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A Week Of Brown Trout And The Outlook Ahead

The brown trout fishing has been very good, Brenda Dugan and her thick 20" brown

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.

Bec and her brown trout, fly fishing firsts should be celebrated. The monkey is off her back.

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.

Robert Hime with a nice streamer brown on Monday

 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.

Jim Dugan with a fish of his own to smile about

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.

20' from the put-in on Saturday, this 20" brown ate a Hare's Ear, I'm not sure who was more surprised him or me

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.

On The Crick – Photo Essay

Lunker Longear on the Crick

 

DUCKED out onto Crooked Creek this week for a promised TXL 1wt-panfish on water test for the Mountain River Journal. The dog stayed at the house so I could concentrate more on some pic taking this time. But you know what, the fishing actually sucked me in and despite catching 8-10 smallies on the little twig, got home to discover only 1 smallie pic. DOH!

But these longears made up for it, they simply have the coolest colors and some serious attitude. Look how far down this monster longear sucked that Boogle Bug. Enjoy the rest of the pics.

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Weird Cloud Formations Monday

Looking west from Denton Ferry Road

Monday morning I was set to hit the water early, but the Child Bride wasn’t rising for work at 6am so we breakfasted late. I was heading out the door when I had a  phone call for a forgotten appointment with new sales rep Terry Beeson.

It was Terry’s first trip on the road for his new employers Hendrix Outdoors, so I couldn’t blow him off, besides he a mate and fun to be around. But I couldn’t even con him into some research on the river.  So I was driving along Denton Ferry Road, and some freaky cloud formations started rolling in.

Its turns out not only were they new to me but to a lot of even weather experts.

The clouds are a new type of cloud being considered for inclusion to the International Cloud Atlas by the World Meteorological Organization. The cloud is called Undulatus Asperatus which means roughened or agitated waves. The cloud is under review at this point because scientists are trying to determine if a specific set of atmospheric conditions are required for this cloud to form. The cloud is considered rare, has most often been seen on the plains of the United States during the morning or midday hours following a thunderstorm  _ from KY3.com

I wasn’t the only one wondering what sort of storm was going to hit. There was an exodus off the river at the Wildcat Ramp like you woulnd’t believe. I was watching the storms push in, split then weaken through Weather Underground’s local radar service which works really nicely on my new Blackberry 9700. Its got way better graphics than my old 8800 phone and I can zoom in much more precisely on the river to track storms. Its a really nice safety net in this part of the world.

Hence I was going fishing while others were heading home.

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!

The Dry Fly Bonanza Continues

First trout on a sulphur for the season

TWO DAYS off I I went to play again _ yep house chores abandoned, the White was low and sulphurs were on the wing _ call it research. Tuesday I ducked out with Jeff Hearn and spent the day at Rim, today I grabbed a couple of hours further upstream, dry fly only.

There was a pretty good sulphur emergence for a couple of hours and the fish keyed onto them pretty quickly. But with this hatch only a few days old the bigger fish are still holding deep and feeding subsurface. After the sulphurs faded there was a short but heavy Rhyco hatch _ yeh I’d left the caddis box at the house. But with thunderstorms dumping heavy rain in Eastern Arkansas daily there looks to be some great chances for dry fly fishing over the next week. Get in fast so you don’t miss out.

Fishing Carter Brooksher at Rim on Sunday had show how close the sulphurs were to breaking wide open, and it also gave us a good look at some tiny caddis, which looking tanning at a distance in the right light but up close had the slate-gray wings and green bellies of the Brachycentrus. There were still a few Rhycophilia still coming off as well. Carter had landed a bunch of fish on my Skippy Nymph (a botched attempt to tie the Skip Nymph on a 6 word description alone which has proved itself in several sulphur hatches). Incidentally for those not of Australian descent Skippy was a long ago childrens TV program featuring a grey kangaroo _ Lassie with a pouch and gumleaves you might say.

 I’d changed the wingcase material on a whim and it seemed to be working, so I wanted to test it myself, plus work on some wet fly techniques while we were drifting. If we found some sulphurs coming off all the better.It pretty much all worked out. Jeff scored a bunch on his Czech nymphs, the Skippy nymph worked, and I picked up the top fish on a dry late in the day after a pretty cool thunderstorm.

