Monday, August 11, 2014

Tailwater Weekend...Chasing the White River Hopper Bite

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I got an invite to hit the water this past weekend with a few buddies down on the White River for a couple days of summer hopper action. With the smallmouth streams being low and clear and not giving up the goods easily on my last few trips it sounded like a great way to change things up and hopefully catch a few trout in the process.
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I headed South early Friday morning with plans to meet Chance and Joey at the Norfork tailwater for a morning float before heading over to the White for the afternoon hopper bite. After running the shuttle we were pushing the boat off around 9:00 and headed downstream to try and find a few fish willing to play.
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After dodging the wade fishermen around the put-in we found a nice run devoid of other people and proceeded to spread out and fish. It didn't take long until everyone had a good bend in their rod doing battle with some chunky Norfork rainbows.
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As we worked our way downriver , stopping to wade the prime spots along the way , it seemed somebody was always hooked up. Fly selection didn't seem to be too important and we caught fish on everything from small scuds and midges to larger nymph patterns and eggs. The numbers of fish in this system are just incredible and if you went more than 10 minutes without a strike you probably needed to check your rig and make sure you still had a fly attached to that 6x tippet. Besides the numerous bows we also managed to put a brown or two and a really spectacular looking brookie in the boat as well. The brookie that Joey caught had some of the most amazing colors that I've personally seen on one of these fish , golds and greens that just awed you when looking at the fish in the sunlight.
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We finished out the float riding a wave of generation down, loaded up the boat at the confluence and headed into Gassville to meet the fourth guy in our party at KT's for a little lunch before heading over to the White for the afternoon. After a great tasting lunch of BBQ I loaded my gear in Seans boat and we all headed for the dam to see if we couldn't entice a few butterball browns with our foam concoctions.
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Hopper fishing down here is a lot like streamer fishing as far as I'm concerned , it takes alot of variables to come together to make for a successful outing and chances are that it may not happen the day you're on the water. But when it does come together it's all worth the time you put in , the chance to watch a two foot brown slide up under your hopper and suck it in (or not) is well worth any price of admission in my mind.
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The conditions weren't perfect for us on this afternoon but they weren't bad either and we all had good expectations about the fishing. I had two great opportunities on the afternoon and unfortunately didn't get to touch either one of those fish. The first one was a solid two footer that I watched rise up from the bottom of a log and inspect my fly for what seemed like an eternity before snubbing his nose at me and settling back into his lair while I stood in the knee braces with my legs still shaking. Just a few hundred yards down the shoreline I got a second chance , this time from a quality twenty inch plus fish. Again the visual setup couldn't have been more perfect and Sean and I both got to see the fish slide up in the water column and inhale the fly. I set the hook and had a good bend in the rod for all of 5 seconds before the fish just came unbuttoned for some reason (operator error I have no doubt). Sean had a couple of eats as well but neither of us was able to put a solid brown in the boat unfortunately. We caught several rainbows along the way but just couldn't stick that hopper brown on this day. The guys in the other boat fared a little better on the afternoon and ended up putting two nice browns in the boat.
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About halfway through the float the fog started rolling in and by the time we pulled off the river you could barely make out the shoreline twenty feet away.
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While we were a little dissapointed in the afternoons results I'm also sure that none of us would have wanted to be anywhere else , it's all about putting in that time to achieve your end goal.
That night we ate a quick dinner and hit the hotel room for the good nights rest that nobody had gotten the previous night before heading down. Our plans were pretty much to repeat todays schedule and hope that the fish cooperated a little better tomorrow.
Saturday we headed out early for Norfork dam to try and beat some of the crowds that tend to show up on a nice weekend.
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A couple more buddies met us at the ramp this morning giving us an armada of three drifters , six guys and two gods headed out for the day.
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It didn't take long before we picked right back up where we left off the day before with the fishing , every riffle seemed to be loaded with spunky rainbows that couldn't resist just about anything you put in front of them. I know I've been really into the smallmouth fishing this year and havn't spent near the time trout fishing that I normally would , but man I really enjoyed nymphing the "Fork" for a change.
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With the numbers and quality of fish we encountered I never even had time to get bored with watching an indicator! Several nice fish were caught among our three boats today and lots of very healthy colored up fish that seemed to fight much better than their size would dictate.
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As we rode the generation down again Sean hopped in the front knee braces and began pounding the bank with a hopper pattern just for the hell of it , really not expecting any love from the fish.
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I don't think he'd been at it for 10 minutes when he got a great eat from a nice brown. We were actually able to put that fish in the net and celebrated with high fives all around shortly after.
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That's why you never give up on a plan. They're just fish , with brains the size of a pea , and you never know what they might do at any given time.
That afternoon was to be our last float of the weekend as we all had things going on Sunday that required us to get back to wherever home was. Unfortunately due to the water conditions (not enough generation on the White) and a line of dark thunderstorms blotting out the horizon as we pulled the boats out at the confluence , we decided to cut the trip a little short and finish on a high note. The downside was that I didn't get my White River hopper brown on this go round , on the upside though it just means I'll have to start planning that next trip back down.
I'm not about to give up that easily......
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23 comments:

  1. some great looking fish! i just love the lab, though! :) beautiful foggy scenes. a great way to spend the weekend, no doubt.

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    1. Thanks Theresa...hard to beat hanging out with a group like that for the weekend. I can't think of too many places I'd rather be for sure...

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  2. I would say you guys got your moneys worth.
    That is one fine brook trout.

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    1. It was a really nice fish for the water we were fishing. My picture doesn't do it any justice at all though , in the sunlight the colors on it's sides were just amazing. Of course , my photography rarely does anything justice!

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  3. Kudo's to ya. great story and beautiful pics to boot. nice!

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    1. Thanks man...We didn't fare quite as well as you did here recently with the hoppers but it was still a great time. We just need a little hot weather to get the hopper bite going I think , already feels like september around here (not that I'm complaining!).

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  4. All nice trout, especially Brookie is amazing. For the near future I'd like to see White River Monster on Fly!

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    1. Thanks...That makes two of us!!! I had an opportunity for a solid two footer and just couldn't seal the deal , you know how it goes. That's what is so great about the White River , that next cast could always be the fish of a lifetime.

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  5. Awesome report brother, the White River on a hopper bite rarely disappoints.

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    1. Summers almost over and we havn't fished in awhile...need to change that before it slips away from us!!

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    2. Couldn't agree more Sir.

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  6. "Hopper bite." What a great phrase. Thanks for expanding our summers by taking us along. Very nice trout.

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    1. Thanks Jim...unfortunately I wasn't able to get much action on the "hopper bite" , but it sure was fun trying.

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  7. Those are some beautiful chunky looking fish. As usual, you're trips are great!

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    1. Thank you Howard...as we've discussed before , there really is no such thing as a bad fishing trip.

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  8. Beautiful BEAUTIFUL trout! What a great trip!

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    1. Thanks Dave...we did catch some nicely colored up fish. The tailwater we were fishing has a catch and release section that we were on and it definitely allows the fish to grow a little and start to look like actual wild fish.
      And by the way , I havn't forgotten about posting up that fly pattern for you. I'm working on it as we speak and it should be up in the next day or so.

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  9. I don't think there has been a post of yours that didn't "wow" me....Although, this one didn't have any pictures of food, I was still in awe at the beautiful fish you were catching. I also, didn't even know that brookies were present in the waters you fish down there. AWESOME!!

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    1. Thanks Justin...There aren't many waters here in the Ozarks with brook trout but the Norfork and White River tailwaters both have populations of brookies. They are two of the few places around where you can catch bows, brookies , cutts and browns.

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  10. Looks like another good one buddy. September is almost upon us and I've not fished the white this year. Really need to rectify that.

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    1. I'm already itching to get back down myself , just got to try and find the time now. The rest of August is pretty much shot for me so it may be September before I make it back.

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  11. Fine job. I've been there and could feel my heart pounding waiting for that take...those browns can be cruel sometimes...but I just love um.

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    1. Thanks man...There's just nothing like watching a big brown rise up to your hopper in clear water , a pure adrenaline rush for sure!

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