You’ve gotta love early Fall in the Ozarks. Beautiful weather, dependable fishing, what more could you ask for? Daytime highs around 80, nighttime lows in the 40s – it’s as if we have been teleported to late summer in Montana for a few weeks. Next comes first frost and fleece jackets on crisp, cool mornings. Can hardly wait – love putting on my Simms Kinetic jacket with the cozy little hood and pockets (a few left on clearance by the way).
Dependable fishing means we’re catching plenty of fish and good variety as well. It’s not uncommon to get dozens of rainbows 12-14″ and up to 16″, a Snake River Finespot Cutthroat, a Brook Trout, or if you’re lucky, a Bonneville Cutthroat or a big ol’ fat Brown. Yesterday we caught a sucker fish too – pretty in its own way if you can get over the “trash fish” labeling, and also a native of these waters long before any trout.
Wildlife sightings are very common this time of year. Deer are feeling frisky with Fall rut coming on, and can be seen nibbling on riverside grasses or even swimming across the river. A group of tom turkeys let us approach them on the river bank just a couple days ago, hardly concerned by our presence. Mink and Great Blue Heron prowl the river’s edges for unsuspecting trout, while Bald Eagles and Osprey watch from high perches or glide about in search of prey. Not a bad office we’ve got here on the White River.
Half unit flows until early afternoon provide great conditions for catching lots of fish. The rainbows are stacked in all the likely runs and willing to eat. Hopper-dropper rigs have been highly effective as of late. I like a high floating pattern with a visible wing (Wiley’s Ant, Chubby Chernobyl, Jakes’s Trigger Belly) to use basically as an indicator to hold up a weighted nymph like a Copper John, Devil Jig, or Pheasant Tail. You’ll likely get quite a few fish interested in the terrestrial as well as the nymph. Higher flows in the afternoon/evening provide an opportunity to go after a big brown if you’re willing to work for them. Large terrestrials like Fat Alberts and Western Ladies #6 cast tight to the bank on rising water can tempt truly big browns. Fishing large streamers (Double Deceivers, Sluggos, Twerking Minnows) on sink tip lines can help you cover more water more quickly in search of browns, and with the Fall spawn fast approaching, we should be seeing a pre-spawn spike in brown trout aggression.
Minimum flow for half the day is the finesse angler’s paradise. Slow flat pools and shallow riffles provide perfect water for suspending small midge patterns (Rubies, Root Beers, Medallions, Zebras) and Hunchback Scuds. Swinging soft hackles (Dally’s Tailwater Soft Hackle, Anna K’s, Orange Partridge) in the tailouts will forever be a favorite technique of local fly fishermen, and with good reason. One unit or more in the afternoons can be fished effectively with deep and heavy worms, eggs, and Wotton Super Midges, or searched on the strip with Sparkle Minnows, Sex Dungeons, and Zoo Cougars.