It’s mid-July and, for better or worse, spring runoff is over.
For those of us who like to wade rivers and streams in search of trout, this is the best part of the season. There are still good hatches of caddis and mayflies, along with golden stones, yellow sallies, and other aquatic insects. In the next week or so we’ll likely be seeing some spruce moths showing up along the streams. Also, in a couple weeks, we should be seeing some tricos, the smallest of our mayflies, showing up by the millions.
Of course, for the float angler, all those hatches are there for you, as well. Just keep in mind that, as water levels continue to drop, boating becomes more difficult, as we have to drag or push our boats through the shallow riffles. I have a small pontoon boat, so I do both floating and wading, though I generally tend to think of my floating as transportation from one wading spot to another.
Over the years, I’ve caught more fish in late summer than any other time. For a number of years, I participated in Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ fishing log program, and looking back at a year or two of fishing logs, the numbers of fish I catch are the highest in August. That’s probably because the river levels are relatively low and fish are looking up for food, and during trico time, the food is abundant, but tiny. Fish have to feed actively to fill up.
While hot weather was mostly non-existent through May and June and into July, the warmest part of the summer is now and in coming weeks. We’ll have to keep our fingers crossed that flows don’t go so far down, coupled with hot weather, that there will be angling closures, as there have been in some years.
It usually seems to me that the best part of the day, during hot weather, is during mid to late morning, and as the day heats up, the insect hatches taper off and so does fish activity.
That’s not a hard and fast rule, of course. I recall one day, a few years ago, when I had a fun morning fishing a trico spinner fall. After taking a lunch break after the trico action, I went to another spot, just a few hundred yards upstream, and got into a spruce moth feeding frenzy. I don’t remember how many fish I actually caught, but I know I had almost continuous action just slowly working my way up just 50 yards, or so, of a long run, where feeding trout were lined up to pick off spruce moths.
I’ve also had many great evenings of fishing, casting soft-hackle wet flies across the current. As the sun goes down fish often start feeding. I recall a few years ago chatting with a couple that was giving it up for the day. They were dry fly purists, or so they said, and nothing was rising. I told them, “It’s just about to get good,” explaining that I’d be fishing with soft-hackle wet flies.
“We like to see them rise,” they said, and I said that with soft-hackle flies, you usually see the fish come up and take the fly.
I have long treasured those evenings. It’s a special time. Most other anglers have quit for the day, and I usually have the river to myself. As the sun goes down, there are often some hatches starting and fish begin to feed.
Of course, mosquitoes are often part of the adventure, as well. It’s pretty well accepted that DEET, the active component of many insect repellants, destroys vinyl. The coating of our fly lines is vinyl, so loading up with bug dope will shorten the life of a fly line. I guess that’s the price of maintaining sanity when mosquitoes are swarming.
We’re almost a month past the Summer Solstice, and our evenings are noticeably shorter. September is just a month and a half away. Take advantage of summer while it lasts.