Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing On The Norfork River In
Arkansas (North Fork White River)
The Norfork River is a tailwater below Norfork Dam on
the White River in Arkansas. Although it is fairly short,
only four and one-half miles in total length, it is
one of the better trout streams in the Ozark Mountains.
Fly fishing the Norfork River is usually very rewarding.
This river holds world-record size fish. During the hot
summer, trout migrate upriver from the White River into
the cool water of the Norfork River.
During the brown trout spawning season, many large
brown trout move upstream from the White River into the
Norfork River to spawn. The World record brown trout
weighting nearly thirty-nine pounds was caught in this
The water temperature of in the Norfork River tailwater
stays between forty-eight and fifty-eight degrees
year-round. The stream has a huge number of
crustaceans, including sowbugs and scuds, that keep
the trout well fed. This stream has a large number of
trout in it. It's the place to catch a true grand slam, or a
brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout and a cutthroat
trout all in the same area.
One reason for this fine river is the fact its headwaters,
the North Fork River, is a limestone, spring fed river.
This gives the water a higher than normal pH level and
accounts for the plentiful amount of food and
subsequent fast growth rate and size of the trout.
The river is best waded when the water is low. It can be
tough to wade when they are generating power at the
dam and the turbines are running. When power is being
generated, it is usually best to float the river in a drift
Prior to fishing any tailwater stream, including the
Norfork River, you should call ahead and get the
discharge schedule. You can save a lot of waisted time if
you are aware of high discharge rates in advance of
traveling there. The release schedule link in on your left.
The Norfork is one of the few places in the state of
Arkansas you can catch a grand slam. That's a rainbow,
brown, cutthroat and brook trout all in the same river.
Access to the river is provided at Quarry Park, just
below the Norfork Dam. It has a concrete boat launching
ramp and public access for bank fishing and wading.
You can fish the mouth of Dry Run Creek, which enters
the tailwater in Quarry Park.
The bulk of the North Fork fish is stocked rainbows.
Most fish caught are rainbows from 10 to 14 inches long.
The mile long section of the river from the mouth of
Otter Creek to 100 yards above River Ridge Walk-In
Access is regulated as a catch-and-release area.
Norfork River Arkansas
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Photo Courtesy of David Knapp Photography
Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 &12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 71/2
ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five or
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
You can catch trout on the Norfork River
Midge fishing can be good during the winter.
Springtime brings on the best hatches that
occur on the Norfork.
Fly Fishing Guide to the Norfork River
The fishing tactics on the Norfork, as with
most other tailwaters, varies with the
discharge rates of flow. As mentioned in the
intro, the river is best fished from a drift boat
when the dam's generators are running. The
water will be high and there will only be a few
places it is possible to fish it from the banks.
Wading can be very dangerous with the
water on. When the water is low, it is the
perfect time to stalk its huge trout.
There's also special regulation fishing in Dry
Creek Run. The discharge of the North Fork
National Fish Hatchery provides the water for
the small stream. It enters the river just below
the dam in Quarry Park. It's all catch and
release with special regulations on gear.
This is open only to children under the age
of 16 and the disabled.
One of the best ways to fish this river on low
water is with a scud or sowbug imitation. Add
some weight a few inches above the fly and
search for trout using your polarized glasses.
When you spot one, set up in the best
possible position, so as not to spook the
trout, and cast well upstream of it. Make sure
you get your fly down near the bottom so
that it doesn't pass over the trout.
There have been some very nice trout
taken on the Norfork tailwater using the
sight fishing method. Our Perfect Fly scud
and sowbug flies also work well when fished
blind in the runs and riffles.
Streamers are favorite flies for this river.
Large streamers that imitate sculpin and
baitfish work great at times. Trout can be
taken on high water from a drift boat using
large streamers. They are also very
effective in catching the migrating brown
trout that come up the river to spawn.
