This week’s report and images come from the erudite Gabe Levin
I’ll admit I have an obsession with Crooked Creek, as evidenced by the photo in last Friday’s blog of me canoeing the creek in the snow with temps in the mid twenties. Perhaps those conditions are better for hypothermia than catching smallmouth, and some might label my actions as insanity or stupidity, but I prefer to see it as the dogged pursuit of intimate knowledge of my home waters.
Whether catching fish or not, one can learn something about fish behavior and habitat by observing them in all types of conditions. So what smallmouth wisdom can I pass along to you from my snowy creek excursions……well let’s see……bass are near impossible to catch in freezing, wintery conditions, in fact, they spend a good deal of time hibernating in a coma-like state of suspended animation on the bottom of a deep hole. If that doesn’t make you want to grab some hand warmers and hit the creek running, I don’t know what’s wrong with you!
All sarcasm aside, I love any excuse to get out on the creek, and I find it therapeutic to spend alone time on such beautiful water in all seasons and conditions, but right now just isn’t the time to catch smallies. It’s equally therapeutic, however, to catch the hell out of some feisty trout, and so my gratitude is justly owed to the Norfork and White this week for saving my butt once again from fishless winter doldrums.
A Tuesday afternoon wading session at Norfork’s Quarry Park saw my rod bent with such ease and consistency as to have me laughing and taking goofy selfies in an effort to capture the sheer hilarity of the moment. It’s good for the soul to catch fish until you laugh out loud, even if they’re small, and it never hurts to score a couple of brookies!
(Editors’ Note: WE aren’t going to disagree with goofy)
Wednesday Ben Levin finally took a day to pitch some big flies into the White River with me. Perhaps it’s his recent status upgrade to fly fishing author adding to his already solid reputation as an experienced local guide, or maybe it’s that his wide circle of fly fishing friends gets him connections to affordable destination fishing options on a regular basis, either way the point is he can be hard to nail down sometimes.
Streamer fishing was slow to decent between Wildcat and Cotter, with some small to average browns landed and a bigger fish or two sighted from Dally’s boat – nothing like a little friendly competition out sharing the water to make you fish harder!
Some bigger dam releases (up to 6,000cfs) have been showing up for a few hours only in the mornings, providing some short windows of good streamer conditions. Those of us who have had the chance to get out there so far have done well on double deceivers and flies with deer hair heads like Dungeons, Fatheads, and Cougars in yellows, whites, and blacks. Lower flows are still fishing very well using the standard nymphing techniques and flies. An egg fly or Sunday Special down to a midge on 5x tippet is still tough to beat.
Expect higher flows in the a.m. hours tapering off to minimum flow in the afternoon. There is a lot of rainbow spawning activity in the Quarry Park area, making the egg bite pretty stellar. An egg down to a root beer midge or other copper beaded nymph will get bit hard, as will scuds, Sunday Specials, and various soft hackles and buggers. It would definitely be worth trying some streamers on the higher morning flows as well.