White River

Drifting and Wading Rim Shoals

Posted by John Berry on May 16th, 2014
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John Blair behind 1st Island at Rim Shoals

Last week I had a two guide trip with my friend Dennis Schule. He is a retired police detective from Minnesota, who has substantial guiding experience both here and Montana. We are partners in a fairly new guide service, Blue Ribbon Guides. We worked together at Blue Ribbon Fly Shop and formed the guide service, when the shop closed a couple of years ago. The trip was to guide two couples. The husbands were accomplished anglers and the wives were fairly new to fly fishing. After studying the generator prediction and the real time flows from the Corps of Engineers, we decided to fish Rim Shoals. Dennis and I had done well there, with other clients, a few days earlier.

It was a sunny, warm day with mild winds. There was low water. It was a bit more than the predicted minimum flow but it was dropping. The parking lot was full. I was concerned that it would be a bit crowded. It later turned out to be a group of bait fishing guides on a big half day trip. They all fished outside the Catch and Release section where Dennis and I would fish. In fact, we pretty much had Rim Shoals to ourselves all day.

I fished with Dan and his wife, Nicki. We began the day drift fishing. I had rigged them with double fly rigs, a size 18 ruby midge below a Clint’s Sunday special (a local caddis pupa pattern) with a bit of lead and a Thingamabobber. Dan was on fire and was catching trout after trout on virtually every drift. Nicki was struggling a bit but still managed to catch around ten before lunch. When we stopped for lunch Dennis and his clients joined us at a picnic table in the shade. We compared notes and found out that we had all landed a lot of fish and everyone had lost count.

After lunch, Dan and Nicki eyed the low water and told me that they wanted me to quit drifting and wade fish. As a guide I was hesitant to quit a technique that was working so well. At the same time, I wanted to please my clients. We all donned our waders and I headed to a riffle where we could easily wade and hopefully catch some fish.

I took a few minutes to rig Nicky’s rod with an olive woolly bugger and a lot of lead. I carefully placed her in some productive water. I left Dan rigged as he was when we were drifting and placed him in some good water nearby. He hooked a couple of good fish but was unable to land them in the heavy current. Meanwhile, Nicki was on fire. She was landing a lot of very good fish on the olive woolly bugger.

Dan did not want to fish woolly buggers and wanted to try something new. I rigged him up with a soft hackle and placed him below Nicki, making sure that she had plenty of room to maneuver and catch fish. About that time, she hit a good fish. I quickly moved to her location in order to net it. I had her gently move the fish out of the heavy current into milder water. I was able to net the fish and we then moved toward the bank to take a picture. It was a magnificent twenty inch rainbow. I took several photos and we then gently released the trout.

I turned my attention to Dan. We tried several soft hackles before we settled on the partridge and orange. I noticed trout rising and assumed that they were keying in on emerging insects. The partridge and orange did the trick and Dan was soon into a lot of trout. Now I had both Dan and Nicki catching a lot of fish. They were very happy with the outcome. They got to drift fish in the morning and try a new technique and wade in the afternoon. We fished late. At the end of the day Dennis and I estimated that we had collectively caught around one hundred fifty trout that day.

When you are guiding, it is important to listen to your clients and if possible make changes in location and technique to make their day as pleasant for them as possible.

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