Gage @ 3’ and water temperature of 68°.
As many of you may already know, I am a greenskeeper and run a golf course. If you stepped outside this summer you can probably imagine why I haven’t made any fishing reports lately. I have been fairly occupied with keeping the golf course alive. Fishing has taken a back seat as the golf course is my passion and my primary responsibility. The good news is the weather has broken somewhat and everything on the course is in good shape, so I got out and fished Friday evening. Todd Settle and I had hoped to maybe get a midge hatch as the CORPS has been at minimum flow for quite some time. These conditions usually mean midges, and midges can mean a bunch of fish if you hit it right. We had no such luck with the midges but we did have some luck nymph fishing where we could find suitable current. We didn’t set the world on fire but picked up 8 or so fish between us. They were a mixed bag of this seasons stockers and a couple of holdover browns. It is a good sign that even though this Summer has been a hot one the trout are doing well at the Tail Water.
I had the honor of taking Eric Simpson and Gene Hopkins for a White River float trip. Eric is the former owner of Royal River Flyshop and Gene is a new friend of ours that is involved in the Sportsman's Roundtable as well as an avid hunter and fisherman. However, his fly rod experience was limited to pond fishing. So we took him out and got him on his first Smallmouth on the fly rod. The day started slow with a morning water temp of 68 degrees. The drop of 14 degrees in 2 weeks put the fish down for awhile. Not even a Rock Bass came out to play. So, we hung around in the upper river for a few hours, moving slow, anchoring up, fishing slow and deep, and waitimng for the water to warm up. We pulled off for lunch around 1pm and wished Gene a Happy Birthday with a lunch of gazpacho, turkey & boursin on french bread, and boozed up peaches. After lunch, fishing started to turn on, first with the rock bass and then the Smallmouth. Eric put on a Spoon Fly and started taking fish. Topwater action began an hour or so later.
My friend Nick Schroeder and I took to the river for a long float. We fished an 8 mile section of the upper White. The water temps was 76 degrees when we put on about 9am, which was down from a high of 82 the week before. Nick's first fish was 16" and ate a chartreuse Clouser in some roily water below a fast run. A 14 came out to the exact same spot.Then a few hours went by without any action. Nick started fishing a sinktip with a white Beastmaster to see if we could drag up any bottom dwellers. Within a short time, 2 fish had hit the Beastmaster right when it hit the water. We switched to topwater (a Dahlberg style fly) and proceeded to clean up, with the biggest fish registering near 18". The next 6 miles was all fairly regular topwater action.
I took Max and Scott for a float on the upper White for their first real Indiana Smallmouth trip. They fish all over the world but had yet to try the waters in their own backyard. After listening to me blather on and on about Indiana Smallmouth at Orvis Days last Fall they decided to give it a try. They're both excellent anglers, so all I had to do was help them break a few trout fishing habits and they were hooking fish regularly. (Rod tip down!)The Smallmouth will have a hard time competing with the performance they put on that day. Fish after fish came to topwater flies from the beginning to the end of the float. Chartreuse Sneaky Pete's were the fly of the day, with both anglers taking fish simultaneously on the same fly several times.
Patti and Sesie joined me for what turned out to be a banner day of Smallmouth fishing! The fish turned on right away with subsurface and topwater action. The ladies enjoyed several "doubles" throughout the day. Patti caught one fish that had a crayfish, a cicada, and a hopper in its throat and then smashed a bumblebee popper. Sesie was the "fish whisperer". She would wave her rod over the river like she was charming the fish, slowly fishing her Purple Darter through a run, and boom... there would be a fish.
On Thursday I floated my old friend Jim Williams (Boomer... from Royal River Flyshop) and his son-in-law Jim (Lil' Boomer) on the upper White. Although the water level and color were perfect, it was a very hard day. The weather was really hot and humid, the fish were sullen, and it poured torrential rain on us in the afternoon, turning the water more brown than green. Jim and Jim were very good sports about the lame fishing. Me not so much. I take it personally when the fish won't eat ANYTHING! I don't mind having to figure out the equation and adjust flies, location or presentation tactics. That's my job. But when you spend 11 hours on the river with good anglers trying every trick this side of dynamite and only manage to land 8 or 10 average fish, I get grumpy. I'm taking up needlepoint. Boat for sale :-)
The one very interesting thing we saw was a massive (22-24 inch) Smallmouth crashing bait. We watched him (and fished to him) for a long time. He wasn't the least bit concerned about our presence. He's a big boy. He knows all of our tricks and wasn't about to be fooled by them. He just went ahead eating baitfish like he was sitting in front of a movie munching popcorn. We did get him to chase a tiny emerald shiner pattern, but he turned away at the last second. It was awesome watching an apex predator do his business. Hooking him would have been even better. Another day.
