Flyfishing in Mid-summer

It’s high summer—that brief period of the year with dependably warm days, lots of sunshine and, for the most part, cool nights so we can get our homes cooled off before the heat of the next day.

It’s the time of the year when my garden finally does some serious growing, with tomatoes and chile pepper plants responding to warm temperatures after surviving through our normally cold June weather. Now it’s a race to actually produce some fruit before the frosts of September.

It’s a wonderful time for fishing on area streams and rivers. These last couple weekends have seen hordes of people enjoying mid-summer floating and fishing on the Big Hole, though I suspect the numbers of floaters will be declining as river levels keep dropping. This past weekend my pontoon boat was hitting bottom going through riffles and next time I will likely be dragging the boat.

As for catching fish, as pleasant as it is to sleep in on some of these cool mornings and to enjoy a leisurely morning, my advice to fellow anglers is to get with the program and get out on the river before the sun gets too high in the sky.

On my last few outings on the Big Hole, it seemed like the most productive time to be on the water was from around 9:30 to 11 a.m. There are lots of Pale Morning Dun mayflies getting fish appetites going. These mayflies, PMDs for short, are at the heart of mid-summer fishing action. Whether still in the nymph stage of life, or an emerging adult, or finally, an egg-laying insect in its last stage of life, these aquatic insects feed a lot of trout and keep fly tiers and flyshops happy and busy.

Of course, being on the water at the right time and with the right fly doesn’t mean you’ll catch fish. Trout are frustrating that way. They don’t always understand that they are supposed to agree with our thoughts of which are the right flies. All I can say is that if fish seem to be feeding but are refusing your flies, put on something different, probably a smaller imitation. It might also be time to tie on a fresh tippet, and possibly a lighter one, at the end of your leader.

You might occasionally try a different tactic. The long, drag-free float of a dry fly is the ideal we’re supposed to achieve. On my last outing, I was working a run and getting some long floats, but not getting many rises. On one of those drifts I let the fly reach the end of a drift and just as the fly was about to drag across the current I gave the rod a jerk, pulling the fly underwater. Just then, a brown trout hit the fly. That trout’s feeding station was evidently at the bottom of the run where it was picking off insects sinking beneath the water’s surface. It was the best trout of the morning.

While we enjoy these warm and sunny midsummer days, the earlier sunsets are a warning that the season is progressing. While floating the Big Hole I spotted a family of Canada geese. There were a dozen juvenile goslings, now about three fourths grown and developing adult plumage, and escorted by a parent goose. After watching me wading the shallows and fishing, the adult goose decided to give the kids a flying lesson. One by one, the juvenile geese started flapping and taking to the air. A few crash-landed on the runway, but got back up and successfully took to the air on a second try.

In short, while these late July days are hot and sunny, these summer days are numbered and the next season is coming. Whether we’re ready or not, five weeks from today is the first day of September, along with new and renewed opportunities in the outdoors.

Still, let’s not rush the season. For now we’ll concentrate on putting on sunscreen and bug spray and trying to catch fish on little dry flies and celebrating being out there.