Fly Fishing For Trout

Home About Photos Links Columns Email
Arkansas Fly Fishing Columns
By John Berry

Coping With High Water Luck II Hooked on a Cure
Fishing Dry Run Creek High Sticking Dry Flies Dog Days of Summer
Afternoon at McClellan's Woolly Day on the Norfork My Dog Took Me Fishing
Brown on Hopper    

More Columns
  Archive 1     Archive 2
     Archive 3     Archive 4     Archive 5

Brown On Hopper
By John Berry

The other day my wife, Lori, and I decided to fish grasshoppers at Rim Shoals. The hopper fishing had been absolutely spectacular this year probably the best I have seen since I began fly fishing three decades ago. Lori and I had fished a lot of clients during the hopper action this year but we had not gotten much of a chance to fish them our selves. We arrived at Rim about noon and there was about one and a half generators running. This is the absolute perfect level for hopper fishing. We launched my Shawnee and headed up stream to Jenkins Creek. I bought a new boat this year and it is surprisingly wide and comfortable, the perfect boat for this type of fishing.

We nosed into the shoals and turned off the motor. As we began drifting down stream we quickly picked up our rods and began casting. I was into a fish immediately. It was a nice fourteen inch rainbow that came to the boat fairly quickly. Lori’s turn came next. She tagged a solid sixteen inch rainbow and struggled with it a bit before it finally came to the boat.

By this time we were drifting by some weed beds where I had a client take a twenty two inch brown the previous week on a zebra midge. I cast my fly so that it would drift along the edge of the bed figuring somebody would notice. Sure enough, I got a strong strike. I set the hook and felt the weight of a good fish. Suddenly the leader snapped and flew back in my face as if it were spring loaded. The leader was now about four feet long and my fly was among the missing. I was heart broken. I had fished that hopper all summer and although it was severely beaten up it was still catching trout. The legs were gone and the foam was chewed. I should have changed the leader when I began fishing but I was in a hurry to get started.

I looked out and saw the fly floating near the weed bed. I guess the trout had spit it. I started the motor and went to retrieve it. It took three tries but Lori finally netted it and brought it to the boat. I set up the drift to allow Lori to continue fishing while I concentrated on repairing the leader, tying on a fresh 4X tippet and reattaching the fly. Of course, while I was doing this Lori landed a couple of trout.

By the time I had made my repairs we had drifted almost to the ramp. I stood and made my first cast. I had noticed a clump of aquatic weed near the bank. It was considerably further than I usually cast but it looked so fishy that I banged the line out a good sixty feet directly at it. The fly landed right beside the clump with a splash and drifted about six inches before I saw a big swirl. I instinctively set the hook and immediately felt the weight of a heavy fish.

It began an intense struggle with a short run. I quickly realized that I had 4X tippet, a size six hook and a five weight rod. This was substantially heavier tackle than I ordinarily fish with. I reasoned that I could put a lot of pressure on this trout. I had the rod bent nearly double and took line whenever I had the opportunity. It was like reeling in an anvil. The trout was dogging the bottom and was refusing to come to the surface. It took a slow turn and headed to the other side of the boat. Lori reeled in her line, stowed her rod and grabbed the big Brodin boat net.

The trout finally broke the surface. It was a big beautiful female brown. It had perfectly shaped fins, bright red spots and a huge hopper firmly hooked in the corner of its mouth. I struggled to work it toward the boat. Lori patiently waited for the perfect moment and then scooped it. All of the time she spent netting big fish on Dry Run Creek the past few years really paid off. Lori kept the net in the water and I worked the boat over to the shore. I got out and carefully removed the fly while Lori took a few pictures. I took the tape measure that I always carry and carefully measured the trout. It was a righteous twenty five inches long. I then spent a few minutes reviving the brown and the lovingly released it. It was the biggest trout that I had ever caught on a dry fly. I looked at my watch. We had been on the water for fifteen minutes!

I should have gone home. All I could think about for the rest of the day was the big brown. Oh sure, Lori and I caught several more trout that afternoon but nothing like that.

John Berry is a fly fishing guide in Cotter, Arkansas and has fished the local streams for over twenty five years. He can be reached at (870) 435-2169 or .

