Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fly fishing when even the sun seeks some shade

Summer slammed me in the face the past two weekends, necessitating some shifts in my fly fishing routine.
It’s no longer wise to bask in soft sunshine during the middle of the day while waving a flimsy graphite stick back and forth. The sunshine is no longer soft as a May breeze but has turned hard and mean. Gone are those pleasant days of April and May when it was always a perfect 75 degrees.
Now, I fish late in the evenings. Sometimes, it is almost dark before I drag myself off the porch with rod in hand.
The fishing in May had been almost too easy. Mayflies and caddis flies hatched in the mornings, the afternoons and evenings. About the time the sun began to dip, the air would explode with sparkling yellow and white insects hatching over a river bubbling with rising trout.
Pleasant was the word for May fly fishing. Wild violets dotted the banks, and honeysuckle sweetened the air. Even the persistent rain showers that kept me dodging clouds while moving from spot to spot were mostly refreshing. Thunderstorms were rare.
In May one could almost set his watch by the evening hatches that sent the fish into feeding frenzies at 8 o’clock. Boy, was that fun.
With a recent heat wave that has the sun itself looking for some shade, my normally frenetic fishing pace has slowed. Last Sunday I spent several hours just sitting under the hemlocks — eating lunch, washing lunch down with cold beverages, rigging the fly rod, tying on tiny flies, lacing up the wading boots, reading the NY Times, napping — and almost anything else that did not require any strenuous effort with a chance of sweat.
Now, with cumulus clouds piled all around the mountaintops like fluffy pillows, I am lulled into a false sense of goodness. Last Sunday looked like a perfect day.
Then those friendly looking white puffs darkened. The hills began to rumble. Thunder boomed like drums signaling all sorts of approaching unpleasantness. The ground shook. Time to get out of the way.
At least the intermittent sprinkles cooled the air.
When the rain stopped and the sun peeped through a crack in the clouds, a spooky mist rose over the water. Shards of light stabbed though the vapors like golden swords. An eerie silence fell like a curtain.
And with the cooler water, trout became hungrier.
This is the time of year when I mostly fish hoppers, beetles and ants during the daylight hours. Grasshopper flies are fun and are fished in an indelicate manner by splashing them on the surface to get the trout’s attention. The fly goes ka-plop, the fish looks up and sees a sub sandwich and attacks it with the vigor of a teenager.
You can’t do that with little mayfly dry flies. You just scare the fish. But hoppers are different. And trout love them.
Ants and beetles, when fished carefully with no drag in the line, will catch trout through the summer and into the fall.
I fish the ants pretty small, sized 20 or 22. You can barely see these little flies, so mostly I just watch for movement in the line and then set the hook when it jerks a little. It works.
And if it gets too hot, I can wait for the evening hatch while sitting in the shade, waiting for the sun to find its own shade behind the mountain.
Really, dusk is the time of day in June when the action begins.