article by Gordon Honey
Summer doldrums usually occur in late July and early
August and signal a slowdown in good fishing. Although we may like the
hot summer weather, and the resulting warm water for swimming, the trout
Trout move down the water column to a layer of cool water called the
thermocline. The water temps in this layer remain around 50 to 60 degrees
and provide a comfort zone for trout. Unfortunately this thermocline is
found at approximately 20 to 30 feet of depth and therefore difficult
for the fly angler to fish.
The trout are very happy in the depths. There's cool water, lots of food
(Shrimp, Dragonflies etc.) and no predators. So, the question is, what
tactics or options are available to flyfishers during the summer?
Option #1: Dredging
I'm not really suggesting dredging, in reality I'm simply referring to
utilizing fast sinking lines to present flies deeper in the water column.
Remember that trout will move down to a cool layer of water called the
thermocline, when surface temperatures become too warm. This is a constant
each summer, and if you wish to fish during the heat of the day you will
have to go deeper. The thermocline is usually found at around 20 to 30
feet. An easy way to find the appropriate depth is by lowering a thermometer
and look for water temperatures of between 50 and 60 degrees.
Fish with full sink 3 or 4 lines and give them the old standbys: shrimp,
dragons and leeches. And, there you are dredging. OOPS, I mean fishing
Option #2: Seek Higher Ground
Lock the truck in 4 wheel drive and head for the hills! Higher elevation
lakes have cooler waters and therefore happy fish that may be ready to
feed during the day.
The high elevation lakes are typically Tannic water lakes (coffee or
Tea colored) surrounded by lily-pads and are usually home to abundant
populations of smaller trout. The lily pads create not only good cover
for both food sources and trout but give relief from the direct rays of
the sun. The smaller trout of the mountain lakes love to eat dry flies.
Casting small Tom Thumbs or Adams to pockets in the lilies provides great
action. I personally don't care if a trout is 10 inches or 10 pounds if
they will eat my dry fly.
Not all lakes in the higher elevations (above 4800 feet) have only small
fish. Taking my own advice this past summer I took a client to that good
old lake X that just happens to be above the 5,000 foot mark. Guess what
-- chironomids in 13 feet of water! Not quite as productive as April or
May chironomid fishing but pretty darn good, . . . some very nice fish
to 5 lbs.
Option #2 seemed to be working pretty darn good so I decided to test
the elevation theory one more time. So, off we went the following day
to lake Y at around 4800 ft. Bingo! Excellent fishing on sedge pupa and
adults, with fish to 3 lbs.
Feeling pretty cocky I pushed the limits and went back to lake Y one
more time and was given a little reality check. Hardly any fish. But,
there was a storm, the barometer plummeted, an east wind blew, then it
got flat calm. All classic excuses. Oh well, I still believe the elevation
theory is a solid one.
Option #3 Night Fishing
Not one of my favorites but this option can be very productive for those
Night angling can be pursued in two different time frames. The first,
my favorite, is to begin fishing at 6pm and fish until last light. The
second, again starting at 6pm, is to continue fishing until the wee hours!
I'm much too old and blind for this. Tying a fly on in bright sunlight
is difficult enough.
Why night fishing? Remember that during the bright daylight hours of
the summer the trout have moved down to a cool layer of water at approximately
20 to 30 feet. This depth is reachable for a flyfisher but only with sink
four or five lines and there is no joy in flailing away with these heavy
lines. Trout will however move to the shallower water of the shoals when
the direct rays of the sun leave the water and will feed quite freely
as darkness approaches.
Not only are the trout more active but many of their food sources are
as well. Sedge flies or caddis (especially the large traveler sedges)
hatch during the twilight and evening hours to avoid predators, such as
swallows, who would feed on them during daylight hours. The takes, especially
on the travelers, can be very savage, so up your leader strength or be
prepared to lose flies.
Leeches can also become more active in the evenings so your strategy
should include larger flies that will create a more prominent profile
in low light and because the big bugs are on the prowl.
This past July my friend Phil Rowley persuaded me to venture out on my
home waters (Lac Le Jeune) at night. We departed from my dock with about
an hour's worth of day light remaining. We leisurely cruised out checking
Big Bay as we passed, but there were no riseforms. Next we opted to check
out Skip's shoal in the back bay. A few small fish succumbed to our nymphs
but nothing to write home about, so off we went again to check the Marpole
just as the last bit of light faded. Noses, little noses and big noses
creating riseforms everywhere! We looked as female caddis skittered about
attempting in vain to lay their eggs. Needless to say the action was superb.
Phil, all pumped for action, went out on his own the next evening, . .
. and nothing. But, that's why we call it fishing not catching.
Option # 4 Yard Work
I'll let you think about that one.
Gordon Honey email@example.com