad should continue to push through and that would speed up the shad kill, but if they lower the flows then I see us having some more time fishing this particular bite. 


Fishing Report – Trips have been very educational


Most the trips we have been taking have been exciting because most have never experienced a shad kill so they are definitely getting the most bang for their buck! These are the times it is worth freezing and braving the elements, when you have a bite like this. For me, it is also a lot of fun because I love teaching the sport. The customers were eager to listen and learn which in return made the day very educational and fun! 


We had a big group come in from Michigan that Kelly Newman brings down every year about this time and every time they come the trip has been a different trip. Last year we had warm sunny days with mostly low flows and used the drift boats. This time we had winter weather and high water to deal with which made for some pretty good fishing. And to couple that with an epic shad kill, it made for some great memories were had by all. I remember Scott saying “every time I come down here it always different”.  That’s what I like about our fisheries, they are always changing and you have to be ready to adapt. 

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