Bruce Chad & Bill celebrate the start of 2016
Not much of 2016 went by before Dally’s crew captured a White River “Donkey!” Confidence levels were not very high yesterday morning when Steve, Chad, Bill and I pulled into the Wildcat access and saw a cloudy, debris choked river. We had just finished the annual stress event known as inventory at the fly shop however, and we were determined to enjoy a day on the water, outside, away from work and worries, come hell or high water. At the last minute we called upon two local fly fishermen and shop patrons, Phil Wamock and Bruce Petray to fill empty seats and chuck meat, which they were happy to help.
So stained was the water that we knew success would require landing the fly right in front of a fish holding on the bank, so one boat took the left bank, the other took the right, and downriver we went, happily drowning bucktail and schlappen in the brown chunky mess of a river. Not much happened for a while except the consumption of all manner of alcohol and tobacco products, lots of back rowing to retrieve snagged streamers, and smart-assed remarks about said snags. Then Chad rowed Bill and Bruce past the right flooded grass bed at the right time, because Bruce’s cast was greeted by something savage. From across the river in the other boat, I heard only a holler of “Yes!” followed by a minute of silence during which I could see the telltale signs of concentrated fish landing efforts, then a “HELL YES!!!” signifying something heavy in the net.
The two boats met up in a nearby back eddy suitable for photographs and back slapping – there’s too much work put in to this caliber of fish not to enjoy these kinds of moments as a group. Chad is the default fish handler for photos, since his small stature makes nice fish look huge, and huge fish look scary. This one didn’t need any help, it was the quintessential White River dominant male brown – ridiculous jaws for a trout, imposing head and shoulders, deep body, the whole package. Congratulations to Bruce on a new personal best and to the group for committing to the grind.
Currently one can expect moderate flows with pulses of high water in the mornings and maybe late evenings too. The river is still stained and carrying a lot of woody debris from the recent flood event. Some of the trash and cloudiness could be leaking from the flood gates at the top of the dam, so it’s hard to say how much longer before the river runs clear again. This river continues to surprise me however in its capacity to yield brown trout in extreme conditions. Even though yesterday’s fishing was tough overall, big trout are still willing to feed in cloudy water, and experienced White River anglers do not flee from brown water. Until the river clears up, I believe targeting big fish with big streamers is your most worthwhile pursuit, as nymphing for numbers would likely prove tough. Target ambush points tight to the bank and flooded grass beds with Double Deceivers, Andy’s Aino, Viking Midge, and any other large profiled fly. Profile/silhouette is likely more important than color in low visibility conditions, as color doesn’t show up very well anyway.
Flows are fluctuating between minimum and two units every 5-6 hours, offering a streamer fishing or deep nymphing opportunity in the morning and a brief wade fishing opportunity in the afternoon/evening. The water is stained on the Norfork as well though, so nymph with big worms and eggs, and streamer fish with big profiled flies.