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!
TWO DAYS off I I went to play again _ yep house chores abandoned, the White was low and sulphurs were on the wing _ call it research. Tuesday I ducked out with Jeff Hearn and spent the day at Rim, today I grabbed a couple of hours further upstream, dry fly only.
There was a pretty good sulphur emergence for a couple of hours and the fish keyed onto them pretty quickly. But with this hatch only a few days old the bigger fish are still holding deep and feeding subsurface. After the sulphurs faded there was a short but heavy Rhyco hatch _ yeh I’d left the caddis box at the house. But with thunderstorms dumping heavy rain in Eastern Arkansas daily there looks to be some great chances for dry fly fishing over the next week. Get in fast so you don’t miss out.
Fishing Carter Brooksher at Rim on Sunday had show how close the sulphurs were to breaking wide open, and it also gave us a good look at some tiny caddis, which looking tanning at a distance in the right light but up close had the slate-gray wings and green bellies of the Brachycentrus. There were still a few Rhycophilia still coming off as well. Carter had landed a bunch of fish on my Skippy Nymph (a botched attempt to tie the Skip Nymph on a 6 word description alone which has proved itself in several sulphur hatches). Incidentally for those not of Australian descent Skippy was a long ago childrens TV program featuring a grey kangaroo _ Lassie with a pouch and gumleaves you might say.
I’d changed the wingcase material on a whim and it seemed to be working, so I wanted to test it myself, plus work on some wet fly techniques while we were drifting. If we found some sulphurs coming off all the better.It pretty much all worked out. Jeff scored a bunch on his Czech nymphs, the Skippy nymph worked, and I picked up the top fish on a dry late in the day after a pretty cool thunderstorm.
The wet fly thing was extremely productive, seriously I was blown away, though my techniques were rudimentary at best, but I learnt a bunch. My Welsh friend Davy Wotton, the master of wet fly techniques in this country, has indicated its worth many times. But I guess I wasn’t a believer.
I’ve used soft hackles myself for a bunch of years, and worked up my own series of favorites, the Tailwater Soft Hackles, which due to circumstance are primarily used in midge hatches wading . This winter I’ve been dabbling with some heavier versions for dead drifting on higher flows, hence the name Dead Drift Soft Hackles. I’ve also been working on some new colors to fish the spring caddis and summer sulphur hatches.
When Jeff abandons the Czech nymphs and starts coming through his fly boxes for wets, you know you are onto something. Its going to be a lot of fun bring on these flies, and techniques into a new way to fish, which doesn’t involve staring at a bobber.
Come along for the ride.
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…
SNUCK out between chores on some low water and the Caddis were crazy good again. And half the people coming into the shop have been trying to tell me that the caddis are done. No they aren’t as thick as a couple of weeks back but that just makes it all the better. Dry fly magic indeed.
I was supposed to be guiding an old friend for the first time on Monday, but with the hideous weather forecast, they postponed. I knew today was going to be good, unfortunately they had other commitments, but I didn’t know how good.
I managed to fool that big brown I fluffed last week, somewhere over 20″ or thereabouts, another couple of browns just at the 20″ mark and a 19″ cutt, plus a bunch of smaller browns, rainbows and cutts in the mid to high teens, who were jumping all over the flies I was trying to feed to the browns.
The craziest thing there was just myself and one other guy, a local Bob Jensen, on the water on one of the more popular shoals. Up above the shoal my mate Davy Wotton was guiding a couple of people, he told me tonight they fished dries all day and both got grand slams.
Enjoy the pictures, best I could do by myself.
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 🙂
Don’t miss the 2010 FFF Southern Council Conclave in Mountain Home September 30 to October 2
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.
I had an email land in my inbox this week from my old stomping grounds on the Beaver Tailwater of an absolute hawg of a brown.
Nope it wasn’t a fly rod capture but its one of the most strikingly beautiful monster fish I’ve seen in a long time.
Junior Mullins, the son of my colleague and Beaver guide Lisa, bagged this 33″ long, 23″ girth brown on a jig while fishing for walleye. Lacking a net he was forced to lip the fish, tearing his thumb up pretty nicely. Big wraps for Junior for releasing this fish.
Beaver isn’t well known for fish like this, but it always held a few. In fact tucked away from view, but yet within a stone’s throw of one of the most popular fishing spots you could almost always find 2 or 3 big fish laid up on the bottom. BTW I’m not too concerned about hot spotting these fish, apparently their sanctuary was lost during the flood in ’08 and is now under 2′ of gravel. But then to reach them required a long cast, and get your fly to the right depth was almost impossible because of the current and accessibility. To compound the problem inevitablely when the fish were in this spot they were absolutely not feeding.
I and a few others worked these fish quite a bit, even at night, and finally decided they were only catchable when they weren’t in this quiet spot, their sanctuary, instead when they were activelyhunting usually on overcast days or at night.
Often these fish would take when you weren’t quite set. I lost one one morning when I felt some serious weight but my frozen right hand refused to open fast enough to let the line slide. I’d misjudged the temperature and was fishing without gloves.
I’ll be heading north to Columbia, Mo to speak to the Capital City Fly Fishers, Tuesday night, about the White River and its amazing fishery. I’m working away on a couple of new slideshow presentations, it started off rejigging one, but I had sudden inspiration. So we shall see which one gets finished first.
Either way it shoudl be a fun night and I’m hope to open a few more eyes to the possibilities of high water fly fishing. Yep we all love wading but if you want to fish more you have to adapt to the river conditions. The meeting will be held at the Bass Pro Shop in Columbia at 6:00 p.m. If you are in the area drop on by.
Speaking of speaking to clubs, I have several different programs available now for clubs and organisations and if your looking for something a little different for your meeting schedule drop me a line.
