Tag Archive: White River Arkansas



The Pheasant Tail Nymph – Frank Sawyer.


Sawyers Pheasant Tail Nymph in Davy Wotton's Collection (Davy Wotton Photo)

Many of you will be somewhat familiar with the Pheasant tail Nymph (PTN) that said few if any PTNs bear resemblance to the PTN, credited to Mr. Frank Sawyer. All be it there was reference way before in fly fishing literature for use of the cock pheasant center tail, but not in the manner that Sawyer innovated the PTN.

Frank Sawyer began his professional life as a river keeper on the River Avon, a noted chalk stream in the southern region of England, which is also the geographical areas other famous chalk streams are found, such as the Test, Itchen, Wyle, Kennet and many more.
What makes these streams different from the more common freestone rivers found in the rest of the UK is the water quality, with a couple of exceptions. The result of water that is subject to aqua-firs or run off from surrounding water that has percolated through chalk. These zones of chalk (calcium carbonate ) are only found in the very southern regions of England, as you would see from pictures of the White cliffs of Dover facing the English channel between England and France. Limestone is also a CC which is why the White river is also a fertile river.

This factor maintains for very high Ph values, which in turn generates desirable aquatic vegetation and provides for perfect invertebrate habitat both for winged insects and crustaceans.
The most well known is the Ephemera Danica, the largest species of mayfly found in the UK. It being a species that emerges May/June time, also known as the Green Drake.
It is also a species found in many other limestone rivers and the great limestone lakes of Ireland.

Almost certainly the species that created the further interest for dry fly fishing and mayfly patterns.
I can tell you from experience that there is nothing more exhilarating than fishing to rising trout during this hatch, both during the dun stage, (sub imago) and the spinner fall also known as the spent gnat, that is when the spent flies lay dead on the water surface.

Mr. Sawyer became greatly concerned when more modern methods of agriculture resulted in run off into the River Avon causing a build up of silt that in-turn reduced both habitat for the trout and food base. He set upon a program to clean the river. He also due to the loss of trout generated a stocking program by catching gravid fish, stripping them of eggs and milt, returning those fish back to the river and raising fry in the hatchery that were then introduced to re-populate the river.

He also figured out that if Chalk was introduced into a stream or river that it would have the effect of breaking down undesirable matter and thereafter enrich the water quality.
Still a practice widely used today.

It was the river keepers responsibility to make sure the wealthy clients were able to catch their fair share of fish, back in those times no such thing as catch and release was practiced, if the fishing was not as required the river keeper would be fired. As would the gamekeeper who was not able to provide great numbers of game birds, such as pheasant, grouse, partridge for his Lordships shooting party.

Sawyers practice was to present the PTN to a trout seen, or of known position, either the trout would take as the nymph drifted toward it or the fly was raised to induce a take.
It was known as the Netheravon style.

By comparison today PTN are bulky affairs, not event close to the Sawyer PTN.
No thread was used to tie the fly, copper wire and PT tail fibers. This also allowed the fly to sink at a rapid rate.

Video of Frank Sawyer Tying his Pheasant Tail Nymph

The fly is in my opinion still one of the best all-round patterns to use to represent the majority of smaller may fly nymphs, not to mention its general ability to catch fish.

During my time in the UK l more or less fished all the chalk streams in the Southern regions of the UK, the PTN and hares ear were my 2 go too nymphs, no such thing as bead heads in those days.
Chalk streams are gin clear rivers and very special places to cast a fly line, that l can tell you.
For any of you interested you can still fish most of these waters. Many beats are leased to outfitters or angling associations for daily use. So far as l am aware Orvis still lease a section of the river Test the most famous of the English Chalk Streams and one that many of the well known names of the past fished.

Frank Sawyer past away on the banks of his beloved river the Avon at Netheravon in 1980..
I was fortunate to spend some time with Mr.Sawyer a couple of times in the late 60s and 70s. He was a good friend of a friend of mine also a river keeper.
I have in my collection some original flies that Mr.Sawyer tied, shown here.

In so far as tying the original PTN, it takes practice, its looks very simple, it is once you have mastered the technique.

Davy Wotton.
November 2014.

(Posted by Teresa “TBird” VanWinkle, January 14, 2015)






What a weird year so far as current weather conditions, now into May, we have seen snow, sleet, rain, high winds and very low temperatures, all of which have had some effect on fish and bug activity out there on the rivers. The caddis season this year was somewhat less so far as the huge hatches that we have seen on the past. That’s not to say caddis are not present in the rivers in great numbers for they are, at least the caddis larva. I think what happened this year was due to the longer periods of zero generations at a time when the larva had migrated to shallow water zones prior to pupation, they were left high and dry. Also hatches do go in cycles, as there is a period of time based on species from egg to pupal stage to adult, which may be from 1 to 2 years. What has been interesting this Spring is the numbers of large stonefly we have seen. Unlike caddis stonefly nymphs crawl out of the water to shoreline structure to emerge as winged adults, most of the time during the hours of darkness, by which time in the morning they are winged and ready to take off to the bank side vegetation. At least this is a good indication of better water quality. This past few days l have seen a dozen or so Sulphurs emerge, hopefully climatic conditions will settle and hatches will be good for the short period of time they are abundant.

