Working in the fly shop exposes you to all the big fish rumors, some true, some stretched: a rainbow eating, dark backed beast that haunts a boat ramp, a 29” night hunter caught on a streamer, a whale hooked but never sighted or landed in the dark of night. Real or not, the mental images associated with the rumors flash through your mind as you retrieve your streamer behind that boulder, along that submerged log, or over that ledge drop. Or if you’re a night heron, every gulping sound or ripple in the dark makes your hair stand on end as your mouse wakes across an eddy darker than the moonless night sky.
Few rivers can generate the anticipation of greatness like the White. What’s possible here in terms of large brown trout is simply not possible in most places, and I see the effect in the faces of excited streamer heads wandering into the shop from trouty regions in the North, East, and West, all coming to the South for their shot at a different caliber fish. Staring into the deep blue-green pools of the White, or across its vast gravel flats and endless aquatic weed beds, it’s easy to start seeing things – Did that log just move? What’s that long shadow behind my fly? Some guys put in their time, and others just get lucky, but sooner or later the visions manifest for everyone in the form of angry, thrashing predator on the end of the line.
I got to spend a couple hours under the tutelage of Tommy Lynch before he headed back to the wintry North, and his streamer tactics in a nutshell involve maximizing casting efficiency by making long casts with high action flies like his DD and DDD series, a tactic that is especially well suited for lower to intermediate flows when fish are spread out over the entire river channel. Tommy is not only an excellent fisherman and tier but also a great teacher – he had Bill Thorne and I casting twenty more feet each in under an hour’s work – thanks Tommy, we’ll look forward to seeing you next year! What I’m getting at is don’t be so focused on the bank that you neglect to target mid-river structure, especially when flows are under 5,000cfs. Stretch out your casts and swim your flies past as much structure as you can. On flows of 6,000cfs or more try Lynch’s DDDs, Schmidt’s 8” Deceivers, and Galloup’s Fatheads in combinations of olive, white, tan, and yellow. On lesser flows drop down to Sex Dungeons, Zoo Cougars, and 6” Deceivers in the same color schemes. Drifting shad patterns can still be effective near the dam, and Ruby Midges are still killer on low water. Some early caddis are popping on sunny afternoons from Wildcat downriver, probably not enough yet to warrant dry flies, but never too early to start drifting some Prince Nymphs and green Copper Johns.
Quarry Park boat ramp is temporarily closed for repair, but walk in access is allowed. Now might be a great time to float the river in small watercraft (flows permitting) and not have to compete for space with many other boats. Midging is stellar between Colonel’s Corner and the lower island at McClellan’s. Try Ruby, Root Beer, ICU, and Harvester Midges. Some decent surface midging activity has been noticed as well on sunny afternoons in riffle tailouts and shallow flats on the edges of deeper holes. Small 18-24 Parachute Adams are a good bet for imitating surface midges.