Nathanael Ferguson with a nice hopper brown _ Nate Ferguson pic
THE big water is a different ball game that asks different questions of our fly fishing techniques and skills.
There is a whole different speed when you are up over 10,000 cfs, plus the extra depth, and it just looks big flat and wide. The gradients and contours, the pools, runs and riffles and islands so familiar on lower flows are covered or disguised.
The fish are still in the river, in places where there is respite from the current and access to food. And in many ways the third key need for fish, security, is easier to find with the extra depth. It’s a little extra edge when it comes to the quality fish.
The higher flows, bigger fish put more strains on our gear. Salmonids are masters of using current and with the extra water pressure the margins of error between landing a fish and breaking off are narrower.
High water leader systems often feature long level flourocarbon mid sections of 2x or 3x to penetrate the water column better than tapered leaders, moving to 5x tippet. To get a stronger connection, I use tippet rings, to get around that big stepdown in the leader. The tippet ring also means I can ditch the triple surgeons and use stronger knots on either side of the ring like the Davy Knot or Eugene Bend (my preference).
Check regularly for knicks and abrasions in your tippet and midsection when nymphing, and for windknots if you are going with hoppers, nymphs or streamers. Its never a good feeling watching the fish of a lifetime swimming away.
WHITE RIVER: We are really starting to see the White pushed hard now we have been through the flood crest, and we are on the way back down. The rains of May and June were phenomenal filling 75% of the flood capacity of the 3 White River lakes, Bull Shoals, Beaver and Table Rock.
The pattern we are seeing at the moment, of lower (but still high) flows overnight and bigger pushes in the afternoon heat is pretty standard, but we are still curious as to how much water the Corp will settle on for the next few weeks.
Deep nymphing is particularly productive, with an attractor leading a more natural specimen. Eggs and worms, the spaghetti and meatballs rig, is a start, or try midges _ like a Ruby Midge or Wotton Whitetail on the dropper. There are some sulphurs still in the air, along with some #16 craneflies, so a Pheasant Tail, Micro Mayfly or Sunday Special isn’t a bad bet in the afternoon. Don’t forget San Juan’s make a pretty good attractor too.
The hopper bit is getting entertaining, as Nate who popped the fish above this week, but it still means putting in the work. Targeting brown trout with hoppers means hitting a lot of the right water with your fly in the right place.
Black remains the hot ticket but purple and pink are favorites as well _ and we are seeing a lot of small green bugs around on the bank right now. Pick up some Juicy Bugs, Fat Alberts, Western Ladies, and Morrish Hoppers and you will be set. With the big flows like this we tend to junk the droppers so to make it easier when the current is up along the grass. We have also spotted a bunch of dragonflies back over the river too this summer.
The streamer bite is pretty good in low light periods but can be a grind during the middle of the day. And you will need some variety in your streamer box. Deceivers and Buck Rogers bucktails are go tos but on the steep fast banks you are probably going to need something that will sink harder. Look at leadeyed patterns, Dungeons, Circuit Peanuts, Boogieman and Conrad Sculpins, which dive on landing.
Deerhead patterns like Fatheads, Swimming Jimmies and Zoo Cougars are best fished over flooded grassbeds and islands.
NORFORK: Norfork finally crested two days ago at 64% of flood capacity, with there being limited space in the White to dump water. What that has delivered is some good wading water until lunchtime, or mid-afternoon, most days. But its not set in stone so keep an eye on the predictions and the flows.
Hopefully the Corp will act to get the lake down sufficiently that the impact of warm water draining around one of the spillway gates is minimised. The AGFC asked anglers this week to minimise the stress in handling fish intended to be released because of the heat stress on low water.
Midges and scuds have been productive again. Ruby Midges, Rootbeer Midges, and Tungsten Rainbow Warriors have been productive as has the Purple Death. Run a Yellow Tailwater Soft Hackle as a dropper.
If the water flows all dry fly fishing with sulphurs and craneflies has been productive.