IT’S winter a time for a fly fishing blogger’s post count to climb, but its been way too hectic for that. January kicks off serious streamer fishing time, and oh its been good. Really good, there are so many 20″ to 23″ brown trout in the river right now its crazy, it seems silly but you are wading through those to find the real fish.
And then there was Gabe Levin’s fish, pictured above, a hell of a fish caught and release on not great conditions. Gabe is the younger brother of good mate Ben Levin, who is on our guide team. Gabe, a college senior, doesn’t get to fish that often, so was red hot to fish, Ben and I had practically given up the day given the 35mph wind gusts we’d been fighting on our shifts on the oars. Within half a mile of our lunch spot Gabe stuck this monster male, the biggest any of our network has landed on a streamer.
The browns are pretty much off the spawn and actively hunting food now, looking to get back to condition, which is why we have been pinging some skinny fish. If we can get a decent shad kill next month, and some good water flows it will really help put some condition on these browns.
If you can get a chance to get on the water at this time, just rug up and its worth it. But there is a bit of a learning curve to go through, casting a sinking line, line control, stripping speeds and then th size of the flies themselves. Bill Oliver landed in my lap last week, raw as a gourd on streamers, but eager to learn. But the time we had got through Wildcat Shoal he was hitting some dang nice casts, and was rewarded by two 20″ fish and two way better lost, plus some overly ambitious rainbows and cutts. Other trips have been rewarding, good friends and good fishing, enjoy the pics, most from my new Canon EOS T2i.
THE Summer crowds of fly fishers have returned to their cities, their regular jobs, and the river is left to a motley crew of seriously addicted. The leaves have turned, and in many cases have fallen, the mornings are cool, and while the days are unseasonally warm, the fair weather fishers have largely fled. You have to want it a little more to keep fishing November through February.
My buddy Jeff needed the outing, his wife Cindy is back in for more treatment for a long brave battle with cancer and his thoughts and days are consumed. He found one day free and we took the Clacka from State Park to White Hole, a nice float without too bad a shuttle. Jeff usually demands the oars to let me fish more than my share, today it was his turn. And the fish did their part, 20 odd browns to about 19″ and a mess of rainbows.
I still caught plenty, and lost a really nice brown to a hook opening up, a rarity, but it wasn’t my tie _ I try and stick with TMCs for a good reason. But it really didn’t matter it was more fun seeing Jeff’s grin when we pulled up on a little run on a feeling I had, he took 3 steps from the boat as I scooted away and proceeded to whallop 5 really good browns on about he same number of casts. Its good out here now, and if you can get away midweek all the better.
Bruce sounded a little taken aback when I asked if he would like to try some dry fly fishing on the White this week.
“Everything I’ve ever read about the White and Norfork said nothing about dry fly fishing…..” Then he told me he was a nympher, largely due to his job. He works second shift so sneaks in early mornings to his some rivers in PA. He’s heading home by the time hatches really start. “But its nice to get away from tossing lead.”
So dry fly it was with first Bec’s Hopper and then a succession of Chernobyls pulling up fish on the light, under a unit, flows we enjoyed through lunch. A 16 Ruby Midge underneath did some damage as well.
We had a hard rise after lunch which threw the fish off for a bit, but by changing nymphing leaders and rigs we stayed with it, and the fish kept coming, a mix of nice rainbows in the mid to upper teens, a couple of nice cutts and one nice brown which rolled off the hook.
Bruce’seyes almost bugged out of his skull when one big big rainbow rose up out of a logjam to eyeball the Chernobyl.
Enjoy the rest of the pics, and join us for some fun. October is looking really good.
THERE has been goodly chunks of low water despite the heat, and the fishing has been very very good. The midge hatch at Bull Shoals, once the sun climbed over the hill, was spectacular indeed.
The big water has been coming of an afternoon, keeping the river cool and the fish happy. I played at Rim Monday afternoon with only 3 other fly fishers. Hare’s Ear Parachute Hoppers were gobbled with abandon.
Yesterday morning I joined Jeff Hearn at Bull Shoals for an epic morning. Midge’s (Ruby, Jujubee and Camel) were the ticket though my mate Mike McLellan’s Hunchback Scud did very well as well. The horn blew at midday, and we all chose other duties but it would have been an easy jump down river and the sort of fun I had monday.
