7-16-04 - The famed NORFORK!
Waters Fished: Norfork River (aka. Norfork Tailwater)
Fish Caught: HUNDREDS and I AM talkin' TROUT!
Outing Date: 7-16-04
Weather: Rain in the AM
Air Temp: around 85F
Water Temp: didn't take them
Water Level: started at LOW stage, bumped up to high (2 generators)...came
back down around 11:00 PM
Water Color: CRYSTAL CLEAR
Fish Species: Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout
Pattern Fished: Threw the box but the Tucker got most ALL the fish!
Also got my brookie on a Green Soft Hackle, #16.
Pattern Color: It's a Tucker Nymph...if you don't know by now go
hit the fly patterns page!
Fishing Quality: for a while there it was lookin' pretty dismal
After midnight we were definitely still on the
road...we'd have to go to Rolla and then down into Arkansas..a solid
4 hours of driving after St. Louis. Arriving in Rolla, we stopped
at the 24-hour Walmart to get some supplies...i.e. food, beverage,
and MUSIC! FATMAN for some reason wanted AC/DC's greatest hits...we'd
been through all sorts of strange stuff on the drive so far...turns
out that the remaining time in the card we'd be listening to...AC/DC's
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of
twisting, winding roads, FAT got us to the Norfork Dam. We were
BEYOND bushwhacked...Mountain Dew and Hansen's Energy Drink had
been keeping us going until 4:00 AM or so. A word about Hansen's...it's
even more of an acquired taste than Red Bull (my preference) but
Hansen's does have more vitamins and stuff...i.e. Vitamin C. Good
for those times when you totally just beat the sh*t out of your
body. This was one of those times. Despite my daily limit of Hansen's
I had NO problem crashing in the Bronco..bumming our campsite in
the parking lot of the fish hatchery.
Four hours later we were awake...fog blanketed
the river. Many folks were out...most on the gravel bar that separated
the info from Dry Run Creek with the main flow of the Norfork Tailwater.
Not sure exactly where to start, we basically just started pounding
First things first, I have to say it was TOUGH....due
to all the fog our view into the crystal clear water was totally
obscured. It turned out that much of the time I was fishing water
that was really too shallow...not to mention that traditional holding
spots (i.e. boulders, weed beds etc..) were pretty much absent here.
The bottom was just a slow dropoff...no steep rise for fish to hold
up on. This was indeed tougher than I had expected.
Then the rain came....and everyone got out of
the water. Well, MOST folks did...I went and got my rain gear on.
If lightning got close, we got out for 10 or 15 minutes...then right
back in. The in-between times I got to talk with a couple really
nice local anglers...one of whom I'd get to know throughout most
of the day, Mr. Tom Able.
As the rain came on and off Rich and I moved downstream
and found ourselves below the lower boat launch. Tom had suggested
that much of the activity was going on there..and sure enough, when
we got there we finally started seeing fish! In fact, as the rain
petered out, the fish started jumping like crazy..obviously picking
NOTHING off the surface...well...if there were even midges they
were frickin' TINY 'cause I never saw a thing.
Now, the nice part about this stretch of water
was that there was a clearly defined channel...we could see SEVERAL
large browns on the bottom (I mean LARGE approaching our Great Lakes
Browns). Finally, swinging Green Soft Hackle along the far rise
of the channel...the line stopped, I set the hook and bam fish on.
Rich came over with his new Loki net and we got I officially broke
the skunk with a nice fat Brookie.
However, the fishing remained slow. Mr. Able came
out upstream of us and within a few casts...FISH ON. JEEEEZE. Obviously
the local pro :) No sooner than he stepped in the water than a certain
WHISTLE blew....as in time to GET THE FRICK OUT OF THE WATER.
So it blew 2 or 3 more times before the actually
started generating...Tom figured it would be 2 full generators kickin.
