I have been contacted several times about just how to fish the North Fork of the White River. Now to be honest I am sure all know that I can’t tell you exactly how the fish are going to be acting any given day….but I will try.
First of all, most people I talk to that have struggled on the river have either taken advice from me, fly shops, or other sources. Most of my reports are going to go something like “We caught fish on a (insert fly choice here) and we fished (insert ”certain spot” here)” …now I do like to think that I give a little better report than that but you get the point. So I have roughly outlined THE main fish catching tips below minus the flies used and spots fished:
You can tie a nymph (or multiple nymphs) on, fish a spot, and either catch or not catch fish–that is pretty much the way it goes. BUT, in nymphing most people use strike indicators. WHERE you place that indicator on your leader and how good of a drift you get ARE the key factors in what is going to catch fish over even what flies you are using, for the most part and that goes for almost any river you are going to fish. A lot of the time on the NFOW I see people fishing good flies but they are fishing WAY too shallow. If I can give one tip on nymphing the NFOW it is to nymph deep, and I mean deep. Lose flies or get hung up, just get the nymphs deep. Having said that there is a point where you are just too deep and you or the indicator do not have good contact with the flies but that in itself leads to it being blatantly obvious. Another thing is to let your fly or flies swing until they are directly below you after the drift. There have been countless times that I have gotten in a hurry and started to pick my line up just as the drift ends and got hit. Play the swing!
Dry Fly Fishing-
This one is easy. If you see fish rising count yourself lucky. These fish are pretty fat and lazy and don’t generally rise during hatches in any kind of numbers. Don’t get me wrong there have been days where we have literally had an Adams’ or Elk Hair Caddis’ get completely chewed up but they are few and far between. There are ways around catching these non-rising fish though. Generally, these fish take a big spike in feeding directly before and early in a hatch as the bugs make their way to the surface. This part is easy, without trying to throw fly patterns out in an all-to-much report-like way, swing a soft hackle or bead-head Crackleback and hang on.
I will be the first to admit that I am total streamer nut. A lot of people ask me "Well, what do you do when you go fishing" and that is throwing large streamers. Big nasty articulated streamers to smaller clouser style streamers are the main styles we use...and on the right water action can be absolutely crazy. Sometimes it can be summed up as "Hero or Zero" fishing producing large, large fish or sometimes none at all..
Wet Flies, Soft Hackles, etc-
Use them, fish the skinnier water that you would normally walk through (which points out another good tip as well.) Use them when you start to get hits as your nymphs swing, use them during a hatch, and so on.
Recently this style of nymphing has really opened some eyes, including mine. If you are unfamiliar with this style of fishing it would take a whole other write up plus on-stream experience to understand what follows which may be in order down the road. Czech Nymphing with the correct set-up is insanely effective on the NFOW. If you have seen the river you know that there are several spots where the water is swift and deep which lends itself perfectly to Czech Nymphing period.
To wrap things up, keep in mind that the NFOW is a wild trout stream and sometimes if you are fishing the pattern and/or style that is the best suited for the water you are fishing right that second, at the depth that is best suited for right that second…sometimes the fish just don’t cooperate as much as we would like, just like any water you will ever fish. When that happens, keep on trying–or take in views like these.