All things considered, most of the fishing
should be done below the surface. This
river has a few hatches and dry fly fishing
can be good at times, but most of the time
you will need to fish nymphs and larvae.
Don't forget the midges. Midge imitations
work great year-round and even for the
Norfork River Hatches and Trout
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other foods at
the particular time you are fishing.
Unlike the generic fly shop trout flies, we
have specific imitations of all the insects in
the Norfork River and in all stages of life that
is applicable to fishing. If you want to fish
better, more realistic trout flies, have a much
higher degree of success, give us a call. We
not only will help you with selections, you will
learn why, after trying Perfect Flies, 92% of
the thousands of our customers will use
nothing else. 1-800-594-4726.
The sowbug, or freshwater shrimp some
anglers call them. It is one of the prime
sources of food for the trout in the Norfork
River tailwater. The water has a high pH and
crustaceans are plentiful. Imitations of both
scuds and sowbugs work great year-round.
Crayfish, or crawfish if you prefer, are also
plentiful on the Norfork River. Imitations of
them work great for catching large trout.
Sculpin and baitfish such as threadfin shad
are present and streamers imitating them are
effective, especially when the water is high.
I'm sure many locals won't agree with me, but
I think imitations of midges are among the
most effective flies you can use on the
Norfork. They hatch in large quantities all
year long and the trout, and yes, even the
large ones, eat them regularly. I suggest that
you have imitations of their larvae, pupae
and of the adults.
Blue-winged Olives represent the largest
population of mayflies. They hatch during
the months of January and February and
then again in September and October. This
hatch brings on some good dry fly fishing.
Other than that, Sulphurs are about the
only mayfly that hatches in quantities large
enough to be very important. They normally
hatch during the months of April and May.
Caddisflies hatch from March through May.
They are both Cinnamon Caddis and
Spotted Sedges. Other than Micro
Caddisflies, that is about it.
Craneflies are present on the river from
about March through October. Imitations of
their larvae and the adults can be effective.
From about the middle of June throughout
the summer until the end of September, you
can catch trout on imitations of
grasshoppers, ants and beetles. Dropper
fly rigs, using large foam hoppers on the
surface and nymphs dropped below them,
are popular on this river.
If you haven't already done so, we ask that
you give our "Perfect Flies" a try. We think
we have the best imitations of scuds and
sowbugs you can purchase. You will also
like our line of streamer flies. Our crawfish
streamer imitations, sculpin and other
streamers have proven to catch trout on
the Norfork River Tailwater. We are
confident you will find them very effective.
Fishing during the hot summer is good
because the water is always cold.
Fall is the time for fly fishing the Norfork River
if you want to hook one of the river's large
Thumbnail Images: Click to enlarge
Thumbnail Images: Click to enlarge
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (email@example.com)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
each of these other fine trout streams.
including descriptions of the streams,
access, location, species of fish, a fly
fishing guide, a fly fishing report, hatches
gear and equipment, USGS stream data,
local weather and much, much more
Headlines: Anglers continued to
have good wading opportunity in
the afternoons this past week. We
received two good reports from
customers fishing. Scuds and
Sowbugs, fished under indicators
did well for them, as well as
tandem rigged red or blood midge
larva and pupa imitations. The
Brown sculpin streamer should
continue to catch the larger trout.
Keep track of the latest info by
clicking the link above to our
weekly, updated fishing report.
Map of Norfork River
Fishing Report Headline Archive:
Click Here for the Current Norfork River Fishing Report
10/13/15 They are running a lot of water through the dam right now. There is no rain forecast
for the next week, so maybe the flows will be down in the near future. Other than midges,
hatches will be few and far between but scuds, sowbugs and small BWO nymphs will continue
to produce trout.
10/20/15 This tailwater is one of the most productive places to catch a big brown trout there
are. They are currently in the pre-spawn stage and very aggressive and territorial. Steamers
like our Brown and White Belly Sculpin are catching some nice size brown trout. The
discharge rates from the dam are of utmost importance in determining the methods and
strategies you use to fish.
