Tying Arkansas White River Patterns

Tying Arkansas White River Fly Patterns for Ozark Fly Fishing

This page covers how-to fly tying steps for tying Arkansas White River patterns for our local fly fishing. There are many fly patterns that work on the Ozark coldwater trout fisheries. Expert fly tier Jeremy Hunt provides all the information necessary to help all skill levels of fly tiers catch more trophy brown trout and big rainbow trout on their next fly fishing trip to the White River Basin.

White River fly fishing guides rely on the patterns detailed below for their guide trips because these flies will catch fish, day in and day out.

John Wilson's Trout Crack1

This fly was designed by John Wilson to imitate baby sowbugs on the White River and Norfork tailwaters, but I have found that it works about anywhere there are sowbugs.

Not only that, this tying Arkansas White River pattern works great for spooky fish that aren’t in the mood for aggressive feeding.

The best way to fish this pattern is to find “small” water with little to no current. Subtle casting to big fish is key in fooling them. This fly is becoming common around here and I’m sure it will be a pattern that is in most fly boxes soon.

Make sure you tie these the next time you plan on fishing tailwaters.

I also tie this pattern with black, “D” rib and “sand” antron for the body. I think this version works great for imitating midges. Since this fly is not weighted, nymph fishing fast riffles is kind of tough to do. Trail it on the back of weighted patterns for the best results or below a split shot in moving water.

I can’t say enough about this pattern. It was originated by Fox Statler, a.k.a. Mr. Sowbug. He came up with this fly way back when he was figuring out scud patterns versus sowbug imitations.

We all know trout mistake both to be the same thing. They are both gray in color for the most part, both live on the bottom of the river, and both can get washed off the rocks in swift currents.

Trout prefer scuds over sowbugs because of protein. That’s a big part on how trout get so colorful. But to be honest, they both serve their purpose as a food source. I have found when fishing this pattern I get the best results right up by Bull Shoals Dam in 3-4 units of water.

Fox Statler's Original Sowbugs

I am usually tying Arkansas White River patterns in a size 10 or 12, and nothing smaller.

Make sure they’re weighted and fished with a split shot so they stay on the bottom.

Sowbugs don’t swim, they crawl, so when displaced off of a rock, they’re easy prey. And for this reason I think this fly is deadly on the White River. One other thing, I know I mentioned gray as being the color of the insect, and we all know they are gray.

But for some odd reason they prefer Fox’s color scheme. If you go type it in Google, you’ll also find Fox Statler’s scud is tied with the same colors.

White River Arkansas Beadhead

I stumbled on this fly when I first started fly fishing. Like many anglers on Taneycomo, I started out fishing scuds without a bead. Soon I figured out that beads were also key when fishing faster water.

This fly is also a pattern I neglected as I pursued other flies and techniques. It’s funny to say, but we all have had experience tying Arkansas White River patterns that caught lots of fish but now we don’t use them anymore.

Maybe that has to do with figuring out more in the sport and not going back to what you already know.

This is one of those patterns I wish I never stopped fishing. Here recently I have used this scud more and more on the White and Norfork.

A lot of it has to do with seeing Gabe fish it. It’s a big thing around here, and why it works so well has much to do with the dubbing. Rabbit in “natural” seems to be what these fish like out of all the dubbed beadhead flies.

I’ve tried tying Arkansas White River patterns in other colors, but I could clearly see the difference when I went out and fished them. This is just a great all around fly for any water, and it works well on Taneycomo as well.

Make sure you tie this for low water in sizes 16 or 18. I mostly fish it in a size 12 with a 7/64 tungsten bead when fishing during moderate water in the one to three unit range. This scud is also a great search pattern.

This fly is a must have. There’s several ways these patterns are tied. Anything that has a bead with ribbed segmentations over a thread body is considered a “zebra midge”. Adding dubbing or peacock herl to the thorax doesn’t hurt the pattern in any way.

I like them tied both ways, but the one we’re tying will show both dubbing and peacock herl tied behind the bead.

This is what most people do when tying them. I’ve also seen a strip of flashabou hanging off the hook bend or z-lon for a shuck.

It really doesn’t matter, just as long as you have a variety of them in many shades, as well as different colored beads.

Zebra Midge

I am usually tying Arkansas White River patterns in tungsten, but traditional cyclops eyes work better if the fly is to be fished in really shallow water with little to no current. I find that gold, copper, or nickel with wire to match the bead is the ticket!

One other thing… try tying these with UV dubbing for the thorax. You don’t need much, a little goes a long way, but in sunny days the flash and bead work in your favor. Trust me!

SJW San Juan Worm High Water Cerise

Cerise is probably the last color you think about when tying Arkansas White River patterns for the san juan worm.

Throughout the years I’ve switched over and tried this pattern with little success. Now I know why, it’s all about location, location, location.

Since Taneycomo is my home water, that’s where I experimented with this color the most. But here on the White and Norfork tailwater systems, these work well.