Late summer and fall looks like being spectacular fishing, so jump fast if you want to come play.Weekends in September are going to be at a premium, I think I might have only the last two left vacant,
ITS seriously nice to be back on the White River on low flows, and happily I’ve had a few days playing on the water with some good friends.
Bull Shoals Dam is back down below below flood stage for the first time in a few years and we are getting some lower overnight flows, and the odd night with no generation, the latter situation should become more common as August moves on. And the fishing has been pretty good, with some nice browns coming to hand.
Its also been very nice to be back in the driver’s seat of a drift boat for a few days running, with some of the old tricks coming back. We will definately be doing more trips out of the Clackacraft in the right conditions, everyone has enjoyed it immensely.
Drift boats are quiet (and to some proper fly fishing vessels) and definately nice to run on the low flows. The downside is you get one shot at the fish on your path downstream since they pretty much are a one way vessel. The Supreme River Boat is very efficient for honing into fishing, and allows you to cover way more river. They are both great tools for a specific job, being able to offer both types of craft means more ways to give y’all a great day on the river.
But back to the fishing. The fish number have been silly good on relatively simple low water rigs, just two flies, no split shot and smallish indicators or a big foam ant to suspend them. Its pretty easy to catch a bunch of fish, and we have managed some better fish, the number of double hookups has been crazy.
Its actually warm enough to wet wade, though the first 10 minutes, and any deep hole after that will have you huffing and puffing a bit, its actually nicer than stiffling in your waders.
It really is a great time to be here. Just bring plenty of sunscreen, a big broad brimmed hat and a sense of adventure. We have the boat stocked with plenty of cool water, staying hydrated is a serious issue _ and we also have a spot for an icecream or a cold candy bar on the way down stream.
FOUND this hopper on the Fly Shop Wall yesterday. Grabbed a handful of Rainy’s Grand Hoppers, and my Blackberry for a camera. Pretty surprised how well they turned out. Hopper time is some serious fun, and the fish are looking up.
A foam hopper or ant with a mayfly profile nymph, Copper John, Lightning Bug, or a Pheasant Tail, slung underneath is a damn fine way to spend a day, when we are on light or zero generation. Enjoy the pics (more…)
SOME days its just enough to share some water time with good friends, sunny skies and some hungry fish.
Yesterday I was even luckier though it didn’t start out that way.
As mentioned last week we had some high entertainment with Jim and Brenda Dugan. During the fight of both of Brenda’s brown Jim recorded video which captured some of the high drama, laughter and some occassional dodgy language.
Jim asked me to put it together for their family, describing it as the ”how not to net a big brown video” . I copped a fair bit for missing early shots on both fish, but can I use the excuse my net wasn’t extending; or how about I was dodging rocks, tree, docks and fish diving under the boat??
Actually the second fish, out of camera shot, went into the net u-turned and back out before I could lift: browns are always entertaining, and it doesn’t matter how you net them if they go back healthy.
It’s Wednesday, I’m back in the shop but I still can’t stop grinning over the fun of the last week. Four days on the water, all with good friends and some very nice browns among them.
The week started with my wife Bec finally landing her first White River brown trout, on a dry fly no less. Saturday I spent on the water with good mate Jeff Trigg and his son Tyler, floating in his Clackacraft skiff, fun day despite some tough conditions.
Monday morning it was streamer time with Rob Hime, who has probably landed more 20″ browns with me than anyone. Despite enduring some rough treatment from a big he was fighting off, Rob landed one good 20″ brown and had close encounters with several more.
Yesterday it was back out with Jim and Brenda Dugan who are some of the most fun people to guide, very experienced very good fly fishers, who understand fully it can’t be perfect all the time, and take as almost much fun for everyone else’s screwups as fish landed. But they have a roster of excellent guides they enjoy spending time with, and have caught a bunch of very good fish over the years, so from my end there is always personal pressure to produce the goods.
Yesterday was it with 4 browns over 17″ and probably another 10 smallers ones, and the usual assortment of rainbows and cutts. Brenda as usual landed the two biggest, and Jim probably get more excited by those than if he’s landed them himself.
