Time: 9:30AM – 3:30PM
Location: Near North Fork Campground
I concluded that the allure of the Flattops is its remoteness and its beauty largely unblemished by the hand of man. When I returned home from my 2017 Flattops trip, a family member asked how many other fishermen I encountered. I paused and did a mental rewind of my trip, and then I smiled and spoke the truth. None. There were numerous hunters and horses, but fishermen were absent from my chosen fishing destination.
As explained on Monday’s post, the area I planned to fish on the North Fork was off limits due to a wildfire, so I was forced to improvise once again. I was quite weary after completing two hike-in ventures on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I gave serious consideration to packing up the tent to execute an early return to home. However, I recalled the demanding drive required to arrive in the Flattops, and I came to the realization that Thursday was my last opportunity to capitalize on my perfect location in the stunning backcountry.
Monday afternoon evolved into an outstanding day on a stretch of the White River that I abandoned after a couple disappointing outings in previous years, so why not visit the rediscovered section and continue upstream from where I ended? This became my plan, and I am pleased to report that the day developed into a quality adventure.
I took my time on Thursday morning to pack up the camping gear, since I was positioned very close to my fishing destination for the day. By 9AM, however, the tent dew evaporated from the rain fly and footprint, and I could no longer contain my enthusiasm for another day on the White River. Not even the minor ache of a newly developed case of tennis elbow could delay my departure, and I arrived at a wide pullout next to the river ready to create yet another fly fishing adventure.
My Orvis Access four weight remained ready for action after a day on Marvine Creek, so after I pulled on my waders and stashed my lunch, I found a moderately steep path to the river and began casting. Wednesday’s flies remained on my line, and they were a tan size 8 Charlie boy hopper, an ultra zug bug and a salvation nymph. The two bottom nymphs remained in place throughout the day, but the Charlie boy began to attract an excess of refusals after lunch, so it was swapped for a tan pool toy.
I learned from Monday on the North Fork and Tuesday on the South Fork that casting to marginal pockets and shallow riffles was essentially of waste of time, so I moved quickly and stopped only at locations that were obvious fish magnets. Long deep slots and troughs were the number one producer along with extensive deep pockets. The water covered in the first hour was a replay of Monday afternoon, so I waded through this section very rapidly and only stopped to prospect two or three quality locations. The first of these was a fortuitous choice, as I extracted four very nice trout from a long deep trough. One of the four was a ten inch brook trout, and the others were two chunky fourteen inch rainbows along with a size twelve speckled and striped beauty.
A short distance above the productive slot, I tossed seven casts into a deep pocket that was eight feet long, and on the eighth drift the hopper dipped, and I quickly set the hook. Immediately I spotted a large hulking form, and I correctly concluded that a whitefish grabbed the salvation nymph. I managed to hoist the ponderous load into my net, and the silvery beast represented the largest whitefish of my life. It was approximately seventeen inches long, but its width and weight were the characteristics that elevated it to the top of my lifetime achievement chart.
The period between the whitefish and lunch did include a disappointing highlight. Shortly after releasing the whitefish, I tossed a couple casts into another deep slot below some large boulders, and the hopper took a sudden dive. I quickly raised the rod tip, and instantly I realized that I was connected to a special fish. The large object streaked downstream and then stopped in another smaller pocket across from me, and here I determined that it was a rainbow trout that easily measured eighteen inches. I held tight and began to reel up line, and then the reluctant fish shot upstream to the top of the deep trough where the battle began. I thought that the run was over, so I began to reel line, but the savvy foe made a sudden move, and broke off the salvation nymph. Needless to say, I was very disappointed for the next ten minutes.
The catch rate slowed over the remainder of the morning, but I managed to increase the fish count to seven, before I sat on a large rock to consume my lunch. The weather vacillated between overcast and cool and sunny and bright, but the former ruled the sky roughly 75% of the time. After lunch I pulled on my raincoat for added warmth, and I never regretted the move.
I continued the selective prospecting strategy for the remainder of the day, and the approach paid off, as the fish count climbed to twenty-six. Quite a few were spunky twelve and thirteen inch rainbow trout with a couple more fourteen inch beauties in the mix. My day ended with two nine inch brook trout nestled in my net.
By 2:30 I reached an area characterized by a long twenty yard run along the left bank. A shelf pool fanned out on the right side of the strong center current, and a narrow eight foot band of slower moving water was situated between the deep current and the left bank. I began casting at the very tail where the river spread out into a riffle that was three feet deep, and I landed a couple small rainbows. Next I shot some long casts to the very top of the slower water along the right side of the run, but this only yielded a refusal. My attention now shifted to the band of water along the left bank.
I began at the bottom where the current slowed, and I lofted a short cast within two feet of the bank and held my rod high while the three flies cruised along the shoreline. After a long drift the flies began to swing away from the bank, and at this instant an eleven inch rainbow snatched the salvation nymph. This same scenario played out a second time and once again resulted in an eleven inch bow. Could the technique work along the entire ribbon of water between the heavy run and the bank? It sure did. Six additional fish landed in my net, as I slowly migrated upstream and executed the across and down maneuver. Every fish grabbed one of the nymphs, as they began to swing away from the bank, and these were not small fish. All except one were in the twelve to thirteen inch range along with one of the fourteen inch prizes. In addition I endured at least four long distance releases when a fish latched on to a nymph for a fraction of a second and then twisted free of the pointy annoyance.
Of course this Thursday highlight film of fish catching was not perfect. On one long drift I felt a strong tug as the nymphs began to swing, and I responded with a swift downstream and across hook set. Instantly a heavy force made a twist and thrashed violently to the surface. I held tight as the rainbow shot into the heavy current and then crossed until it was directly below me. It paused, and this was the signal I needed to begin reeling, but in that instant my line went limp. I stripped in the leader and discovered that all three flies were missing, and upon closer inspection I realized that a section of 4X leader broke where a wind knot previously existed. I noticed the wind knot earlier, but I was too lazy to cut back three sections of tippet to rebuild my line. It was a tough way to learn that wind knots weaken a line.
What a surprisingly successful day it was on the North Fork of the White River! The scenery was spectacular, and I relished the solitude that I crave. The world consisted of me and my thoughts, as I focused on how to land wild Flattops trout. The weather was cool, and a small sampling of leaves shifted from green to light yellow. I learned that White River rainbow trout prefer a certain type of water, and I took advantage of this knowledge to land twenty-six wild hard fighting fish. Difficulty accessing this wilderness preserves its special quality, but it also makes me cherish the rare opportunities to visit.
Fish Landed: 26