Copyright 2017 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
We have website pages on 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: Sorry to have to
report that the stream levels are
back up again. There has been a
lot of rain in the watershed. We
don't think the high discharges
and levels will last long. There isn't
any rain in the forecast for the next
few days. Anglers were catching
some nice trout prior to the high
water. There are still plenty of
hatches taking place. Keep track
of the latest info by clicking the link
above to our weekly, updated
Map of Norfork River
Fishing Report Headline Archive:
Click Here for the Current Norfork River Fishing Report
01/03/17 The weather is going to make another big swing. Today and tomorrow should be
good ones. The lake level is down to normal and the discharges are low and wading is
possible at this time. It should remain in a good condition but be sure to check it out. Red and
Cream Midges, Black fly larvae and pupae, and Winter stoneflies are the flies you need ot be
01/10/17 The discharges and stream levels have been high except for the last day or so.
Right now, the river is in good shape with wading possible. I would want to have some sculpin
streamers with me, Black Matuka, for example. The weather is going to be very warm fo
January and yes, there is rain forecast everyday for the next week. We expect the levels to
come up again.
01/17/17 The unseasonable warm weather is going to continue for the next week or more.
There are lost of little Blue-winged olives and midges hatching. Some have been successful
using scuds and sowbug imitations. We had good and bad reports this past week, depending
on how they caught the discharges. Level will probably be up and down as there is still more
rain on the way.
01/24/17 The river is in decent shape with good stream levels and discharges. There are lots
of Blue-winged olives hatching, size 20. Cream and red midges are hatching. Our customers
are catching good numbers of trout rigging the larva and pupa in tandem. Sculpin streamers
like the Brown and White Belly sculpin have been working but fish with low light conditions.
01/31/17 The discharges and stream levels have been up and down with a few chance to
wade. Dry Run creek has been turning out some trout to catch and release lately. Midges,
Creams and Reds, are the most consistent insects hatching. Fish the larva and pupa in
tandem for the best results. Scuds and sowbugs will work as well. There are lots of Black
Flies hatching right now.
2/07/17 The discharges and resulting stream levels have been relatively low this past week
and we expect this trend to continue. Fish are being caught in the main river and Dry Run
creek. Scuds and sowbugs are working good for one of our customers. Streamers like the
Matuka sculpin, black and olive, are working in low light conditions. Otherwise, fish midges,
Creams or Reds.
02/14/17 We had some very good reports from this past week. The low discharges have
given wading anglers a lot of opportunity to wade. This has resulted in a lot of trout being
caught. Hopefully, this will continue. Although it is raining now, there is little rain forecast for
the next week. The weather will continue to be warm. Midges and Caddisflies are the insects
you need to be imitating.
02/21/17 We got mixed reports from the past week. Some caught the discharges wrong.
Those that fished at the right times, caught a good number of trout. Sowbugs worked great
for one customer but most used Midges, Creams or Reds, and sculpin streamers. Any of the
above is currently catching trout. You can always call us to help you select the best times to
02/28/17 The discharges and stream levels are currently low. There is rain ending today and
then clear for the next five days. Hopefully, stream levels will stay low enough to continue to
provide good wading opportunities. Fish Creams or Red midges, with the larva and pupa in
tandem. We are getting good reports from anglers using scuds and sowbugs.
03/07/17 We didn't receive any reports from the past week. The discharges have offered
some wading time but often, it has been high. There are more caddisflies beginning to show
up. The weather is still very warm and warmer the further downstream you fish from the dam.
Scuds and Sowbugs were working good but we thing midges are sill the most important insect
03/14/17 The discharges and stream levels are high. It will take some time to get the lake
back to the desired level. All you can do is keep up with the schedule and stream levels.
There are lots of new caddisfly hatches taking place but don't ignore the midges. They will
continue to work as well as anything. Sculpin streamers will be most important while the flows
03/21/17 Discharges and stream levels are up high, too high to wade. They are still lowering
the lake from a lot of recent rain and there is more in the forecast - everyday but one for the
coming week. There are lots of caddisflies hatching. Midges and little Blue-winged olives are
also hatching good.
