New Year Begins with Low Water

Ah, the vicissitudes of life on the water! Last year we began with another round of very full lakes and flood releases on the tailwaters. This year we need rain.

Unofficially, here are the lake level numbers comparing 2017 and 2016:

                                           FEET BELOW
                                  PERCENT  NORMAL
LAKE              DATE    ELEV    STORAGE  POOL
-----------------------------------------------------------
Beaver Lake       11JAN17 1110.91  72.8     CONS -9.5
Table Rock Lake   11JAN17 907.13   72.7     CONS -7.9
Bull Shoals Lake  11JAN17 649.66   65.6     CONS -9.3
Norfork Lake      11JAN17 548.49   84.7     CONS -5.3
Greers Ferry Lake 11JAN17 455.18   71.9     CONS -6.9

                                           FEET ABOVE
                                  PERCENT  NORMAL
LAKE              DATE    ELEV    STORAGE  POOL
-----------------------------------------------------------
Beaver Lake       11JAN16 1128.75   86      FLOOD +8.3
Table Rock Lake   11JAN16 926.04    67      FLOOD +11.0
Bull Shoals Lake  11JAN16 684.55    67      FLOOD +25.5
Norfork Lake      11JAN16 571.53    64      FLOOD +17.7
Greers Ferry Lake 11JAN16 474.38    46      FLOOD +12.3

Who knows what the water conditions will be by March and April, but if they remain low, we should at least have some good caddis fly-fishing opportunities this spring. Stay tuned.

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Scott’s Arkansas Fly-Fishing History Presentation

Here is Shiloh Museum of Ozark History’s edited audio version of my July 2015 presentation, “A History of Arkansas Fly-Fishing.”

Enjoy!

© 2016, Scott Branyan

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New Year Begins with High Water

Heavy rains Thanksgiving weekend and again Christmas weekend have the lakes back to where they were last August. The four lake flood storage reached 68 percent by January 4.

The Little Rock District Corps of Engineers announced on their Facebook Page late Wednesday morning that it plans to increase spillway releases at the dams beginning Thursday and into next week. The Corps has a window to try to reduce some flood storage, and it is being proactive about trying to bring the lakes down. By the middle of next week, spillway releases will be occurring at four of the five White River project dams and may continue for some time.

Greers Ferry Dam – One unit is offline for maintenance. On January 14, the Corps opened three spillway gates along with one unit running around-the-clock at the powerhouse. Total release is 6,000 c.f.s. This increases to 7,400 c.f.s. on January 19 and will continue until the lake falls below 463 feet or the second hydropower unit is back online.

Bull Shoals Dam – Bull Shoals powerhouse is running all eight units with a release of 21,500 c.f.s. Beginning Saturday, January 16, the Corps will open four spillway gates one-foot each. Total release will be about 27,000 c.f.s. On Jan. 17, four more gates will be opened with a total release of about 30,000 c.f.s. and continue unless significant rainfall occurs downstream of the dam.

Norfork Dam – The Corps anticipates a spillway release from Norfork Lake to begin about Jan. 20 with a total release of 10,000 c.f.s.

Table Rock Dam continues to make a combined powerhouse and spillway release of 20,000 c.f.s. The lake is forecast to be at normal pool February 1.

Natural streams are also running high, and each additional heavy rain brings them into unfishable condition for a while. Fly-fishing will be impractical on the tailwaters until spillway releases are over.

© 2016, Scott Branyan

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Higher Tailwater Temperatures This Fall

Water temperatures in Table Rock, Bull Shoals, and Norfork tailwaters are higher than usual this fall. Temps from Bull Shoals are staying around 60°F to 64°F from the dam all the way down to Calico Rock—some 62 miles. The lake temperatures at the three dams are only varying about 10 degrees from the surface to 100 feet deep—about 70°F to 60°F. On Bull Shoals Lake, 150 feet is 10 degree variance depth.

Most lakes do not benefit from late season drawdowns as we had this year. A large drop in water levels during late summer can change lake temperature stratification. This and the fact we had drought conditions the last two months of summer most likely explain the higher tailwater temps we are seeing now. This effect is not occurring on Beaver and Greers Ferry which did not experience the prolonged, late season drawdowns.

Not sure what effect this will have on the brown trout spawn. One thing is for sure: keep fish in the water as much as possible when releasing. It will take the lakes to finish turning over in December for temperatures to drop. Interested in any of your thoughts on the subject.

