Hopper ‘Madness’ on the White River
Spectacular top-water action continues and there is no end in sight
I’ve been spending most of my guide days floating the White, and in all my years of fishing the Ozark trout fisheries, I’ve never witnessed such consistent and explosive surface activity. Once the sun really starts hitting the water, most of the fish that are looking up to feed park themselves along shady banks, and with a drift boat, it’s relatively easy to sneak up on these aggressive trout – I really feel that stealth is one of the main reasons that my trips have been so productive. Of course, not every day is the same, but the biggest clue that the action is going to be incredible is when we are actually seeing splashy rises in all of the likely looking holding water.
It is interesting that almost all the fish we are catching on hoppers are browns, with the occasional “colored-up” cutthroat thrown in. The rainbows do not seem to be as keyed-in on terrestrials as those other species – in fact, it’s quite rare to even catch a ‘bow on top right now, so it is almost like the White transforms into a different fishery when there are hoppers on the water. We are basically using two different patterns: Yellow-J’s and Chernobyl Hoppers. I’ve been keeping these flies simple and patterns with a wing ride upright with much more consistency than ones tied without a wing. Check out the new “how-to” steps I’ve posted to get an idea of what is working for my clients. Color isn’t a major concern (yellows, chartreuse and other wild shades are all producing when presented properly), but of course, I have my personal favorites that I keep close to my “vest”.
Hoppers at Bull Shoals
Hoppers are working equally well from Bull Shoals Dam down to Buffalo City, and the best water conditions are when there is one or two units worth of water running. If the water is dead-low, look to fish riffles that have some depth to them or anywhere else where there is some current. A boat is the best way to experience this bite, but there are a few good wade-in areas if the drifting option is not a possibility. Not every fish we catch is big, but every one of my clients who has fished the White with me recently has had multiple chances at browns over 18-inches. The trick to landing these bigger trout involves paying close attention to where your fly line is at all times so it’s not under foot or wrapped up, and keeping strong pressure on nice fish is mandatory. I’m rigging up with eight-foot leaders down to 2x, and this makes putting ‘heat’ on a big brown trout much easier. Be sure to always strip your line in from behind your forefinger because if the line goes slack, the fish will likely throw the hook. This happened on a seven-pound [plus] brown just the other day, but these types of “tragedies” are just a part of learning how to fly fish.
During the heat of the afternoon, it is imperative that everyone stays hydrated and as cool as possible. I like to stop at good wading spots to let my clients wet-wade, and doing this every now and again is really helping keep us all comfortable. Conditions on the Norfork are not nearly as conducive to hopper action right now, as the water is staying low into the early afternoon and then heavy generation (two units) starts up almost immediately. I am really looking forward to the chance to drift one-unit or less over there, but that type of water is most likely to occur in a few weeks when the weather starts to moderate. It will be a blast fishing hoppers on the ‘Fork, but for now, the fun-factor of drifting the White is as good as it gets.
Dry fly enthusiasts should definitely take advantage of this unique fishing opportunity, and as I’ve been saying, this top-water bonanza should continue at least until the beginning of October. September is always a great period for hopper fishing when flows start to moderate. Never hesitate to give me a call for updated fishing conditions and any other type of advice. I have also posted several new articles and the August newsletter is online and has also been sent out to subscribers. The September newsletter will be a bit more substantial, but I think all the new content intriguing and interesting. With school starting up and the summer season winding down, the number of fishermen on the rivers is thinning out. In fact, during the week it seems like there are miles of open water that we have all to ourselves. That fact, along with the amazing fishing, is hard to beat anywhere.
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