My Dog Took Me Fishing
By John Berry

Yesterday, I noted that there was no generation on the White River. They had been running water for some time. I had been fishing regularly from my boat and catching plenty of trout but I had missed wading. As luck would have it, my wife, Lori, had to attend a meeting and could not accompany me. I thought about going alone but really wanted a bit of company. As I loaded my gear in the Volvo, I noted my dog, Ellie, pressing her nose against the dog run gate and whining. I got the message. I open the gate and she eagerly jumped in the car.

Ellie is a yellow; British Lab. Lori had originally acquired her to be a show dog. As a result, she looks exactly as you would expect her to. She is stout, golden blond, has a regal bearing and a lot of enthusiasm.

We drove over to Rim Shoals and waded over to the island. There was no one there but us. We waded down stream fishing every likely spot as we came to it. I hooked a fish on the first cast. Ellie dove into the water and tried to retrieve the fish for me. Between the fast current and the erratic movements of the trout, Ellie never actually caught one but tried every time I hooked a trout. That fish set the tone for the day.

As I was landing the fish, I took a really good look at her. She appeared to be a big blonde beaver. I have never seen an animal that was that comfortable in the water. She used her thick tail as a rudder to help her steer. Her feet are webbed like a duck and she would swim tirelessly in the current. She is very buoyant. Her back and head were sticking out of the water as she chased the trout. When I landed the fish, I held it out for her to see. She looked at it intently as if she were studying it. When I released it, she followed it with her eyes.

We fished for several hours and did very well. I don’t know how many fish Ellie and I landed but it was a lot. I decided to take a break. I sat on a section of grassy bank I call the Angler’s Lounge. I drank in the scenery. It was a gorgeous day sunny, warm and there was a bald eagle circling over head. Ellie sat at my feet. I dug a baggie from my vest and took out a dog biscuit. Ellie eagerly consumed it and was ready for more.

As I was giving her another treat, I saw a huge flash in the deepest part of the run in front of me. It was a big trout feeding. I quickly checked the rigging on my rod. The tippet looked a bit worn so I replaced it. I waded out near where I saw the big flash. I cast my nymph well above it and let it drift through the spot. On the fourth drift, the indicator took a quick trip up stream. I set the hook driving it deep into the trout’s upper lip. I heard the reel screaming and looked down to observe my backing appear.

I knew that I had to follow the fish so I waded to the shore as fast as I could all the while maintaining constant pressure on the trout. I followed it downstream with Ellie on my heels. She couldn’t see the fish but knew that the battle was on. I continued down stream and was able to retrieve my line as I went. I ended up in quiet water with a gently sloping gravel bottom, the perfect place to land the big fish.

When it was almost in it took a huge tail walking leap. I gasped as I realized just how big it was. It was well over twenty seven inches long and must have weighed at least ten pounds. It was a gorgeous vividly colored male brown and it was not happy. This was more than Ellie could handle and she launched into the river like a torpedo. She chased it relentlessly with me yelling “no Ellie” the whole time.

The big trout finally came in to within a couple of feet from the bank and Ellie stood over the fish. I tried to move her so that I could net the fish but the tippet got tangled around her right rear leg. The brown took one last desperate run and broke free. It was over as quickly as it started. I should have been angry but some how I wasn’t. She was only trying to help and she is my only witness to a heroic struggle. Besides, I was going to set that trout free any way. We finished the day and walked out as the sun was setting. It had been a great day and Ellie had been a great companion.

John Berry is a fly fishing guide in Cotter, Arkansas and has fished the local streams for over twenty five years. John can be reached at (870) 435-2169 or .

Woolly Day On The Norfork By John Berry

Recently my wife, Lori’s, sister, Terri, and her husband, Larry, were visiting us and we all decided to go fishing. This is standard procedure when Terri and Larry are visiting as they are ardent fly fishers. We opted to go the Norfork which has been very crowded lately. It was a Sunday afternoon, and we expected the crowds to thin some as the out-of-towners headed home. We waded far into the Catch and Release section and we were soon able to find some available water. We did well and everyone caught some nice fish.

