Chad Johnson with a 29″ brown on the White with Alex Lafkas, Bill Thorne image
With “Streamer Week” and “Streamer Lovefest” fast approaching, Dally’s crew has been squeezing in time on the White to explore the challenges and opportunities of streamer fishing with flood gates open. There can be no one better to help us explore than our Yankee streamer fishing allies, Kelly Galloup and Alex Lafkas. Both of these guys have been instrumental in fly design and fishing technique in the development of a modern White River streamer fishery.
When faced with dissecting a river as voluminous as the White at flood stage, things can seem a bit overwhelming at first. Many favorite locations are simply too fast and too deep to fish effectively even with heavy lines and flies. Instead of asking – Where are the fish holding? – it now becomes necessary to ask – Where can I fish effectively? In essence, effective streamer fishing in heavy flows means getting your flies down to the structure that is holding fish – flooded grass beds, ledges, drop offs, submerged logs, etc. Inside bends are a great place to start because the slower water allows your fly more time to sink, but as the fishing pressure gets dialed up over the next month, the obvious spots will be hit hard, and it will become important to find the overlooked nooks and crannies. These overlooked places have the characteristics of fishable water – slower current, good structure, medium depth – but are usually sandwiched between areas that are difficult to fish, thus they are often passed up.
Big water means more work for everyone. Casters will need to manage a heavy line and heavy fly without injuring themselves or their partners. Rowers will need to make more powerful strokes to set up on those little one shot spots, while keeping constantly aware of their surroundings – things are moving downhill faster than normal! Because extra effort is necessary for extraordinary conditions, those that take a more calculated efficient approach will likely fare better. Don’t burn yourself out in the first hour rowing uphill casting frantically at every twig and branch. Pick your spots and take breaks in the unlikely areas, control as much of the chaos as you can (keep a clean working space in the boat), gather yourself before each shot, and deliver the fly with confidence.
The payoff for accepting the challenge of fishing big water lies in the massive opportunity to catch large aggressive brown trout. The fish that we’ve caught over the past week from heavy, stained flows have struck hard and fought hard. If high effort fishing for hard hitting apex trout flips your switch, then strap on the helmet and the big boy pants, leave the training wheels at home, cause this is one helluva ride.
Read on for water flows and fly patterns.
A sold 22″ of entertainment for Gabe Levin Wednesday
The chart shows just under 22,000cfs in turbine release, but the spillways add another several thousand, bringing the total to somewhere around 30k. Boat ramps are mostly underwater but still accessible. Be especially careful at Cotter as the ramp enters directly into strong current. In these flows it would be smart to make sure your life jackets are accessible at all times, and DO NOT drop anchor unless you are fully out of strong current. Weighted streamers like Circus Peanut, Krakken, Viking Midge are first choice, but Schmidt’s unweighted Double Deceiver and Anderson’s Aino are often perfect for the slower spots especially when paired with a line of at least 330grains. On a sunny day, wade fishermen could encounter some awesome sight fishing with San Juan worms over flooded lawns and parking lots.
Norfork is running a steady two units plus floodgate releases, which means its rocking and rolling. A drift boat float would float the 4.5 miles to the confluence with the White in no time, so either run it twice or bring your jonboat instead. Again, pick your shots and set up early, because much of it will be simply to fast and brushy to fish effectively. Same advice on the streamers – go heavy, get down.