Streamer fishing is what most people think of when they hear the White River, and the winter months can be a great time to fish some of the largest streamer patterns you can think of. The ability to cast well is extremely important in this game. The brown trout get very aggressive this time of year because they are trying to get one last meal in before they start their spawn, or they just spawned and need to pack on pounds after they have gone a long time without eating. Streamer fishing is not for the faint of heart, a good motto to remember is “zero to hero” because there are no guarantees when it comes to this method of fly fishing, except that you will be casting a lot and covering miles of water throughout the day.
Even though most angler’s think streamer fishing is the only way to get big fish this time of year, the nymphing can be more productive and produce some real giants. Dry fly fishing can also be an option during the colder months, all it takes is a warmer winter day to get the midges happy and hatching and the trout will be looking up.
The first real hatches of the year begin during the Spring and their timing is all relative to the air and water temperatures. The White River will begin to see caddis flying around in March, but April and May are prime time. This is a very special season on the river because every year the hatch gets thicker and more prominent. Spring can be one of the best times on the White River for an angler to connect with a brown trout of a lifetime. The brown’s love caddis and they tend to lose all sense of security and doubts that they may show during the rest of the year. This hatch lends the option of any technique to the angler as nymphs, dry flies, swinging wet flies and soft hackles and even tight line euro style fishing are all productive methods.
Following the Caddis chaos is the often looked over Sulphur hatch, which is a very well-known mayfly ranging from the Midwest to the northeast parts of the country. The Sulphur hatch does not last as long as the caddis with the best times to target this mayfly is May and can continue through June depending on river flows and temperatures. During this hatch, it allows the angler to fish any and every technique they prefer to do, as the fish will eat this bug in all of its 5 stages of their lifecycle.
The Southern summer heat gets numerous types of terrestrials very active and can be some of the most exciting dry fly and foam fishing one may ever experience. Most people just say summertime “hopper fishing” but there is much more than just hopper’s including Japanese beetles, Cicada’s, large spiders, as well as many other big flying insects. The beginning of this “season” is always blurry but generally can start being productive around mid-June and can last through late fall. Some people consider the ending as the second freeze of Fall. The best way to mentally approach this time of year and this technique of targeting large trout on the surface is to think of it as streamer fishing with a dry fly. The most productive way to fish this time of year, like streamer fishing, is covering a lot of water which means a lot of casting to structure. Casting is very important because whether it’s underneath or around trees, boulders, and whatever else that looks fishy… it probably is.
Throwing big dry flies can be addictive but don’t write off the nymph fishing this time of year because trout feed primarily subsurface and with the amount and diversity of food beneath the water’s surface, there is a greater chance of this method being more productive.
Fall is like Spring fishing in that it is also a transitional period and follows some phenomenal summer terrestrial fishing and is leading into winter fishing but that does not mean the fishing suffers. Depending on the weather, the dry fly fishing can still be great and usually means the angler is throwing a terrestrial, caddis or midge. There are a few hatches during the Fall that most anglers look over, those being pseudocloeon, small blue wing olive, and there is also a caddis hatch, but they are much smaller than the ones we see in the Spring and of course the ever-present midge in various sizes and colors. Fall is also the time when brown trout start to get ready for their winter spawn, so they are trying to pack on the pounds before they start finding their winter partner. Rainbow trout at this time will also have a false spawn so it can be beneficial to nymphing with an egg as a lead fly and if water conditions are right, the streamer fishing can be a great way to find a large trout looking for a pre-spawn meal. The weather this time of year can be very comfortable and the angling traffic on the river tends to thin out much more than the peak seasons.