After a couple of hours, the water began to rise. Every one began heading out toward the access. I had been studying the generation patterns for several days and had noted that they had not run much water when generating. I told Lori, Terri, and Larry to stick around and see how much the water rose. We were in an area where we could exit quickly and safely if the water continued to rise. It leveled out and it looked like about a third of a generator. It was enough water to create some nice riffles where none had been earlier and was low enough for us to wade safely.

I had observed another angler catch several trout in a likely spot earlier in the day. I do not fish woolly buggers on the Norfork very often because there is not much deep water at no generation. With a little water running, it is a very different situation and the woolly bugger is a killer technique. I stopped and rerigged. I stripped of the small midge, lead, strike indicator and 6X tippet that I had been fishing. I tied on a fresh eighteen inch 4X tippet, twisted on an inch and a half of strip lead and tied on an olive woolly bugger. I paused to bend down the barb and ensure that the hook was sharp.

I waded close to the spot where I had seen the other angler fishing earlier. I cast to the bank at a forty five degree angle to down stream. My fly landed on a rock shelf and the current carried it over the edge into a deep hole. I immediately felt the heavy tug of a good fish. I landed a fat fourteen inch rainbow and quickly cast my fly back to the spot. Over the next few minutes, I landed several nice fish. I called over to Larry to join me and he waded through the heavy water and began picking up fish. I moved down and continued my success. Terri joined Larry and immediately began picking up trout. The action was non stop. The trout were stacked in the run like a cord of wood.

Lori was nymphing nearby and doing well but she wanted in on the action. She was too light to stand in the heavy water required to make the cast so Larry helped her wade to a high spot where she could reach the trout. Now there were three people fishing this one run and catching fish at will. There were numerous doubles and triples as the action continued. I had waded on down and was catching plenty of trout but nothing like they were.

The only lull in the action was when Lori was tying on a fresh woolly bugger. She slipped momentarily as she was forming the knot. She recovered quickly and did not fall in. The problem was that she had impaled herself with a size ten woolly bugger in the process. To add insult to injury, she had not pinched down the barb yet. She tugged on the fly and quickly realized that it was there to stay. Lori and Terri were born on the farm and are both pretty durable. Lori did not want to quit and was ready to finish the day with a woolly bugger in her thumb.

I thought that was ridiculous. I waded over to where Lori was fishing. I looped a two foot section of 4X tippet around the bend of the hook. I pushed down on the eye of the hook and jerked back on the tippet. The woolly bugger popped out and Lori was impressed that the process was painless. She went back to fishing and was onto a nice rainbow immediately.

The action continued for several hours and we easily caught over a hundred fish. It was without a doubt the most action that I have seen on the Norfork in over ten years.  As we fished, we eventually lost flies because the fish were fighting so ferociously in the heavy current. One by one we ran out of woolly buggers and we finally had to quit. By this time it was almost dark and time to wade out. All in all a spectacular day!

John Berry is a fly fishing guide in Cotter, Arkansas. He has fished the local streams for over twenty five years. John can be reached at (870) 435-2169 or


Coping with High Water by John Berry

If the last two months are any indication, we are in for a high water year here in the twin lakes area. The last year and a half of drought, while not good for the farmers, have been a boon to wade fishers. We have become accustomed to constant low water conditions and it seems like those days are coming to an end for now. It is cyclical and soon the low water will return. Until then, we need to learn to cope with high water. The trout are still here and they are feeding.

When I moved here almost seven years ago, I was strictly a wade guide. Out of necessity, I bought a White River Jon Boat and began learning how to cope with high water. In the process, I learned a few things about catching fish during high generation.

One thing that must be considered is that there is a large variation in the amount of water that can be running through the generators. At low levels (two or three generators on the White or one generator on the Norfork), the fishing is quite different from high levels (four to eight generators on the White and two generators on the Norfork).