I’m not sure how long it has been since my friend and fellow guide Marc Poulos and I fished together, but its been a while. I’d met Marc my first summer in Arkansas and we both ended up here on the White working for the Mountain River Fly Shop, indeed he played a fair role in getting me here.
We are very different characters, he’s a little more intense, and particular about things, I’m more laid back, lets work with whats at hand. Both of us have fished all over the country, but funnily enough few of the same places. The conversation is always interesting and wide roaming.
I’d rung Marc a couple of times of late when we had a seat in a boat for a streamer float, but usually he begged off with chores that needed to be done on the iffy days. Ive been fishing every window I could at this time of year, and hang the conditions. Well Monday our schedules aligned, the cloudy overcast conditions we both liked were spot on and Marco had selected the float we would do in his riverboat, trying to time the expected water rise.
The first hole was a blank but the fish above came half a mile from our put-in a gorgeous humpbacked male that ate the “Super Bunny” a double hooked, heavy eyed Double Bunny variant that I’m having increasing success with. I’ll try to get a video or tutorial up shortly.
Marco tied on a Sex Dungeon, I assummed the oars in his Boulder Drift Boat and it really was only a mile and he banged this nice 20+” female. The gray skies and low light had the browns on the bite, tight into the banks.
As we rowed under the Cotter Bridge I banged the fish of the trip, which stopped the bunny dead. I’m not so good at estimating size, it was hefty but Marco called it at 25″. The water’s quite fast there and both hands on the sticks are required. I had the fish in a nettable position twice, but I couldn’t get to the net and Marc couldn’t let go of the oars. No problem this bloke was behaving reasonably, until Marc did dive to pass me the net and he did a big headshake and popped my 25lb braid tippet. I think Marc was more horrified at the loss than I was. But some pics would have been nice.
Marc had next stint and I still have a vivid picture of a 24″ fishing coming out hard from the bank grabbing the fly and stopping, one big headshake and he through the hooks. He was banged several more times but they weren’t grabbign the Dungeon’s as well.
I switched to yellow and an absolute shark beat me for speed, I was watching as the fish rose on a settling fly and I still didn’t have ime to stripset. But both of us will remember the final fish of the day for a long time.
Id made a long cast to a deepish slot close to the bank and looked downstream while I waited for the fly to settle. Its really handy to know what good spots are coming up 2-3 or 4 casts ahead. I hate missing good slots because Im stripping my fly through dead water.
At this point I heard an explosion of water from roughly the direct the fly has been in. I’ve been in that position too many times dry fly fishing not to set on instinct, and the fish was on.
The spray was still falling and Marc Poulos, on the oars, was exclaiming “he slammed it, there was spray 2′ high.’ You set on the sound didn’t you?” We both expected a mid-teens brown not this gorgeous 23″ fish, to be holed up that shallow, but you just never know when your timing is right on the White River.
Note: STREAMER fishing should be good on the higher flows though June. If you can, time your trip for inclement weather for best results. Give me a call or email and we can go chase some true White River trophies.
A little movie of highlights from the Mountain River Fly Shop Guide Service I put together for Christmas. If you are looking for guides that work their butts off to make sure you have a great time its hard to go past this crew. We let the results speak for themselves.
Thanks to all those that fished with us and sent us their pics, and of course Clint, Marc, Kevin and Chad for their efforts.
Hope you enjoy.
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…)
WHAT a winter its been. For an admittedly cold-phobic Aussie this snowy cold winter has been tough to bear but the fishing has been pretty good.
I’m sitting here at the kitchen table in a patch of sun, thinking I should be out on the water on what is a very spring-like day. But this blog has been neglected for too long, it often takes second fiddle to the fly shop blog, the Mountain River Journal, I bash out more consistently. All the best pictures have been heading there.
But looking back January and February have been a lot of fun, making new friends and greeting old friends, (plus quite a few personal days) and getting to share this phenomenal winter fishery with them. So I thought I’d add a few pics from our winter with y’all. Enjoy and if you want to join the fun drop us a line.
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.
One nice surprise if you are coming back to Mountain Home this year is two very nice new restaurants, that have had a few visits from Bec and myself over the last few months.
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.
Over the 12 years in the fly fishing biz as a writer, guide and flyshop hack Ive been lucky enough to share time with some absolute legends. A few Ive come to know well as friends, and a few I even knew before they became famous, though that could be a sheer product of luck and age. But for all that I’d never spent any time with Lefty Kreh.
Which, when I count up all the shows and events I’ve done, and the number of friends of Lefty I know _ remembering Lefty has probably taught half the fly fishing world to cast _ had left me feeling somewhat lacking. Spending some time with Lefty, even if its watching one of his classes is something no fly fishing education should be without. (more…)
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will decide September 24 on whether to expand the Norfork Tailwater Trophy Zone to 2.6 miles or 2 miles.
The AGFC proposal, developed by the river advisory commission with fisheries biologists, seemed to be rolling along swimmingly, until a couple of resort owners with the support of the Norfork and Salesville City Councils opposed the extension. That opposition is now trying to block any extension of the Trophy Zone at all
To our way of thinking returning the Norfork to a quality fishery with the type of trophy trout it was producing until only a couple of years ago will benefit all businesses on the Nofork River, and the local economy. Read more here in the Arkansas Outdoors Newsletter
We would urge everyone to take the time to support the 2.6 mile extension by writing in support to:
Letters can be sent to North Fork Trout, Fisheries Division, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, 2 Natural Resources Drive, Little Rock, AR 72205. Comments can also be e-mailed to Jeffrey S. Williams, trout management supervisor, at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Its probabloy also worthwhile sending letters to all commissioners. Click here for a list of Commission Names, Emails and Addresses.
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