Somewhere in the White River, at this very moment, a 33inch, 18lb. brown trout is slowly finning away from a swift gravelly run, where for the past three weeks it has been spawning, mostly un-molested thanks to the strong conservation ethic of White River anglers, and is now good and thoroughly hungry. It glides downstream on rising water, and takes up residence in a deep, slow eddy behind a rocky point protruding from the bank. This massive White River brown will play the role of “Sir Ferocious Apex Predator,” for the next two to three months, lying quietly just out of the current, ready to maul, crush, and swallow anything that makes the mistake of swimming too close. An assortment of baitfish, sculpins, and small trout will meet their doom in the gaping maw of this greedy brown before it eats the wrong fish, and by that I mean one lashed around two 2/0 Gamakatsus and connected to a 12lb. fluorocarbon leader.
In a normal year, streamer fishing doesn’t get good until mid to late January, but “good” is a relative and often arbitrary term when you’re talking about the pursuit of monster browns on the fly. Point in case, the biggest trout I’ve ever seen annihilated my fly in early January on a week that had seen zero prior action, and on a day that held little promise. There is no official “start” to streamer season; there is no jumping the gun. Whoever sounds the alarm by catching the first hog will shake the White River community of its holiday sleepiness, and spark a frenzy of meat chucking like never before seen. Let’s get this thing started.
White River: The general pattern (interpret “pattern” loosely) of water release has been higher flows in the morning tapering off to lower flows or shutting off altogether by midday. Some morning flows have been quite substantial, reaching the coveted mark of 10,000cfs or more. Low water nymphing and buggering is still productive as ever, but there could not be a better time to pick up the big sticks and start plying the banks with something substantial.
Try Dungeons, Schmidt’s Deceivers, Lynch’s DDDs, or Buck Rogers in various combinations of yellow, white, grey, and olive. If you’re forced to streamer fish lower flows, it’s wise to have a collection of smaller, single hooked streamers like Zonkers, Zoo Cougars, String Sculpins, and Chubby Muffins with which to work the edges of the river channel rather that the shallow banks. Someone’s gonna get bit first!
If you aren’t into the streamer game run Whitetail Midges, Ruby midges and Sunday specials on the lower flows.
Norfork River: Flows have been literally all over the chart, or as Steve likes to say, “up and down like a bride’s nightie.” It’s funny when he says it in a down under accent anyway. Quarry Park and Ackerman Access are nymphing really well on egg/midge or scud/midge combos. Olive and black buggers are bringing in fish as are Anna Ks and Tailwater soft hackles. A boat would be an invaluable tool on the Norfork right now not only to conquer the unpredictable flows but also to access the middle portion of the river, which sees the least pressure and is holding some truly quality fish. A few lucky anglers have even reported the hallowed “slam” recently, catching a rainbow, brown, cutthroat, and brookie in the same day.