At low levels the fish are basically still in the same areas as when there is no generation. On the White, you can use a drag chain to keep you straight in the water facing upstream (It is illegal to use chains on the Norfork). This is a good level to nymph and can easily be more productive than no generation. I generally rig a nymph on a long tippet say three feet with a small strike indicator and a bit of lead. I would use the same nymphs as for no generation but maybe a size larger. The depth would be set based on the depth of the water. The idea is to tick the bottom. This is an effective time to fish dries especially during a hatch. I have had a lot of success with large terrestrials and western attractor patterns (especially grasshoppers and really large ants). A big grasshopper with small nymph as a dropper (a hop and a drop) can be killer. You cast out from the boat about twenty five to thirty feet and let the fly drift with the boat. Mend the fly as needed to achieve a long drag free float. When a fish hits set the hook.

At high levels of generation, everything is a bit different. While that much water can be intimidating, I actually find the boating a bit easier. All the rocks are now way under water and the going a lot easier with no obstructions to navigate around. I do not recommend using chains or even anchoring in high water. The force of the current could easily swamp your boat. The boat operator should keep the engine running at all times. You should use the motor to control your drift. Since this takes your undivided attention, you should move into calm water to rig your rod or land big fish.

At this water level, the fish are in side channels or over weed beds. They are deeper and the current is greater. Therefore I use a longer and a stronger tippet (3X or 4X) and larger flies. You want the trout to be able to see them. I also use a lot more lead to make sure that the fly ticks the bottom. To float this increased weight, I use the largest strike indicators that I can find. Once again you cast out from the boat and drift the fly with the boat. The secret is to set up the boat so that you will float by the weed beds at the proper distance for you to present your flies to the fish. The best flies for this level are large San Juan worms and egg patterns in bright colors (hot pink, fire orange, bright red,etc.). Any flies used should be heavily weighted. I often tie my San Juan worms on 1/32 ounce jig heads to ensure that they get down to the bottom.

Another technique is to cast large dry flies like hoppers or stimulators against the bank. You need to get within two or three feet of the bank and make sure that you get a perfect drag free float. This requires a bit of skill but can be very exciting.

Is there fly fishing in high water? You bet there is!

Luck II by John Berry

The temperatures for the last few days have been unbearable. The highs have hovered around 103 degrees all week. My neighbor, Mike Wilhelm, my wife, Lori and I decided to go fishing. To cope with the weather we opted to fish early, wet wade and drink plenty of fluids. We went to the Norfork as early as we could get Lori going. Our only stop was at McDonalds drive through for a sausage biscuit and senior coffee (thirty five cents).

The catch and release section was almost empty. The only two anglers there were on their way out leaving the water to us. I was like a kid in a candy store. I fished one good hole after another to try my luck. On and on I cast until I had covered all the likely spots. I eventually fished in front of Charlie’s and picked up a few trophy fish there on large ants and grass hoppers. Mike also fished there and caught fish on a parachute Cahill that he had tied.

Meanwhile Lori had gone to our favorite hole and was tagging some good trout. In fact, she hooked a large cutthroat on a size 20 orange scud. Was this the large cutt that we had both hooked and lost earlier in the summer? The big fish took off like a scalded dog. From my vantage point down stream, I could see her rod bent nearly double as she moved into calm water to see if she could land the beast. He made a final run and headed for a rock shelf where he was able to disengage the hook. It was about 1:00 PM and it was starting to heat up. There was no where to avoid the unrelenting sun and Mike and I were ready to pull the plug. Lori was reluctant to leave because she had become totally obsessed with landing the fish. We walked out and she spent the drive home going over every detail of her struggle with the cutt.

The next morning found us returning to the same place at about the same time. Lori had become an attractive, blonde, Captain Ahab obsessed by a killer trout. She immediately went to the scene of her previous battles and began casting in earnest for the big fish. Meanwhile Mike and I were downstream struggling with the situation. We were surrounded with hundreds of trout, but they were not cooperating. I was fishing a likely spot when Mike said that Lori was calling me. I looked up stream and saw the struggle. Her rod was bent over with the weight of a large fish and she was dashing through heavy water trying to keep up with him. I quickly worked my way toward her. I observed Lori do a masterful job of finessing the cutt into the shore.

