Trophy trout fly fishers come to the White River basin with the hopes and dreams of setting the hook into one of the river's legendary brown trout. Unlike a freestone fishery, there are many variables that confront these tailwaters but the White and Norfork Rivers still produce incredible numbers of brown trout in the seven to twenty-pound range - and bigger ones than twenty-pounds are caught every year. Although it is fun to contemplate the experience of fishing for these hogs in the Ozarks, without careful planning and diligent research, the odds of being successful in this pursuit are virtually zero. The trout that do manage to get big here are extremely well-adapted creatures that have learned to avoid anything related to humans whenever possible. This means that it pays to know the habits of these fish and it is a good idea to understand how each flow dynamic affects the behavior of the big browns - there is an 'art' to being at the right place at the right time on the White.
The challenge and fun of fly fishing makes hunting big fish the perfect endeavor for the serious sportsman. There may be easier ways to target large trout, but a fly rod is a very versatile weapon in the right hands. Big fish often eat big meals, so heavy rods (six to nine-weight) are suggested when casting large flies with the hopes of hooking into a submarine. That's not to say a 26"+ brown won't eat a well placed hopper along the banks during steady flows.
Chasing trophy trout is quite different than just trying to catch lots of fish with the hope of hooking into a nice one; be sure that you are fully aware of the sacrifices that go into hunting the mammoth browns of the White River. If it's numbers you're after, that won't be a problem. With over 5,000 fish per mile and over 70 miles to choose from, we can make that happen.
(Cutthroat landed on a caddis pupa during a hatch)
A year-round fishery- Choose the season
Because the White River fluctuates drastically almost every day, the actual season that you choose to fish is more a matter of personal preference than it is about actually trying to predict the best fishing. Huge browns are hooked every month of the year, and most are fooled during really high water. Since many fly anglers prefer to wade fish over drifting out of a boat, it is important to ask yourself just how badly you want that big fish. It would be great if the really huge browns gorged themselves consistently during the day when the water is low, but that simply is not the case. Serious trophy hunters will adapt their techniques in order to put themselves in the optimum position for success, even if it means not fishing the way they prefer.
Unfortunately, many of the large brown trout caught by fly anglers during low water come off of spawning redds (beds), but this is not to say that there are only unethical places to catch big fish when the rivers are down. Certain seasons are characterized by specific water conditions, but everything about these rivers is subject to change on a moment's notice. The best chance for finding extended low water is during the fall and winter, so these seasons are very popular amongst fly fishermen. This is spawning time, so if you do fish during the colder months, please try and avoid stepping through or fishing to actively spawning browns. Instead, thoroughly work the deepest water that you can find below the shoal areas. Fall and winter can be great months for solitude and big fish, but be prepared to do a lot of walking.
Spring is usually a high-water time, but every once in awhile, conditions will remain dry and the water will be low during this season - in general, expect heavy releases. For targeting big browns, there is definitely an opportunity when the rivers are running very high during the late winter or early spring. This is because high water at this time of year usually means that shad are coming through (or have come through) the dam; the shad kill is a dream situation for those who live for fish measured in feet, not inches. Once the shad kill dies down into April, high water can still be ideal for trophy hunting. If the water happens to be low during your spring hunt, do not fret - many huge fish fall for dry flies during a good hatch, and the amazing water clarity of later spring makes it easier to sight-fish than at any other time of year. There definitely are many "silver linings" to finding low-water in April, May and June.
(Trophy brown landed on a hopper)
A normal summer flow regime will provide both a mix of high and low water, and this can be ideal for those who want to try several different techniques when going after big browns. The water will be low on the White most mornings, but things will get rocking and rolling by mid-afternoon. Late July through August is perhaps the best time of year for action on big browns during high water because they have become comfortable feeding due to the consistent conditions. Summer is the season when the greatest numbers of big trout are landed on the White. Be sure to fish the "magic hour" before the evening fog rolls in during late August - there have been many pigs hooked in this situation on shad patterns. Rising water can also be good with hoppers and other terrestrial patterns.
When it comes to choosing the time of year to fish the Ozarks for trophy browns, consider the pros and cons of each season, and then pick based on the weather and techniques you prefer. As long as you are able to keep your fly near the fish you want to catch, it is only a matter of time until a shot will be granted by the "Fly Fishing Gods".
Given the nature of the client's passion, whether it's heavy rods with big streamers, small dries during a caddis hatch, or big foam terrestrials, Hogs on the Fly delivers. Most trips last approximately 8 hours but by no means that translate to a 9-5 "normal" business day. So many circumstances go in to the decision making process of when and where to fish. Often times I get the call that asks where are we going to fish next week? In most cases, I have no idea. So many variables can take place between now and then that even Nostradamus couldn't definitively tell you where and when to fish.
(Nice Rim Shoals brown by way of an articulated streamer)
HOTF is committed to safety, client satisfaction, a stellar experience, and by the end of the day... a reason to return to our home waters. So many techniques, a year-round fishery, and so many river miles. Call HOTF to inquire about an unforgettable fly fishing experience in the Ozarks. Tight lines!