Tucked away in between sandhills and cornfields; about as far east as trout streams are found in Nebraska, lies a pristine, wriggly little stream where the trout are hard to be seen. On my first look at the water, I didn’t think they were even in there. With clean and clear water, a sandy bottom and very few log jams, I was sure I would see a trout or two hanging out in the open, but never saw a thing of such sorts. Granted, I was catching up with an old college buddy who lived near the area, so more time was spent chatting than it was scouting. Nonetheless, we wound up catching a glimpse of two spooked fatties swimming right underneath our feet as we skirted along the bank and that was enough to convince they are in here. But of course, they were well aware of our whereabouts, long before we knew theirs..
About 25 miles south of the alluring Niobrara State Park where the Missouri and the Niobrara Rivers converge and where the Ponca Tribe resided for at least a few hundred years, the Verdigre tributary flows north to meet the two. As a note, the term verdigris specifically refers to a green or greenish-blue pigmentation on copper formed through an acidic and poisonous reaction. In Spanish, the root word – verde – simply means green. Now although I don’t think the creek or area is by any means poisonous, it certainly holds up to the other half of the definition of being green! With big rolling hills and lush vegetation abound, it is quite obvious how the dominion received the name. One major difference of this part of Nebraska compared to the rest, is that it sheethes a medley of rolling sandhills from the west, mixed with the fertility of fauna and flora from the east. Altogether creating an eco-rich habitat for wildlife and earthly seclusion.
As you may tell, I was immediately impressed with the Royal-Orchard compounds and the East Branch of the Verdigre Creek. The public fishing grounds for this trout-carrying stream flows through the Grove Lake Wildlife Management Area, about two miles east and a mile north of the town of Royal. Here, you can also visit the Grove Lake Trout Rearing Station which provides approximately 150,000 trout to surrounding areas in the state. In fact, it’s quite the sight if you’ve never seen a fish hatchery before! Anyways, at Grove Lake WMA, there is quite a bit of stream to play on. I began by fishing south of the lake where the stream feeds into the lake and where a number of campgrounds can be found. Again, it took me a little while before I figured out where and how to fish, but once I caught on, then I started hooking them!
The thing about Verdigre is the creek is a bender. It twists and turns so much, that you can fish holes in two completely different stretches just by spinning around 180 degrees. Here the creek is only about 10 feet wide and at best 3 feet deep. Trout hang tight to the banks, hiding underneath the grasses that provide coverage right along the edge that causes a slight eddy effect. Again, you can’t see them but as soon as you walk by, they surely see you! Most of the time they’ll just slide a little deeper under the grasses which have to go under the bank at least another foot and a half. Even the spots that you wouldn’t think fish would hide out, there are probably one or two hanging out waiting for food to pass by. In fact, a handful of the fish I did catch, was actually a nice little surprise!
Since the trout primarily hanging under the banks, the best bet is to cast tight to the banks and drop a nymph right where the grasses are being pulled underwater. For me, they were chomping on a san juan worm, pink and red both worked. I spoke with another gentleman who liked using prince nymphs, but I wasn’t having luck with one.
In the end, my best advice is to be sneaky and patient, which seems pretty obvious but he holes simply aren’t big enough to carry a large volume of trout and once they skirry out they’re likely to spook the next hole too. They are in there in though and with good size too. Nothing monstrous, but big enough to put up a good fight especially with a lighter weight rod!