Thursday, May 9, 2019

White River Caddis Hatch May 2019

April is always a good time to fly fish in Arkansas.  The streams are usually full of water, not always a good thing, and the fish are normally hungry.  The most difficult decision normally focuses on where and what species to target.  Trout, carp, smallmouth bass are all high on my list.  However, last May, my buddy Brad came home after incredible day fishing the caddis hatch on the White River and said we would be returning in 2019.  The plan was to drive up on Tuesday and fish through Sunday, with a couple days on the White, Norfork and maybe a smallmouth float.

The weather began to take an ugly shape and the plan quickly changed.  The area was predicted to receive 5+ inches of rain over the next three to four days with the possibility of severe thunderstorms. As responsible adults, one of us anyway, we looked at moving the date.  But that wasn't an option.  Next we considered heading to Southeast Louisiana or even The Great Smoky Mountains.  But the weather system included each of those areas as well.  After talking about it, we decided to stay with the original plan but stick to the tailwaters because they would not blow out.

Tying video for this caddis pupa below

As luck would have it the rain and storms hit the area as predicted but we only had to fish in the rain one afternoon.  Fortune was on our side and the severe storms came at night while we were in our sleeper cabin at  If you're in the area and need a place to sleep without paying a fortune, Copper Johns is pretty awesome.  Located just down the road from the state park and directly on the river, it gave us a quick place to dodge storms if needed.

Rigging up the streamer rod

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If you haven't seen the many Instagram and guide posts the hatch was brilliant this year.  Check out my buddy Matt's guide service and see what I'm talking about,  Tons of bugs on the water and the fish were eating great.  We fished dry flies each day with some success, but with all the natural sources of protein available on the surface, it was only a fun option, not the most successful.  But I will take a couple 20+ inch browns on a EHC over several nymphed up most days!

On Friday and Saturday we decided to float the Norfork.  The generation schedule predicted 1-unit each morning starting around 9am. The fishing was equally great.  One-unit is awesome flow for nymphing and streamer fishing which we did and got a few follows from some gnarly browns.  I suspect if the rental boat hatch wasn't out in full force on Saturday atleast one of the big browns would have eaten a streamer.  But when 4 dudes, throwing rapalas constantly to cut into your drift, it can be a challenge to get a fresh look!  We won't be fishing the Norfork on a Saturday any time soon, lol!  The rental hatch cleared at lunch the fishing got good for the rest of the afternoon.

We got up early Sunday with plans to pack and drive home.  One look at the river and we changed our mind.  It looked like it was raining with all the fish coming to the surface to eat caddis.  So we hit the water for a few more hours, caught some fish and planned next years trip.  Gonna be a long wait...

Tying video for this productive pattern...

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Winter Rainbows - The Lower Mountain Fork River

This time last year, I was in the final stretches of a 310 mile kayak fishing adventure on the St Johns River (clink here to read).  It was a great trip but I didn't realize it then but I missed out on one of my favorite times to chase trout.  The St Johns River trip took all of January to complete and I was smart enough to not run away on any other adventures in no winter tailwater trips in 2018.  That would not be the case in 2019.

I have made several trips to the Lower Mountain Fork River (LMFR) in Oklahoma this year.  Heavy rain in Arkansas has kept the Corps of Engineers running high water locally.  But that's not an issue for the LMFR. While it's a tailwater, they have about 4 miles of trout water that is created from the spillway.  So even if they are generating, there is still wade friendly water available.

There isn't a ton of water to fish and it can get crowded.  So I've only gone during the middle of the  week to help deal with the crowds, which usually means if I get up before the sun I get the first run through at least one of the popular areas before another angler shows up.

The fishing has been really great considering in 2015 they opened the spillway gates and destroyed the trout water.  It's still recovering but it has a ton of potential.  The LMFR isn't not known for its wild trout population, although there are some stream born rainbows in the river.  You'll know when you catch one.  They run hard and are very acrobatic.  I've only caught a few but I can tell immediately.  However, it is known for some of it's larger and very educated holdover bows.  Being a catch and keep river, if you're a dumb trout, you'll be on a stringer quickly.  The number of 17-20 inch fish I have caught has been crazy for such a short time.

The cool thing is the LMFR has a little something for everyone.  One afternoon I spent a few hours sight fishing bows in the catch and release area.  These fish as educated and get a fair amount of pressure so they aren't easy to fool.  It's a fun challenge.

On another afternoon, during a BWO hatch I was able to catch several small rainbows on an emerger drifted behind a dry.  A few even took a swipe at the dry.  That's not something I get to do much in Arkansas.

Of course there are deep runs, pools and riffles to work also.  All in all it's just fun to get out and wade some water in January.  Especially with the lack of opportunities on some of my favorite tailwaters.  I'm already lookn' forward to my next trip to the Lower Mountain Fork.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Gotta get away - Redfish Trip

After a few weeks of watching and pleading with the weather, a trip was finally in the works.  But don't get excited as many trips have been in the works this year only to get victimized by the weather.  But as the days got closer the weather actually improved.  I started to feel like it might really happen.

As I packed for a few days in Grand Isle, LA I called my buddy Scott who lives in New Orleans and writes the blog Bayou Chronicles.  Aside from being an accomplished angler, Scott is a professional photographer so I always look forward to talking fish and photography with him.