Generally the brown trout count has been high percentage wise, they are eating mayfly patterns pretty readily and showing some interest in mid-size streamers as well. The Corp of Engineers have upped the generation, in the afternoons over the last week, in a final week rush to get the lakes back down to power pool level for July 4, and so they could resume charging for lake access. Looks like some wading will start becoming available next week.
The sulphur hatch seems to be waning this week, perhaps the high afternoon flows aren’t helping so I’m not going to write it off yet, if we get some decent low water patches next week it might kick again _ as the caddis did this year. Make sure you have packed some Comparaduns or Sparkle Duns, plus the Hare’s Ears, Pheasant Tails and Copper Johns on top of the usual White River selection.
Even if the Sulphurs leave us this year there is still some great dry fly fishing to come, already we have heard about some sporadic hopper action, as the field dry off more hopper should migrate to the green river banks and away we go. Ants too can be very productive on hot afternoons with a little wind. Here is too a great summer to come.
IT had been a while since I’d had a chance to play on what is probably the world’s finest kid’s fisheries, Dry Run Creek. We had walked some of the works over the winter, but now its done, and the Dave Whitlock design is offering way better habitat for the fish and probably more large fish than I think I’ve seen at this time of year for many years.
As I posted recently Lynsey had won a new hot pink fly rod from her school’s fishing club. She already had a nice Sage FLi-Ross Evolution but every new rod needs test outing. Plus Crystal cares for a young 5-y-o lad Alex while his mother works and he is pretty keen to fish to, though as we would discover actual fishing time is limited to 10 casts at a time. There are too many other things to see, do and experience at that age.
Lynsey already has a 24″ rainbow and likes spotting fish, though leaving her polarised glasses at home was something of a handicap. We had a shot at one big brown in the fast water and moved up taking several photos of Alex with some big rainbows in shallow water just behind him. Lynsey plunked her worm down in front of one for her first fish _ but after your first couple of trips you don’t bother with photos under 18″ . Then we found several much bigger browns and rainbows, just how big would be guessing. But bigger than my net.
The didn’t like the worm so on went a sowbug, lengthen up the drop somewhat and she was on. This was a seriously big brown. Lynsey fought him well, there wasn’t a lot of control, but she kept him out of the bankside deadfalls 4 times, until he took her into a mess of rocks. Oh well where’s the tippet and the sowbugs.
The next brown wasn’t so big, but was strong, and Lynsey patiently took the edge off his furious dashes up and down the pool. I though the fish wasn’t that big until I lifted the net
The works were controversial, not everyone wanted to see some change, which involved more boardwalks, formed trails along the streamside, as well as the instream work. I probably had a few qualms myself until I discovered Dave Whitlock would be a the designer.
The instream works are fabulous, creating way more water for the fish to hold, and simply more fishy water. The bankside works were necessary to prevent more erosion and allow better and safer access _ basically we were loving the Creek to death. There are still plenty of tricky currents requiring skilful mending, and perhaps even better control over the fish during the fight.
The enlargement of the handicap ramp has succeeded in creating more access for the handicapped, without taking away too much from the kids wade fishing. Overall great job by Dave, the AGFC, Friends of the Norfork Fish Hatchery and the constructions crews. I’ll be back there guiding a youngster on Tuesday, and it can’t come soon enough!
IT was four interesting days on the river late last week and through the weekend starting off with some torrential downpours on Wednesday night.
Thursday morning the dog wakes me at 3.45am, with an upset stomach, and I stumble outside into the rain, before I realised it was raining _ hard. The two subsequent trips outside over the next 45 minute make sure I’m well and truly awake at 4.30am so crank up the coffee and start tying a few more flies for the days ahead.
But in all honesty I was a little concerned as rain beat down, what would the river hold for us. Only one thing was certain the best water would be underneath the Bull Shoals Dam. And so it proved for two days with Pat and Rich Connell and then for half a day with Carter Brooksher.
It was Rich’s first time fly fishing for 30 years since he and Pat were together out in Wyoming, and he picked it up pretty well. There is always lots of reward on the White when you get your presentation right. Flies of choice were red midges, worms and sowbugs. Even better the rain cleared, for two perfect days on the White.
