whitefish-on-the-white-river

Kyle Landing a Whitfish for Brother Jake

Summer Fly Fishing for Trout

It’s been a while since I have written, I have experienced some problems with my website, but I have that taken care of now, what a pain that was!  I was surprised by how many of my regular readers contacted me to say “What’s up Bear, why no new posts?”  Well, that is why, and I appreciate your support.  I have been building my league of followers recently to all-time new highs, which has been very encouraging to me, so the timing of this outage was not good, and thanks for being patient.

Before I get into today’s post, I have some exciting news!  I just found a new supplier who has some amazing products at incredible prices, and I have a lot of new products to add that I think you are all going to like.  From my initial product research I will have many products on my site that you won’t be able to get for a lower price.  I don’t put a product on my site if I don’t believe it is a good product, but it also has to beat or be very close to the lowest price you can find on the internet; otherwise it is a waste of everyone’s time.  So keep an eye out for that.  I will see what I can get done before I head to the mountains for six days starting on July 24th, and I will work hard on those new products when I get back.  And by the way, there won’t be any posts for those six days as I will not have any access to the internet for a while.

Now to today’s topic, which ties in very nicely with my trip coming up; I am heading to my favorite place on earth, for its beauty, the fishing and hunting, and for the memories I have over the past 14 years of going there.  You guessed it, the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.  This is the first summer in 14 years that I haven’t taken a horse back trip to Marvine Camp, my son Kyle is enjoying his senior summer, so we didn’t go this year.  But over the past 14 years I have gone with my sons, my mom, sister in law, and many other close friends to this special place, and I can’t wait to go next Wednesday.

bead-head-prince-nymph

Bead Head Prince Nymph

But this year I will be going by myself, and I am not taking horses to Marvine Camp.  Instead I will be staying in a small rustic cabin on the White River.  The cabin has no running water, but it has electricity and open space to shoot my bow when I am not fishing.  I am excited to fish the White River and Marvine Creek, and one day of my trip I am going to hike up to the mountainside above Marvine Camp to visit the place where I spread my mother’s ashes last summer.

One of the main reasons I like fishing the White is because it is a truly wild river; it flows straight out of the mountains from Trapper’s Lake, which is a naturally formed sub-alpine lake.  The river can be a raging torrent after a heavy snow runoff, but other than that time of year it is a fun and challenging river to fish, and it is full of big browns, rainbows, and whitefish, all of which put up an amazing fight.  The river can be tough to wade in spots, but if you are careful there is a lot of wild river to fish.

I have already rambled on quite a bit tonight, so let me get right to my favorite technique on fishing the White River in July.  As I mentioned, the White is a wild river, meaning that its course can change from year to year, pools will be there one year and gone the next with new ones to take their place, and there will always be plenty of pocket water to fish behind boulders and riffles (the White River, or Rio Blanco, got its name from early Spanish explorers who thought the river looked white from all of the riffles, waves, and cresting white water from the boulders in the river).

Obviously the first thing to do is find areas that will hold fish, and the best places are in the pools below a run of shallow rapids.  The shallow rapids (riffles) are generally where small aquatic insects get washed downstream as they begin to get active before a hatch.  Fishing in front of or behind large boulders in the river is also productive as that is where the water speed is altered by the obstructions to create holding areas for fish.  Another very productive area to look for is where the river slows down a bit near steep, river-cut banks with heavy vegetation on the banks; this is where a lot of grasshoppers, ants and beetles will fall in the water, especially on a windy day.

pheasant-tail-nymph

Pheasant Tail Nymph

Aside from the terrestrial flies I just mentioned, my one go-to fly combination pattern on this river in the summer is a leading bead head Prince Nymph (size 14 – 8) followed by a dark brown Pheasant Tail (size 24 – 18), ironically these are my favorite two flies to tie.  I allow about 12 inches between the flies and put split shot 18 inches above the first fly, the amount of weight depends on the speed of the river; faster water = more weight.  Finally, I put a strike indicator on the tippet with enough line to allow the flies to get down deep.  Generally the rule is twice as much tippet below the strike indicator as the river is deep, but conditions such as water volume or structure can change that.  If your flies aren’t getting hung up once in a while, you are not fishing deep enough.  If your flies are constantly getting hung up, shorten the amount of line between the strike indicator and your weights.  It is very important to use an easily-adjustable strike indicator as you will need to make adjustments continually to meet the different depths of the river.

When fishing this river I primarily use friction casts where I let the flies drift completely to the end of my line, then pull in about 6 feet of line, use the friction of the flies in the current to load the rod, then cast upstream and release the held 6 feet of line once the flies are on their way.  If your line forms an “S” pattern at the end of your cast, that means your flies had the energy to go farther, so you should pull more line off of your reel before your next cast, and pull in more than 6 feet before you load the rod.

As with all fly fishing, fish the water closest to you and work your flies across the river in successive casts, this prevents spooking fish with your fly line that may be ten feet in front of you, or closer.  I always let the flies complete their drift, and many times strikes will come at the very end of a drift as the current starts to bring your flies towards the top of the water column.  This simulates hatching bugs, but also the flies are slowed down and gives fish a good look at them.  Before I learned this, I can’t tell you how many fish I missed while preparing for my cast instead of paying attention to the flies at that point of their drift.

kyle-with-a-cutthroat-trout

Kyle with a Monster Cutthroat Trout

These techniques will apply to all rivers of similar characteristics as the White, and even to smaller streams that have heavy pocket water.  Of course the fly selection may vary depending on where you are fishing, but the bead head Prince Nymph and Pheasant Tail are great flies for most western rivers.

Hopefully I will have pictures and videos to show you in a couple of weeks, and I’m sure I will have some good stories to tell.