For a while the lower water levels which have for the past few weeks been killer for us but, fishing DW Traditional Style Wet Fly Rigs and light Nymph Drift Rigs are full of great memories so far as overall numbers of fish and some 30 plus browns from 15 up to 25 inches- not to mention the many lower class fish which during the now high water flows.
But they will pack on weight.


A nice broad tail and beautiful color suits Mark Shultz just fine. Davy Wotton photo

Needless to say, Bull Shoals Dam Zone has always been for me, a “go to zone”, and mainly due to the fact it is about the only zone on the river you are likely to catch trophy bows, that is, fish in the 16 to 24 inch range.
That said, l am not so sure now days that we will once again see the 5 to 8lb fish we used to catch, but you never know; there may well be a few fish of that caliber lurking around.

Higher Water
High water being in my opinion, what is needed to get those larger fish on the take, as of yet we have boated a bunch in the 15 to 20 inch range, but as yet not larger fish, sooner or later that will be the case.
The past two days at the dam have produced some 70 plus fish, one of my regulars, Bill, having a great day with 37 fish, not to mention the many he lost or broke off.

Rigging For Deeper Water
For many fishing deep water Nymph
Rigs are a problem. Long leaders are mandatory 14 to 16 feet at time, added weight creates further issues so far as casting.
Fact is, if your flies are not running close to the river bed- then good luck. Your hook ups are going to be few and far between. 

Now a common misconception is that you cannot use small flies, not true, far from it.
Fact is, the food base does not change when they run high water.
Midges, scuds, sowbugs, aquatic worms, snails, caddis larva, and mayfly nymphs are still on the menu, granted larger food sources such as bait fish and crawdads are also included, not to mention the many terrestrial bugs, beetles, spiders, ants, and all manner of flying bugs.

Dead Drift With An Indicator And Weight
Fact is this when fishing dead drift with indicator rigs the lower levels of the water move slower than the surface which is the influence so far as how you can control speed of the flies fished below.
Added weight is of course needed, how you position that weight can make a difference.
In otherwords there are mainly three options:
(1) weight is added above the flies,
(2) below or between, or
(3) combinations of the three.
All of which will present the flies in a different manner, or how they are influenced by under water hydraulics. Weight is the influence of the anchor and effect how the flies are able to animate above or below; that is the issue here.

Personally, l favor to use flies with none or very little weight. The surface movement is the relationship as to how the weight to the indicator/fly line creates a tension; in other words, it is a drag effect, the fly is being pulled along or able to move freely depending on how you have set your rig.

The use of long rods are a great asset when fishing long leaders. 10 foot is good, 11 foot even better.
l in fact have a custom made 12 foot rod. Line weights 4 to 6 are ideal and in the case of using long leaders with weight a WF profile is preferred. Here distance is generally not a issue.
Often as not, you can also fish leaders of 4 and 3 x, droppers, in many case- l always use a detached dropper as here fly animation is greater than a direct in line set up. It is also way easier to change the dropper fly and if needed adjust the rig to suit. 

Knowledge of River Bed
Intimate knowledge of the river bed is a great asset as by knowing that you will know the zones where the fish are likely to be found; such as the drop off behind a gravel bar or rock structure.
Moss beds are almost always holding fish. Likewise, the soft water seams off the main current flows.
Fishing over grass beds can also be very productive, particularly for the larger browns which are often looking for bait fish which are holding in these zones. Examples are crawdads, and sculpins, likely also worms. 

Boat Control
Above all is there is, anything other than the fishing you need to pay attention to is boat control.
It’s very easy if you are not watching what you are doing, to have your boat run into the shoreline, rocks, root wads and what ever else can cause problems.
In highwater, drag chains are generally of no use, also more dangerous if you should snag in fast water flows; as is dropping the anchor.
If you do need to pull ashore then find a area that has a slow safe water zone. 

Enjoy the high water, its likely to be here for a while.


(Posted by Teresa “TBird” Van Winkle) June 22nd, 2014