Summer Heat & Skinny Water

Enough to wet my toes perhaps

Saturday was the first day of summer and it certainly feels like it. Gone are those deliciously chilly mornings that graced the last days of springtime. A stream thermometer is as vital as your fly rod right now, for there is a lot of warm water flowing in our rivers, water too warm for trout and insects.

I visited a reach I enjoy this morning, wary of even the morning water temperature, though I found it close to perfect at 62 degrees. A few hours on, things will deteriorate as the sun bakes the stones on the river bottom and pushes the skinny flow to seventy degrees or more.

Putting my old Granger together I was treated to a bald eagle and her youngster sky dancing o’er the meadow. Quite a sight to behold. By the time I had the rod together and laid aside that I might retrieve my camera, they had glided away. The memory remains.

Where I found plenty of sipping brown trout last week, today there was very little activity. I spotted just a few tiny duns on the glassy surface, and knotted a size 22 olive T.P. Dun to my tippet. Every once in awhile a very soft dimple would appear, so soft I felt sure the trout were small ones. They didn’t seem to want that 22, nor the ant that was medicine last time, so I tried the same little dun in a size 20 and fooled a foot long brown with the larger fly.

The big fish that were active last week were no where to be found, and as the morning progressed the only other wiggle in my rod was a faint one, courtesy of a brown half the size of the first. I surmised that the weekend’s high temperatures had put the larger trout in a dormant mood and resigned myself to the fact that the fishing wasn’t going to meet my expectations this day.

I was walking the bank slowly, appreciating the beauty of the river as I ambled through the head high grass. Yes, it truly is summer now I thought, and there will be many quiet days like this. I was nearly lost in my reverie when I saw the bulge in the skinny water flat across the river.

It took me a few minutes to find a position, wading hopelessly slowly lest I push water across the flat and send my quarry to cover. Along the way I watched three or four more bulges, each in a different location. Multiple trout? No, it seemed clear that I had a cruiser to deal with. The rules of the game were simply laid: cast quickly and softly only when he rises, as he won’t stay there for more than a few seconds. After a number of attempts he began to try my patience.

I knew that a second cast to his riseform was the kiss of death, as it would be too likely to line him as he moved unseen. Rise, cast… and wait. Habit caused me to break the rules, rushing a second cast after a particularly heavy bulge, and the fish went quiet for a time. I was nearly convinced I had put him down when a bulge appeared just downstream, and my short reach cast brought the bulge to my fly!

He was a marvelous brownie, full of himself even in that skinny water, bringing the little Hardy to full song over and over as I let the deep bend in the Granger cushion my frail 6X tippet. I didn’t expect to find a twenty-one inch brown cruising in a calf deep flat sipping tiny olive duns, but I’m glad I did!

With that fine fellow revived and on his way, my attention turned to the fan of soft current upstream. My heart rate quickened as there were three or four good fish moving about and taking the olive duns.

If my first approach was tedious, this one was positively agonizing, as I had to cover forty yards upstream on an uneven bottom without pushing any water toward those trout. I could have sworn it took an hour, watching those big fish feeding happily and fighting the urge to throw a long, early cast their way.

There appeared to be four, but they were moving around enough to keep me guessing. I checked the tippet and the fly, dried it a bit, and made a quick, gentle cast when a riseform appeared nearby. I tightened easily, slowly, when the fly vanished in a ring but one quick jerk of his head and the tippet gave way. The last inch was roughened, raked across his teeth no doubt, so I cut it back and ran my fingers all the way up to be sure.

I dug in my shirt pocket for the little stash of this morning’s freshly tied flies and knotted another size 20 olive fast. I took a shot each time a rise appeared and finally connected once again. This fish had the fly in a better place and he rocketed out of the water at the bite of the steel, then ran hard downstream. When he turned I was reeling, the rod tip high with a wicked bend down through the mid-section. The Perfect protested loudly each time he streaked away, but the supple cane tired him and brought him to the mesh at last. I grinned at the measurement: twenty-one inches again!

The last of the group had moved upstream with the commotion, and he soon ceased making those exciting bulges and rings. He, or another, slid down and near to the far bank, where he sipped daintily in the slack water side of a seam. I could muster no float to deceive him.

The sparse hatch had ended, and I stopped for a moment to reflect upon the fine fishing I had enjoyed during the last weeks of spring. I scanned the mirror of the river upstream and down, and started out for home.

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