Jeff Hearn's gorgeous Rim Shoals Brown Trout

The wet fly thing was extremely productive, seriously I was blown away, though my techniques were rudimentary at best, but I learnt a bunch.  My Welsh friend Davy Wotton, the master of wet fly techniques in this country, has indicated its worth many  times. But I guess I wasn’t a believer.

 I’ve used soft hackles myself for a bunch of years, and worked up my own series of favorites, the Tailwater Soft Hackles, which due to circumstance are primarily used in midge hatches wading . This winter I’ve been dabbling with some heavier versions for dead drifting on higher flows, hence the name Dead Drift Soft Hackles. I’ve also been working on some new colors to fish the spring caddis and summer sulphur hatches.

When Jeff abandons the Czech nymphs and starts coming through his fly boxes for wets, you know you are onto something. Its going to be a lot of fun bring on these flies, and techniques into a new way to fish, which doesn’t involve staring at a bobber.

Come along for the ride.

Four Days On The White

A quality Bull Shoals Rainbow

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.

A nice rainbow for Pat Connell

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…

Lynsey Kicks Butt

 

Lynsey and I on Dry Run 3 years ago

 LAST Friday as we were bopping fish up at the Dam, I received a text message from my wife Rabecca. Normally I duck most texts, phone calls etc while I’m working on the river, but hers generally have a purpose and this was a good one

Lynsey, my youngest stepdaughter, had won hot pink fly rod and reel for scoring the most fish of any of the girl participants in the Mountain Home High School’s fishing club outing to Amon Lake. Typically, her first comment when I had a chance to talk to her was that she had caught, and released, more fish than most of the boys.

Lynsey is also the character of the 3 kids. She’s probably the sassiest, and funniest with a wit way older than her 14 years. I end up the butt of most of the gags too, and she makes me laugh, though her independance of spirit, while admirable, can be equally infuriating at times.

The High School has a pretty decent program of after school clubs and I was a little shocked when she jumped at both the fishing and fly tying clubs this year. Over the years I’d introduced/indoctrinated all 3 kids into fly fishing, I guess its pretty pervasive in our lives, but I’ve tried not to be too pushy about it. If they want to go I’ll take them, but every so often I’ll ask.

Lynsey is the most natural, Crystal would be just as happy knitting, and Derek the eldest probably loves it the most but like me had to work to earn the rewards. But Lynsey has something of a gift, our sessions on Dry Run Creek showed that, she picked up mending though she were born to it, discovering on her own, some slick, delicate little rolls, I’ve had a hard time teaching to adults. And she can flat out just catch fish. Now she loves to sightfish, and hunt the better fish.

But on the other hand trying to get her on the water with me  is almost impossible. So too my gentle question whether there was any way I could help either club. I guess having a weird Australian step-dad is something of an embarassment.

But you know that just makes it better to see her go off and do it herself, join the club, tie the flies (though she has a vice and access to a truckload of materials at the house), all because she wants to is way better than me taking her to the river under sufferance. Yep I’m pretty damn proud of her.

Oh and a big thanks to Mr Hargett and the other teachers who help out the class, plus the sponsors who offered up the prizes for the outing. Go Bombers.

Caddis Continues

Brown Trout on The White

SNUCK out between chores on some low water and the Caddis were crazy good again. And half the people coming into the shop have been trying to tell me that the caddis are done. No they aren’t as thick as a couple of weeks back but that just makes it all the better. Dry fly magic indeed.

I was supposed to be guiding an old friend for the first time on Monday, but with the hideous weather forecast, they postponed. I knew today was going to be good, unfortunately they had other commitments, but I didn’t know how good.

I managed to fool that big brown I fluffed last week, somewhere over 20″ or thereabouts, another couple of browns just at the 20″ mark and a 19″ cutt, plus a bunch of smaller browns, rainbows and cutts in the mid to high teens, who were jumping all over the flies I was trying to feed to the browns.

The craziest thing there was just myself and one other guy, a local Bob Jensen, on the water on one of the more popular shoals. Up above the shoal my mate Davy Wotton was guiding a couple of people, he told me tonight they fished dries all day and both got grand slams.

Enjoy the pictures, best I could do by myself.

23"

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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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