Anyone who fishes the White River or Norfork River in January knows to expect high water, and that is just what we got all month on both rivers. Both Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes are unusually full compared to previous years, and even with nearly round-the-clock generation from both dams the lake levels remained high. That meant big water flowing down river all month.
Late December and early January were the opposite, with low water for wade fishing on the White River and half-day low-flows on the Norfork River from mid-December through the first week of the New Year. Oddly, even though the weather was in the high 40s and mid-50s daily, and the fishing was as great as the weather, there were few other anglers on the water. Holidays and family obligations keep most people away during some of the best fishing in Arkansas.
The fishing report for those days is detailed in this column by Bryan Hendricks, outdoors writer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
For anglers using streamers and not nymphs, big water requires big flies and heavy sink tips to keep flies down deep, and cast close to shore for fish hiding from the fierce current. Yet, even with the right gear and hungry fish, the river flows on the White River were in the 15,000 cubic-feet-per-second range, and made casting and retrieving flies difficult at best – sometimes nearly impossible. Despite the challenges, fish were caught and fun was had during January’s high water.
Pictured are the flies I used for high water, large marabou flies tied with trailing hooks on 25-pound Maxima monofilament and a Size 1 Gamakatsu Octopus hook. They are kept in a Fishpond Sushi Roll, which is a great option for storing large flies, despite the lack of waterproofing.
February will likely bring more high water and big-fly fishing.