Man does that water come up FAST! Tom was shouting to pass it along
downstream...apparently they have already fished out 4 drowned anglers
I gotta say Mr. Able got me good....as the water
came up folks started showing up with boats. Tom is telling me that
as the water comes up, this little area of weeds is going to fill
in. First a few fish will show up, the there will be a lot of little
fish in here. Then the big ones will move in...."just watch...you'll
see a 5lb rainbow behind that rock out there and you ain't gonna
So he suggests I start fishin and keep an eye out...tons
of little fish are gonna show up in a minute...just wait. I drift
and drift...nope I don't see ANYTHING yet. Then for no particular
reason I turn around...and there right behind me for the last 10
minutes had been the STOCKING TRUCK.
Rich says they were all getting a good laugh out
of me...totally oblivious to what was going on behind me while Tom
is telling me that all these little fish are gonna show up right
in this little back eddie. Tom, I totally admit it, YOU GOT ME GOOD.
So I step aside and WHOOOOSH...a fountain of water
and fish spews forth into this little back eddie. The whole process
takes less than a minute! And now, at my feet, are HUNDREDS of stocker
trout. For those of you who say Rich and/or myself follow the stocking
trucks in Iowa, I submit this to you...they apparently follow us
Well, the water is HIGH and FAST...what are we
to do? A lot of folks go home. We drove a total of 14 hours with
stops just to get here...I wasn't about to leave with 1 brookie
to show for my morning's effort. Mr. Able breaks out the "ugly
jig" - a very small gray micro jig, and says it's time to teach
some trout. HMMM...I see where he's going here.
In NO TIME Mr. Able has his first trout...if not
his first then second drift. I watch as he hits fish after fish
after fish...granted this is a very contrived situation here. Fat
and I kinda look at each other...there is no doubt in either of
our minds that this is the highest concentration of trout we may
ever fish...so WHY NOT?!
We both got into it with enthusiasm...the rules
were simple...these fish DO NOT COUNT in the numbers...but I would
allow that this would count as FAT getting his skunk off for the
We sat for maybe an hour and no problem, we hooked
easily 100 fish each. MOST we didn't even bother to land, instead
we'd just let the line go limp and hopefully they'd shake off. Meanwhile,
for every fish Rich or I caught, I conservatively estimate that
Tom hooked 3. While both Rich and I fouled a few (they were simply
that thick), we weren't using indicators...Tom was. Tom knew if
he had a bite or not..he was riding the jig above rather than through
the fish..indicator goes down set the hook...simple. And all of
a sudden the appropriate use of an indicator became VERY clear and
The action wore down as we probably hooked every
darn fish they had just dumped in...you could literally see the
bites just taper off, even for Tom. It sounded like now would be
a good time to stop screwin' around and start fishing.
While we had been doing this, Rich and I watched
the local guides and their method of chasing fish at high stage
(high flow, multiple generators etc..). Basically they'd zip all
the way up to the dam's barrier in a long thing John Boat (there
is some area immediately below the dam that's off limits).
Then they'd get in and drift down. More or less
even the fly anglers were using huge chunks of lead, as the water
was now up a good 8-10 feet, so some spots were easily 10-15 feet
deep. They'd dunk in and basically free drift down with the current..one
LONG-ass drift. The guide would use the motor more or less idling
to keep position of the boat and to keep moving slightly slower
than the surface current. Talk about a lot of effort for a drag-free
drift...and honestly I didn't really see it paying off for any of
the folks we saw out in the boats.
None the less we brought the drift boat and well,
this is exactly why. After pit stops we launched in with some last
advice from Tom on where and how we should go about this. More or
less below the access was an island...drift down, cut back in this
LARGE eddy and we'd be carried right back up to drift again.
So Rich got in and I was to fish first...but man
I wasn't even ready for it. Rich TRIED to motor us up to the dam's
barrier...the current was SO strong though that even at wide-open
our little motor just wasn't going to cut it. We made it up, the
sonar was on and just feet from the shore it was 8 feet deep.
