Monday, July 23, 2012
7/18 - 7/21...."SummerTime Hoppers on the White"
I've been needing to get away something terrible these last few weeks but it just seemed like something was always coming up....work , home projects , etc...etc. You get the picture , we all have those times when work and life in general keeps us off the water for longer stretches than we'd like. It's not like I havn't touched a flyrod , I've taken an hour here or there to hit the local pond or chase a few carp around the flats, but no real fishing trips. This last week a buddy and I made plans to change all that.
With the outrageous temperatures and drought conditions we've been seeing in this part of the country here lately the options for fishing have been dwindling away. Most of the rivers I normally fish are at all time summer lows and the smaller Blue Ribbon streams are running but a trickle. The only consistent water flow around these parts is what's being released below the hydroelectric dams in the White River system , and if the lake levels keep dropping even that might come to an end.
Word on the street was that the hopper bite on the White River was getting into full swing so Kevin and I decided to plan a mid-week trip and head South to see if the rumours were true.
We met up at Dally's Ozark FlyFisher in Cotter Ar. on Wednesday morning to get the party started. After picking up a few necessities and getting the lowdown on the fishing we made our way over to the Blue Heron campground to get our "home away from home" set up for a few days. With the temperature pushing 100 degrees before noon we didn't waste much time in getting the boats rigged and ready to get out on the water , if your feet weren't dangling in the cool waters it got pretty unbearable in short order.
Once the gear and boats were loaded and the shuttle vehicle dropped off we were on the water for a nice little float between Wildcat Shoals and Cotter. With thoughts of browns slurping hoppers off the surface we both tied on hopper patterns and got down to business. It didn't take long to be rewarded as Kevin stuck the first fish not fifteen minutes into the float , a nice little White River brown.
That first afternoon was even better than either of us expected , we had good water and the river pretty much to ourselves and even better... the fish were cooperating nicely.
Neither of us bothered to change flies except to replace an eaten up hopper pattern every once in awhile , while we might have caught more fish by changing methods who can pass up fish laying the smackdown on hoppers?? That night we got back to camp just before dark and settled in for an evening of good food and a few refreshments to end the first day. Damn life is good!!
Day two we awoke with the same plan , float a different section of water and throw hoppers.
With the predicted temps pushing 105 we opted for a morning float and then a late afternoon float , figuring we'd spend a couple of hours in the air conditioned flyshop during the hottest part of the afternoon.
We had another stellar day of hopper fishing , catching numerous small rainbows and a good number of healthy browns as well.
The only glitch for the day was me leaving the shuttle vehicle keys in the seat of the truck at the put-in....what a dumb-ass!! Luckily a nice gentleman getting off the water at the same time we were gave us a ride to retrieve the keys , it all worked out but I know I'll hear about that one for awhile!!
For dinner that night we threw together some camp succotash and washed it down with a couple (ok...more than a couple) cold beers to finish off the day.
Day three dawned with a new plan of action , we decided to head over to the Norfork and float the short four mile tailwater on low water.
Neither of us had floated the entire stretch before so the thought of virgin waters was enough to make us forget about those hopper eating browns on the White for at least one morning. After dropping a truck at Ackerman we headed up to Quarry Park and got on the water.
We started off throwing hoppers here as well but the bite just wasn't happening for us so we switched up to nymph rigs and began sticking good numbers of small bows. The Norfork is some beautiful water for sure and the numbers of small rainbows falling to our nymphs was enough to keep even the most jaded fisherman satisfied.
In the back of my mind though I just kept picturing those browns slurping hoppers over on the White , while the Fork is known for it's big browns as well we just couldn't find any willing to play. By the time we got off the water just after lunch we'd both landed more fish than the previous two days combined....and yet we couldn't hardly wait to get off that river and back over to the White for the afternoon hopper bite. A quick bite and slam a couple of cold ones at camp and then we were back on the water to finish off the day.
The generation was down from the previous two days and unfortunately it affected the fishing in a negative way. Less flow means fewer fish on the shore , which in turn means a slower hopper bite. We still stuck to our guns and fished em anyway , both landing some small bows and several browns even on the diminished bite.
I'll still take one 18 inch brown on a hopper over twenty stocker bows on nymphs if I have a choice.
That night we got back to camp late , hot...tired...sunburned and happy as hell. We'd had three good days of fishing on a couple of the best tailwaters in the country and still had one more day to go!! Feeling lazy we did what any respectable trout bum would do for dinner , pick up a fresh case at the liqour store and have a pizza delivered to camp. Does it get any better than that??
Saturday we met up with a fellow Drakian at the flyshop with plans to get out on the water in his driftboat and stick a few more fish. Of course when you want some water generation what do they do...shut it down! We sat around the shop until 10:00 , tying some flies...shooting the bull with the guys and spending more money on shit that I have to hide from the wife when I get home. Finally , just after 10:00 they decided to run a half unit for us , not much but still better than the dead low water. While we were all bummed about the flows and what we knew it would do to the hopper bite you just can't complain too much about spending a day in a driftboat with a couple of buddies on one of the best tailwaters in the country.
We made the most of it and dropped a midge off the hoppers , still hoping for the best , but at least giving ourselves a shot at some bites if the hoppers weren't happening. While it wasn't what we were looking for we all managed to catch enough bows on the midges to keep things interesting , and like I said , who can complain?
We got off the water around 3:00 , loaded up the boat and headed our seperate ways. I was headed back to KC , Kevin was headed for Jeff City and Jeff was headed back to the flyshop to pick up his ride for an evening float....lucky SOB!
Posted by HighPlainsFlyFisher