The first time I jumped in a drift boat with two Australians, it was so much fun, I didn’t hesitate to accept a second invitation, this time from Steve and his mate, Murray Wilson. Murray made the long voyage to the White River system as somewhat of a bucket list destination fulfillment, so Steve and I felt obliged to show him some of what our rivers have to offer.
Tuesday presented a cold, stiff North wind, which made the narrower, more sheltered Norfork corridor seem the best option. Fishing started a little slow, but we were determined to have fun, so no matter. Wind knots and a slow bite make for lots of interesting experiments with different flies and rigs. It’s always interesting peeking in the fly box of a down under troutsman too. Scuds hooked us up on some impressive rainbows, but it was Murray’s “messy parachute” that stole the show once the sun popped out and kicked off a decent hatch of crane flies. I was thoroughly amused watching Steve turn his boat inside out looking for the right dry fly amidst the chaos of fishing gear, camera equipment, and food stuff while Murray quietly and contentedly picked off all the risers. We caught fish on dries until the fading light forced us off the water – not a bad day.
The water comes up, the water goes down, the winds go swirling round and round. Life is change on the river right now, making it a bit difficult to plan your day, but the solution as always in a tailwater fishery is to be flexible. Increased power demand during cold mornings and evenings are reflected in the generation pattern – expect two waves of high flows, one in the morning and one in the evening. You can still find wading water in between releases, but you’ve got to be aware of your surroundings – lot of people getting stranded/needing rescue these days. Egg patterns, pheasant tails, Wotton midges, Root Beer and Ruby midges are all solid, and in the lower river there’s some fall caddis coming off, which facilitates a good bite on Sunday Specials and various tan colored soft hackles. Cone headed wooly buggers in olive or black have been killer as well, or thread headed woolies on a short sink tip.
Flows are up and down like the White, but there has been a fairly predictable pattern established of a half unit in the morning and falling water all day. Scuds and brown bodied midges are consistent producers fished alone or under an egg pattern. On sunny afternoons you might get a crane fly hatch, which can be fished with generic pheasant tails, orange to tan or brown bodied soft hackles, and orange or brown bodied parachute dries.