Carter wasn’t so lucky _ a friend of mine artist Bob White sent Carter and her group of 3 likeminded women in my direction several months ago. The group was reduced to 3 early on, then on Friday night reduced to one. Judy and Jan were stranded in Atlanta by the same storms which woke me up on Thursday morning. Carter spent 5 hours at Branson airport waiting for her friends, so it was understandable she was a little flat on day one.
When she asked about starting later to recuperate I said no worries as for the past 2 days the bite had got stronger during the afternoon, but I didn’t see the switch coming. We popped fish pretty decently till 2pm and then the wheels fell off as it got slower and slower. And the glitches kept piling up, and loose lid had flooded part of our lunch with ice water, my phone broke, somewhere I lost the box of split shot of a particular size I needed. My phone went belly up and unpacking that night I upended a pile of fruit salad all over the floor. It had been one of those days, though Carter was foregiving I badly wanted a better result to show her really what the White had to offer. Plus I have a lot of admiration for Bob and didn’t want to let him down.
Up before 6, with the family out of town crank up some tunes, a couple of cups of coffee repack and out the door. I took a punt that the river had cleared and headed way downstream to Rim Shoals. The world tipped off its axis the previous day was back on track, and we smoked them, early on eggs and worms and as the water cleared shifted to wet flies a technique Carter is takign back to Colorado, then as we started to see some sulphurs, onto the Skippy Nymph.
By 2pm I could see that Carter’s arm was aching, she’s an itty-bitty thing, and the fight in those Rim Shoals fish was surprising even for a woman who has fished Argentina and New Zealand. For a break we ran downstream and watched the Bald Eagle chick for a while. And she left with a smile on her face, as did I.
It had me sweating for a while, but it was nice to be able to help Carter enjoy her visit despite her 3 dear friends not being able to make it…
MANAGED to get a little personal time on the White this afternoon, with a box of dry flies and a couple of spools of tippet, and one very happy dog.
My dear wife has just gone through gall bladder surgery, so understandably I’ve been tending to her care, fetching and carrying and spending ay too much time watching cooking programs. To her credit she gave me a shot at the water on Tuesday but honestly she was too sore to leave.
Part of her rehab is to get up and about so we found a nice grassy shaded bank where she was able to sit and watch while Madison the black lab X anarchist came with me.
It was Madison’s first wade outing, and not wanting to spoil anyone else’s water time, she was on a leash tied to my belt, which was about as much fun as it sounds. Well Maddie had a good time and I still caught some fish, but combining long leaders, current, flies, leash and a leaping pup in a short space isn’t a good idea.
At least I kept the hooks out of the dog, but I still fluffed the take on one seriously big brown feeding on top, but the prime casting position would have meant Madison was swimming. There’s always another fish, and so it turned out with this kinda snakey but long brown.
But my time on the water today did nothing to change my earlier opinions on how crazy good this hatch is. Every brown in the river is up shallow in bright sunlight and feeding hard. It can’t last long so get in now.
Enjoy the rest of the pix.
THERE is no other way to describe the dry fly fishing on the White River right now than amazing. Our spring caddis hatch this year would rival anything on the Arkansas’ in Colorado (famed for the same caddis hatch) or on any of the other famous western dry fly waters. The White is better known as a nymphing river but this hatch is as good as anything I have fished out west, in Michigan or even my homewaters in Tasmania.
Just how long these phenomenal conditions will last is anyone’s guess, so get in now. I have my first weekend off since early March coming up and I’d love to share the dry fly action with you. Put me to work
What a long weekend. Three days on the river, 6 fly fishers, torrential rain, bright sun, caddis on top, 50 mph wind gusts, a tornado warning, midge hatches, plenty of laughs and some quality fish. I crawled into bed Sunday night rode hard and put up wet, and I wasn’t coming off longer stretches like a couple of colleagues.
Friday, Sunday I was working for Kevin Brandtonies who had a big group in from northern Mo. Saturday I took out long time customer Pat Connell and his boss Fr Steven Boes.
FRIDAY: was spent at Rim Shoals, drifting among the disturbed moss and algae from dam releases. The algae has been riling a lot of folks, but I told Casey and Rob just to concentrate on making sure they got a dead drift.
The theory being in a dead drift the flies are travelling at the same speed as the current so they won’t pick up moss as badly as a dragging fly or worse one being held across the current. Plus it kept the guys minds on the job, and Rob in particular did well, picking off some nice fish on caddis.