Fortunately the lakes rose a good few feet that resulted in for the White good continuous lower levels of generation. That has improved the situation so far as flushing out the dead and dying moss and alga and the didymo, all be its still present in the upper levels of the river. Overall the water is in good shape and clear. Do expect if generations levels are increased or there is shut down and then new water that it will be trashy until the crap is flushed through. Norfork has seen longer periods of zero generations, giving many wade angler options to fish the river.


Adult caddis activity may more or less be done, that is not to say trout will not respond to caddis pupa imitations and dry caddis for they will. Once fish have been accustomed to seeing a particular food source they will still look for it. Preferred flies will include SLF Trans caddis pupa in tan and green, with and without bead head, Elk hair caddis is always a good bet for dries, the DW Caddis Cruncher s good bet to represent emergers and as a general fly fished soft hackle style.

For general nymph fishing White tail midge in Black, Red, Crystal, Pearl in sizes 14 o 18 have been top fish catchers and will remain so all year. Add to the list gold ribbed hares ear, PTNs, Scuds and Sowbugs in gray, tan and olive sizes 14 to 18, prince nymphs, Prism worms in red, tan, orange and pink. Midge fishing then various small zebra style midge pupa and emergers will suit well for lower water levels. Try the puff pupa and DW midge emergers, often as not deadly for those surface feeding midgers. It would be wise also at this time to carry sulphur nymphs, dries and emergers.

If overhead light conditions are not too bright, blue sky, early AM, later afternoon evening to dark are good times to consider fishing dries which may include, hoppers, ants, stimulators, caddis and sulphurs. Options here will include fishing a dry/nymph dropper combination in the shallower water zones, all be it once again if water is gin clear and overhead light is bright fish will be wary, wind is useful at this time if it flurries the water surface. Soft hackles and winged wets have accounted for many 100s of fish this past month, they will include, Hares ear, March Brown, Invicta, Silver Invicta, Partridge and orange, Grouse and green, Woodcock and hares ear, kelso,Green Butt hares ear.

It is at this time of the year that Browns move toward feeding activity during the late evening into dark and early AM. Larger food forms are now abundant, such as craws, sculpins, minnows and the now larger stockings of Rainbow trout. That is not to say that fishing larger streamers if we see good water will not be productive all be it the fishing may be very slow during day time conditions when we see gin clear water and bright light days. Fishing large dries may be a good option cast to banks that have some shade cover from over hanging vegetation if there is no streamer action.

No way to determine future generations all be it l would expect Bull Shoals to continue with continuous generations for some time. Norfork same unless we do see lake levels climb more than they are at this time. In the case of the Norfork l am given to understand that the min flow will be operative shortly.

Tight lines all.


An under water shot of Davy's SLF Caddis Emerger (Insect Green, shown) Tied By Davy

An under water shot of Davy’s SLF Caddis Emerger (Insect Green, shown) Tied By Davy

The SLF Trans caddis pupa/emerger is one of for myself a must have in the fly box. Briefly it was a fly l developed back in the 70s primarily for fishing stillwaters, all be it there is no such thing as a still water, water in lakes move as do the fish as they cruise the waters looking for food sources. Such also is the case for trout that inhabit moving water systems, all be it there is one major different and that is trout here await food sources in most cases to be drifted down to their location.

My view regarding that is simply this. If the angler presents to a trout a reasonable representation of a known food source in that particular water and presents it in a natural manner odds are a trout will take it, all be it there may be times mainly due to the abundance of a given food source or angling pressure that a closer representation of that food source coupled with a higher degree of fished and presentation techniques will be needed to fool those fish.

In the case of sedge/caddis emergence often as not trout will lose some degree of caution due to the abundance of the species and the very nature of how caddis emerge which is different from mayfly and midge.

The original fly used at the time seals fur, which is generally not available here in the US. Granted there are some sources, saying that the quality of the seal is not that good, the best seal was obtained from the fur of baby seals and not adults, which is very coarse and not easy to work with, in consequence today seal fur subs such as SLF standard and dubbings that are combinations of natural and synthetic fibers are the way to go.

In the case of the original fly which was featured in Fly Tyer in the 90s, l used a split thread method to build the body of the fly for it is to some extent important that you produce a body that allows a great degree of translucence as seen in the picture. I tight wound dub will not achieve same. I know that for many using the split thread method is not easy therefore one must when producing the body of the fly pay attention to how it is formed, it needs to effect a more fly away effect, that is achieved by not twisting the dub too tight.