We spent a couple of minutes taking photos of the trophy. It was a big brightly colored hook jawed male. We were both convinced that this was the cutthroat that had eluded us on several occasions. Lori was absolutely glowing with pride from finally landing him. We took great care not to injure the fish and took a lot of time reviving him. As he slowly swam back into the heavy water Lori had hooked him in we exchanged high fives and I walked back down stream to where I had been fishing.

I found a bit of shade and pulled out my digital camera. I wanted to share the occasion with Mike. To my shock the photo was out of focus. I quickly checked all of the photos and found them all to be flawed. I tried to take other photos and found them to be out of focus. The intense heat had cooked my camera! (I have since obtained a new digital camera.) About this time Lori walked down to join us. I told her the situation and she could not believe me. I showed her the photos and she was devastated. The photos of her tough two day struggle were useless. I have never seen her so disappointed.

This fish though not the largest fish Lori has ever landed has certainly been the most challenging adversary she has ever faced. Did he somehow affect the camera to prevent the win over him from becoming public knowledge? I don’t know, but I do know that she will continue her search for him and not be satisfied until his capture is recorded for posterity. That might just take a little luck!

Hooked on a Cure by John Berry

This past weekend, I guided for Hooked On A Cure as I have done for the last three years. My brother Dan and my cousin Quin were also guides. It was hotter than blue blazes with temperatures reaching 95 degrees both days. The sun was unrelenting and on the river there was no where to hide from it. We are in the middle of a drought and they didn’t run much water on the White River all weekend. I wet waded.

It all began on Friday afternoon at the pairing party. We checked in and found out who we were to fish with. After a brief guides meeting, we had a low country boil with all the trimmings (crayfish, shrimp, corn and potatoes). During this time we met and chatted with all the participants. It was a great group that included celebrities and old friends.

On Saturday, I fished with Jack Dennis and Cody Bell. Jack is a consummate professional. He can cast a mile and catch fish between his toes. Cody was also an excellent caster and held his own all day matching Jack fish for fish. We floated between Rim Shoals and Buffalo City. This route took us through some of the best trout water on the White River much of it only accessible by boat. Jack took all of his fish on a power ant and at the end of the day gave me one of his videos that demonstrated how to tie it along with a fly to use as a pattern. He had used it when I fished with him two years earlier but had made improvements to it to make it easier to see and float better. I watched him fish carefully and noted his technique. He regularly twitched the fly to make it appear to struggle. It produced strike after strike. Cody fished a variety of flies but caught the most fish with his favorite, a black woolly bugger with gray hackle. The highlight of the day was a lunch stop at the Mid South Fly Fisher hospitality tent at the Maler cabin. We had to rush down stream because Jack and Cody had to be back at the cabins at four p.m. to catch transportation to the banquet.

While I was on the river my wife, Lori was fishing with Sandy Dennis and Diane Paillot. She took them to lunch and then to Rim Shoals. Gary Flippin provided them a water taxi and stayed around to make sure that they had transportation if needed. Lori didn’t fish; she guided the ladies for the afternoon. Sandy caught the most fish on Jack’s power ant. Lori and I were unable to attend the Saturday night banquet due to a prior commitment.

On Sunday I fished with Bill Tapply (a writer for American Angler Magazine) and Richard Grandon. That morning Dan, Quin, and I decided that since the water was so low we would do better if we motored up to Buffalo Shoals and wade fish there all day. We knew there would be little pressure and plenty of fish. When we arrived, Bill took off and explored the area on his own while Richard and I concentrated on catching trout. The morning was slow producing only a few fish. After lunching on some fried chicken, we walked far up stream and found a great looking run. Richard’s first cast drew a nice rainbow up to smack his strike indicator. When it happened on the second cast, we stopped and tied on a grasshopper. On the third cast the rainbow struck one more time. Richard set the hook. Fish on! We spent the next couple of hours working that run and caught trout constantly mostly on bead head sow bugs. We caught up with Bill and found out that he had caught several nice trout including a fine eighteen inch brown.

At the end of the day, we returned to the cabins and sat down for a few cool beverages and some great barbeque. We also enjoyed some great music. Renowned song writers, Don Lowery, Juni Fisher, Don Poythress, and Marcus Hummon played for the crowd. They were so good that the ongoing conversations ceased and everyone listened intently for their entire set. Later that night we said our good byes and finally headed home exhausted from the constant action.

