I have no problem fishing in the rain, though I take a practical approach. Experience has revealed that light, intermittent rainfall can bring an excellent afternoon of fishing. These conditions seem to encourage daytime hatches even in summer, bringing olives and sulfurs to the surface with trout close behind.
Heavy rain is not a recipe for good fishing in my experience. I have seen it shut down trout rising to a hatch time and time again. There are exceptions to every rule, but I have not found many such instances in more than three decades on the water. It has always seemed to me that trout cease surface feeding whenever there is a lot of surface disturbance, whether heavy rainfall or high wind and wave action, and I expect that occurs when conditions begin to hamper their vision of their prey. Wild trout grow and survive by feeding efficiently. If they cannot target surface insects amid a maelstrom, they simply either stop feeding or seek an underwater alternative.
Yesterday afternoon was a case in point. With a cold front passing through leading a line of thunderstorms, the winds quickly became untenable. Swirling and gusting just after my arrival, the trout I found running sneak attacks on a few bobbing sulfur duns quickly abandoned the wind tossed surface. I kept watching the leeward areas close to shore, but no rises were displayed there. There were a few more sulfurs than my last visit, but they were being blown around on the surface when the gusts and wave action increased. I saw virtually none drifting through those protected bankside environs.
The short, but vital break from all of this came with the advance of the first evil looking thunderheads, deep blue black, towering masses which warned me it was just about time to get off the river. With the winds calmed momentarily, and those sulfurs still drifting through, I began to see a rise or two. Glancing over my shoulder, I was keeping tabs on those advancing thunderheads, ready to flee at the first little flash or crack of thunder.
The wind was still strong enough to challenge casting, but it was possible to present a dry fly at close range, which I did repeatedly when a good trout showed. The duns on the water were quite yellow this time, and my phantom trout ignored my orange bodied dun that had been the choice the past couple of weeks. Checking the thunderhead’s progress, I switched out that fly for a yellow silk Translucense 100-Year Dun. The storm clouds were overtaking the far bank as I flicked my wrist and put the fly in the path of my moving target.
He took and the fun began, heightened by the perceived danger of the storm front which was now right on top of me. I fought that trout as quickly as his size and vigor allowed, telling myself there had been no lightning and no thunder and I wasn’t going to get electrocuted as penance for catching this trout. He swung past my net on the first jab, but I brought him around again and made the second swipe a success. I twisted the fly free, lined him up on the graduated centerline of the net, then said goodbye as I slipped him back in the river.
Those towering thunderheads were flying overhead, still silent thankfully, as I reeled in the rest of my line, unfolded my wading staff, and headed for the bank.
Sitting in the car, I let the first few raindrops splash in through the open windows. I had landed a real nice brownie, a big fish by most angler’s standards, and avoided a wetting by the skin of my teeth. That first wave of storm clouds never brought any thunder or lightning, but I began to hear the first few rolls off to the west after sitting there for several minutes. Driving home, I could see the storm passing north of Hancock, though another would come around after supper.
I wish I could say that that front had given us some substantial rains, though sadly it didn’t. The Catskills are in a run of hot weather and little or no rainfall that seems to have some staying power. Most of the passing thunder showers have left us dry for the past three weeks. Rivers and anglers would welcome a day long gentle, soaking rain. I’d just get out my rain jacket and go fishing!