Jack Curtis has fished the White River with us numerous times. He, his partner Robin, his son Jamie, and his beagle, Ranger, have just about held all its riches at one time or another. They’ve seen big number rainbow days on nymphs and midges, brown trout willing to eat midges, caddis, or hoppers, and there have been spectacular catches up to 22” in the past. No one in the group had yet broken the two foot mark until yesterday.
Jack is the most practiced angler of the family and appropriately acquired a new TFO Impact 8wt fly rod to try more streamer fishing in search of that “next level” fish. Having tried trophy trout hunting a couple times in the past with no success, and being a regular amateur bass angler, Jack knows that getting a big fish to bite is a matter of timing. Therefore he was more than willing to fish an evening session with me after the water had come up and the crowds had gone home.
The dense evening fog over the river made it tough to see anything as we started our first run, and even fogged our polarized glasses to the point of uselessness, but it felt wonderfully refreshing just to glide slowly through the cool mist. Jack started a little shakey – brand new rod, 8”fly, rusty backhanded casting, these things can be a distraction – but soon found a rhythm and started laying the fly on point and retrieving with confidence.
We would catch up on this and that, telling fish stories, but only briefly before returning to the task at hand. The silent concentration was necessary in the 30-40ft visibility to get in decent casts and retrieves, without getting hung on structure, all while maintaining proper speed and distance from the bank. After three solid hours of work and only an hour left of daylight with nothing to show, our mojo was beginning to fade, but when you’re trophy hunting, it only takes one.
The next cast landed in a small eddy where the bank transitioned from grass bank undercut to steep rocky drop off. Jack’s retrieve through the deep swirling current was met with solid, head shaking resistance, and he stayed calm, strip-setting with the rod pointed at the fish. The brown thrashed to the surface, showed us his big head and long slender body, then dove for the bottom and drifted downstream with the boat.
For a few moments we could not get him to come off the river bottom, which always raises concern about sunken logs and boulders to lose him on, but 12lb tippet attached to a deeply bent 8wt will quickly tire even a two foot trout. Soon he was thrashing at the surface again, in the net, measured at 24.5” and finally resting in Jack’s slightly trembling hands – a real, live, two foot brown, dripping in his hands – not just the stuff of legends. Congrats Jack.
Minimum flow until midday offers morning wade sessions and into the afternoon if you go downriver. Low water fishes well with Whitetail and Super midges, Ruby and Root Beer midges, Zebra midges, Pheasant Tail and Hare’s Ear Nymphs, Sunday Specials, and Micro Mayfly Nymphs. Small beetles and hoppers like the Hippie Stomper are also a hoot to fish on the surface, and various soft hackles and wooly buggers are excellent on the swing. When the high water comes in the afternoon/evening, try larger terrestrials like big Fat Alberts, Western Ladies, Wiley’s Ants, and big articulated streamers on sinking lines. Jack’s fish fell for a Bait Fish Head Double Deceiver.
One unit plus a sleuce gate combine for high flows around the clock, which provides stable, cold, oxygenated water, if a little murky. These are great streamer fishing conditions calling for sinking lines and meaty offerings like Johnson’s Sluggo, Schmidt’s Double Deceiver, Lynch’s DD and DDD, and Dally’s Twerking Minnow. Large egg and worm patterns fished deep and heavy under an indicator will pull fish too.