Sunday, May 20, 2012

White River, Bull Shoals Tailwater TR- Last Hoorah

Well I am about to graduate from law school.  While this sounds great and all, apparently they make you take this big test at the end of it.  So before battening down the hatches for the summer, my dad and I went for a little tailwater blitz up in northern Arkansas.  The White River below Bull Shoals was running zero units.  If you have ever fished the White, you know that this is a rare occurrence.  It is even rarer that you find it down and find time to fish it.  This was one of those rare times.  I love fishing the White from a boat- streamers and hoppers and stuff, but wading the White is a treat.  
We started off at Roundhouse Shoals because my buddy that guides around there said it was hopping.  He was dead on.  Literally my first cast produced this pretty brown out of the first little hole I saw.  I thought this was a good sign.  Turns out it was a mediocre sign.  Dad and I soon found out that we were fishing directly behind a group of four dudes with a guide.  One of these dudes had the whiniest, highest pitched little girl laugh you have ever heard.  He would deploy this laugh whenever he hooked a fish, and because he was fishing in front of his buddies, he caught quite a few fish... and laughed quite a bit.  That laugh was terrible, it haunts me.  Anyway, me and dad pulled quite a few fish out.  Most were healthy little 12-14 inch rainbow trout and a few smaller browns.  The fish were seriously healthy and fat.  They all fought like crazy, which made for a really fun day.  We caught almost all of our fish on midges- red and black mostly.  I noticed a few mayflies coming off- march browns I think- and actually caught four or five fish on a quill bodied Wulff variant (tied extra crappy).  I caught all these on the shallow flats and around a fallen tree.  There were also a few small caddis on the water.  
Dad hooked some good fish.  He got several fat and sassy rainbows and countless small fish.      

Most of our my fish were on an olive tubing midge with a black tungsten bead.  I think it was a size 16.  I put that thing on figuring it would resemble a caddis pupa which I am sure had to be around considering the adults flying about.

We also did well on zebra midges with red wire.  I hate fishing midges.  I really do.  That day I do not think I would have landed many fish on dries or streamers so I put my hatred aside and started flogging the water with tiny flies, shot and indicator.  I soon found that I was a little rusty with all that crap on my leader.  Apparently all those tight loops I love to throw do not do too well with so many points to tangle on... or maybe my cast needs work.  I spent a good bit of that first day untangling and retying.  One of the things I learned during my brief stint guiding out west is that it is almost always better to cut that junk off and retie than stand there fumbling for 15 minutes trying to untie those insanely intricate knots that only tippet and wind can produce.  Seriously, how can tippet tie fancier knots than any sailor?  I soon learned to open up my loops and I was back in business, although my leader looked pretty terrible.

Here is one of the fish that fell for my crappy Wulff ^.

After lunch, we moved down stream to the next pull-off past Roundhouse.  There we caught rainbow after rainbow until we got bored and tired.

We went and found a cheap motel and some pretty decent barbeque.  After a beer of two, my dad was down for the count.  I, being a tad more spry, decided to head up to Wildcat for some night fishing.  There was supposed to be rain moving in but it had not started yet so I felt pretty good.  When I got there, I was the only car in the lot- which was pretty cool.  It was a little eery out there but I heard some huge splashy rises so I suited up as fast as I could in the dark.  I tied a big black woolly onto my 7 weight and headed toward the boat ramp with my headlamp held low (so as not to spook the fishes).  As I stumbled through the dark, what I can only assume to be a pair of fighting raccoons scared the bejesus out of me.  This was especially startling considering that my dad and I saw a huge Arkansas black bear run across the road near the Buffalo River on our drive up.  It was nuts- I had never seen one in Arkansas and certainly hadn't seen a wild one that close.  It had to be at least 300 pounds and was running faster than I would have believed.

Anyway, I finally got down to the water and waded in up to my knees right on the boat ramp.  I like to wade out on that boat ramp because it provides stable footing.  I started casting and within about ten minutes I hooked a nice brown.  I got a few more bumps and misses after that.  About 30 minutes into my night trip, the rain began.  It wasn't so hard really, but something about either the noise or the breaking up of the water's surface stopped all bites completely.  I fished for another hour or so with no results.  I then sat in the car and called the fiance while I waited for the rain to stop.  It never stopped, so I called it a night- that one fish was awesome though. 

The next day we started out at Wildcat Shoals.  We really had our best luck here.  After wandering around for a bit, we both settled on a nice hole under the first rocky shoal and caught a ton of crazy little rainbows.  This next pretty little brown came on that same olive tubing midge.  Right before I landed this guy, I hooked something big that broke me off pretty handily.  I hate 6x tippet.  Most of our fish were again on midges.  Olive, red and black all worked.  I caught a bunch on fish on a caddis pupa with just black and olive hares ear dubbing.

After doing really well at Wildcat, we wisely decided that we needed to change locations...  We thought about hitting up Crooked creek but for some reason thought it would be awesome to go to Norfork.  Bad idea.  Some of you probably know this already, but the Norfork tailwater right under the dam apparently got blown out last April or so.  As a result, it now sucks.  The big pools are gone and so are most of the fish.  I was pretty wiped by this point so I downed a NOS and two gas station corn dogs... second bad idea.

This little brown was the only fish either of us landed.  He came on a Ray Charles scud.  

Just as we were starting to enjoy the placid green waters and fishy smelling air, the horn blew.   Our day was ended more quickly than we would have liked.  Should have gone to Crooked.  In fact, we should always go to Crooked because it is awesome.

After what turned out to be a really fun trip we packed up all our junk and headed back home.  Man, if you can catch the White when it is down like that it is a blast.  Until next time- go fishin for me because the BAR exam is looming in my future and my fishing schedule looks pretty bleak..

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