When it was all over, Lori and I talked about all the great people we had met and spent quality time with. We agreed that come next year we would be ready to do it again.

Fishing Dry Run Creek by John Berry

Last week, I was in a pleasantly unique position. I had a booking to take four boys to Dry Run Creek. For the uninitiated, Dry Run Creek is a tributary of the Norfork River that is the oldest catch and release stream in Arkansas. It is set aside for kids under sixteen and the handicapped. It is loaded with huge fish. It is without a doubt the best stretch of water that I have ever seen. Over the years, I have introduced several young people to the stream including my daughter, Katherine. Through trial and error I have figured out a few things that make the process easier and more successful.

Consider if the child is ready. The best age to start some one is different for every individual. There is a certain level of concentration and motor skill required. The earliest age is probably six. I have had a great deal of success with kids that old and
older. Without a doubt, the best student I ever had was an eight year old girl. Rachel was intense. She caught sixty seven trout. The last one was a twenty seven inch monster rainbow. This was the first day she ever held a fly rod.

You should also consider if you are the best person to introduce this child to fly fishing. Do you possess the necessary skills and patience? If not, consider hiring a guide.

Keep in mind the attention span of the student. Some kids will not maintain their interest in fishing all day. The younger the student the shorter the attention span (this is a general statement and there are plenty of exceptions). The thing to remember is that this is a not a forced march. You are there to have fun. If your student wants to take a break and run around, let them. When Katherine was of age, we would fish every day for a week and leave the water when she lost interest. We would retreat to the indoor pool at the Ramada Inn and swim. Over time, her interest in fishing grew and she would eventually stay all day

Be patient! No matter how many times they catch their fly in a tree or tangle their line (it will happen), calmly retrieve the fly, untangle the knot, or rerig the line. Calmly explain to them what caused the problem and how to avoid it in the future. Tell them that these things occasionally happen to you.

Keep things simple. I have found that a simple roll cast or high sticking technique is very effective. I generally use larger tippets than I normally would so that if they hook a fish they would have an easier time landing it. (On Dry Run Creek, I rig my clients with 4X tippet while I would use 6X if I were fishing the same fly on the Norfork.) For the same reason, I prefer large gap hooks (always barb less). The dominant food source is sow bugs. I have found that they can run pretty large, as big as size 12. I always pump the stomachs of the first couple of fish we catch to verify this. I have also had a lot of luck with attractors like San Juan worms and Y2Ks.

Take a big net with you. Most of the fish are lost while trying to land them. A net with a long handle and deep bag will enable you to land the fish more quickly. This is better for the fish and for you. I carry a boat net with a four foot handle and a huge bag.

Take a camera. There will be photo opportunities. My favorite picture of Katherine was taken on Dry Run Creek. It was incredibly cold and she was wearing everything she owned. She is holding a twenty nine inch rainbow and it is a memory she still talks about years after it happened. Create a memory of your own.

Last Saturday, we landed two ten pound rainbows. We landed twelve fish over twenty four inches long and twenty five fish over twenty inches long. How many in total? I have no idea. With that many kids fishing it was impossible to keep up with the count. If you want to introduce a youngster to the art of fly fishing, this is the place!


Dog Days of Summer by John Berry

In spite of moderate temperatures earlier in the year, we have had a brutally hot summer this year. I had one recent outing that was actually quite comfortable despite the 100 degree heat. I was guiding a couple of anglers one of which was from Arizona. He was accustomed to the heat but not the humidity.

The guys stayed in our guest house. We decided to start early and left the house at 5:45 AM. We were on the Norfork before the sun came up. There was an incredibly heavy layer of fog on the river and you could only see a few feet in front of you. It was an eerie walk in. There were a couple of other anglers already on the stream but we were almost on top of them before we actually saw them. It was about 71 degrees and quite comfortable. We walked far from the access to one of my favorite places to fish.

