Big water brown trout _ all images this post by Gabe Levin
THE arrival of minimum flow on the White River this summer has changed the wading game.
There’s a new river to learn, given we rarely saw 650 cfs under the previous arrangements, so there’s more wetter area, a little more current. So we sent out Gabe Levin, one of our resident shop rats, who spends as much time as anyone fishing afoot, low or high flows, to report in on the lower flows. Water flows here being what they are he also ran into some big water but as you can see he was still catching fish.
Gabe is a big strong lad, so keep this in mind on his wading recommendations, you might not find exactly the same experience if you are 5’1” and a little shaky on rough ground. As Gabe says there’s no shame in adding cleats and a wading staff _ we all wade a little differently.
So here’s a Gabe eye view of White River wading
Stuck without a boat, or just prefer to fish on foot? Don’t let the new minimum flow or recent big water releases deter you – there is stellar wade fishing to be had if you’re willing to adjust your tactics. All your favorite walk in accesses (the Dam, Narrows, Wildcat, Roundhouse, Rim, etc.) are still easily fished on foot at any water level below about 1,000cfs, including our new minimum flow level of 650 cfs.
The extra few inches of water now flowing over your favorite spots actually makes the fish less wary and lessens the need for super fine tippets and tiny flies. If you are not a strong wader, there is no shame in using a wading staff or screwing cleats into your wading boots. These are smart investments that will open up more wading opportunities to you on our new, faster White River.
To keep yourself safe from rising water, don’t rely on the dam’s phone recording, which doesn’t give you a precise water level update. Instead regularly check the real time cubic feet/second updates throughout the day here . If you need help interpreting the chart, come see us at the shop for a tutorial. Another good idea is to pick landmarks, a logpile or conspicuous rock, in your favorite spots that you can watch to keep an eye on the water level.
Click to read Gabe’s spot by spot inspection:
If the gravel humps are exposed above water in midstream between the two boat ramps, wading here is quite manageable. Entering from the east side can be good but the water is deeper and swifter there, limiting the area you can cover on foot. Entering from the golf course access on the west side of the river will give you the most water to fish. It is safe to wade from the west bank out to the gravel humps and deep pockets in midstream, but don’t skip the skinny water. Quality rainbows and browns hold here in the slightest depressions and pockets. Fish will rise consistently to black ant or beetle style dries presented in a downstream, fly-first manner. Work deeper, swifter areas with bead head midges and/or scuds.
The shoals about ¼ mile downstream of the ramp at Wildcat are the type of place to try hopper-dropper rigs. A size 14-16 bead head pheasant tail rigged 3-4 ft. under a mid-sized Chernobyl or Fat Albert is pure perfection. You can reach the shoals safely on foot at water levels at or below 900cfs. At true minimum flow (650-700cfs), you can still fish your way across the shelves and drop-offs to the deeper pockets in midstream and near the far bank. Just take your time and keep your feet on broken river bottom rather than flat slippery bedrock. Target seams on the edges of fast chutes, soft spots behind rocks, and anywhere the water depth increases abruptly.
Wade fisherman can still cross to the island with relative ease at about 700cfs, or more if you’re a strong wader, just know the scheduled water release for the day and plan your crossing accordingly. Hopper-dropper works well here in riffled water, as does swinging a soft hackle or bugger. Below the island where the channels converge into flatter, deeper water, try working a heavy sculpin or crawfish pattern across the bottom. If it’s crowded on a weekend, walk the railroad tracks about a half mile down to the second set of shoals at the lower end of the catch and release zone.
When big water releases like we’ve had recently limit you to bank fishing, target flat areas on the inside of river bends that flood with shallow water. These are prime areas to sight fish to opportunistic trout looking for recently drowned insects and dislodged worms. A San Juan worm with no shot and no indicator is often the most effective offering to these fish. Keep a low profile, move slowly, and look carefully even in just inches of water for a cruising feeder. This game is not about numbers – rather, this is your opportunity to sight fish, capture, and photograph a good brown in shallow water.