Color of fly body may be related to species, which in many cases will be shades of insect green to dark olive, cream and tan, all be it colors such as hot orange can be deadly at times, particularly late evenings.

Threads. My original fly used Danvilles fly master 6/0 for the reason that this thread is the absolute best for split thread methods, Wapsi UTC is close. Most others do not allow effect for split method and in many cases you cannot separate the strands of thread to do it.

Hook sizes can be as large as a standard 10 down to size 16, which will cover most sizes of caddis, best overall general sizes are 12 to 14, standard wetly nymph hook profiles.

Here is the standard tying for the fly.

Hook. Sizes………….. ..10 to 16

Bead head is optional… Gold/silver or nickel

Body…………………….. SLF standard in the colors mentioned above.

Wing case……………… Swiss straw also known as raffine, it is the same product.. colors natural straw or light tan

Hackle……………………The original l used brown partridge which is now a costly material /// alternatives such as hen pheasant, hen saddle and neck will suit well, colors to be generally light brown/tan or variegated.

Head of fly ………………Should be a darker shade of dubbing, hare ear or SLF Dave Whitlock number 1 red fox works fine

Horns……………………..The fly shown sports two horns that represent the caddis antenna, tied in at the head of the fly. Two strands of brown mallard, wood duck also works fine. Option to use or not.

Tying technique.

Add bead if needed.

Form the body of the fly app 2/3 hook shank length.

Wing case. Is formed from a folded strip of Swiss straw related to hook and body size. It should when tied above the fly body fold down so as it more or less encloses the entire body of the fly, when wet the result is as seen in the picture.

Hackle..Is wound about 2 turns in front of the now formed body and shuck casing.

Head….A small dark dubbing.

Horns…Tied so as they lay rearward alongside the fly body.


The fly may be fished dead drift, in conjunction with one or more flies as used for traditional style wet fly fishing or use of indicator for dead drift methods. My choice is to fish this fly with animation which in the case for rivers and streams is to cast the fly a little upstream and across and slowly recover the fly across stream in known zones fish reside or are seen surface feeding to emerging caddis, in this case it may be choice to fish a pair of flies a larger fly at tail and above 2 to 3ft a size smaller attached to a 4 or 5 ins dropper. In the case of stillwater a long leader should be used 12 to 15ft, the flies cast either to seen rising fish or in known zones they are active. either a dry line of a intermediate are best choices. Here again my choice is to use 2 flies spaced 4ft apart of two different sizes and colors.

Davy Wotton

Unique touch by...the Brown Trout God?

This past weekend afforded us great weather for anything that you might have wanted to do outdoors so I set out on a walk with the two Jack Russels and to see how the fishing was going.

Watching from up atop an embankment at the State Park, I spotted Davy. I watched as Davys’ drift passed near shoreline of the river with client, Bill, who had a well bent rod and was in the throws of landing this winter White River Brown; once netted I motioned them in for a “Kodak moment”…the colors on this fish were bold and the spots very pronounced.
A good solid healthy fish for sure, not that this is a rare sight for the White River, water temps that day were 45F degrees, with a nice light breeze and warm sun.

The reason this is such a cool picture, as you can see, is that this beam comes straight down to rest on the back and illuminating the adipose fin of the little beauty…right in front of Davy.
Funny thing it did not appear visible to my eye as I snapped the photo but obviously capture here in the photo.

I will take it as a very good sign that the recently spawned browns of the White River have been blessed for the 2013 fly fishing season.

Keep a hook in the vise-


Ed Garner, a long time client of Davy's makes his final trip for 2012 and has already booked for 2013...is there any wonder why...taken on a size 18 Red Prism Tail Midge. Davy Wotton Photo

Ed Garner, a long time client of Davy’s makes his final trip for 2012 and has already booked for 2013…is there any wonder why…taken on a size 18 Red Prism Tail Midge. Davy Wotton Photo

After well over 200 trips in a guide season, Davy still never tires of watching his clients bring this to hand.

After well over 200 trips in a guide season, Davy still never tires of watching his clients bring this to hand.

I guess we have seen that last of the fall, few green leaves remain on the trees, water temperatures are dropping into the low 50s at this time, many Browns have begun to spawn and many as yet have not done so, and we see way less anglers out there on the water. Winter fishing for some is not appealing, and l can understand to some extent why, surface feeding activity is often reduced as cold water temperatures and cold winds blush the surface, neither of which are conducive to surface feeding activity unless you seek the slower shallow zones and fish are interested to feed on chironomids (midge).

