Monday, February 2, 2015
Four Days...Three Rivers...and a Cooler Full of Mexican Beer
February 1st is opening day for the upper section of the White River below Bull Shoals Dam and always seems to mark the big kickoff of streamer season around here. The closed section of river is a short one , and obviously those big browns aren't all hanging out up there with all of that river to wander , but opening day has become somewhat of an event for those of us who enjoy hucking the big stuff. The local fly shop in Cotter Arkansas , Dallys Ozark Angler , has come up with a little event they call the "Streamer Lovefest" to give us crazies somewhere to hang out while we're down for the big opening. Well known streamer guys from around the country along with a few locals sitting around tying up big streamers , company reps pimping their latest gear , a whole pig being smoked in the parking lot and best of all an entire room filled with a bunch of folks who enjoy streamer fishing as much as you do. This year I scheduled a few days off around the big weekend and made plans to fish with some buddies in the days surrounding it.
I headed South Thursday morning and met Sean at the cabin we were staying in to unload some gear before hitting the water for an afternoon of streamer fishing. Streamer fishing a big tailwater like the White is wholly dependant on water flows , and with the warm weather we were experiencing , those large flows that us streamer fishermen love were nothing but a pipe dream on this trip. Still , we had a good overcast day and a little bit of water being pushed through the dam so all wasn't lost.
We started the day off with what has become common practice for us...crack a beer , light a cigar and take our places behind the oars and in the casting braces. I'd like nothing more than to start the story off right and tell you we slammed a couple of big fish on our first float of the trip , but we didn't. We each caught a small fish and managed to move a couple more apiece that could have eaten the ones we actually landed.
It actually wasn't a bad day in the streamer fishing world , anytime the fish show a little interest at least you know that you have a chance. We finished up the day with a few more beers and a damn good steak dinner that we prepared ourselves at the cabin that night while we discussed our many options for day two.
Friday morning we woke up to bright sunny skies and the same water flows of the previous afternoon , not a good recipe for streamer fishing success.
After a little discussion we decided to choose option "C" , deciding not to try and pound a square peg into a round hole all day by streamer fishing in poor conditions. A short drive had us at one of Missouri's premier Blue Ribbon trout rivers for a day of playing around with some beautiful wild rainbows. The river or the weather didn't dissapoint and we enjoyed a great day on one of the prettiest streams in the Ozarks.
A cooler full of cold beer , a hot streamside lunch , hanging out with good friends and a bunch of fish willing to eat the fly selection we offered them rounded out the day nicely.
As much as we would have liked to be over on the big river hucking meat we were all smiles at the end of this beautiful Ozark day.
That night we ate dinner in Mountain Home before heading back to the cabin to meet up with the rest of the crew staying with us , Kevin from SoMuchWater and his son had arrived earlier in the day and were hanging out enjoying a cold beer themselves after a day of wade fishing. We spent the remainder of the night talking fishing and making sure the cooler wasn't overly loaded down with cold beers before calling it a night. The only question on my mind as I drifted off to sleep was....what are we gonna do tomorrow?
The next morning the sun failed to make an appearance after it's previous days showing , while not really cold
Saturday morning the cloud cover and damp conditions definitely made it feel more like a day suited to throwing streamers. We debated options before finally deciding to head over to a little section of water on a nearby river for a day of hucking the big stuff.
While our cabin was right on the banks of the White River , making that the most obvious choice of fishing destinations , the low flows coupled with the promise of larger than average crowds in town for opening day caused us to shy away from that decision. While the flows wouldn't be any better where we were headed at least we knew that we'd have most of the river to ourselves , there's a lot to be said about that in my book.
We got on the water by 9:00 and started our day with the intention of catching a few hungry browns in the right mood to chase a streamer.
It was one of those days where , although conditions are far from perfect , they're good enough to keep you making that next cast with some degree of enthusiasm. Unfortunately for us that enthusiasm ended up being unfounded , as we didn't stick a single fish on our streamers the entire day. We threw an indicator rig in the hole that we stopped to have lunch at and plucked out a few rainbows just to knock the skunk smell off , but for the most part we just couldn't make it happen.
Of course we second guessed our decision making all the way back to the cabin , but in the end you just have to notch it up as another day of dues paid. Anyone who plays the streamer game knows exactly what I'm talking about.
After a hot shower we headed up to the fly shop for the evening to find a packed parking lot and a large crowd of folks already partaking in the Streamer Lovefest festivities. All I know is you could smell that whole pig from a block away!!
After being stopped by several guys I knew and talking a little fishing I made a beeline for the food line. As much as I like tying big flies and fishing them , eating ranks right up there as one of my favorite pasttimes (anyone who knows me would probably make the comment about how obvious that is by looking at me). I have to give props to Matt Tucker and his group ,they did a fantastic job on smoking the pig. The meat and all of the sides to accompany it were delicious and I made sure to stand around and get my fill before venturing off to visit with more folks. It was a fun night that everyone seemed to enjoy , with the bulk of talk centering around tying and fishing big streamers , obviously.
I watched Kelly Galloup and Mike Schmidt each tie for awhile , all the while thinking what my streamer box would look like if I had those kind of skills! We hung around until figuring that we'd better get back to the cabin and decide what we were doing the next morning and get our gear ready. After a long day on the water followed up by numerous beers and more pig than one guy should be able to consume the bed was calling my name anyway.
We woke up early Sunday with a new plan , we had decided to head over to another tailwater close by and take our chances with throwing streamers again on low water. Expecting huge crowds on the White and pretty much the same here , we chose to be at the boat ramp before daylight and try to beat everyone else to the spoils.
You know , the early bird gets the worm and all. It was our last day to make it happen and we were semi confident that maybe today was going to be our day. Of course we felt that same way the previous day and look where it got us! One of us must be living right though because on this day these two blind squirrels got a little lucky and managed to find some streamer action.
No , we didn't land one of those twenty pound browns that the White River area is famous for , and I suppose for some it might have just been an average day on the water. But with a couple of browns and several rainbows landed on streamers , including one bow that pretty much made my entire weekend , we pulled the boat off the water around 2:00 smiling like a couple of cats that just ate the canary.
While I never look forward to those long drives home after a weekend on the water , it's always sweeter when you can finish things up on a positive note , it gives you a little something to think about and seems to make the drive go by just a little bit quicker. As has been the case the last year or two I finished up my long weekend listening to the Super Bowl on the radio as I thought about that next trip...hopefully the waders won't even have time to dry out first.
Posted by HighPlainsFlyFisher