I spent some time wading the upper river yesterday. There is another massive hatch of bait (emerald shiners and shad). The baitfish were literally coming out of the water in "showers" and the Smallmouth were completely keyed in on them. There was so much bait that trying to emulate that activity was a losing battle. The best I could do was to fish slowly below the surface action and pick up the stragglers, but I did get several nice fish. Fishing aside, the main thing is that the river is now dropping and clearing into comfortable range for flyfishing. Streamers, poppers, divers, and crayfish or leeches either stripped, tumbled or drifted under an indicator are the tactics for the next couple of months. Fish smaller and finer as the water drops and clears.
Gage @ 3.25ft and water temperature of 68° F.
I took our friends PR and Kevin to the tailwater for their first flyfishing experience. The Corp dropped the river to a very low flow (100 cfs) from 500 cfs at noon that day and changed to a higher gate, so the water temp rose precipitously from 60 to 68. When we arrived about 1:30 I saw how low the water was and thought we might be in for a hard day.
PR, Kevin and I took to the grass for casting practice before hitting the water. Once they had the basic stroke under some control, I took them into the Park pool and got them started. The fish were not responding and I expected that they wouldn't until they had some time to adapt to the new flow and temp, so we worked on technique and waited for the sun to drop on the western horizon. We positioned up on a good hole and rigged for nymphing. The feeding fish turned on like a light switch at about 4:30. Eddie arrived to assist at just about that time, and for the next 3 hours we had a very nice time. PR and Kevin each landed several fish and got the hang of the arcing nymph cast, mend and hook set.
Gage @ 4ft and water temperature of 49° F.
The annual stocking of brown trout was to have taken place on Friday the 14th, but didn't as the DNR felt that the flows were too strong for the stocking. It didn't really matter that the stocking didn't go off as planned... we found the fish. Between Todd Settle and I we had what could be considered a epic afternoon at the tailwater. It took us a little while to figure out what flies were working but nymphs seemed to be the ticket. After a short bout with a passing rain the fishing went from good to almost fantastic. We landed over 24 fish between us and lost half as many again. It was a good mix of holdover browns and this season stocker rainbows. I'm looking forward to actually getting the brown trout in the stream as this should make the fishing more consistent. The browns have a restriction on them of nothing smaller than 18 inches can be harvested so more of them should hang around to be caught and released. The big holdover fish should have more competition so they may be more apt to take a fly as they will need to compete more for food. ~ Ed Devine
Todd Settle with a 19" holdover Brown - 5/15/10
Water temp -64 degrees, Noblesville guage at 850cfs
I took a short wade trip today and had a bit of luck. The Smallmouth we're crashing bait, coming out of the water and rocketing back into schools of baitfsih. That sounds great (and it was fun to watch), but it actually makes them pretty tough to catch when they are that focused on a single food source. No one fly was the answer, but I did catch a few by quickly ripping Gartside's "Beastmasters" in white, a few on gray/white Clousers fished slowly along the bottom, and a few on Clouser's Purple Darters. I also caught a few good largemouths, as well as the requisite 40-50 Rock Bass. The river is in prime shape. The Smallmouth should be spawning any day now. Please remember to leave the beds alone (and the fish that are guarding them).
Gage @ 3.12 and water temperature of 51.5° F.
Flows have been consistently on the low side for several weeks as the CORPS has been building to summer pool in the lake. This has been helpful for the fishing because the fish do not seem to like constant changing levels and the fishing always seems better with steady flows. Along with these lower flows and the current water temps, the annual algae bloom has started in earnest. We fished on Saturday and found the algae covering the entire subsurface of the stream. This made nymph fishing impossible so we stuck to streamers and dry flies to stay above it. The fish we caught were a mix of holdover browns and stocker bows. The fish in the photo is one of the better hold over browns of the day. We caught 16 to 18 fish between us and the one that got away was a better than 20’’ brown that I fished to for over an hour before it ate a streamer and eventually broke off before we could net it. Low clear water means light tippets are necessary and with them sometimes the bigguns get away without being photographed.