I left the house at 2am with a 6 hour drive.  The promise of an all day falling tide to stalk crawling redfish kept me awake as I drove through the night.  If the tide charts were correct, I would have a chance to sight fish reds during the lowest point of the tide, during the middle of the day.  As luck would have it, that's how the entire trip went and the fishing was insane.

I met Scott on the 2nd day and we visited an area that in his words, "could be crazy good or dead."  We didn't even pack a lunch because we figured if it wasn't happening, we'd leave and try another area.  The day ended up being one of the best I have ever experienced in Southeast Louisiana. We covered about 10 miles of water and caught fish until our hands blistered.

The next day, I went back to the same spot and started where I left off.  Again, the redfish were stacked in the shallow marsh.  The water was really stained but that didn't matter as redfish aren't hard to see when they are crawling across the flat half way out of the water.  The most frustrating part was, at times the flats were not accessible, even from a kayak.  You could see a redfish chasing shrimp 50 yards away but pushing through the mud wasn't happening.  The tide was still falling and I had no interest in getting stuck in the marsh.  But I know where they live and I'll be back to check on those belly crawlers soon.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

How to Catch Grass Carp on the FLY! (video)

You guys have been asking for this for a while.  I've written a post or two (Click to read) describing what I look for and some of the mistakes I made when I started but I felt like a video would actually show what I'm talking about.  So here you go, this is part 1 of a 2 part series.  In part 2, I'll go over the flies I use and when I use them.  Hope this helps some of you put a few in the net.

As always, this will play better if you open it in the YouTube viewer.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Fly Fishing Southwest Colorado - The Conejos Drainage

It was three miles to the lake.  A trail along the creek led to and from our goal of catching native Rio Grande Cutthroat trout.  All we had to do was follow the trail.  We didn’t follow the trail.  We did what guys do and improvised.  I like to call it “blazing our own path.”  It wasn’t long before we knew we needed to find the trail.  If we continued on our journey, it would have been off a cliff, which concluded with a 50-foot fall.  If we went any further there would be blood, pain, and absolutely a broken fly rod.

We found the lake and it indeed held plenty of natives.  It was a great afternoon that ended too quickly.  Suddenly, a rumble grabbed our attention.  In the mountains, such rumbles echo for a few seconds longer as they bounce off the cliffs.  This allows the situation to really sink in.  The clouds were getting darker and building but the mountains masked them until they were on top of us.

We had been in Colorado three days and each afternoon were greeted with Thunderstorms.  It was these storms that made our trip possible.  A few weeks prior the Rio Grande National Forest was closed due to the Spring Creek fire, the 3rd largest wildfire in Colorado history.  Our wives reminded us of this as we left because they had no clue where we would be over the next week. In honesty, I had no clue either.  I had just gotten back from the Wisconsin Driftless area.  I was just happy to be on another fly fishing road trip.

Now I was wondering how long it would take us to get back to the vehicle.  We all had the same though, fish the creek leading to the lake on the way out and catch a few more cutty's.  Yeah that was probably a bad idea. The first thing I ran into was, what we all considered bear scat.  I had never seen any in person but every door in the area had signs warning of black bears so we just assumed that’s what it was.  Whatever left this gift did it while we were at the lake.  It wasn’t on the trail that morning.  

The cliff that almost broke our fly rods

Then the sky started to flash and you could feel the buzz of lightening in the air.  At 10,000 feet you are actually in it!  The booming thunder shook the trees.  Thankfully the vehicle was in sight.  We threw our stuff in and got moving down the mountain just when the hail started to fall.  Then Brad said, “you’re not going to believe this, we’re about to have a flat.”  The tire sensor was saying, “the mountain ate your tire bro.” 

In reality, the sensor was misinformed.  As Brad opened the door, the hiss of air was immediate, which was expected.  What none of us expected was, “we’re going to have two flats.”  Both tires on the driver side had been eaten by the mountain.  No worries we have a spare and some fix-a-flat.  We sprang to action like a NASCAR pit crew.  Then the fix-a-flat lost its mind.  Rather than spraying its magic solution into the tire it just oozed all over itself.  It was 7 years old…dude replace the can every few years.  The only thing left was to break out the air pump and fill the tire up every 15 minutes as we limped back to camp. 

River down below - required a hike in

26 days later we arrived back at the dispersed camping area along the Conejos river.  For the first time in a few days, I was thankful to see people walking near our camp.  We all jumped up and flash mobbed them as they passed our camp.  It went like this and I have no idea who said what or in what order.  “how was the, did you sit through the, been down there long, we got caught on the, fix-a-flat.”  We waited for their response.  They offered us the broken net they found on the trail.  

The next morning, we woke up bright and early expecting to spend the day hobbling to Antonito to get the tires fixed.   We hadn’t even made it out of camp before the psi started dropping quickly.  It was going to be a long day.  Then the two guys from the night before were standing in the road waving us down.  With big smiles on their faces and something that looked like a can of “you just saved our vacation” in their hands.  Score, you guys rock, lets go fish!  
The Video from the trip...

Photo Dump from the rest of the trip.  Read the captions!
When one guy forgets to purchase his fishing license.

We threw attractor and dry with droppers all week.

Dispersed camping along Conejos River

Low water in some areas meant hiking to find pools

Brad and Tom getting dinner ready

We ate well
Saddle Creek

Saddle Creek near headwaters...this was nearly a 7 mile RT hike...we might have blazed our own path

High altitude cutties take your breath away
Lots of browns

hoppers got looks, stimi's got eats