Steve Dally's White River Fly Fishing Guide Service

guided flyfishing

Winter Is Streamer Time

 

Gabe Levin's 32" Brown Trout,

 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 White has a gothic beauty at this time of year

 

Pretty Day, pretty fish

Feed them some meat

 

Solid Fish ate a Zoo Cougar

Start of another day

Bill Oliver, Co, welcome to streamerville

Reflections

I can't get over the gill plates & throat on this fish

Muky Mike meets Salmo Trutta

Streamer Surprise, an Ozark brownie on a Steroid Sculpin yesterday

Nate from MS getting in on the streamer action

Sometimes I even get to fish

The girth on Gabe's fish was huge 19"


Would You Rather Be Inside

 

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.

 

 


Took A Friend 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.


Up North Somewhere

The Quarry

 

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.

Anticipation (def'n): Coming off the plane at dawn at a new spot

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Summer Luvin’

Joel Fulmer’s hopper eating brown trout

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

A really solid Bull Shoals rainbow going home

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Hopper Time

Hopper Time Is Coming

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…)


Low Water Browns

Jeff Hearn with a nice low water brown trout

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.

Another successful release

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Brown Trout Fever

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.


Just Dinking Around

Small and Gorgeous

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.

Madison on the Creek

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.

Small but bright

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.

One Happy Dog


Dry Run Creek

One slab of a brown trout from Dry Run Creek

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.

Play spot the fishies behind Mr A.

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.

Two Casts Later

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

I knew I should have brought the big net

What a slab!

 

Dry Run makes for great smiles

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!


90 minutes of Fun

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.

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White River Dry Fly Magic

Adam Teal, KS, with a 17" dry fly White River Cuttthroat

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 🙂

Adam with his great 19" rainbow on a caddis dry

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Wading Norfork Again

  

 

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. 

Winter Cutthroat on Norfork

 

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A Big Day for the Young Fella

Derrick Graham now 18 and his first fly fishing outfit

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.


While You Were Staying Warm – Photo Essay

Bill Morgan running uphill at Bull Shoals

 

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 

Winter Rainbow

 

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Of Shad, Snow and A Brown

Say Hi

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.


Talking With Lefty

Rabecca and Lefty share a joke

Rabecca and Lefty share a joke

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…)


New Addition To The Family

Look like a Fishing Pup?
Look like a Fishing Pup?
How could you pass up an abandoned black lab mix pup, who sight fishes like this.
Ok well maybe Madison, the newest addition to the clan, wasn’t exactly sight fishing but it looked pretty good to us. So did her mellow temperament, and friendly disposition. She had been abandoned and wandered into our friends Adam and April’s place over in North West Arkansas. Since they already have two large, and damn cool dogs, the “small black dog” couldn’t hang around.
We had been thinking about one, so we added Madison to the clan. So far she has spent a day in the shop, charmed some customers, attempted to chew the floor mats, got her tail stuck in the door and made 1 mess. I figure a fair trade and a good first day.
Madison

Madison


More Low Water Ahead

The chances of more misty mornings ahead are good

The chances of more misty mornings ahead are good

 

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 


The Joy of A First Fish On Fly

 

Another gorgeoues White River Trout On Low Water
Another gorgeous White River Trout On Low Water

 

The past two weeks have been a lot of fun. Low water plenty of wading, and making old and new friends on the river.

Its back to the simple pleasures, water around your legs and introducing newcomers and/or relative novices to the pleasures of fly fishing. We have spent so much time on high water locked into chasing big fish this season, its been a pleasure to see the shock and joy of someone catching a trout on fly for the first time.

Holding your first fly caught trout, then watching it swim free. Theres nothing like it

Holding your first fly caught trout, then watching it swim free. There's nothing like it

And then it happening again, and again. And then you ease away from your novice and let them do it all by themselves. Hard to beat that sort of fun. And the White River is that sort of river, where on your first morning you can catch 10-20-30 trout. 

Newcomers to fly fishing get a lot of positive reinfocement when they do things right courtesy of the high trout per mile counts on the White River. And unlike many other waters your not going to get punished too brutally when you get it wrong. Mistakes happen its part of the learning curve.

Get a good drift, with the right setup and you are going to catch fish. Learning how to mend your line and extend your drift, detect a take on an indicator nymphing rig, and how to hook and control a fish on fly is something you learn through experience. Its like learning golf casting a fly rod is like driving from a tee, but the rest is the short game. Its about feel and touch and the more you do it the better you get.

A low water wading trip will give you lots of those experiences. We have been variously indicator nymphing, swinging soft hackles and during the quiet part of the afternoon tossing woolly buggers to great effect.

As a guide the hardest thing is explaining not all river systems are like this.

 

 

 

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Taking A Different Point of View

Unusual angles can make a picture

Unusual angles can make a picture

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…)


Crazy Is As Crazy Does!

April and Colby On The White

April and Colby On The White

April Vokey gets it. Thanks to our new mate for some kind words in her blog.

 She is right though it takes a special kind of crazy to pack up and relocate thousands of miles from friends and family. Its another sort of crazy to give up civilian life and chase salmonids with this sort of obsessive singlemindedness, and try and earn a living from it.

I guess its why we hit it off so quickly and well. Though I have to say there are friends of mine all over the world going to read “intelligent sense of humor” in her description of myself and go “can’t be the same guy” LOL.

Life is short, live it well, work your butt off for the things that are important and try and ignore the trivialities.

Fish every chance you can get.

Thanks Ape!

 

We are working on some ladies fly fishing workshops through the Mountain River Fly Shop on October 10th and 11th. April is also going to be manning our booth at Conclave tying flies and selling her flygal gear will also be at the FFF Conclave in Mountain Home on Oct 2, 3, 4.

We will be unveiling full details on the class Monday, including pricing on the Mountain River Journal.

 


White River Welcome For April Vokey

New Friends _ April Vokey and Colby

New Friends _ April Vokey and Colby

THE cast splashed down deep into a nook in the bank, right where it needed to land, the mass of wool, marabou and steel  composing itself into something fishy enough to attract the interest of the Lord of the Eddy. The fly sashayed its way out into the current, a BIG shadow below and astern and closing. It was about this time I lost my guide cool.

“Strip April, Strip, Faster Strip, Strip Strip,” echoed across the water in an Aussie accent _ it would only be later that we got the giggles, as we were both intent on that fish, the one we were after, tracking the fly out further and further, into the current, and right up to the stern. Here I though it would have turned away, but now it followed all the way to the rod tip. This brown was not boat shy.

 How big? I’m a chronic under estimater when it comes to fish in the water, but it had mid-20s length and big girth probably 10+ maybe more, it doesn’t really matter. April’s eyes were huge, and words were coming in a rush. ” I didn’t know trout could be so predatory. Wow they aren’t like rainbow’s at all.”

And this wasn’t the only monster brown we would meet.

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Back To The Dam

Sean Spangler  with a nice 18 bow

Sean Spangler with a nice 18" bow

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…)