After lunch I had Matt and Rob, Matt was the only guy skunked in the morning, and his luck turned in a big way picking up four fish in the first two drifts. But the caddis bite slowed, even spaghetti and meatball rigs slowed. So went went and tried some dries along the edge. Both guys had a hoot with this.
SATURDAY: Woke to heavy rain thunder and lightening but a check of the radar showed it would go through in a couple of hours. Kevin and his crew were headed to Norfork, so I went to Bull thinking the crowd might be slightly less.
Fr Boes, who insisted I call him Steve, is a relative newcomer to fly fishing, coming to the sport by way of his first love technical rock climbing. Pat, who is very well travelled as a fly fisher was really keen for me to get him into some fish and show off one of his favorite places. And on way lower water levels the Dam showed off her good side.
The guys caught a lot of fish despite the intermittent thunderstorms which kept rolling through, including one which brought some 50mph winds and looked quite tornadic. The conversation was wide-ranging and highly entertaining. Fr Boes is the national executive director of Boys Town, the Catholic organisation based in Nebraska caring for troubled boys.
I’ve fished with 3 of the management team now, courtesy of Pat, and I have to say all the bad press the Catholic Church has been copping lately tends to over shadow there are a whole bunch of good people going above and beyond in organisations like this.
We did well on Davy Wotton Whitetail Midges in red and black and later in the day on some sowbugs. Fr Boes developed a nice feel for the fish durigng the day and landed the fish of the weekend, a heck of a nice rainbow a goodly bit over 19″. The pics are coming.
SUNDAY: Back to the Dam with Kevin, Clint Wilkinson and Will Brandtonies. The fishing was different to the previous day, definately a few fish has been sorelipped the day before, but we were finding more quality fish over 17″. And they all had big deep bellies.
Casey and Micheal were a hoot working on their own little competition. The guide, knowing the day was proving a little tough and attention to the job at hand would be the key, kept egging them on. All in good fun. By the afternoon the guys had even both caught enough fish that they had basically forgotten about competition and were delighting in each others captures. A lot of fun
Whitetails were the fly of chocie and the fish were definately on them. Good morning of fishing, after lunch things becaame a little more sporadic, but we finished up the day with several really nice fish again.
Fly Fishers tend to be creatures of habit, and I’m no different really. We all tend to fish the same sections, the same flies we know will work. But sometimes just trying something new and unfamiliar is a joy in itself.
When I arrived full time on the White I spent the first 8 months really trying to step up my knowledge of the river without the pressure of guiding to become intimate with its habits under different flows, the holding places, the rocks, eddies and current lines.
That was the grounding, then its a matter of water time watching the cycles year after year and with this river, seeing at as many different water levels as possible. Through all this time I’d focussed my efforts on the first 36 miles from Bull Shoals Dam to Buffalo City, plus the Norfork. But Ive had a hankering to explore more water, particularly downstream of Buffalo City. So when Michigan guide Alex Lafkas (who ran our streamer class at the shop) suggested Buffalo City to Shipp’s Ferry float I was all over it. (more…)
WELL it was good to be back wading on the ‘Fork today, like meeting an long-lost old friend. I think this was my first trip to Norfork in 14 months. Yep the White has been that good.
But yes the same old stuff still works, midges, sowbugs and soft hackles were my choice. The water was a little cloudy courtesy of Sunday’s rain but it was good fun to be back with the water around the legs and a light rod in the hand, despite the wind.
nOTHING like introducing newcomers to the water, particularly kids, but when they are your stepkids its something especially fun. Click here for an article I did for the Mountain River Journal on Derrick’s Day at Christmas. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Bad weather has always fascinated me, and sometimes just being out in the worst of it is an experience worth having.
My wife thinks I’m crazy but she’s probably right. Finding like-minded lunatics isn’t always easy. Last winter, to break the ice storm blues Chad and Marc came on a memorably 18 degree day with 15 knots blowing last winter. But during the snowstorm earlier this week I stumbled across the cheery visage of Bill Morgan, who confessed to wanting to fish that afternoon.
