The surface temperature on Bull Shoals is in the mid forties on the main lake, this means there is no real reason for the fish to be up near the surface. Most fish are at least twenty feet deep or more and many are stacked up off primary points at forty feet or more. Very nice, nine and ten inch bluegills, and crappies in the mid ‘teens, as well as a few smallmouths are coming to hand.
Full sinking fly lines fished towards shore from a boat positioned over 35 feet of water seems to be doing the trick. Small clousers always work, however, switching to smaller size #10 wet flies, fished with a short strip seem to be working even better! Colorful patterns like the Black Laced McGinty (www.warmwaterflytyer.com/patterns4.asp) tied in florescent pink and black is working very well, not only for ‘gills and crappie , but bass as well. Secondary points and fingers are the first place to look, and primary points are holding fish if they provide the right structure. The trick is to fish slow but keep moving, make your presentation to as many fish as possible as you work your way down the bank. As always on Bull Shoals, the wind is a determining factor on where you can fish and even more so this time of year with the cold temps. Find a spot protected from the wind, and hopefully in the sun, and you can have some fun with some very nice pan fish.
The White River is fishing well (as usual) and many fly fisherman are turning to streamers this time of year in hopes of tearing into one of the Whites trophy browns. Large yellow articulated flies such as the Conrad Sculpin usually get the nod from me, although black and olive patterns are always effective too. The 4 o’clock midge hatch is something you can set your watch to, and the usual red, black and zebra midges will all catch fish. All four lakes in the White River system are now back to (or below) pool and the ACOE is slowing down the generation a bit, and with no rain in the forecast, it’s a sure bet there will be more wading opportunities available. Norfork has had wadeable water most every day for the last few weeks.
Be very careful fishing this time of year. The lake water is very cold and there are few boats on the lake to assist you if you have problems. Be safe and have fun!