Rich tried to anchor...no way was that working,
so in the end we tried one pass with downstream with the motor on....it
was real clear to me that if we got past a certain point downstream
we weren't getting back up. OK. So we made the pass and as I FLEW
BY I could see large fish all around me underneath. But we were
going by WAY TOO FAST and I wasn't nearly leaded enough.
We came back into the eddy, and I suggested Rich
let me try this. We only had a quarter tank of gas, so rather than
burn it all up I thought we should try rowing. I could see the seam
we should work, so I put rich in the front and took the oars...we
still had the motor if we needed it.
Let me tell ya now, this is what a drift boat is
MADE for. I could position us facing downstream, the stern facing
into the current, and with SLIGHT effort..i.e. a stroke every 5-10
seconds, I could keep us stationary...heck the motor really wasn't
even able to do that!
I was able to give Rich a 3 solid drifts...on the
third one we got adventurous and went down farther than we probably
should....all the while Rich hadn't seen ANY fish. It seemed like
this was a losing proposition as Rich got the outboard back online
and motored us back up to the eddy.
Alrighty, time for a break....we pulled out and
took a look at Dry Run Creek. It's basically the outflow from the
hatchery. Only the handicapped or people under 16 can legally fish
here, and it is 1 barbless fly only.
If you have kids under the age of 16 who are fly
fishers...by all means make ANY excuse to get them down here before
they turn 16. SERIOUSLY.
We weren't quite sure what we'd do next...FAT was
sliding around all day (forgot his felt soled boots) so next stop
was the fly shop. I picked up a few things I needed, he got what
he needed, and I got a laugh out of this shop's humorous approach
to encouraging catch and release.
We ended up back in Mountain Home...found a park
and Rich relined his rod while I tied flies. A good way to spend
the afternoon. We had heard that the night bite had been good when
we got there this morning, so we figured we'd relax and get out
Rich and I were both perplexed coming out of our
dinner at Bamboo Palace...some stuff was really alright for the
price, some stuff notsomuch..i.e. worst eggrolls I've ever had the
displeasure of tasting. When we saw the all-American who came out
to put more Crab Rangoon in the warming trays...well that tipped
us off that maybe this wasn't destined to be a phenomenal Chinese
restaurant. Or MAYBE it was the "Sizzling Catfish" that
should've tipped us off?
We got back at sunset with the following rules.
ALL fish will now count (stockers included). Whomever lands the
most wins bragging rights and will be first oarsman for Team Ozark
Chronicles in the driftboat.
I'll tell ya now, I wasn't fooling around, and
in the 30 minutes between sunset and dark I whipped out the Tucker
and showed Rich what the Pet Fly Smackdown is all about. 5-3 I think
was our total.
After dark, I was kinda tired but then it happened...the
water was at my feet a minute ago and now it's a foot below me and
2 feet away....I haven't MOVED?!
Generation had STOPPED..the water was receding
and receding FAST. Again, WOW. We now had a shot at some NICE night
fishin. Rich rigged up like we do for Salmon and literally disappeared
into the fog. Meanwhile, not knowing quite where I was going..I
took a little longer but eventually made my way out.
Within an hour the water was dead low again. I
couldn't see squat. The fog thickened to the point where I couldn't
see the hills above me...couldn't see the water's surface. I'd cast
out with the glow stick indicator and it would just appear to stop
in mid-air...actually that's the water's surface. I couldn't tell
up from down...and then the strobe lights kicked in....wait STROBE
I didn't know what was going on until we packed
it up a few hours later to head for the Little Red...turns out there
was lots of heat lightning...that's what we were seeing randomly
pulse through the fog. I'll tell ya now...nightfishing in this kind
of fog after DUSK was a mind blowing FREAK-YOU-OUT experience. It
got to the point where I had to put myself on dry land or I would've
gotten lost. The headlamps did nothing and the spotlight just turned
everything WHITE. Visibility...25 feet at the most. Casting was
a trip...between the trails and the fog and the vertigo...well...you
get the idea. Not for the timid!
So that wraps up our first official day in Arkansas....we
drove over to the Little Red River after midnight...I'll tell y'all
'bout that in the next report!