The madness of February is winding down, and many of our yankee streamer addicted friends will be heading home soon, to return again next winter. One of the highlights of the season is surely Chris Willen’s hard earned and well deserved fish. Chris has been joining us for some winter streamer fun on the White River four years in a row now, and finally got a truly big brown, the fat 27″ female pictured above. It was a nice way to wrap up the month of February, but just cause the Michigan boys are gone doesn’t mean the streamer fishing ends – some of the winter’s best big fly action runs well into March, basically until spring warmth brings out the caddis. So keep working your double hauls, backhanded casts, and strip sets, there’s still plenty of time left to stick a hog.
Stunned shad have been spotted coming through at Bull Shoals Dam and downriver to Gaston’s Resort. This phenomenon occurs after extended periods of very cold weather like we’ve had this month, and presents a unique and interesting fishing opportunity. Because most of the shad are stunned, wounded, or dead, the best technique is usually drifting shad patterns with little or no retrieve. Flies like white Wooly Buggers, white Zonkers, Wiggle Minnows, Whitlock’s shad series, and the local Puff Daddy are all good choices. During a feeding frenzy such as this, one would think the fishing would be fast and easy, and it can be at times, but with that much food in the water, the trout are bound to get full sooner or later, and will stop feeding for a period of time until they can digest. So if you’re seeing shad in the water and not catching trout, don’t worry, just try again later.
Throwing big streamers like Schmidt’s Double Deceiver and Lynch’s DD on sink tip fly lines is still producing large browns up and down the river, and dead drifting large midge patterns like Wotton Super Midges #14 will produce a bunch of rainbows, as will swinging olive or white Wooly Buggers.
Ruby/ Root Beer midges, small scud patterns, and eggs are catching good numbers of fish on a variety of water levels. Use floating lines with at least a 9ft. 5x or 6x leader. Small white, yellow, or olive streamers have been pulling some nice fish as well on higher flows. Heavy sink tip lines and strong tippet will be necessary to present streamers when the flows are fast and deep. On the half unit that’s been seen more recently, a short sink tip or floating line with sinking Versileader are better options.