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Slow trolling nabs brown trout

by Bryan Hendricks | January 31, 2019 at 2:22 a.m.

A correspondent made us envious Monday when he sent photos of himself holding big brown trout that he caught Saturday on the White River.

They were substantially larger than the minnow-size rainbows that Rusty Pruitt, Bill Eldridge, Ed Kubler and I caught the previous weekend.

Conditions were the same as during our trip. The air temperature wasn't quite as cold, but the river was still swollen from the constant discharge of eight hydropower generators. Air temperature doesn't matter because the water temperature in the Bull Shoals tailwater is constant, about 55 degrees year round. They were more successful because of the way they fished.

As mentioned in Sunday's feature, Pruitt and I caught our fish trolling stickbaits in eddy water beside the bank. Our correspondent and his partner caught their fish from Cotter to the upstream boundary of the Rim Shoals Special Regulations Area trolling stickbaits on a downstream heading. They dragged a chain from the bow to point the bow upstream and to make the boat drift slower than the current.

Meanwhile, they tossed their stickbaits downstream. The lures traveled at the same rate as the current, but faster than the boat. This enabled their lures to reach the proper depth and wobble at the proper speed. Big browns bit the lures all day.

Jason Harmon of Buffalo City, proprietor of Arkansas Traveler Fly Fishing, reports excellent results this winter as well.

"I fished 12 of 18 days starting just before Christmas and ending the week after New Year's, when high water flows began round the clock," Harmon wrote. "I split those days between the White and Norfork [North Fork of the White River], and floated in a small pontoon boat for access, with some wade fishing and some in the boat. Also, I only fished 11 a.m. to dark each day, which was about 5 p.m. The catching was almost as good as the fishing."

Harmon reported that he caught an average of 34 trout per day. Their best day was 56 fish, and their worst day was 12 fish.

"Using the average number, I caught and released more than 350 fish, but likely more than 400 fish in 12 half-days of angling," Harmon wrote. "All were rainbow trout less than 18 inches, except six brown trout. The largest fish was a fine 22-inch brown in the 4-pound-plus range. No cutthroat or brook trout were caught, and all fish were caught and released on streamers with a sink tip line appropriate for water conditions."

Naturally, Harmon had little company. Most people don't like to fish in really cold weather. You miss a lot by avoiding trout waters in the winter. In fact, I like them as much in winter as I do in summer.

"That left the river for me to share with the eagles, kingfishers and herons," Harmon wrote. "Sunsets came far too early when fish were hitting so well."

Harmon said he took a hiatus from fishing the past two weeks to try to shoot a late-season deer with a crossbow.

"Lately, deer have been on a full moon cycle, feeding at dusk and the middle of the night, and I was hunting dawn to 3 p.m. without seeing anything," Harmon wrote. "The game camera told the story, but not before I wasted lots of hours in a deer blind wondering where the deer were!"

Harmon said he will resume deer hunting after the second quarter of the moon is past. Deer will again feed at dawn and midday again, which is right about now.

With everybody scrambling trying to find ducks during January, it's easy to forget that we still have a month of archery deer season remaining, until Feb. 28.

Remember that many bucks already have shed their antlers. Look closely at the head before you let your arrow fly to make sure a big doe isn't actually an antlerless buck. It's legal, but it would be a shame to take down a mature buck without enjoying the majesty of its crown.

Back to fly fishing, I am field testing a new fly tackle management system called SimpliFLY. It's a hard pack with multiple compartments that hugs your chest by way of a body harness. There's also a dual compartment soft pack that rides on your back to store additional fly boxes and other gear.

A complete review is coming soon.

Sports on 01/31/2019

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