10/27/15 The stream levels are better than they have been lately but there is more rain in the
forecast and we don't expect the river to be wadable for a while yet. You just have to monitor
the discharge schedule to determine that . Blue-winged Olives are hatching good. Some
large pre-spawn brown trout are being caught on the Perfect Fly Brown Sculpin streamer.
11/03/15 Conditions are as good as they have been in a long time. Stream levels are down
(but keep a close check on the discharge schedule) and the weather is still nice and warm.
There's a chance of rain for a couple of days. Blue-winged olives are the only thing that might
hatch other than midges. Midges are becoming important again.
11/10/15 Don't let the current stream level spook you because it constantly changes. There
is some rain in the forecast and there may be higher discharges at times. You just have to
keep a close look at it. Blue-winged olives and Midges arfe about the only aquatic insects that
will be hatching for a few weeks now. Scuds and sowbugs are always a good choice.
11/17/15 There has been some rain in the headwaters of the river and it is going to take a
little time for it to get through the system. Water levels will probably be high for a few more
days but keep a close check. Midges and Blue-winged Olives will be the only insects
hatching. Brown trout are in post-spawn mode and hungry so the Brown Sculpin streamer is a
11/24/15 The water has been high and that allowed only a little fly fishing opportunity this
past week. There is a chance of rain everyday for the next six days starting tomorrow, so you
can expect some more discharges not suitable for wading this coming week. Make sure you
check on the discharge schedule. Blue-winged olive and midges continue to be the only
12/01/15 High stream levels exist due to all the rain in the headwaters of the White river
watershed. It will take a while to run it through the system. We think it will be good by the
weekend and maybe sooner. There isn't any rain in the forecast for the next week. Midges will
be the main insect you need to be imitating although sow bugs and scuds are always a good
12/08/15 The river is flowing high and fast due to heavy discharges. They are lowering the
lake back to its normal Winter level. It is likely to be high for a while. You will have to get the
schedule. Notice we added Winter stoneflies to the fly list but the weather this coming week is
going to be very warm. Midges, scuds and sowbugs is still the most important food to imitate.
12/15/15 The river is very high and out of the banks blown out. It is going to be a while before
it is back in good shape to fish. You should keep checking the discharge schedule and the
levels in order to know. The good news is, there isn't any rain in the forecast for the next
12/22/15 About every time they get the lake down to a good winter flood storage level, there
is more heavy rain. It looks like that same thing is happening this week. They do think this will
be over by the end of the month, but it will be a wait and see deal. There lots of rain in the
forecast this coming week with unseasonably warm weather.
12/29/15 The river is extremely high and it will be a few days before the discharges from Bull
Shoals and the Norfork Dam is back to normal flows. It is turning colder and that will put a
stop to the flooding and give the area a chance to dry out.
01/04/16 The stream levels and flows are down near normal for this time of the year but you
should still keep a close check on the power company releases. There is more rain forecast
starting on Wednesday of this week. Scuds, sowbug and midges are the key foods you need
to be imitating at this time.
01/12/15 The discharges and of course, stream levels, are high again but should continue to
drop this coming week. There is a chance of showers one day within the next seven days and
that will give the North Fork White some time to drop back down. Midges and scuds will be the
flies you need to be using.
01/19/16 The river is very high and likely to remain high for the next two or three days. There
is rain forecast through Thursday. Midges, fished in tandem with the pupa the top fly and the
larva the bottom fly, is the way to go when the levels do subside. Winter stoneflies are also
01/26/16 The bad news is the stream levels are very high. The good news is, the weather is
getting much warmer with no rain or snow in the forecast for the next week. You will just have
to keep a close check on the discharge schedule. Midges, winter stoneflies and sculpin
streamers will be the main flies you need when you can fish.