David was an experienced angler who had fished all over the West; Montana, Utah, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and any other place known for large trout, steelhead or salmon. He started nymphing with a red San Juan worm and was soon into a nice cutthroat. After a spirited struggle, a deeply colored seventeen inch cutt surrendered to my net. Its girth was almost equal to its length. It was a real riffle hog. A few casts later he hooked a larger Rainbow that was probably even more vividly colored. We had to move into quieter water to land the twenty one inch specimen. We took a few photos and then quickly released the trout. David caught several more fish but nothing like those two.

Lou was not as experienced and was struggling a bit. I worked with him and gave him a few pointers on his cast and presentation. He started picking up fish and was really enjoying himself. About that time, I noted that the water was coming up. We walked out with the rising water and loaded our gear and ourselves into my beloved Volvo.

We drove over to the White, quickly waded far from the access and began fishing. It was beginning to heat up, so we waded a bit deeper to escape the heat. We began catching fish immediately. The trout were hitting a variety of flies. We caught fish on scuds, zebra midges and Y2Ks. We didn’t catch any big fish but we were catching plenty of good, stout, healthy fish in the 12 to 15 inch slot. They fought well and kept our interest.

About noon, we were getting hungry and we waded out for lunch. It had become really hot and muggy. The fog had burned off hours ago and we were sweating bullets by the time we got to the car. I set up lunch on a picnic table under a shade tree. We drank several bottles of water each and ate a cool lunch and sat and relaxed for a while. At one o’clock, it was 98 degrees and David was starting to wilt. We decided to split the day. We opted to go back to the house and return around four PM.

When I got home, I took a shower and a nap. At four, I looked outside and saw a bit of lightning and heard thunder. I talked to the guys and we decided to wait the weather out. At five, we loaded up and returned to the river. The storm was gone and it left temperatures about fifteen degrees cooler in its wake.

As we walked in, I noticed an angler slumped over a picnic table. He had fished through the afternoon and the heat had gotten to him. He said he was done for the day and was trying to gather the energy to leave. We waded in the water and began catching fish immediately. We fished till dark and they caught several fish each.

By splitting the day, we avoided the heat of the day (it got over 100 degrees). We still managed to get in a full days fishing, caught plenty of trout, and we were reasonably comfortable doing it.


Afternoon at McClellan's by John Berry

Yesterday it was sunny and 51 degrees here in North Central Arkansas with no wind. I called the dam and learned that the White River was off and the Norfork had been shut down for two minutes. I invited my wife, Lori, to go fishing with me but she had a sinus infection and was not up to it. I called my fishing buddy, George Peters, and reached him in an Orange County California courtroom waiting for a judge. He said he would love to go but it would be a while. I decided to go to by myself. I loaded the mighty Volvo and headed for McClellan’s (a public access on the Norfork River). This is not Lori’s favorite spot, but it is mine. Over the years, I have caught more good fish here than any where else.

I stopped by the office to put my three bucks in the box and headed over to the pasture. There was a father and son there that had spent the morning at Dry Run Creek (a catch and release stream set aside for kids under 16 years of age). It was Dad’s turn now and they were going to fish the water above Otter creek from a canoe. I hurriedly donned my waders and grabbed my rod. As I started walking into the catch and release area, I stopped to light a cigar and noted that I was the only person there.

I walked down to one of my favorite runs and began nymphing. I started with a Y2K because that was the fly I still had on from my last fishing excursion. On the third cast I caught a seventeen inch rainbow. It put up a great fight. In fact, I had to move into quieter water in order to land it. I caught a couple of nice fish before the Y2K stopped working. I tried several different flies and pumped the stomachs of several fish before I zeroed in on a size eighteen olive scud. It started producing immediately and over the next couple of hours I caught and released several nice fish.

I wanted to catch something a little bigger. I decided to walk further down stream to try another spot where I had caught a number of large trout over the years. I was concerned because this hole was pretty far from the access. If the water came up, there was no one to warn me. I would not detect the rising water until it reached me. Since I had gone down stream, I would have to fight the current all the way out.

I hooked and landed a fat fifteen inch rainbow on the first cast. I quickly released it and cast again this time catching an eighteen inch rainbow. I stayed there for an hour and caught maybe a dozen fine fish. I looked at my watch and figured I had thirty minutes of daylight left. I decided it was time to start fishing my way out.

