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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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 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.
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.
I CAN’T think of a more quintessential mid-west fly fishing experience than a truck, a cooler, some poppers and a farm pond. To the fevered imagination of this Aussie its about as American as a drift boats, cowboys hats, cutthroats and the Rockies.
Perhaps its just John Gierach’s reveries on the subject that make me think that way. But on the other hand there is a certain goodfiness about leaving high faluting trout water, just to go screwing around in dirty brown water after lowbrow species.
Strip off the pretentions along with your vented multi-pocketed tech-shirts, your lanyards and tech vests, leave the goretex and polartec at home. Pull on a t-shirt, turn up a country station loud, slide into some flip flops, get some cowshit between your toes.
A pocket full of poppers and a handful of Clousers, a spool of tippet and some nippers and pliers and your good to go.
It had been a while since I’d done the farm pond thing, and I needed the change. We’d had to put off invitation after invitation from Joey all summer, not any longer. This was a family outing as it should be, with Bec, Crystal and Lynsey along for the fun.
Click on the pics for larger views.
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…)
Alan Jeans was right if you want good things to happen sometimes you have to pay the price. Jeans, a legendary Australian football coach was pretty no-nonsense and that motto was the inspiration for one of his more notable victories, probably the greatest AFL game ever. Jean’s words weren’t exactly the first thing that popped into my mind after the top of my head halted the forward motion of 7″ of rabbit, tungsten conehead and a 2/0 Gamakatsu.
Thankfully it was barbless and a quick yank with pliers had me seperated from the fly and the new Mountain River Fly Shop cap I’d been wearing. Fly fishing, like most good things in life doesn’t come easy either. Some days you just have to work it at with limited success. Those days are when you pay your dues.
When the pendulum does swing your way, just smile accept it with good grace and hang onto it through the next tough spell.
Streamer fishing for trophy browns is like that. You get to make a lot of casts between fish, you are casting big sticks with heavy sinking lines, not the light and delicate “normal” trout rods. I’d scored some pretty nice fish in bursts, but a lot of hard searching. Yesterday was the payoff and spending it with my great mate, our Sage, Umpqua and Rio rep Cary Marcus, just capped it off.
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.