Breathe a Sigh of Relief
Trout, and fisherman alike, breathed a sigh of relief this weekend, following almost two weeks of heat, humidity, and little rain. The summer heat wave had effectively shut down most trout fishing opportunities, and the fish were feeling the stress as water levels dropped lower and water temperatures continued to climb. Thankfully, cleansing rains brought with them seasonably mild temperatures, and as I stood along a mountain trout stream early in the morning, I could almost hear the collective sigh of relief.
I stood streamside as I opened my fly box to select a bushy dry fly. "A foam caddis should do the trick", I thought to myself. Once I had the fly tied on, I reached into my bag for my stream thermometer. I took the temperature more for curiosity than out of concern, as the daytime and nighttime temperatures had been low for a couple of days. My thermometer read 61 degrees (likely a 10-12 degree drop from just a few days prior).
As I moved upstream, I was surprised to see how low the water still was. The storms that ushered in the cooler weather had dropped a good amount of rain, but it appeared to have flushed through the system, not leaving behind a noticeable increase in flows. While the water was cold, it was also very low and clear. The clear water didn't appear to be doing me any favors, as fish after fish spooked off from the splash of the foam caddis. I decided to downside to a more traditional elk hair variety, and I finally picked up my first fish.
I spent another hour moving upstream, throwing a variety of dry flies to actively feeding fish. Surprisingly, however, the fish didn't attack my fly with their typical reckless abandon. Instead, they inspected my offerings, nosed at them, and sometimes offered a skeptical rise. I caught a few, but I was seeing a lot of active fish and expected better results.
So, I did the unthinkable. I tied on a streamer.
My first cast with the streamer was aimed upstream towards a deeper run that most certainly held some feeding fish. Actually, I could see a small 6-8" trout feeding actively in the tail-out. My cast, however, was aimed toward the head of the run, and I made a few short strips as the fly drifted past a small rock slab. It was then, in the blink of an eye, that a large, dark shape emerged from the under the rock and inhaled my streamer. I’d taken one cast and it was fish on!
As the day continued, I stayed with my low, clear water streamer approach. While it seemed like an odd choice at first, the more I watched fish after fish chase down my streamer from sometimes yards away, the more confidence I felt in it. My thought is that these fish had basically stopped feeding during the recent heat wave. Now that the water temperatures were much cooler, they were looking for a big meal to make up for lost time.
While I still moved a lot more fish than I hooked, I stuck with the streamer for the rest of the day and I caught a number of beautiful, healthy brown trout.
The day ended up being pretty good - although I moved far more fish than I caught. Nonetheless, it was nice to be out of the heat wave and back on the trout streams. As I made my way back to my car, I dodged and weaved the many spider webs that hung between trees. I think I only took two or three to the face.