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.
Bruce sounded a little taken aback when I asked if he would like to try some dry fly fishing on the White this week.
“Everything I’ve ever read about the White and Norfork said nothing about dry fly fishing…..” Then he told me he was a nympher, largely due to his job. He works second shift so sneaks in early mornings to his some rivers in PA. He’s heading home by the time hatches really start. “But its nice to get away from tossing lead.”
So dry fly it was with first Bec’s Hopper and then a succession of Chernobyls pulling up fish on the light, under a unit, flows we enjoyed through lunch. A 16 Ruby Midge underneath did some damage as well.
We had a hard rise after lunch which threw the fish off for a bit, but by changing nymphing leaders and rigs we stayed with it, and the fish kept coming, a mix of nice rainbows in the mid to upper teens, a couple of nice cutts and one nice brown which rolled off the hook.
Bruce’seyes almost bugged out of his skull when one big big rainbow rose up out of a logjam to eyeball the Chernobyl.
Enjoy the rest of the pics, and join us for some fun. October is looking really good.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
I’ll be heading north to Columbia, Mo to speak to the Capital City Fly Fishers, Tuesday night, about the White River and its amazing fishery. I’m working away on a couple of new slideshow presentations, it started off rejigging one, but I had sudden inspiration. So we shall see which one gets finished first.
Either way it shoudl be a fun night and I’m hope to open a few more eyes to the possibilities of high water fly fishing. Yep we all love wading but if you want to fish more you have to adapt to the river conditions. The meeting will be held at the Bass Pro Shop in Columbia at 6:00 p.m. If you are in the area drop on by.
Speaking of speaking to clubs, I have several different programs available now for clubs and organisations and if your looking for something a little different for your meeting schedule drop me a line.
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…)
WHAT a winter its been. For an admittedly cold-phobic Aussie this snowy cold winter has been tough to bear but the fishing has been pretty good.
I’m sitting here at the kitchen table in a patch of sun, thinking I should be out on the water on what is a very spring-like day. But this blog has been neglected for too long, it often takes second fiddle to the fly shop blog, the Mountain River Journal, I bash out more consistently. All the best pictures have been heading there.
But looking back January and February have been a lot of fun, making new friends and greeting old friends, (plus quite a few personal days) and getting to share this phenomenal winter fishery with them. So I thought I’d add a few pics from our winter with y’all. Enjoy and if you want to join the fun drop us a line.
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.
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…)
JUMP onto the Reel Aid website now to get your ticket for the Benefit Concert in Memphis on August 7. It should be a great evening’s entertainment for a great cause.
Reel Aid is a Benefit Concert for 3 charities, Reel Recovery, Casting for Recovery, and Project Healing Waters. All three charities offer fly fishing retreats at no cost to its participants. These weekend retreats incorporate counseling, educational services and the sport of fly-fishing to promote mental and physical healing.
The goal is to raise money that is then allocated to be used in TN, MS, AR and MO to bring free fly fishing retreats to our area, for our men and women who are battling cancer or our military who are rehabilitating to attend.
Reel Aid Benefit Concert features live entertainment by four great bands, a silent auction, a raffle, and food and beverages available for purchase.
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.
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.