The two most common colors that are fished are: red and shades of brown. I’ve learned over the years you need to have just about every color.

There are several ways to tie chenille in for san juan worms and you’ll see a few ways on my “how to” steps.

On the straight shank hook I tie segmented wraps and on the long curved shank I like to tie them with thread wraps close together, then advance the thread up and repeat the same step again.

The best day I’ve had so far fishing this color is at the Norfork. Make sure you have this in micro and standard sizes.

Maintaining a Variety Tying Arkansas White River Patterns

This fly is another overall great pattern. When it comes to holographic tinsel or flashabou you can’t go wrong with black or red.

This fly can also be tied with a black bead, but the traditional pattern calls for a nickel bead.

I usually only rib it in black wire, but I’m sure you can tweak it as much as you want.

If you haven’t tied midges with flashabou for the body, give it a try next time you’re thinking of new midge pattern. This fly works best fished in low water.

Another version of this fly that works is to add a (killer caddis) glass bead in the color “gun metal”.

Holographic Midge
Primrose and Pearl Red

This is the other version I tie with a holographic underbody. The only difference is this is more of a ruby color and I don’t know of anyone carrying this except River Run Outfitters near Table Rock Dam.

It’s a good color for midges and is a popular fly for Taneycomo.

It has a little deeper color of red and that really makes this fly look good in the water.

I also tie a fly called a “disco midge” which has holographic for the body and peacock herl for the thorax.

That’s pretty much the same fly, but a Disco is often fished in still water with no weight.

The angler relies on the fly to fall and it will get feeding fish near the bottom interested. You have to get your hands on some of this holographic material.

Zebra Midge

This fly is a must have. There’s several ways these patterns are tied. Anything that has a bead with ribbed segmentations over a thread body is considered a “zebra midge”. Adding dubbing or peacock herl to the thorax doesn’t hurt the pattern in any way.

I like them tied both ways, but the one we’re tying will show both dubbing and peacock herl tied behind the bead. This is what most people do when tying them. I’ve also seen a strip of flashabou hanging off the hook bend or z-lon for a shuck. It really doesn’t matter, just as long as you have a variety of them in many shades, as well as different colored beads.

I am usually tying Arkansas White River patterns in tungsten, but traditional cyclops eyes work better if the fly is to be fished in really shallow water with little to no current. I find that gold, copper, or nickel with wire to match the bead is the ticket!

One other thing… try tying these with UV dubbing for the thorax. You don’t need much, a little goes a long way, but in sunny days the flash and bead work in your favor. Trust me!

SJW San Juan Worm High Water Cerise

Cerise is probably the last color you think about when tying Arkansas White River patterns for the san juan worm. Throughout the years I’ve switched over and tried this pattern with little success. Now I know why, it’s all about location, location, location.

Since Taneycomo is my home water, that’s where I experimented with this color the most. But here on the White and Norfork tailwater systems, these work well. The two most common colors that are fished are: red and shades of brown.

I’ve learned over the years you need to have just about every color. There are several ways to tie chenille in for san juan worms and you’ll see a few ways on my “how to” steps. On the straight shank hook I tie segmented wraps and on the long curved shank I like to tie them with thread wraps close together, then advance the thread up and repeat the same step again.

The best day I’ve had so far fishing this color is at the Norfork. Make sure you have this in micro and standard sizes.

Maintaining a Variety Tying Arkansas White River Patterns

Holographic Midge

This fly is another overall great pattern. When it comes to holographic tinsel or flashabou you can’t go wrong with black or red. This fly can also be tied with a black bead, but the traditional pattern calls for a nickel bead.

I usually only rib it in black wire, but I’m sure you can tweak it as much as you want. If you haven’t tied midges with flashabou for the body, give it a try next time you’re thinking of new midge pattern. This fly works best fished in low water.

Another version of this fly that works is to add a (killer caddis) glass bead in the color “gun metal”.

Primrose and Pearl Red

This is the other version I tie with a holographic underbody. The only difference is this is more of a ruby color and I don’t know of anyone carrying this except River Run Outfitters near Table Rock Dam.

It’s a good color for midges and is a popular fly for Taneycomo. It has a little deeper color of red and that really makes this fly look good in the water. I also tie a fly called a “disco midge” which has holographic for the body and peacock herl for the thorax.

That’s pretty much the same fly, but a Disco is often fished in still water with no weight. The angler relies on the fly to fall and it will get feeding fish near the bottom interested. You have to get your hands on some of this holographic material.

Dynamite Worm

It’s hard to say who actually came up with this pattern. Back when Hareline first came out with this product called diamond braid, I think we all experimented with this. But to be honest with you, most people tying patterns with this stuff were after big flies or several-step patterns. Here on the White River this fly pulls big browns. Davy Wotton probably had a lot to do with it.

