Archive for February 23rd, 2010

The Dog Days of Summer.

February 23, 2010

The Dog Days can be tough but also rewarding.

The Dog Days of Summer.

Right now we are in the dog days of summer, low water, tricky trout, bright sunshine and blue skies, none of which is conducive to the best in stream fly fishing. Add to that the fact that yours truly dislocated the shoulder in his casting arm and options become severely limited.

Sure I have been out on the water guiding clients and they have had to work particularly hard for their fish, the only good thing about it is that the trout you get you earned and you can be as proud of your 12” beauty in Feb as you were with the 19” fish that inhaled your fly when the water was up.

One can try to get on the water earlier, stay a bit later and tread a tad more carefully but truth be told things are tough out there. Tough enough that I just declined taking a complete novice on a guided trip, he wasn’t prepared to walk far and the prospects of quality near roadside and therefore lower altitude are severely limited. Probably would put the poor guy off fishing for life if that was to be the first encounter.

Its not that things can’t be entertaining out there, it is easy to spot the fish, or at least the ones that are out on the current but it is also easy for them to see you which sort of “ups the ante”. Months of catch and release fishing have raised the awareness of the fish, the flat water has improved their ability to see you as well as the shadow of your tippet and the pockets, where one might have had a better chance of sneaking up on a fish or two, have all but been vacated. I am not sure if the fish move out for fear of getting stranded or simply because of the temperature but at some point late in the season they always seem to disappear. Pity I love pocket water fishing, it is the only place where circumstances offer some edge to the angler, all things being equal.

I know that even back in the UK when rivers rarely drop as low or get as warm as those here the rivers are usually regarded as tricky in the late summer, August offering little respite during the day but perhaps a caddis hatch in the late evening. Our hatches seem to wane drastically in the heat of summer so the fish aren’t even fixated on food floating down the current when you are trying to get into position.

Spooking fish becomes the norm, if you can raise one out of five that you see without scaring them into flight you are doing well.

Still I reckon that when you get right down to it, it is still worth fishing, not on the lower beats, there a captured fish is likely to be a dead one if you are not very careful, the oxygen levels in the warm water put the stress of capture too close to the fatality line for me to feel comfortable fishing in those waters. But the headwaters or tail-waters still offer sport. You will catch a lot less but possibly learn a whole lot more in these conditions.. it isn’t for everyone but it still beats a day in the office.

Some worthwhile tips however may assist you in your endeavours:

Under these conditions doing everything you can to reduce your visibility and the clean, rapid and delicate presentation of your fly is important. That means almost all presentations are now with 7X tippet and possibly 8X, the leaders are degreased with virtually every presentation to a visible fish, it doesn’t work that well but it is better than not trying.

Leaders need to be long and fine, fish are spooking before the leader even touches the water on occasion, you can never improve the presentation enough to fool all of them under these conditions.

Frequently a well placed tiny brassie nymph can do the trick where a dry fly won’t, and fishing without an indicator can make for some exciting guess work as to whether you had a take or not.

Matting down rods to remove that high gloss finish that looks so good in the shop and is such a liability on the stream is to me an essential in high summer. Perhaps in high water during the early season it is less important, or maybe you just can’t see the fish that you are frightening to death. Right now a glossy rod is a big mistake in my book and it will make a difference.

Removing your watch and any associated “bling” from flashy forceps to shiny fishing reels will aid your approach, if you really like to have the watch on your arm then at least turn it around or put some sink paste on the face to take off the glare. Sanding down your Breitling Navitimer may be going a bit far so easier just to put it in a pocket.  My friend Albe made me a super little plastic box to keep my used patterns in but I have had to put it inside the vest as no amount of sanding seems to have removed its reflective qualities entirely.

Careful wading is equally essential, you can still get quite close to fish if you stay in the shade along the bankside and don’t bang the rocks together. Careful wading however conversely means not using a wading staff, the bump bump bump of a pole on the rocks will see fish scatter well before you get within casting range.

And finally if all else fails, lower your expectations, you aren’t going to fool as many fish and most likely not the bigger ones at this time of year. Fish slowly , enjoy the hunt and don’t expect to be walloping them by the dozens. Plus it wouldn’t hurt if you spent a minute or two praying for some rain.

As my mate Greg commented, “Bring on the winter rains, I need to at least get my knees wet when I fish”.