© 2015, Scott Branyan

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Sights and Sounds from the River

Here’s a few video snippets from the past few days. Wonderful days on the river.

© 2015, Scott Branyan

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A Friend and Three Browns

My friend Mike and I had a great day on the water this week. I was fortunate enough to capture the highlights on video. Enjoy.

© 2015, Scott Branyan

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A Great Pair of Fly-Tying Scissors

I forgot and left my fly-tying scissors out of my travel bag this week. Fortunately, I carry a backup pair with me all the time in the Leatherman Juice S2. This is the one feature of this version of the Leatherman I really enjoy using. It turned out they are a pretty good pair of scissors for fly-tying also, performing everything I required of them from snipping thread to cutting chenille, deer hair, and synthetics. Glad I left my regular scissors so I could find out what a good pair of tying scissors they are.

The scissors in the Leatherman Juice S2 are a great pair of scissors and good for fly-tying as well.

The scissors in the Leatherman Juice S2 are a great pair of scissors and good for fly-tying also.

© 2015, Scott Branyan

 

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Virus Found in State Trout Hatchery

According to an AGFC News Release today, a virus has been found in trout at the state hatchery on the Spring River:

MAMMOTH SPRING – Rainbow trout at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Jim Hinkle Spring River State Fish Hatchery have tested positive for infectious pancreatic necrosis, a virus that can be fatal to fingerling trout.

IPN is not transmittable to humans and presents no risk to anglers who handle or eat trout.

An annual fish health inspection at the hatchery recently revealed the presence of the virus. Biologists will gather fish samples from the state’s tailwaters to determine the presence or absence of IPN in the wild. The AGFC plans to postpone or reduce trout stockings from the Spring River hatchery until the extent of the infection can be determined.

“We’re looking at commercial vendors and other state hatchery systems to keep us up to speed,” said Chris Racey, AGFC chief of fisheries. “This is just a bump in the road. Trout fishing in Arkansas will continue to be great.”

Arkansas’s two national trout hatcheries – on the North Fork and Little Red rivers – provide more than 940,000 fingerling rainbow trout annually for the Spring River hatchery. The national hatcheries also directly stock 1.1 million fish annually in Arkansas waters and will continue to provide trout for the state’s coldwater fisheries.

IPN occurs in trout and other members of the Salmonidae family. Most fish carry the virus without incident, although it can be fatal to young trout. It is passed from parents to offspring, and from fish to fish through contact.

The Spring River hatchery produces more than 1 million 11-inch rainbow trout annually. Fish from the hatchery are distributed in the Bull Shoals Lake and Greers Ferry Lake tailwaters, Spring River, Blanchard Springs, and southern Arkansas trout waters, as well as the Family and Community Fishing Program’s seasonal trout ponds.

http://www.agfc.com/Pages/newsDetails.aspx?show=978

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Ozark Fly Flinger YouTube Teaser

Check out the teaser to my YouTube Channel.

© 2015, Scott Branyan

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Norfork Tailwater Status

According to AGFC Trout Biologist Supervisor Christy Graham, in an email this afternoon, one of the Tainter gates on Norfork Dam was blocked by the bulkhead to allow painting of the gate and rehab on the side and bottom seals.  With the recent rise of Lake Norfork, the work by the contractors was halted due to safety when the water got to a certain elevation.  The side and bottom seals are off and could not be replaced in time to prevent leakage. The gate is leaking since the seals are off and lake level is up to the gate.

A Tainter Gate at Norfork Dam leaks water around the edges.

A Tainter gate at Norfork Dam leaks water July 28th. AGFC Photo

AGFC trout biologists are monitoring water temperatures in the tailwater. According to Graham, temperatures throughout the river ranged from 60.2°F to 67.1°F today. There were no signs of dead trout, but several anglers reported today that captured fish were stressed upon release.  Graham is urging anglers to be aware of fish handling and try to reduce stress during capture and release as much as possible. Graham says temperatures drop back down to the high 40s under generation, and that if water gets any warmer, she will consider implementing a stocking restriction on Norfork until this situation has been resolved.

Because of the current disparity in lake elevation between Bull Shoals and Norfork and restricted channel capacity downstream, the Corps of Engineers is unable to increase generation at Norfork at this time, and the lake level has continued to rise since inflow into Norfork is close to outflow levels with the recent rainfall in southern Missouri.  AGFC and the Corps will continue to monitor the situation.

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