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 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.
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’s Wednesday, I’m back in the shop but I still can’t stop grinning over the fun of the last week. Four days on the water, all with good friends and some very nice browns among them.
The week started with my wife Bec finally landing her first White River brown trout, on a dry fly no less. Saturday I spent on the water with good mate Jeff Trigg and his son Tyler, floating in his Clackacraft skiff, fun day despite some tough conditions.
Monday morning it was streamer time with Rob Hime, who has probably landed more 20″ browns with me than anyone. Despite enduring some rough treatment from a big he was fighting off, Rob landed one good 20″ brown and had close encounters with several more.
Yesterday it was back out with Jim and Brenda Dugan who are some of the most fun people to guide, very experienced very good fly fishers, who understand fully it can’t be perfect all the time, and take as almost much fun for everyone else’s screwups as fish landed. But they have a roster of excellent guides they enjoy spending time with, and have caught a bunch of very good fish over the years, so from my end there is always personal pressure to produce the goods.
Yesterday was it with 4 browns over 17″ and probably another 10 smallers ones, and the usual assortment of rainbows and cutts. Brenda as usual landed the two biggest, and Jim probably get more excited by those than if he’s landed them himself.
Generally the brown trout count has been high percentage wise, they are eating mayfly patterns pretty readily and showing some interest in mid-size streamers as well. The Corp of Engineers have upped the generation, in the afternoons over the last week, in a final week rush to get the lakes back down to power pool level for July 4, and so they could resume charging for lake access. Looks like some wading will start becoming available next week.
The sulphur hatch seems to be waning this week, perhaps the high afternoon flows aren’t helping so I’m not going to write it off yet, if we get some decent low water patches next week it might kick again _ as the caddis did this year. Make sure you have packed some Comparaduns or Sparkle Duns, plus the Hare’s Ears, Pheasant Tails and Copper Johns on top of the usual White River selection.
Even if the Sulphurs leave us this year there is still some great dry fly fishing to come, already we have heard about some sporadic hopper action, as the field dry off more hopper should migrate to the green river banks and away we go. Ants too can be very productive on hot afternoons with a little wind. Here is too a great summer to come.
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 🙂
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…)
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.
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
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.
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…)
ROBERT Hime was seriously due for a nice brown. So yesterday’s early start paid off with this nice 20″ brown, which fell to a Whitlock Deep Shad, fished on 25′ of Rio T-11 tungsten sinking line.
I started fishing with Robert several years ago on Beaver _ his son Mason has been in Coach Hunt’s fly fishing club at Fayetteville High and had inspired Robert to pick up the lond wand too. He subsequently joined me over here for a couple of trips, including a memorable tangle with a seriously big brown at CaneIsland on high water last year.
So we went early and banged the banks yesterday looking for a big fish, we had some shots and swipes and a bunch of follows, plus several smaller fish, but it was finally Robert’s Day
IF the topic of polarised sunglasses has ever come up in conversation, you have probably heard me grouching over the lack of choices for those of us with less than 20/20 vision. If you are one of us and are serious about your sightfishing then you have heard many time sunglass retailers and optometrists etc telling you “Oh no that frame doesn’t come in Rx. We can’t do wraps like that”.
Thank the Good Lord for Kaenon putting it on the line and making 8.8 base wraps like my new Kaenon Kore in prescription. I have to thank Arty Hargrove and Jon Sherrell at Kaenon who got me sorted. My opinion guys: After a couple of weeks wearing these in a variety of conditions from bright sun to cloudy rain, these are the best glasses I have had in 15 years of serious sight fishing and I’ve had a few pairs. (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…)
GETTING on the water, opening the throttle and getting a cool breeze going was bliss after the day Joey Pucket and I had had. We almost would have been happy simply riding around but we wanted a fish or two, preferably brown and preferably big. (more…)
I have been through a succession of logos over the years I have been in this game, and have been searching for the right name. Its funny for all the professional PR, marketing consultancies and emplyment I’ve had I still procrastinate over my own stuff.
Part of it is that Aussie bush thing of not blowing your own trumpet, but it means things like logos and business cards get pushed to the back
. But I needed to get this done for Reel-Aid, a benefit concert in Memphis you will be hearing a lot more about.
Anyway let me know what you think.
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.
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.