Thursday, October 17, 2019

Colorado by Morning - A camping and fly fishing trip

It would be a 15 hour day and I'd be driving it solo this year.  While the thought of driving that long hurt my brain, it meant I would be able to hit the forest service roads before the sun rose and potentially have camp set-up early mornig.  This would give me enough time to hike out for a few hours and get some fishing in before the thunderstorms started at noon.

You would think after driving that distance falling to sleep would be easy.  However the excitement of camping in the mountains and browns eating attractor dry flies kept me up way too late.  My thoughts centered around my supplies, gear, and everything else I needed before I checked off the grid for the next few days.

very productive attractor
Tying video for this fly can be found on my Facebook page:

Three hours later I was looking across the valley.  This would be my home for the next several days.  Not a sole in sight.  The only sounds were from the river making its way down the mountain and the wind whispering to the trees.

The first afternoon was nearly exceptional.  Fish were holding in all the expected spots and rose eagerly to my offerings.  I didn't venture very far the first afternoon.  Thunderstorms were forecast to begin at 1pm.  If you weren't headed back when they started, it meant walking out with lightening crashing all around.  I learned that lesson last year and would not repeat it again this year.

As expected, the clouds started to build around lunch signaling my departure.  I made it back to camp just as the wind picked up and the rain crashed down.  I made lunch and enjoyed a beer under the cover of the rain fly.  Being surrounded on all sides by mountains there wasn't any real way to know how long it would last.  The cell phone was only good for capturing pictures out here.  A few hours passed before the rain stopped.  Another 30 minutes before the sun came out.  The temperature dropped 30 degrees putting a much appreciated chill in the air.  The excitement of ending the day throwing dry flies to rising trout was brief.  No worries, it had been a great morning and I could use some rest.  

Realizing that each afternoon would be shortened by several hours, I set my alarm for 5 am each morning.  The time it takes to make breakfast, coffee and pack for the afternoon is considerably shortened when you're solo adventuring.  The next few days were filled with browns in the morning and rain in the afternoon.  Four days went by quickly but it was time to relocate to another area, which would take the better part of the morning.  Again, leaving me with just a few hours to fish.

From my new camp I had access to several streams and lakes.  But the weather would dictate which day I would visit each.  I stayed close on the days with a greater chance of storms but luck was on my side for a few.  Later in the week, the percentages and timing allowed me to hike out a little further.

This was the only day I actually ran into another person.  We stopped and talked for a minute.  Not wanting to jump ahead of him or fish behind him, I stopped and had lunch.  Giving him 30 minutes to get up a little further.

It was my last afternoon in Colorado and I was hopeful the weather would hold off.  But like every day before, it started to build in the afternoon.  I could hear the thunder in the distance rolling through the valley.  I stepped on to the trail and started to hike out when I saw the guy from earlier.  The storms had been really brutal and knowing he had just gotten here I made my way over to relay the information before hitting the trail hard.  My truck was in sight when the weather went south quick.  The winds gust to 30 mph, the rain was blinding and lightning was coming down all over.  After 30 minutes, I knew I had to start driving back to Arkansas and hoped that dude made it out ok.


Here are some video clips on IG:

More from this and other trips can be found on my FB and IG pages...


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.