Bobcat WMA and Plum Creek WMA on Plum Creek
Plum Creek, wow, what a place! This was probably my favorite stream to fish where I never caught a fish. Hell, I really don’t know if there were even fish in the water, but it was as almighty of a place that I have been too. Nestled in the sandhills between Valentine and Long Pine is where you can find Plum Creek, another tributary of the Niobrara River. The two main locations of access reside at the Bobcat Wildlife Management area and Plum Creek Wildlife Management Area. There is also another point of entry south and upstream of Bobcat, which I did not venture to due to precarious roads leading in. Again, this area was just plain beautiful, but the best part about it had something to do with the lack of cell service and the full connection to intimate and undisturbed land. We started our time on Plum Creek by beginning with the Bobcat WMA which is about 10 miles north of Ainsworth.
To get down to the stream you have to hike in about a mile long with a fair drop in grade, so be prepared. When we eventually made it down I was instantly surprised and in awe. It reminded me very much of Long Pine and the Snake River, which only made sense as it’s another Niobrara tributary, but I presupposed that it would be another thin stream with little volume because well I had never heard anything about Bobcat, but it was quite the opposite. It had more water and was probably another 10 feet wider than Long Pine. My assumption of a small stream lead to me bring only my 3 weight rod, although I’m not sure if my 5 weight would have done me any good because the water was abundant with silt running through the water.
Even though the stream had a plethora of pockets and rocks strewn about, I don’t know if any fish were actually in there due to how much sand was coming downstream. As I am sure you know, trout do not fair well in sandy waters because their gills have a difficult time processing the water to receive proper oxygenation; they need clean, clear and cold water. And the fact of the matter is, it wasn’t that clear. I could see my boots in the water while stand knee deep, but I felt there was too much silt moving through to provide that exceptional habitat that trout need in Nebraska.
With that said, I would not count Plum Creek out. The next day we went further upstream to the Plum Creek WMA. For the second day in a row we were followed by deer hunters who were cycling their rounds to various spots where they had set up deer stands earlier in the season.
After we walked to the river from the parking area, which was a much easier hike this time around, we fished throwing some buggers and nymphs but nothing took. Down here, the WMA is located about 10 miles west of Ainsworth and just south of Johnston, right off of Highway 20. The stream isn’t nestled deep in a canyon like it is at Bobcat, but it has great coverage under big deciduous trees and splotches of coniferous trees. Again, plenty of holes are scattered up and down the creek with many big bends where fish surely hang out, but there was still a little too much sand in the water for it be a viable fishing day.
When we came back to the parking lot, one of the hunters was up at his vehicle as well. After speaking with him, it was clear that fish do in fact roam in the stream. He told me he always sees fish in this stream here at the Plum Creek WMA and Bobcat WMA, especially in the summer when they are setting up their stands. But the major difference was the water was much higher than normal. Earlier in the year he was able to cross at his point in duck boots with water at his ankles, but at this time in the year (mid October) the water was nearly up to his knees at this same crossing spot. This lead me to believe the fish moved their way to the Niobrara to avoid the fluctuation of water and abnormal amount of sediment running through. But that wasn’t all of the intel we were left with. They told us to check out the little pond at the south parking out, mentioning there were ton of trout in there, so that’s where we went!
As we walked the trail from the parking lot heading north along the ridge, there is a stark drop off where the pond lies underneath. As we stood from the top, the water was so crystal clear you could see nearly every single fish in this spring fed, small body of water. We snuck down there and simply watched. It must have been perfect timing because they were having fun smacking the top for bugs. That was my queue to put on some dries!
After all of that demise of not catching a fish and only seeing silty water, this persistence paid off. No matter what I threw and how much of ruckus I made reeling fish in they kept taking. I’m sure they weren’t the brightest of fish as they were probably stockies, but man was it sure fun! I’ll bet you I caught around thirty fish and Nicolette even caught her self a handful of Rainbow Trout as well.
The next day we didn’t even bother to fish the stream and just finished our last day here with a morning fish on the pond. It was much cloudier compared to the day before where it was nothing but sunshine and blue skies while the hatch was nonexistent with a slight breeze. Needless to say fishing conditions were night and day, but Nicolette seemed to be on fire out fishing me in the hour we were down there. In the end, this little pond made up for lack of fish in the stream and gave me a glimpse to what it’s like fly-fishing on a lake, which was a first. Now I want to do some alpine fishing!