Our second stop/first actual fish of our little tour was on the North Platte River below lake Ogallala. I had heard good things about this place before, but every time I was out at Lake Mcconaughy, I avoided looking due to time constraints or plain laziness, whatever you want to call it is up to you.
Anyways, Lake Mac dams up and spills into Lake Ogallala and then that dams up and spills into the North Platte River and the Sutherland Channel. As far as the Platte goes, three giant rock weirs then dam up these headwaters to slow the water down from the spillway. These weirs, piled up with old concrete blocks have created fertile grounds and giant pools for fish to lay, especially trout down. The trout in here are all escapees from the lakes and probably prefer this over the lake anyways.
I initially fished just below the second weir and instantly hooked into a 23-25 inch Tiger Trout. I hooked him on a Yellow bodied chubby chernobyl that happened to catch the current and was instantly submerged or taken right away, not sure! We fought for a while and I couldn’t get over how this was playing out. This was my second or third cast and I felt like a kid smiling from ear to ear, in pure disbelief this was happening on the first day of fishing, all within the first 5 minutes of the day. When I finally reeled him in, I felt a pure sense of fulfillment and didn’t even need to continue casting, but of course I couldn’t resist. After speaking with an old boy and his wife as they watched their son and grandson fish on the the rocks, I found out that the state record for a Tiger Trout was just under 4 pounds. I’m almost positive this one was close to 5!
Later on, I walked down stream along the trail that goes to the third weir and dropped in below the huge pool of water where all of the sea gulls and pelican hang about. There is a beautiful stretch just where it funnels into a comparatively narrow section and flattens out into what most people know of the Platte River.
On this windy day I had to make some tough big casts to get it out there enough for a good drift. Soon after getting in the water I was hooked on to a fiesty, jumping, fair sized rainbow that finally kicked off my hook. I waded up stream about 20 yards and then caught a little 10 incher on downstream swing. At this point I was already having fun, so without much expectation I walked back downstream and kept casting.
I was using my Redington Predator, 6 weight with a hopper dropper rig with a black and purple Chubby Chernobyl on top and a size 14 Prince Nymph. I was kind of just fanning the waters with casts from side to side patiently hitting the runs when I saw my indicator slowly go down and I naturally lifted, but my line just stuck then took off with a zing! I kept my line tight and played the game moving with her. When she wanted to go up, I followed behind, and when she ran down, I was chasing after. After about 10 minutes I was able to bring her close to the banks and I dropped my net in to safely land her. Both of us fatigued with exhaustion, I removed the nymph and admired her in the water while kneeling right there with the aged beauty. I put her head upstream with a light grasp and waited until she was ready to take off. My phone was left in the vehicle and my personal photographer wanted to take a nap so no photo to be had, just a fond memory that will play like a movie reel in my head till the day I die, or maybe it will just be on paper and I’ll have to remember how it went!
Shortly after I landed this beaut, I kept casting away when I saw a giant white object floating down the river. As it approached closer I was able to see that it was a big ole goofy looking pelican. He paddled himself at a slightly quicker pace than the current of the river and as he went past he gave me the stink-eye staredown to see if I was any threat. I just paused, gazed back and smiled as he kept on going.
I am quite unfamiliar with how the river evolves throughout the year, but at this time in September the fish seemed to be predominately lying between the heaps of seaweeds growing in this deeper stretch of the Platte. The second day I went straight back to the stretch below the third weir and the hatch was strong. I saw quite a few surfacing so I tried some dry flies myself. But to no avail, I was skunked out with only one flashing at my stimulator all morning.
On the third and final day fishing here there was a heavy easterly wind blowing upstream. This helped push my cast far up the stream, but made for a difficult back cast and an even harder turnover and presentation. This wind also directly affected the hatch but once the wind died down the fish were back to slapping the water. With this opportunity at hand, I went back to dry flying! I kept an orange, elk haired stimulator pretty consistent for the entire fish and mixed between a couple different colored elk hair caddis as a follower. Although, I only ended up catching two fun little trout, I had plenty smacking my flies all morning. So that at least made for an enjoyable and invigorating few hour fish.
The Search for Otter Creek
According to the Nebraska Game and Parks Trout Guide, there is a half-mile stretch of public access to the Otter Creek just north of Lake Mcconaughy. Not quite sure what that consisted of, I went to the Game and Parks office before entering Lake Mac and asked about it myself. The gentlemen looked a bit perplexed about what I was asking and simply stated that all you can do is go into Otter Bay and there is about a 100 yard stretch of creek feeding into the lake through two drainage pipes that enter from underneath the railroad.
So we went down to Otter Bay, scoped it out, and found exactly what he told us. It was a crystal cleer creek feeding into the bay with a sandy bottom and about two inches of water flowing out, mixing with its temperate counterpart where dead trees poke out of the water in an eerily manner
I took another look at the NEG&P Public Access Atlas and google maps and wasn’t convinced this was it for public access. We drove back out onto the highway and turned north onto the road that follows the creek. It was a very beautiful, tucked away neighborhood – I guess you could call it – that didn’t seem to fit the whole scope of the area with the thick density of forest in everyone’s backyard and a creek running right through the middle of it. Not to mention, posted signs everywhere exclaiming “No Trespassing” or “No Hunting or Fishing Allowed”. If someone was out in the yard I would have stopped and asked about it, but instead we turned around in defeat and went back onto the highway.
Our vehicle was in need of a little extra motor oil though so I stopped across the street at the Mesa View Lodge to see if they had any for sale. I found the owner as she was moving a couch in the “Man Cave” and asked if they happened to sell any oil. She replied, “no, but there is a convenience store about a mile up the road!”
“Great! Next question for you. You don’t happen to know anything about the public access point to Otter Creek do ya?”
She pointed us back down to Otter Bay, but then I quickly filled her in on what I had known about the trout guide and public access atlas.
She exclaimed “Oh! Well there is a road right along the other side of our property just between the highway that goes right into the creek there and I know people have been catching catfish and walleye down there earlier in the year. I don’t know about trout though. So go ahead and check it out!”
We then moseyed on down and took a gander. Again, it was crystal cleer, a little deeper than the bay, with a couple good looking bends that I imagine would hold fish when the water is higher. At the upstream end of it where it goes underneath the highway there was a man-made damming waterfall with a large pool right below that for sure looked like some fishing were holding in.
The next day we came back and I weaved my line in and out of the little bends to see if any little ones lingered about. But I saw nothing. Once I made it to the end where the deep waterfall-ish pool resided, I put on one of my self-tied orange flashback scud and tossed it into an eddy on the west side. As my line and hook swirled around, I began to lift up and felt a tug so I set the hook! It was a small 10 inch bass that fought for his life, but he didn’t have a chance when he was out of the pool where the water was just about 4 inches deep. Even though it was no trout, this brought a little more excitement to my life! As if I don’t already have enough to be excited about; driving around nebraska trying to catch trout for about month….