The water level was perfect and the clarity was like we usually see in August! Water temp was 61 at 10am and 63 later in the day. Synthetic Clousers were the ticket early on. We switched to synthetics after a few minutes of casting and getting chases but no takes. The water clarity was such that traditional bucktail flies looked way too "opaque" in the water, and the Smallmouth agreed. The synthetics have a ghostly appearance in the water very similar to the millions of bait fish present. The early warming seems to have been good for the Smallmouth and the baitfish! During early afternoon I noticed some surface activity and tied on a Wiggle Minnow. That fly is fun to watch even if the fish don't respond... but they did. Not in huge numbers, but enough to keep our interest. We boated about 20 fish for the day, mostly in the 10-14" range with one big fella measuring 18" taking the topwater offering in a slashing attack.
Gage @ 3.3' and water temperature of 49 F.
It looks like spring has sprung at the Tail Water. The first stocking of rainbows has been done and they were fairly eager to take well presented flies. Conditions were just about as perfect as you could ask for: overcast, cool, no wind, and flows have been a steady 100cfs for a week. Bill and I hit the tailwater on Friday afternoon/evening in hopes that these conditions would make for an exceptional day. Bill wanted to work on technique as he is relatively new to fly-fishing. It turns out he is fairly quick study and we started getting solid hook ups soon after we started. We caught fish on a dry, we caught fish on a streamer and we caught fish on nymphs. I stopped counting after 15 so I can’t say exactly how many fish came to hand. They were mostly rainbows with a couple of holdover browns mixed in. A good day to be on the water.
PS: Normally I net fish for clients unless they want the practice. As you can see, Bill also got some practice at this. I’m just hoping that the next trip maybe he wants to practice making lunch as well.
After last weeks short-term cool down, the water temps are on the rise again. While wet wading on Sunday, the thermometer read 61˚ at around 5pm on the upper White above Noblesville. The fish were very aggressive and liked big flies in bright colors! Half & Halfs, big Clousers and my Baby Smallmouth were all sacrificed in the name of angling bliss. There is nothing like the tug of a newly awakened Smallmouth. I picked up several fish with a few around 18", many above average 15-16", and only one dink. The fish looked very healthy with some very dark and some light green. If the Spring rains come in reasonable amounts and well-spaced, some of the farm soil might stay in the fields where it belongs and we could have a great year of fishing!
Spring fishing is just getting fired up on the upper White. Some friends and I floated yesterday and had a fun (but moist) afternoon/evening on the water due to the leading edge of last nights thunderstorm. Fortunately, the lightning stayed well to the southeast of us.
The Noblesville guage was at 900cfs, and the water temp was 60. However, it seems that the water level guages have been recalibrated, because 900cfs yesterday looked more like 1200cfs from the last few seasons.
The water was a little high, with more green than brown to the color, and about 18-24 inches of opaque visibility.
Fishing heavy flies (and sometimes sinktips), we did manage to land several Smallmouth Bass in the 14-16+ inch range. All healhty, fat fish with bad attitudes! The winning flies were heavily tied chartreuse & white Clouser Minnows, my Conrad Sculpin in black or olive, a rusty craw, and my Baby Smallmouth. The fish are preparing to spawn, so lets hope for mild weather and no floods so they can get their job done.
The tailwater fished reasonably well during the colder months. Several days produced good fish. Upcoming stockings of Rainbows (mid-April) and Browns (mid-May) will replenish the river for the put 'n' take anglers and many will escape the stringer and be there for the catch 'n' release anglers. It seems that feelings have cooled off on both sides, and while there will not be any further protective regualtions for the trout, people are generally cordial to visiting anglers. The river will continue to be what Central Indiana Trout Unlimited helped it become... a nice little tailwater in an unlikely place, stocked with brown and rainbow trout, and home to some holdover trout that can be enjoyed year round.