Bill still has another trip on the books for this year- better bring his "A" game with him. Davy Wotton Photo

Bill still has another trip on the books for this year- better bring his “A” game with him. Davy Wotton Photo

On the other hand cold nights often see warmer temperatures mid day to early afternoon, even small temperature increases will often induce fish to feed more actively, be it close to the river bed or near surface, either way periods between 10am and 3pm are often the best times to be out there.

Certainly this past month being on the water on a regular basis my clients have indeed hooked up with some great fish, aside from boats loads of average size bows, we have seen many Browns in the 18 to 24 ins range and a number of class bows, topped by a 5 pounder.

Water generations have generally been lower, many days zero others 1 to 5000 cfs flow rates all be it days may very from low flows to increased and then back down to lower flows which means your chosen zone to fish may see good water for a while and then change as flows increase, ideally look for water levels that are consistent as here you will find fish more settled into a feeding mode.

Fishing options will include.

Low slow shallow water and fish taking midges. Choices here will include midge pupa sizes 16 to 22, black, red, gray, midge emergers and small dries sowbugs and scuds. Long leaders should be mandatory coupled with micro indicators, avoid your known presence to the fish, either by wade activity of disturbing the surface from fly line splash or drag.

Slower deeper water runs, opt for again midges in sizes 14 to 18, once again color can be very important, typically l fish a two fly rig. I would also include flies in the order of GRHE, PTNs, Eggs, Micro SJWs.

Shoal and riffle water zones, slow fished wet fly, soft hackles and spider fished dead drift will generally work here as will small streamers, woolly buggers in olive, black and white.

The cold mornings did not keep this California boy home- Brad Coleman has more than one good reason to smile...

The cold mornings did not keep this California boy home- Brad Coleman has more than one good reason to smile…

...this would be the other reason. Have a feeling Brad will be back for another birthday on the White.

…this would be the other reason. Have a feeling Brad will be back for another birthday on the White.

If we see high water flows then it may be time to chance some big streamers into the banks, all be it browns after spawn tend to be sluggish and need time to recover before they get back into feeding mode.

Other choices here for high water will include regular nymph rigs with combinations of eggs and SJWs in various colors, midge patterns in sizes 12 to 16, GRHE, Prince, Sowbugs. Simply the deal is to make sure your flies are close to the river bed, but not with such a weight added that you are hanging up.

Possibly is surface temps are warmer you might event induce a good fish to take a large surface dry fly, Hoppers, Bi-visibles, Ants, you never know what might promote some interest.

John Herholt held his own with trophy trout on his trip.

John Herholt held his own with trophy trout on his trip.

Flies in my box will include White and Red Tail Midges, White Tail Prism Midge, Prism Worms, SJ Worms, GRHE, PTNs various, variations of Zebra style midges, BWO, Sowbugs and Scuds, soft hackles and streamers. Most of the above will cover 90% of needs at this time.

Tight lines all.

Davy.  (posted December 12th, 2012-TBird)


New DVD Release Information from FLY FISH TV : 


                                                             Coming November 2012


Discover the Subtle Skills for Rigging and Fishing Midges

Learn to Precisely Tie Eight Versatile Patterns

Retail Price: $24.95 (add $3.50 for Ship&Handling)

Length: 2 Hour 30 Minutes

Host: Davy Wotton

Director/Videography: Gene Hering


Midge Magic Combo Cover


Midge Magic Tying demonstrates how to tie eight small patterns that can easily be adapted to match any midge hatch on your waters.  Davy picks his top producers and precisely instructs you on the details he believes are essential for bringing such modest flies to life. Any stage of a midge or tiny aquatic insect’s life cycle can be simulated once you learn these ties, and they fish equally well on still or moving waters.










–   56 Minutes  –

Midge Magic Fishing cover- Retail Price $19.95 + add $3.50 for Shipping & Handling

“MIDGE MAGIC FISHING”- Retail Price $19.95 + add $3.50 for Shipping & Handling

MIDGE MAGIC FISHING- will help you refine the unique presentation techniques that small flies require.  Davy Wotton demonstrates, on a variety of water types, all the skills needed to catch midging trout.   He will take you through essential gear, teach you how to assemble your leader and tippets, explain why your approach is critical, detail a variety of useful casts, and explain the critical factors you need to get a good drift.  1 Hour 30 Minuntes

**Also available “Midge Magic Tying” – Retail Price: $14.95 + (add  $3.50 for Shipping and Handling)

For the first time ever there are 3-ways to customize your fly fishing/tying needs for the skills in fly fishing and tying from the Master himself, Davy Wotton.

Gene Hering- Fly Fish TV

How to purchase:

For these or any of Davy’s other DVD’s you make send a personal check (specify item for puchase) Payable to:

Davy Wotton

1802 Marion County 7001

Flippin, AR. 72634

or visit www.DavyWotton.com and use PayPal.

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