04/28/17 The discharges and stream levels are very high and too high to wade. The rain is
ending and things should begin to clear up and get better from that standpoint. There are
lots of little Blue-winged olives and three species of caddisflies hatching. Fishing will be
excellent when the stream levels settle down. Dry creek is crowded with spring breakers.
04/04/17 We only received one report from customers fishing this past week. Discharges and
stream levels have been high offering little wading time. This coming week should be much
better as the levels are down as of now, but as always, you have to get the discharge
schedule to know when to fish the river. There are three different species of caddisflies
04/11/17 The river has produced some trout most days, but again, all to do with the
discharges and resulting stream levels. The caddisfly hatches seem to move up and down
the short river but it is all to do with water temperature and that is to do with discharges and
levels a lot. Midges and caddisflies are the two main insects to imitate. Fish streamers in low
04/18/17 There are lots of caddisflies hatching and of three different species. Fish the pupa
imitations during the hatch, usually during the early to mid afternoons, and fish the adult
imitations of the caddisfly only where the females are depositing eggs. Too many anglers only
fish a dry fly imitation of the adults and miss the opportunity during the hatches.
04/25/17 The low discharges and stream levels were good while they last, but they are back
up too high to fish very effectively again. There is more rain coming the next five days. All you
can do is stay in touch and check the discharge schedule. There are a lot of caddisflies
hatching and trout being caught when they permit one to fish.
05/02/17 The river is blown out with discharges and levels that are extremely high. There is a
flash flood warning for the next two days. This high water situation is likely to last a few days.
All you can do is to keep checking back with us. We will keep you informed as to the status of
05/09/17 The river is still high, too high to wade safely anywhere. It is dropping fast. Last
week it was twice as high as it is now, so it is coming down. Go as soon as it gets a little lower.
There are lots of hatching insects and you should be able to catch some good trout.
05/16/17 The discharges and stream levels are high, too high to wade. This is likely to
continue for the next day or two or more. They are lowering the lake for more rain on the way.
All you can do is to keep a close check on the discharges schedule. There are lots of
caddisflies hatching and fishing is great when it is low enough to wade.
05/23/17 The river is flowing very high and stained and will probably continue to be in this
shape for a few days. The lake levels still needs to come down and our guess is it will take a
few more days. There is more rain in the forecast most days for the coming week. Please
check back with us.
05/30/17 The discharges and stream levels are very high, far too high to fish. There is more
rain in the forecast everyday. It will likely be a little while before they get back down to levels
worth fishing. All you can do is stay in touch and we will keep you informed as to the status.
We will keep you informed.
06/06/17 The river is still extremely high from heavy discharges. There has been a lot of rain
in the White River watershed. They have to keep the lake levels down. There is no rain
forecast for the next week, and we think the levels will back down soon. Check them in a
couple of days. We will make another report in a week.
06/13/17 The discharges and stream levels are down but still a little too high to wade in most
places. We think it will continue to drop. The lake level is almost back to where it should be.
There are some chances for rain this coming week, but they are very low odxds. Sulphurs are
hatching and conditions should soon be very good.
06/20/17 The river is in better shape than the past week The heavy flooding has moved
things around in the tailwater and Dry Creek Run. There has been little wading opportunity
this past week but hopefully, there will be more opportunity this coming week. We didn't
receive any reports from anyone fishing this past week.
06/27/17 The river is flowing high most of the time but there have been some wading
opportunities. Hopefully, this coming week will be better. There are lots of hatches taking
place including some Sulphurs and lots of Caddisflies.
07/04/17 The stream levels have been high most all weed due to heavy discharges. This is
likely to continue for the coming week, but you never know, so be sure to check it out before
traveling a long way to fish. It has been too high to wade safely lately. There are lots of
insects still hatching. We have added terrestrials to the fly list.
07/11/17 Excellent when anglers are able to wade and they have had some opportunities
lately. We didn't receive any reports from anyone fishing this past week. There are plenty of
hatches taking place, mostly Sulphurs, Cinnamon Caddis and Green Sedge caddis.
Terrestrials and scuds/sowbugs are also working.