North Fork of the White

North Fork of the White River spring review

Posted by Rusty Doughty on March 22nd, 2013
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For every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. You can only be as high as you have been low. It all evens out in the end. If you are on board with any of these words of wisdom, then there is reason to be optimistic about the upcoming fishing season on the North Fork of the White. Last year was a year of drought, low water and spotty fishing. The North Fork on the Missouri side, being a freestone river, it’s much more susceptible to weather events. There is simply no dam to control the water.

This year, we are looking to turn the page. Mother Nature has been cooperating. A series of late winter rains has brought more high water than we have seen for a year. The equal, but opposite reaction.

High water (but not massive flooding) does several things to benefit trout. It expands the carrying capacity of the river. There are only so many fish that can be fit into an area. Trout, being an apex predator, make this even more limited. The biggest trout will fight for the best feeding areas. The bigger the river, the more good feeding areas for trout to hold in and get fat.

High water stimulates bug activity. The bugs that trout eat usually spend most of their life hanging on to the bottom for dear life. The water rises, the current picks up, and the bug gets swept downstream. Some bugs use high water as a queue to do their thing. Stoneflies, for instance, like the high water of spring to make their crawl to the shore. This is why stonefly fishing in the spring can be dynamite. Again, this is high water and not massive flooding which will scour the bottom and send the remaining nymphs deep into the rocks.

With the nymphs active this triggers the little fish, which in turn triggers big. Thus streamers can also be effective. In general everything in the river will be on the move, feeding and venturing out.

There are many reasons why high water is great for trout fishing, but one other I want to mention is this. The trout aren’t near as spooky in high water. High water is usually a little off color, so the trout can’t see you as easily. Water noise and motion is greater during these times as well. Your footsteps while wading or boating sounds won’t be as easy to detect. Trout also detect vibrations and motion in the water, which is more difficult in high water.

Of course, it’s still fishing. Wild rainbow trout and big browns will give any fisherman a run for their money, but the trout in the North Fork are ready to feed. They have some catching up to do.

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