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General Bull Shoals Tailwater Information

Cotter is the point where all trips begin when floating thru this Trout filled Marvelous River. At every turn there are Trout to see, and there is no part of this crystalline river that cannot be "Sight Fished". Bull Shoals Tailwater is probably the most productive tailwater in North America.

Amazingly it would be hard to find two food groups, Shrimp and Midges, that are so prolific that they are able to support all the fish in the White and Norfork Rivers. It would be difficult to find any rivers with a more straightforward entomolgy. With a few colors of Shrimp,  Sowbugs and a few sizes and types of Midge patterns, anglers can have monumental fishing on any given day of the year.

Presentation and Rigging are the two primary factors that determine an angler's success.


8 1/2 - 10 foot rods matched with to 3 - 6 weight lines. On windy days a 5 or 6 weight is preferable, but if the weather is favorable, anglers should fish as light and supple rod as possible. Softer action rods make the required mending and feeding slack a lot easier. Your choice of rods should emphasize mending and protecting you tippet. Try 9 Foot leaders with 3 - 4 foot of 6X or 7X tippet.


The standard dry dropper rig is constructed by tying a large attractor to the end of a 12 foot leader (tapered to 6X). The dropper is then attached to the bend of the attractor hook. The general nymphing rule applies to the dropper length, the dropper should be roughly two times the depth of the water you are fishing.

With this simple rigging and a few Shrimp and Midges, anglers can be very successful. In this type of presentation, the angle makes a short Cross Stream cast and aggressively mends upstream. The line should be mended all the way to strike indicator or Dry Fly. All the fly line needs to be positioned above or upstream of the Strike Indicator.

Guides will tell you "If you get one Good Drift, you catch one fish". Good Luck!


River Sections Explained


The Head of a Stream is shallow and flows over Gravel, Rocks and has Ripples. Trout tend to feed in the Rifflies. Good place for Sowbugs, Midge Larvae, and Pupa Flies. Best Fished across Stream or Swinging into. Work these areas extensively, as there may be a "Pod" of Fish feeding.


The Stream opens up and becomes wider below the Riffles. Good place to continue using the Pupa and Emerger Flies. Fish these areas a little more upstream  and across to get a short Drift and swing the Fly thru.


Toward the end of the Runs, the water becomes Deeper and Slower. A good place to fish Midges, Soft Hackles and Dry Flies. These area allow for Fishing upstream and across to get a longer Drift. Allow the Swing to bottom out below your position, before recasting.

What to look for in the River/Stream bed:

1. Always look before sending the first cast. You want to notice any and all Drop Offs, or changes in the water depth. (Fish like changes in the water)

2. Changes in the color of the bottom. (Color changes always attract fish to lay along, plus the can hide at these edges)

3. Large Rocks Above and Below the Water Surface. (Rocks cause current changes, eddies and cushions from the flow)

4. Any Seams in the water current. (Fish will feed along Current Seams)

5. Any Foam Line (Foam is Home, this is where the food will be flowing to the fish))

6. Undercut banks. (Fish will hide in these areas, out of the full force of the current and food comes to them form above and below the water surface)

7. Anywhere to or more Currents Seams come together (Food comes in to the flow from multiple directions)

Line Mending:

To get a longer Drift in any area of the Stream

!. Mend Down Stream in Slower Water

2. Mend Upstream in Faster Water.

Flies to try:


These Midges are just a few that work. Zebra Midges, Ruby Midges, Root Beer Midges, Brassie's, WD40's, Pheasant Tail, and Trout Crack. All these can be fish free line (faster water flow) or under an indicator (slower water flow)


Caddis Season can be Epic on our Tailwater.  During this time of year Dry Flies with a Dropper can produce some really good catches for the Angler. Try using Elk Hair Caddis, Cased Caddis, and Soft Hackles, and Hair's Ear flies. 


These are also called Fresh Water Shrimp patterns, This Bug likes to hang around Aquatic Vegetation. Try almost any Scud or Sowbug pattern, they come in all kinds of different Colors and Sizes.


These can range from the 2" Woolly Bugger to the 8" Articulated Bait Fish Patterns. When wading "Swinging" a Woolly Bugger is very hard to beat. When fishing from a Boat, the larger patterns are fished to the Bank and "Stripped" back. Some days the predatory fish are just waiting for that larger meal. Always have some Olive Woolly Buggers in your box. During Higher River Flows, Double Deceivers, Articulated Fat Heads, Meat Whistles and various others are good to try.

Good Luck!

Henry / Bruce