Saturday, July 3, 2010

Getting antsy with summer fly fishing

Summer trout fishing creeps slowly like a relentless picnic-raiding army of ants. It’s a respite from the wild dances of April and May.
I love spring fly fishing, of course, for that is when the mayflies and stoneflies fill the afternoon and evening air to entice wary trout out of their winter sluggishness to get in line for the big bug buffet.
Boy, I had some awesome days in May tossing little yellow sallies and light cahills, which often didn’t have time to get used to the cold water before one of those voracious rainbow trout abruptly ended its peaceful ride. In the late afternoon light, the mayflies sparkled and glittered like jewelry.
At the right time, the hookups were almost non-stop. I’d have to drag myself from the water.
Waiting until it was almost dark as tar can bring out some big surprises. Huge fish come out of nowhere to hit the fly with startling violence and after he breaks my line, I stand with shaking knees wondering where that one came from and where was it a couple of months ago?
I mark such places, vowing to return to finish what was only begun.
With summer I can pause to catch my breath. The water is much lower, the mayfly hatches are less frequent, and the air is thick as warm syrup. The fishing, in a word, is tougher.
But you recall those picnic raiders, the ants? Trout love these little guys. Beetles and grasshoppers also drive trout insane with the munchies on the hot summer days, and these flies will work when nothing else in the fly box will. Sometimes I cut the hackle from the bottom of these flies so they float a little lower in the water, even though that makes it almost impossible to see. Ant flies work on top, in the surface film and tossing around under the water.
My favorite home water was frustrating me last week. Nothing worked. I wasn’t certain there were even any fish left there. The water was ankle deep and threatening to go lower if rain didn’t come soon.
I kept changing flies.
I put on a beetle fly and fished it in the shallow water downstream. Like the ant flies, I could hardly see the thing on the water. I just kept a careful watch for splashes, and thern set the hook.
I switched flies when the beetle began to look well-chewed and digested. A big black ant made a fine substitute, though I still couldn’t see the thing on the water.
I fished a good portion downstream, finding a puddle pool here and there, holding the rod high while hoping I didn’t spook the trout.
The water was so low I was spotting trout by the waves they knuckled the surface with when they moved . There were a few rises, but nothing deliberate or regular.
But that little ant kept busy. I missed a bunch, hooked quite a few before losing them and landed a few nice rainbows before I just got tired a catching fish and quit.
One rainbow shot out of the water like a little silver and red rocket about three feet into the air; what a show-off, I thought.
It had been a fine day for fly fishing. Why press it? This is summer fishing, slow and easy.
Well, perhaps not easy but certainly relentless ... like ants.


Bill Trussell said...

Hi Hugh
Just found your blog and can relate to those slow summer days, where you have to entice the trout to hit anything. Being here in the south I have to contend with the humidity and at times it can get down right unbearable. Just moving around will get all your clothes wet. The ants, hoppers and beetles you were referring to are killers in the summer for me as well. I fish all of them with a tiny midge which gives me a little extra advantage. Glad I found your blog because I like to keep up with you guys that live in cooler places with less humidity. I am going to become one of your followers so I can up with the trout fishing in Virginia. My blog link is if you would like to keep up with what is going on as far as trout fishing is concerned in the Deep South.

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Hugh Koontz said...

Another ant lover! Welcome. Since it was hot and dry here last weekend, I spent the Fourth camping near the South Holston River. Struggled at first, but nailed some big browns at 9 p.m. on my last day.