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THE STATE OF THE NORFORK BY JOHN BERRY
When I say Norfork, I am referring to the Norfork Dam tailwater. Technically it is the North Fork of the White River. The four and a half miles of river from Norfork Dam to its confluence with the White River (the tailwater of Bull Shoals Dam) is the Norfork tailwater. It is our true blue ribbon trout stream. Let us not forget that it produced a world record brown trout several years ago (thirty eight pounds seven ounces).
It is my absolute favorite stream. I first fished it about thirty five years ago and it was love at first sight. I generally fish it as often as I can. While I say that I fish the White River to catch large numbers of trout, I fish the Norfork to catch larger trout. Every time I fish the Norfork I expect to land a trophy. Early this year it was fishing very well.
Then a catastrophe occurred. This April, we had a hundred year rain, on the North Fork of the White. The stream was ravaged. The flooding and the damage were intense. Tons of sediment and organic matter were washed into Norfork Lake. The debris field on the lake was huge and took months to clear. The high lake levels required all of the flood gates at Norfork to be opened resulting in severe flooding on the Norfork Tailwater. Several docks were washed away and the river was scoured.
The Norfork was greatly changed. There was heavy gravel recruitment where there had been deep bedrock runs. There are now deep bedrock runs where there used to be a gravel bottom. There was severe erosion at numerous locations along the river. Several spots that were famous fishing locations were unrecognizable. The standard joke was, why should you hire a guide, they don’t know any more than you do.
Now over seven months after the flood the water is still severely stained from all of the silt that was washed into the river. This is worse than when we had the debacle of Norfork Overlook Estates, where a developer scalped the side of a mountain allowing the siltation of the Norfork on a monumental level. Just like that incident this will be around for a long time.
To make matters worse, all of the organic matter that was washed into the lake has been breaking down and consuming oxygen in the process. This is commonly referred to as a lake turnover. As a result, you can detect a strong smell of sulphur on the upper river near the dam. It also caused low levels of dissolved oxygen which has a disastrous effect on the trout.
My wife Lori and I have fished it a few times here of late with poor results. First of all we had a lot of trouble wading. The river was so stained that we could not see the bottom and therefore we were not sure of our footing. This was made worse by the fact that the stream bed was so changed from what we had become accustomed to. We hardly recognized it. Then with the low oxygen the bite was slow. We caught very few trout and we both considered the day a total bust. We were both glad that we were not guiding.
There is not much we can do about the situation. Mother Nature is a powerful adversary and this situation will not clear up until we have some major rain to flush the lake and river to remove the sediment and clear everything up.
Wonderful day on Dry Run Creek with Scott, Falon and their father, Scott. Many fish were caught and many memories were made to last a lifetime.
THANKS TO EMILY WHITLOCK FOR SHARING!
FROM USFS_PACIFIC REGION.
Watch as life happens right before your eyes, as steelhead at the Service’s Quilcene Hatchery emerge from their eggs.
Video credit: Florian Graner
'OLE HENRY' CAUGHT ON DRY RUN CREEK BY BLAINE HUNTLEY WITH HIS SISTER, BROOKE, AND THEIR DAD, JEREMY.
HENRY TIES HIS RS SOWBUG.
WATCH JOHN TIE THE SPEEDY IMPROVED CLINCH KNOT--
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