With schools closing, and people dwindling on the roads, it seemed a safe bet to slip to the Dam with Bill for a couple of hours, just to see how the shad kill was progressing. Its coming along with shad-type flies and san juans proved to be killer.
We didn’t land any big fish, though one was lost though my own operator error on the first drift, it was more about seeing what it was like, snow blowing down hard, fingertips red and cold, you would have been crazy not to be fishing ….
Enjoy the photos
It was nice to get back to “The Office” yesterday, even with snow on the ground, and reintroducing myself to the resident population of browns and bows, and testing some new shad patterns.
The Bull Shoals Catch and Release Zone opened Monday with high water and a sniff of shad in the air. Reports were fair, lake temperatures are nudging the magic mark, but there is nothing like seeing for yourself. It was also nice to be back on the water with some of my fellow guides like Jimmy Traylor and Ron Yarborough to share a gag with. There were probably another 7 boats on the river, so at times you would be zigging and zagging up the river as brown’s cows drifted down.
But largely the mass tended to follow the obvious “guide boats”, being alone and in a less conspicuous craft I snuck off in the other direction, and for much of the day fished alone. Which was a pity with the above brown who jumped all over the river, before coming to the net and measuring in at 20″ with some girth.
The rainbows were feisty, and two were very fat, perhaps a little shad enhanced. The kill needs some more cold night and some snowmelt to really kick off. But its coming.
PROBABLY the first question I get from most fly fishers these days is “will the low water continue”. Well I learnt a long time ago on the White River system my crystal ball is defective. But I have to say the forward outlook through August-September is pretty good for wade fishing.
All three lakes are into their power pool ie their normal allocation for generation. Since the discovery of flood pools as bonus money for the Corp and power companies I reckon there is a pretty fair bet they don’t want to go too deep into pool if they can avoid it. When the money is right they will generate.
But if temperatures remain mild there is a very good chance of overnight/morning shutdowns giving wadefishers room to play during the day. If you want to learn more about how to read generation patterns click here
MODERN digital point and shoot cameras are a godsend for fly fishers capturing memories, easily quickly and at phenomenal quality, in a light and easy to carry package. Heck not only are they capable of taking the spills, stumbles and splashes of everyday fly fishing they can even shoot stunning pictures underwater.
But what the brains haven’t come up with is an extra pair of hands to hold and control the fish for the solo fly fisher. If you are like me most of the time you are fishing solor, even when you have a fishing buddy along. It might be fine dragging him off his spot for a trophy but taking shots of “everyday” pretty fish is another matter. And Bec has given orders that I’m to shoot pics of every pretty fish as inspiration for her watercolors.
So here’s a few shooting tips for fly fishers carrying point and shoots along and want some quality pics for inspiration back home. (more…)
ROBERT Hime was seriously due for a nice brown. So yesterday’s early start paid off with this nice 20″ brown, which fell to a Whitlock Deep Shad, fished on 25′ of Rio T-11 tungsten sinking line.
I started fishing with Robert several years ago on Beaver _ his son Mason has been in Coach Hunt’s fly fishing club at Fayetteville High and had inspired Robert to pick up the lond wand too. He subsequently joined me over here for a couple of trips, including a memorable tangle with a seriously big brown at CaneIsland on high water last year.
So we went early and banged the banks yesterday looking for a big fish, we had some shots and swipes and a bunch of follows, plus several smaller fish, but it was finally Robert’s Day
BACK to the Dam today with Bob Sue and Sean Spangler from Tx. Ive known Bob and Sue for several years, since we occupied booths next to each other at the first Fly Fishing Show in Arlington.
But today was the first time we have had a chance to fish together. The morning was fairly weird, as the generation fell 3 feet in an hour. We were picking off fish on a mix of worms, eggs and midges, but the takes were funky and we missed a fair few. But even then a slice of luck would have had a bunch more fish at the boat. I can’t count the number of flies that pulled out over the day.
After lunch we did well on whitetail midges, including a couple of really nice ‘bows for Sean, until the sulphurs started and how. It was probably the thickest mayfly hatch Ive seen since Idaho. And even better the fish were on them on top. (more…)
GETTING on the water, opening the throttle and getting a cool breeze going was bliss after the day Joey Pucket and I had had. We almost would have been happy simply riding around but we wanted a fish or two, preferably brown and preferably big. (more…)