He tied a very simple fly called the “dynamite worm” that’s basically another version of the san juan worm. I still don’t know why it works so well…maybe because it’s got a sparkle look to it. It’s another fly I would consider an attractor pattern.

And with everyone fishing it, I’m sure that’s why fish are hitting it. You see something enough times and the fish think it’s part of the food chain. Trout are very curious, but why big browns are getting fooled by this still has me scratching my head.

I guess we’ll have to ask Davy on this one. You don’t want to leave home without this one if you plan on fishing the White in high water.

Ruby Red Midge

This is the other version I tie with a holographic underbody. The only difference is this is more of a ruby color and I don’t know of anyone carrying this except River Run Outfitters. It’s a good color for midges and is a popular fly for Taneycomo. It has a little deeper color of red and really makes this fly look good in the water. I also tie this in a fly called a disco midge which has this for the body and peacock herl for the thorax. That’s pretty much the fly, but fished in still water with no weight and just relying on the fly to fall will catch fish that like to roam and pick off sitting midges on the bottom. You have to get your hands on some of this material.

Here’s the other way I tie a Zebra. It’s nothing fancy, just another midge. This fly is best tied with nickel wire and a bead for the best results. Another combo is black (bead and wire) over the ruby red body. Bright days are when I normally fish red.

Tom Roger's Dead Scud

Not all “hatches” are necessarily of the insect variety on the Norfork and White River. If there is a cold winter, shad come throuh the dams, creating a feeding frenzy. Worms get washed into the rivers by the million during high water, and trout will “key in” on this easy meal. Perhaps the most overlooked “hatch” is that of the dead scud. The Norfork, and to some extent the White, are loaded with freshwater shrimp (scuds), and they will die during certain weather and water conditions.

Summer is dead scud time on the Norfork, and tying Arkansas White River patterns also work very well during the rise in water. These flies very rarely produce as well as dark olive scuds if there are no dead scuds in the water, so it’s important to watch for clues.

If there are trout aggressively hitting something on the surface, and there is very little bug activity, chances are they are on dead scuds. Also, look for dead scuds in the water or along the moist banks.

Every Ozark fly fisher tying Arkansas White River patterns should have these dead scud flies in his/her box.

Gabe's Olive Norfork Scud's

This is the most realistic, or should I say the most e natural-looking scuds under the water. It is a very basic pattern to tie. But if you notice scuds, they really resemble this look. The way the swiss straw is tied in and the first wrap to create the segmentation is farther-spaced away gives this fly the credit it deserves. In my book, it’s the simple things that make a pattern great.

Another great thing about this fly is the touch dubbing technique. That really makes a fly look buggy and it’s really the only time I use dubbing wax. If you’re not trying this technique, give it a try because I’m sure you’ll like it for more of your realistic ties.

It is best fished on the White River and Norfork, but if you ask me when I fish it? I would say in low water.

Joe's Norfork Special

Joe Schmuecker, who is in charge of all the dying that goes on at Wapsi Fly Company, came up with theis pattern about 5 years ago.   He was playing around with pine squirrel to add something to the rabbit tying world.

Squirrel is a little denser then rabbit and has shorter hair. It’s really taken off and now there’s a ton of patterns to tie with this.

This pattern shows how you can tie it as a tail to make a buggy nymph. I’ve actually done real well with this pattern when I’m fishing in creeks. Bluegill seem to like it the best, but I’ve been known to catch a few smallmouth in Crooked Creek.

Believe it or not, the best luck I’ve had out of all the colors this comes in is chartreuse. I also tie a lead eye pine-squirrel that tears them up on the Current River.

Tom Nixon's 56er

I really don’t know the whole story about how this fly came about, but I do know it was designed for warm water first and then transferred over to trout.

It’s a HOT pattern and has been fished at Rim Shoals on the White River for some time know. I actually met Jerry Nixon who owns a home at Rim. I used to watch him fish this pattern religiously and it was the only fly he would fish. From my understanding this fly imitates baby crayfish.

There seems to be an abundance of crawdad from Cotter down. My dad use to live at Rim and this is when I heard about this pattern. I have fished it on all tailwaters and it works, but not like it does on the White. Make sure you have one of these if you plan on swinging wooly bugger patterns.

Arkansas Beadhead step 12

The Arkansas beadhead was originated by Dale Fulton who used to own and operate Blue Ribbon Fly Shop. I like his style of tying and fishing. He’s a visual in the sense that he likes to watch the takes. Anymore, this is the only way I like to fish.

This fly was designed to imitate shad patterns during the shad kill, but also to be stripped back as well. I have found it to be better on the dead drift, but it definitely is a searching pattern. And the fact that you can see it on the bottom, you can watch the takes and sometimes that’s the advantage to know when big fish take it.

Dale says, “It’s just as much fun to watch them versus hooking them.” You can also tie this pattern in pink and I’ve figured out that all fish species like this fly. Dale also thinks that without putting the eyes on, the strikes aren’t as good so I always put on eyes.