I walked up to my original run. It had been thoroughly rested. I caught a couple of nice fish and then I hooked a monster. This bad boy took off and put me into the backing immediately. I came out of the run and started following him down stream quickly cranking in line as I went. He took several long runs before I finally landed him. It was a stout twenty-two inch male rainbow that was vividly colored and had full fins. As I was gently lifting him from the water, I noticed he had a tag. I was trying to read it when he struggled free and escaped to the river taking my fly with him. I walked back up to the run and as I was preparing to tie on a new tippet and fly, I detected a difference in the sound of the water. It was coming up!

I cranked in my line as fast as I could. I pulled out my folstaff and started wading across. The water was coming up fast but I carefully made it to the bank (the one my car was on) and started working my way up to the access. I picked up the pace. I knew that I had to get across Otter Creek quickly or it would be impassable and I would have to detour far out of my way to safely cross.

When I arrived, the creek looked pretty deep but I thought I could make it. I zipped up all the pockets on my vest and started carefully wading across to the pasture. When I was about two thirds across, I realized that the water was a little deeper than I thought. I started wading on my tip toes. I held the lower pockets of my vest as high as I could in an attempt to keep my fly boxes dry. I looked down and saw that I only had one inch of freeboard on my waders. I kept plodding across. I finally reached shallower water. I walked out and breathed a sigh of relief. The only thing that got wet was the pair of gloves in my wader hand warmer pockets.

I stowed my gear and loaded my car. On the way home, I reviewed the days fishing, the fish I landed, and the wade at the end. It was an exciting and productive day. I remembered why McClellan’s is my favorite place to fish.

High Sticking Dry Flies by John Berry

As time passes I spend more and more time fishing dry flies. When I first started fishing them I was overwhelmed. The casting was fussy and had to be precise. The flies were so tiny that they were almost impossible to see. Success did not come easy but I eventually began to catch fish by traditional dry fly methods. I had a lot of trouble seeing the fly if I was fishing over twenty feet of line. One day I was high sticking nymphs when I had a brainstorm, high sticking dry flies. I was catching fish that were just a few feet from my body. Then a fish hit my strike indicator. I tied on an elk hair caddis and fished the same water that I had been nymphing. I only had a couple of feet of fly line out and I fished it just like I would a nymph. I flicked the fly up stream and let it drift down. It went about five feet and a nice rainbow slammed it. I landed that one and quickly revived the fly with dry fly crystals. Again I flicked the fly upstream and let it drift down. This time it went ten feet before an eighteen-inch cutthroat rose from the depths and nailed it. I stood in that riffle and caught a dozen good fish. The technique is simple and effective.

This is contrary to everything that my brother Dan does. He prefers seventy-foot casts over glass smooth water with tiny flies. He sets the hook when he sees a rise near where he thinks the fly is. You cannot see a size 18 fly that is seventy feet away.

High sticking gives you three things, you see the fly, you can make an effective presentation, and you can better control the line. You can see the fly because it is only a few feet from you. With this method I can easily fish dries as small as a 20 or smaller. You make an effective presentation by just flicking the fly up stream to for a soft landing. Since there is nothing touching the water except the fly it is easy to achieve a perfect drift when you do not have to deal with complex currents. The shorter line enhances line control because you can easily set the hook at any part of the drift because there is no slack in the line.

I prefer to use this method when fishing riffles. I particularly like fast riffles that run over gravel and have a drop off. The broken surface helps to conceal my movements and allows me to get very close to fish. The greater water speed does not allow the trout to study the fly. He must decide whether to take the offering very quickly and without hesitation. Finally riffles are generally loaded with fish making them more productive. Since I fish heavy water I have to fish flies that can handle the current. I favor elk hair caddis and Wulff patterns because they float like corks. Hoppers and power ants work well later in the year after the major hatches are gone.

The next you notice some top water action try a method that is easy and effective, high sticking.

Home About Us Photos Links Columns Email
408 Combs Avenue
Cotter, Arkansas 72626
©2003-2007. Berry Brothers Guide Service. All rights reserved.
Copyright and credits. January 04, 2008