02/02/16 Same story as it has been. We are getting as tired of reporting high stream levels
and I'm sure you are getting tired of reading them. It is raining now, but should be clear for
the next week after today.
02/09/16 The Norfork tailwater is flowing fast and high. Discharges from the dam is expected
to continue until the lake gets down to normal winter storage levels around the 25th of
February. As long as the flows are this high, you shouldn't consider fishing the river.
02/16/16 The weather is starting to get warmer and that will help the overall situation;
however, the stream level has to come down, way down, to present any fly fishing
opportunity. Midges, little BWO nymphs, scuds and sowbugs will be some key flies to use
when it can be fished. You will just have to watch the discharge schedule and stream levels.
02/23/16 The discharges from Bull shoals and Norfork dams are down and the stream levels
down from ultra high but still too high to wade. Hopefully, this will change soon. The weather
will continue to be nice and warm, except for rain/snow today and tomorrow. Midges, sculpin
streamers and Winter stoneflies should work to hook a few fish when you can fish.
03/01/16 The discharges remain high and we expect that to continue for a least a few more
days. The lake level was down near normal but recent rainfall didn't help the situation. There
is more to come the next two days. You will just have to watch the discharge schedule and
stream levels to know when you can fish.
03/07/16 This isn't good news at all. There are flash flood watches in effect and a chance of
rain every day for the next week. Worse, the lake in up now and discharges are very high to
lower it. I don't see much opportunity for any fishing during the next week. I hope I am wrong.
It isn't fun giving lousy fishing reports.
03/15/16 The tailwater is extremely high and stained. The only good thing we can report is
the weather forecast is calling for clear skies for the next week, with only a slight chance of
rain Friday and Saturday. You will just have to keep watching the stream levels and discharge
03/22/16 The situation is looking better but so far, no opportunity has been available to fly
fishing the Norfork. We don't have a store on the river to try to drive traffic too. We just tell it
like it is. The levels are still high but down from the flooding type discharges. We think
conditions will be good very soon, so keep in touch.
03/29/16 The Norfork is finally gotten into good condition, with good stream levels and low
discharges. You will still have to watch the levels, as there is more rain coming and they will
keep the lake low. Little Black caddis should begin to hatch very soon, but for now, you
should stick with midges, scuds and sowbugs.
04/05/16 Dry Run Creek has been crowded with Spring Break. There have been some trout
caught even though the water has been off color. Discharges have been low enough for
anglers to wade at times, but you have to keep a close check on the schedule. Midges, scuds
and sowbugs continue to be the best flies to use.
04/12/16 I hate to keep repeating this but fishing the Norfork tailwater is always subject to the
ups and downs of the discharges. You have to call to get the release schedule or otherwise,
you may be just waisting a lot of time. The number is: 866-494-1993.
04/19/16 The river is still rather stained and so is Dry Run. It isn't crowded any longer thanks
to the end of Spring Break. Midges, reds and creams and recently, light greens are the ones
you need to imitate. Little Blue-winged olives are also hatching, mostly on cloudy days. Scuds
and sowbugs will also work.
04/26/16 The river is on the way back up and most likely will be high again for a while. There
is a lot of rain in the forecast this coming week. The water is getting warmer and sulphur
hatches and others not to far off. Right now, it is midges, scuds, sowbugs, little BWOs and
sculpin that represents the majority of the food.
05/03/16 The river is getting in much better shape with lower, but still high, discharges and
stream levels. The weather is getting warm with almost no rain in the forecast for the next
week. Sulphurs should begin to hatch soon, if not already. American March Browns are
hatching as well as Cinnamon Caddis. This is mostly on the lower end of the river.
05/10/16 High, stained water and no opportunity for fly fishing is the current status but as
usual, it is always subject to change. There is rain forecast every day for the next week, so it
may not. You will just have to get the discharge schedule and plan accordingly. Conditions
have been very good recently and as soon as the water clears and drops, it should be again.
