Thursday, February 24, 2011

Let's Roll...

The first big fishing trip of the year is always a major event...kinda like opening day for MLB, the Super Bowl, or, if you are from Oklahoma, Bedlam football. You try to pick a place thats not the normal haunt...some place new where you can test your skills, chase some big fish, and just basically fish your ass off for a few days!

So this year, we decided to go for broke by going to fish probably the best trout water in the Ozarks and one of the best tailwaters in the nation...the White River below Bull Shoals. This fabled tailwater is nothing short of amazing. It contains all 4 major species of trout, all of which grow to large size and, in the case of its brown trout, world record size.

The crew and I packed our gear into the truck last friday afternoon, then set a course for Mountain Home, Arkansas where we would make base camp at the River Rock Inn. We made the usual rounds in town to get our licenses, some food/drinks, and any other last minute items before settling in at the motel for the night to sort and prep our gear for the next days quest. On a side note, with this crew, there is never a dull moment when we arent on the water as that evening was filled with some adult beverages that came from a mini-keg, night-time casting with new rods, and dialing in Cole's mohawk.

Between 5 guys, we had 16 fly rods in the truck

Our provisions for the weekend...

Friday night festivities!

After a sleepless night for most of us, we got up, grabbed our gear, and some breakfast...then heading for Bull Shoals Dam to start the day at the Catch and Release area. This area had been closed for the brown trout spawn for the past few months so we thought this would be the best place to get the skunk off. We pulled into the parking lot to find only a handful of vehicles already there so things were looking up. We all anxiously geared up and did the normal process of elimination on which fly to start the day off. We made our decisions and then hit the river.

We spent the first part of the morning working the area below the dam extensively but fishing was a little slow for us. Some of us got the skunk off right off the bat and was able to bring some fish to the net. Mostly just small stocker rainbows but it was good to hook up with some fish. We caught just a handful of fish overall after working our way down through the Catch and Release area. Not sure what the deal was. Weather? Fly Choice? We suck? Whatever it was, the area started to fill up with anglers so we decided to load up and head down stream to Wildcat Shoals in hopes of finding better, less crowded water. After a few wrong turns thanks to Joey, we arrived at the parking lot and made the hike downstream to Wildcat Shoals. This is a sweet area on the White. Lots of pocket water with little chutes and runs all over the shoals, along with fish EVERYWHERE. We all picked a line and started fishing our way down the shoals. We picked up just a handful of fish once again, just stocker rainbows on various different flies. We worked our way down the shoal to where the river creates a couple of larger runs that dumps into the main river channel. This is where we had our first "incident" of the trip. DonnyB had a small tangle on the end of his Albright 5wt so he held the rod about halfway and reached for the tip where the fly line was tangled. As he grabbed the fly line and was about to start unwrapping...SNAP! The rod broke right above the next to last guide, clean break. Mr. Bradford wasnt too happy with the ol' Albright and after a little persuasion from Crik and myself, he decided we would make a pitstop at the fly shop and look at rods. Shortly after that, we decided to make the hike back down to the truck, eat some lunch, go make a stop at the fly shop, and then head to Rim Shoals.

After lunch and a pitstop at the fly shop, we pointed the truck toward Rim Shoals to finish the day off. Rim Shoals is a very popular area on the White River...and for good reason, it has some amazing water. The shoal itself is massive with tons of pocket water, runs, riffles, and lil' chutes...packed full of trout! It is some truly awesome water. Its my favorite place on the White River by far, just from what little I have got to fish it. We all picked our spots and started working our way down the river, fishing all the prime spots. We were hoping for some bugs to come off in the afternoon, like what we had been hearing, but with the weather...nothing was coming off. So we stuck to nymph patterns and swinging buggers to bring some trout to the net. Again, nothing large...more cookie cutter stockers but they were full of fight and really pretty fish for some hatchery freaks. As darkness was approaching, we decided to pack it in and go get some dinner so we could refuel before heading back to the dam to do some night fishing for some big browns.

After some grub, adult beverages, and some ridiculous banter with the waitresses from the local Chilis, we grabbed our big sticks and big flies and headed back to the dam. Joey, Corey, and myself were the only ones with any night fishing experience so the other guys were a little anxious to see what all the hype was about. Night fishing on the White River means that at any point, that thump you feel, could be a fish of a lifetime. Browns over 30" are not uncommon on this river, especially at night where you can throw big nasty streamers. We all spent the night in complete darkness, doing the normal routine of chucking and ducking some big nasties. We caught several small stocker rainbows along with 2 browns coming to hand, an 18" football for DonnyB and a 16" chunk for myself. We packed up at 11 pm and headed back to the motel to get some much needed sleep.

The next morning we packed up all our gear, checked outta the motel, and grabbed some coffee from the local choke and puke before making our way back down to Rim Shoals for the final day of fishing. We arrived at the parking lot to only 1 other vehicle so we geared up quickly and hit the water. Most of the crew started at the top of the shoal while DonnyB, Joey, and myself took the big walk downstream to the end of the island at the bottom of the shoal. We fished out a deep run picking up some fish here and there but nothing very consistent. I worked my way up to the next run above us and started high-sticking the water when I looked downstream to see Joey making another big walk downstream. I didnt think much of it because all I could see was a big, wide, slow flat...more suited for a drift boat and streamers than our conventional trout gear. I continued to fish out the hole when I noticed DonnyB beginning to make the big walk as well. I looked upstream and took a guess why they were heading downstream as Rim Shoals was starting to get a little crowded. I followed in suit and headed downstream to see what Joey had discovered.

As I kept walking downstream, the river started to make a slow bend, I started hearing running water, and could see that the river split around an island which created another shoal. There was some seriously sweet water down there, it was well worth the walk too. We had the whole section to ourselves with just a few guys a few hundred yards downstream of us. We worked that area over really well, picking up a bunch of rainbows on zebra midges, scuds, and egg patterns. Nothing big, a couple of 14" or 15" fish here and there but it was a good time. The weather had finally cleared up as well, the wind had died down some, and the sun was out...the fish were really on the eat. Joey, DonnyB, and I finished up the day up on that awesome piece of water. Around noon we decided to pack it in and head for the truck.

All in all, it was a great trip. No big browns were caught but there is always next time. The white is an awesome place, I cant wait to get back and give it another shot. I think the crew and I kicked the year off right and there is nothing but more great fishing stories to come. I cant wait for a Current River trip in just under 2 months. Thoughts of massive caddis hatches, rising trout, and great camp food are already filling my, I cant wait!

Until then, chase the dream...

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