Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Avoid summertime blues

When water levels rise, fly-fishermen often fish “down and dirty” with nymphs. That method may be most productive, but the writer prefers to probe freestoners with dry flies. (Photo by Richard Tate)

By Richard Tate
Contributing Writer

 

During a long trout season, fly-fishermen must adjust to various conditions if they want to be successful. This is especially true during the fluctuating conditions of summer.

 

Often, July is a rainy month, and most streams’ water levels rise as the rain falls. This often requires fly-fishermen to fish “down and dirty.” Nymph-fishing becomes a preferred method of fly-fishing in this scenario.

 

Not only does the fly-fisherman need to attach one or two heavy nymphs to his leader; he might also need to attach one or two split shot to his leader to get his nymphs down deep where the trout are feeding.  

 

As a fly-fishing guru once noted, the difference between a nymph fisherman and a successful nymph fisherman is often a split shot or two that helps him to get his fly down where the trout can find it.

 

This was certainly true last summer when it rained regularly till mid-July. Still, I was able to catch trout consistently. On July 8, I enjoyed a typical morning.  

 

My fishing journal reads, “I started fishing about 6:30 a.m., fishing about a mile of stream. It had rained again overnight and was really humid and already 70 degrees.  

 

“The 58-degree creek was up a little more and was gray, so I added two #8 shot to a two-nymph rig, both size 12 beadhead Hare’s Ears. I was two hours and 17 trout into the morning when I latched onto and landed a nice 17-inch wild brown trout.  

 

“I like to end an outing with a nice trout, and I headed back to the truck after landing him.”

 

With all of last summer’s rains, mountain freestone streams flowed at nearly ideal levels until midsummer, and I was able to travel to a couple of these before the water shrank in August.  

 

When I fish freestoners, I like to probe them with dry flies, “fishing the water” in the absence of visibly rising trout. This is not an affectation; it is an enjoyable, effective method of catching trout.  

 

Only a couple of days after the above-described fishing adventure, I had driven more than an hour to a mountain run I like to fish. It was in perfect condition on this mild afternoon and only 60 degrees at 1 p.m. I knotted on a size 14 tan Wright Fluttering Caddis and fished till a little after 3.

 

The fishing began a little slowly; but as the afternoon progressed, I increasingly ran into fish that were eager to eat the little caddis. By the time I had reached the upper end of the section of water I had chosen to fish, I had landed 16 wild brown and native brook trout. A couple of the browns pushed 14 inches, and that made the outing a special one.

 

When the waters receded as the rains slowed down as summer advanced, I had to alter my fly-fishing tactics. The little freestone streams became increasingly difficult to fish, as the fish became tough to approach in the low-water conditions.  

 

I concentrated my fishing on spring-fed streams where the water remained cold and did not shrink to the low levels that existed on the mountain runs. I also stopped adding extra weight to my leader, choosing to fish with only one nymph as opposed to a pair, and used smaller flies than I had when the water was flowing more swiftly. 

 

These adjustments worked for me. For instance, when I got back home from a “vacation” to the dreaded Eastern Shore, I spent the next morning on a small valley trout stream.  

 

My journal reads, “It was a mild, sunny morning, and I fished from 6:20 to 8:40 a.m. with a size 14 Copper John. In water that was only 62 degrees and was much lower than it had been before we left a week ago for the beach, I was into trout consistently the whole time.   

 

“The fish were mostly small 8- to 10-inchers, but I managed a handful between 12 and 13 inches. A 16-inch wild brown early in the outing was just beautiful and made my day.”

 

The good summer fishing continued, and I was able to get some innings in on a large, famous river about a half-hour from home as the waters shrank. On this hard-fished river, I did not catch nearly as many trout as I had on smaller streams, but I did manage a few larger ones.  

 

On the morning of Aug. 9, I used a heavily weighted beadhead Hare’s Ear and dredged several large runs not far from the river’s only fly shop. I landed eight trout, but two of them were 16 inches and another pushed 20 inches.

 

During the summer, water conditions can fluctuate significantly with the weather.  To be successful, a fly-fisherman must adjust his tactics appropriately.

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