05/17/16 The discharges are currently down but sure to change. There is more rain on the
way with cooler temperatures. More caddisflies are showing up, including Cinnamon Caddis
and soon Green Sedges. Mayfly activity will slow down due to the cooler weather.
05/24/16 The Corps continue to draw the lake level down to repain the gate but the rain is
slowing things down. This has caused higher than normal discharges and make it tough to
impossible to wade. You just have to call them and get the schedule. Fishing will be great
when they do drop the discharges down. There is more rain forecast this week with warmer
05/31/16 The discharges and resulting stream levels are still high and likely to be high for a
few more days. There has been a lot of rain and more in the forecast for this coming week.
You should still watch the levels and discharge schedule. If you are local, you sure don't want
to miss any good opportunities. When the levels do go down, it will be good.
06/07/16 The discharges are getting to be more favorable for anglers with lower and better
stream levels. Lot of hatches are taking place but don't overlook the Sowbugs. One
customers scored well this past week on them. Fish streamers like the brown Sculpin when
they are running water and the hatches otherwise.
06/14/16 The river is in good shape and our customers are sending in some good reports,
catching a lot of trout including some nice ones. The stream levels have been reasonable
good thanks to lower discharges more normal for the summertime. Lots of insects are
hatching and anglers are catching trout a variety of ways.
06/20/16 The Norfork and Dry run creek has been in good shape with anglers catching trout.
The lake levels are coming down some and hopefully, the discharges will become more
favorable soon. Sulphurs are hatching and providing some decent dry fly action. Fish the
Perfect fly sulphur nymph until they hatch and then switch to the emerger or dun. The
spinners fall just before dark.
06/28/16 The Norfork has been good to visiting anglers this past week. Dry Creek Run has
been very busy since school is out, but it too, has produced some trout. The late afternoon
caddisfly egg laying activity is allowing those that fish late in the day good opportunity to
catch some trout on the surface. There are some Sulphurs hatching on the lower end of the
river that is providing some good action as well.
07/05/16 The discharges and stream levels are finally getting into good shape. Anglers have
had a few times they could wade safely. The outlook for the coming week is good. There is
some rain in the forecast but otherwise, conditions are going to be as good as they get in
July. Lots of insects are hatching and anglers are catching trout on top as well as subsurface.
07/19/16 The past two weeks have provided some opportunity for anglers to catch trout but
often, high discharges slowed the action. Sulphurs are still hatching good. Two species of
caddis are hatching and the late afternoon egg laying bringing a lot of trout to the net of
those who fish late. This coming week is going to be very hot, with temperatures in the mid to
07/26/16 The weather is returning to a more normal temperature range for July. It has little
effect on the trout and water temperature, but sure does those fishing. Hatches are slowing
down but terrestrials should be working fairly well. The river is high at this time and likely to be
high most of the time. You much check the schedule to know when you may have a change to
08/02/16 The levels are back up some. It has been very hot and will continue to be hot this
next week, with little chance of rain most days. School will be starting back and the crowds on
Dry Run Creek will be gone. There have been some good wading opportunities and this
should continue, but mostly in the mornings. Terrestrials are becoming more and more
08/09/16 We received two good reports from customers this past week. Discharges and
stream levels are low right now but there is rain in the forecast everyday for the coming week,
and this is likely to change. Scuds and sowbugs have been working good. Streamers like our
White Belly sculpin have been working good when the discharges have been up some.
08/17/16 The weather is turning cooler and that will help the anglers fishing. It won't affect the
water much at all. They have been running one most afternoons but we expect that to change
with all the rain in the forecast. Sculpin streamers like our Olive and Black matuka sculpin
produced some good size browns for our customers this past week. Scuds and sowbugs are
also working good.
08/23/16 The cooler weather helped some, if nothing else but the angler's feelings. The
discharges and levels have been lower and offered some good opportunities. One customer
reported catching a good number of trout on Sculpin streamers in the early morning and
scuds and sowbugs during the day.
