Water Level Adjustments

When you’re fishing below a dam and the water-release rate changes, it affects more than access. You often have to alter your approach entirely.

My son and I chose to forsake a guide boat for the first day of last week’s trip to Gaston’s White River Resort. We’d enjoyed excellent wade-fishing action on past trips to Arkansas’ most acclaimed tailwater, and it seemed like a good time to explore new areas and learn more about foot access.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates Bull Shoals Dam, just upstream of Gaston’s, had other ideas. They were running four generators, which pushes the river too high for wading in most places, when we got to town, and we learned the flows had been mostly high for a couple of weeks.

That didn’t ruin our plans. It just forced us to adjust, which is the nature of tailwater fishing. Instead of wading shoals and working deeper runs and current lines with subtle presentations, we walked the banks and fished edges of shoreline eddies, working baits more aggressively.

High water did shrink the waters we could reach, but it didn’t keep us from catching trout, and it actually opened some new territory because the areas where we caught our fish are high and dry or at least too shallow to fish effectively when the water is down.

Interestingly, just before we stopped for lunch, the Corps cut back to a single generator, dropping the water lower than it had been for several weeks. White Rive trout typically become tough to catch while the water is dropping, but once it reaches the new level they resettle and begin feeding again.

We went back to Plan A, donning waders, working shoals with jigs and Rebel Minnows and catching several trout.

Here’s a glimpse at what was going on out in the boats while we were walking the banks and wading the shoals.

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