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.
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.
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…
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…)
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…)
IT’S back to Kansas City next week, when I return to the Heart of America Fly Fishers for a presentation on The White River _ Better Than Ever?
THIS Entry deserves a little musical accompaniment. Jeff Hearn mightn’t have said exactly that the rain was gone, but that was his intent. I think he was keen to fish.
ANOTHER 2 days on the shad bite and despite the cold weather (19F start Monday) we had a hoot. Fitz and Jim from Tx were another pair of old college buds in my boat second week in a row. They were part of a big group of college friends who fish together and who south out my mate Jimmy Traylor to put together 5 boats.
Fishing was a little slower than it had been on higher flows but Fitz caught this nice brown to lead the big fish pool on Day 1. If my arms had been 2″ longer we might have found Jim’s brown was even bigger, It looked 20-21″ as it rolled off the hook and swam home.
Day 2 Fitz swapped seats with Dave and did Dave have a hot hand. 4 fish on the first drift was the start and he kept whacking fish all day. Several 17″ and 18″ rainbows and smaller browns. Jim then pulled a ghetto-blaster and ipod and we had tunes. Jimmy Buffet, Willie and Toby Keith, U2, James Taylor. Not part of my normal guiding regime but it was a lot of fun. Funnily enough the fish size went up as. Thanks to Jimmy for inviting me along and to Jim, Fitz and Dave _ guys a great time. In Jim’s honor you get the music
Jim wasn’t missing out either with a nice brown of his own around 17″ followed up on Tuesday with a great 18 1/2″ brown. Jim was also absolutely buried by an unseen monster brown (by behaviour and attitude) underneath an infamous deadfall in the middle of the river. That was a fish we wanted bad.
The boys also banged a bunch of pig rainbows over the two days. Some of these fish were just round, bellies distended, stuffed full of shad. Dick, a dry fly addict like myself, actually caught a couple on top, big solid takes. But basically we were fishing deep, under Thingamabobbers. Jig patterns, John Barr’s Meat Whistle, and Zonkers did the trick.
Yesterday was a different story as we started at the Dam but were blown off the water by a massive shad kill. At first the fish were on the bite, and we were looking for even better fish. But the sheer volume of shad left our flies unmolested by the trout. We could have run downstream early in the “hatch” to stay ahead of the shad “plague”. But we were banking on a reduction in flow and shad like had been the pattern on the previous days. So we pulled out and trailered down stream.
This was where Dick’s hot hand paid off, finishing with 5 browns for the afternoon, the best that 23″ beast which had everyone fooled as a log. This fish was so strong and so tough it was incredible. It literally would not come off the bottom.
Some truly great memories and great company guys. Come back again.
Hope your 2009 season keeps you afloat.
Mark & Mark Jr.
Thanks guys I’d fish with y’all anytime.