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Category Archives: Brown Trout

Tenkara…in Oklahoma!

Orvis endorsed guide Rob Woodruff is fishing Tenkara style.

On Oklahoma’s Lower Mountain Fork River.

And he’s guiding customers to experiences like this one:

Nice looking brown trout I caught on Spillway Creek in Southeast Oklahoma using a Tenkara rod and traditional Sakasa Kebari style fly,” says Woodruff.

Interested in trying out the Tenkara style of fly fishing?

Then give Woodruff a call at (903) 967-2665. Or e-mail him at WGSFlyfish@aol.com . Or visit his Web site at www.flyfishingfork.com . Or do all three.

But just be sure that you get in touch with him soon.

The Lower Mountain Fork is fishing red-hot these days for both brown trout and rainbow trout.

And having given the Japanese method of fly fishing a try myself, I can all but guarantee that you’ll have a blast trying out the Tenkara style of flinging a fly,

Orvis endorsed fly guide Rob Woodruff is guiding Lower Mountain Fork River clients to brown trout like this one with the Tenkara rod.

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San Juan Magic: Tiny Flies, Big Trout

Driving east from Aztec, New Mexico along Hwy. 173, the desert wilderness seems to be virtually devoid of life.

Any life.

As the sun bakes the parched earth below, the liquefied colors of the rainbow trout would seem to be in a world far, far away. 

When you fly fish New Mexico's San Juan River, bring a big net.

And yet the twisting two-lane road suddenly winds across a bridge in the shadow of Abe’s Motel and Fly Shop below Navajo Dam and there it is.

The cold, rushing bluish-green waters known to fly fishermen across the world over as the San Juan River.

To be truthful, legendary trout waters sometimes fail to live up their advanced billing.

But my venture to this desert trout stream a few years ago to fish with guide Matt Pyle found everything I had ever heard about this desert dream stream to be true.

And then some.

“If it was in my backyard and no one else could fish it, yeah, it would be the perfect trout stream,” Pyle laughed of his beloved San Juan.

Pyle hasn’t always been able to say that.

It was after doing some guiding while working for the National Wildlife Federation that he discovered the San Juan River the first time.

And after catching an eight-pound trout on his second journey to the tailwater fishery, the rest, as they say, is history.

What intrigued the high school science teacher, guide and commercial fly tyer the most – Pyle tied as many as 2,000 dozen flies in a recent year that he calls “wimpy” – were the huge rainbow trout the San Juan supported and the tiny flies they gulped down.

“It is a very unique fishery,” Pyle said. “You’ll see the fish rising and it will look like they’re not eating anything – you’ll look a little closer and you’ll see a little black dot.”

“Fish are keying in on a little black speck. It’s hard to believe they’ll expend the energy to chase something so tiny, but they do. The good thing is that they have to eat a lot of them.”

On my journey, once I adjusted to the art of fishing tiny midges and dry flies, the San Juan more than lived up to its advance billing.

In fact, by the time my fishing partner, Doug Rodgers of Whitesboro, Texas, and I had stumbled back to our hotel room, we had managed to land nearly 30 spunky fish between the two of us. 

The magic of New Mexico's San Juan River is tiny flies, huge trout, and big smiles.

Weary yes, but still managing to wear the silly grins on our face that fly anglers have after a superb day on the water.

Even so, a superb day can still be a challenging day, especially given the micro-nature of the flies fished and the faint strikes of these desert fish.

“Bites are sometimes extremely subtle,” Pyle agreed. “You have to be able to recognize the strike. Any subtle hesitation, flicker, or pause on the strike indicator, and you’ve got to be ready to set the hook.”

What equipment should an angler use to set the hook? Dennis Harrison of Abe’s Fly Shop and Motel provides the answer with more than two decades of experience to back it up.

“I’d suggest either a nine-foot five weight or six weight rod,” Harrison said. “Our river is fairly large and open and the average size of the fish is anywhere from 16 to 18-inches and many will go in excess of 20-inches.

“There are a few real hogs out here up to 28-inches and you need a rod with a lot of backbone to fight these fish.”

Harrison suggests a nine-foot 5X or 6X leader. Off of that, he’ll usually fish a dropper combination with a 5X tippet section from the leader to the attractor fly, then dropping a 16 to 18-inch section of 6X tippet from the eye of the attractor fly to his dropper fly.

Some say that the San Juan has slipped a bit in recent years due to water flow issues and the ever-present angling crowds.

But if it has, it’s hard to tell by the smiles found on the tailwater’s four and a quarter miles of quality waters bubbling through the desert of northwestern New Mexico.

“Some rivers, you’re lucky if you catch one fish,” Pyle said. “But here, some people come and only want to catch big fish. Others only want to catch them on dry flies. And you can do that here.”

“We’re kind of spoiled here with lots of big fish, lots of small bugs, and lots of light tippets.”

And that’s the magic of the San Juan.

 

Monday Movie: Blue Moon Mice and Monsters

According to legend, it happens in New Zealand about once in a blue moon.

What’s that?

An epic mouse hatch that brings the Kiwi Nation’s biggest and baddest brown trout and rainbow trout out of hiding and eager to take the fluffiest dry flies a man can conjure up at the tying vise.

So on this first official day of what promises to be a sizzling American summer, take a “Monday Movie” journey across the big Left Coast pond.

To a land down under where the water flows gin clear and refreshingly cold.

And where the fly fishing action for giant trout just might take your breath away.

Once in a blue moon, of course.

 

So You Want to Be a Guide?

Orvis endorsed fly guide Rob Woodruff wonders when all of Texas' bad weather will stop.

Orvis endorsed fly guide Rob Woodruff wonders when all of Texas' bad weather will stop.

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.