08/31/16 Discharges and stream levels remain about the same as this past week. There are
times you can wade and times the water is too high and mandatory you get the discharge
schedule to know when. There is a little rain iin the forecast through Thursday, then clearing.
The weather will be a little cooler near the end of this week. It has little effort on the water
temperature but does those fishing.
09/06/16 Conditions are about the same as last week. We had two very good reports from
customers fishing over the weekend. They used Sculpin (our Brown Sculpin) streamers and
fished mornings. They reported catching a few later in the day on scuds and sowbugs. There
are still lots of caddisflies hatching. Fish the late in the day egg laying caddis activity, the last
two hours of daylight.
09/13/16 The cloud cover this past week has made conditions good for fishing streamers.
Our Brown Sculpin and Olive Matuka sculpin caught some nice browns for one of our
customers. Scuds and Sowbugs continue to work. Baetis Blue-winged olives are starting to
hatch good and will be the mainstay of hatches for the next couple of months.
09/20/16 The weather will be hot again this coming week, with little to no chance of rain. The
discharges are likely to be high every afternoon and maybe low enough in the mornings to
get some wading in. That was the trend this past week. Our customers were able to catch
some trout in the mornings on Sculpin streamers and later in the morning on Scuds.
09/27/16 The discharges are low and the resulting stream levels in good shape. Customers
are catching good numbers of trout including some larger size brown trout. There are lots of
Mahogany duns, Blue-winged olives and Cinnamon Caddis hatching. The weather is staying
a little cooler and that is helping the lower end of the stream. Scuds and sowbugs continue to
10/03/16 The river is in decent shape for the first part of October. The weather has turned a
little cooler and the trout active. There have been a few caught on scuds and sow bugs. The
brown sculpin has been catching its share of the larger brown trout. There are some hatches
taking place and a few trout are being taken on the surface.
10/10/16 You can expect relatively high discharges this coming week. The lake level is the
highest of those in the area and they will be some heavier discharges. There is more rain in
the forecast for this week as well. There will be little opportunity to wade. Streamers are the
best fly choice. The sculpin patterns have been getting some nice brown trout.
10/17/16 The stream levels are about normal now and our customers have been catching
some good size brown trout. They are doing that mostly with Brown sculpin streamers and the
Black Matuka sculpin streamers. Scuds and sowbugs are working good as well and don't
foreget that you can always catch plenty of trout fishing a midge pupa and larva in tandem.
10/24/16 The discharges and stream levels have settled down for a change and our
customers are reporting some very good catches. The Brown trout are in the pre-spawn
stage and taking our Brown and White Belly sculpin streamers very well. There are a few
Blue-winged olives hatches and of course, midges are almost always plentiful..
11/01/16 The river has given anglers a few opportunities to wade this past week. The lake
level is still well above normal Winter levels, so we think you can still expect some rather
heavy discharges at times. Sow Bugs, Scuds, Cream and Red MIdges, and Blue-winged
olives are the main foods to imitate at this time. There have been some big ones taken on the
11/08/16 The river is running a little high now, but the levels have been mostly good this past
week. Our customers have done well when they were able to wade. We don't think high
discharges will continue, but you will have to keep a close check on them. Midges are
probably the best bet fly wise at this time. Blood midges, or red, pupa and larva imitations
fished in tandem work good.
11/15/16 We received some very good reports from this past week. Discharges and stream
levels were down and wading possible most of the time. Most everyone caught some trout.
One of our customers did very well. Scuds, Blue-winged olive nymphs under indicators and
Sculpin streamers produced the most action.
11/29/16 The discharges are taking place mostly at night and the early morning. Otherwise,
they have been around 1500 cfs which is good from a fly fishing standpoint. We are still
getting good reports from anglers using ur Brown sculpin streamer. Midges are the best bet
right now. Creams and Reds, with the larva and pupa fished in tandem under an indicator, is