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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
One nice surprise if you are coming back to Mountain Home this year is two very nice new restaurants, that have had a few visits from Bec and myself over the last few months.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?