If the thought ever crosses my mind to become a fly fishing guide, I’ve got a good reason not to cross over to the dark side.
And that reason is my good pal, Rob Woodruff of Quitman, Texas (www.flyfishingfork.com ).
Now don’t get me wrong – this Orvis endorsed fly guide is one of the best in the business.
A unique guide operating in both cold water and warm water environments, Woodruff is at the pinnacle of his profession with a bevy of superb fisheries near his home and loyal customers who bring plenty of repeat business.
Woodruff is first and foremost a bass bum, guiding fly fishing clients from all over the U.S. and from countries as far away as South Africa after Lake Fork’s legendary largemouth bass.
In the spring, clients flock to the boat of this Texas A&M educated entomologist turned fly fishing guide for a shot at double-digit bucketmouths that threaten to all but destroy eight and nine-weight fly rods.
Most years, the fishing is not only good from Woodruff’s boat, it’s downright epic.
How else do you describe a trip where fly anglers routinely land one to two dozen bass in the four to eight pound range, many coming on heart stopping blow-ups on topwater patterns.
And the bass do get even bigger.
Woodruff’s personal best fly rod bass so far from Fork is a staggering 11.75 pounds while his clients’ best fly bass to date is slightly more than 11 pounds.
No wonder the likable guide has been featured on ESPN Outdoors programming twice along with inclusion in a number of fly fishing magazine and internet articles about this Texan’s unique fishing jones.
While the spring is Woodruff’s standard bread and butter time – good luck getting a booking anytime between late February and early June – his other prime time comes in the early autumn as Fork’s bass population puts away the groceries in preparation for another North Texas winter.
While the double digit brutes of spring are few and far between in the fall, the catch rate goes up considerably as dozens of schooling fish in the three to six pound range inhale virtually any fly thrown into the frenzy.
Think Montauk, New York’s famous striper blitzes, only this time, deep in the heart of land-locked Texas with a distant cousin.
So what’s the problem for Woodruff this year?
Simple – the weather.
Earlier this year, an unusually chilly spring with repeated cold frontal passages and cold rainstorms repeatedly drove Fork’s spawning frenzy out of the shallows.
When the weather was good, Woodruff’s clients caught a number of good fish.
But when the weather was bad – and it was bad every other day or so it seemed – the bass developed lockjaw and were difficult to catch.
Normally, that wouldn’t be much of a problem for Woodruff, who would simply reschedule or bump a trip to the nearby Lower Mountain Fork River in southeastern Oklahoma, a surprisingly good year-round tailwater trout stream only three hours from Dallas.
But 2009 has been anything but normal weatherwise in the southern Great Plains.
Buckets of late spring rainfall caused a massive rise on Broken Bow Reservoir that feeds the stream, resulting in a virtual emergency blow by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The resulting flood water discharge turned the picturesque trout stream normally running a little more than 120 cubic feet per second into an raging torrent with more than 8,000 CFS seething its way downstream.
The near Biblical flood altered hydrology in place for years, washed out roads and bridges, scoured some areas nearly free of rocks and gravel, and deposited mounds of gravel and huge boulders in other areas.
Amazingly, within a few weeks of the LMFR flood, Woodruff was back in business, reporting good to superb fishing for the river’s mixture of stocked and wild rainbows and browns that had somehow found places to hunker down until the flows subsided.
After a pretty normal summer of business, Woodruff was hoping to make up lost ground when Fork’s fall schooling action picked up in earnest after Labor Day.
Except that the excessive rainfall machine returned with a vengeance as strong early autumn cool fronts brought more flooding, rapidly cooling water, and unsettled conditions.
Coupled with floodwater discharges through Lake Fork’s dam in recent weeks, the up-and-down lake level hasn’t ended Fork’s fall run, but it has certainly crimped the reservoir’s fall blitzing activity.
Once again, no problem for Woodruff since the nearby Lower Mountain Fork beckons with fall colors, spawning brown trout, and superb fall dry fly fishing.
Uh, not so fast, Mr. Woodruff.
Thanks to the Corps of Engineers deciding to repair the electricity producing generators at Broken Bow Reservoir Dam over the next two months, more than 1,000 CFS will be rolling down the tailwater trout stream making fishing difficult once again for this popular Texas guide and his loyal clientele.
If you see a weather weary fly guide staring glumly into the northeastern Texas’ sky this fall, chances are that its Woodruff.
A fly guide wondering where’s all of this supposed global warming when you need it.