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.
Yep its cold in the mornings, the sun is bright, the water levels fluctuating. But c’mon do you want to spend another day on the couch?
Some times you just need to say to hell with it and go fishing.
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.
IT’S said that even a diet of champagne and caviar would pall quickly if there weren’t any other options _ its good to do something different for a while. A couple of my good friends across the border had lured me into their own personal muskie quests, the fish of 10,000 casts.
They had been getting good results lots of follows, (you know these are tough fish when afficianado’s count follows) and several fish from 40″ to 47″, plus one which bit through 60lb flourocarbon. So I packed up and drove through darkness to a rendezvous up north, 10wt in the truck.
Well as of now I only have a 9000 to go, and I’m yet to get my first follow, but dang it was fun. I spent the next few days tying monster Hang Times flies for the next outing.
THE FISHING has to be hot when even a heat index of around 110 doesn’t raise question in the boat about heading in for the day. The last 3 days on the water have produced some phenomenal fishing, and some gorgeous fish and lots of fish.
Joel Fulmer, from Memphis, produced the fish of the weekend with big head coming fully out of the water, to engulf a Rainy’s Deer Hair Hopper. He and good friend Chris Heppel, who has appeared in these pages a few times, scored a bunch of fish on Copper Johns Friday, and a few stripping buggers and of course some on top. This was a big dark lanky maleeven better the previous cast he scored a 19″ brown on a Copper John.
For all my artsy fartsy photography and wanting to get it back in the water fast Chris’ lower res camera phone pic gives the best impression of size of this fish. Click to view
Saturday and Sunday I had Hardy Winburn V and Hardy Winburn VI, who had been sent in my direction a very good mutual friend. Number 5 and Number 6 have fished a lot together over the years, Canada, the Bahamas and the Little Red. But they don’t get to spend much time together these with the younger Hardy having attended college in Boston, and is now NYC based chasing an acting career. The kid has a good head on his shoulders, 3 movies under his belt and plenty of passion, I wish him well on that tough road.
We had scored a good number of 12-16″ fish early, then things slowed up for us until we broke for lunch, rehydrated and re-energized. Back on he water things lit up. I recall Hardy V saying at one point “I’ve had 12 straight drifts and landed a fish over 16”. They were all slabs, with one super thick 18″ fish and one nice 19″ fish. Day two we went downstream brown hunting, looking for a fish like Joel’s, and we hooked plenty of small ones, until Hardy VI nailed a nice 17″ brown.
Enjoy the pix
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.
THERE is a whole bunch to be said for warm creeks, light fly rods, dogs and panfish. I could have loaded up the boat yesterday, packed in sulphurs and nymphs and some river rods but it all just seemed so serious.
Besides Madison the black lab terrorist had been missing out on water time in recent weeks. And she isn’t a huge fan of the cold waters flowing in the White. So we headed out to Crooked Creek with a boxful of poppers, a few crawdad patterns, some baitfish profiles and an icechest full of cold drinks. It was going to be warm.
This was supposed to be a laid back trip, grab a few panfish photos, fish a lightweight one weigth for kicks. Till I discovered I’d brought along an empty tube to the TXL, which meant I ended up fishing a 9′ 4wt Z-Axis.
I was pretty surprised we had it to ourselves even on a Wednesday, but alone we were. Ozark creeks are gorgeous, the Buffalo and Crooked Creek are well known in our area, but I’ve fished and floated the Kings and War Eagle to the West. The banks are green and lush at this time of year, the waters clear and cool, and just fine for floating, swimming or wet wading.
The only downside is with the late spring rains, you might be better off floating, otherwise its some serious bush bashing, and neither really appealed yesterday. So we took up the 300 yards of bank or so and played, first with the poppers, which produced a bunch of smaller panfish, and a few better sized ones which I comprehensively failed to hook. The better fish took these without the usual ravenous hunger, more like the delicate trout sip on a spinner.
A switch over to a white foam slider brought up the wake and flash of a nice sized smallie from a cluster of submerged boulders, I stopped the retrieve hoping to trigger a strike, but it had the opposite result and that fish wasn’t to be found again.
Actually while my target species was panfish there’s largemouth in here too, and I pulled a handful of small ones crashing baitfish along a bank. The Z was probably a better rod for tossing small Clousers, especially if I’d connected to the better fish which sucked in a crawdad pattern and to round out the day I picked up one small smallmouth as well. There would have been pics of these if I’d managed to handle fish, rod and dog a little better.
The dog discovered how much run swimming in warm water is, that Dad gets crabby when you try to eat the fish off the hook, and he’s not really impressed when you try to go hunting fish on the far bank. All in all a great day on the creek, and probably just what we both needed.
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!