river thermometer

I’ve been waiting for a break in the hot weather. The last few days have been somewhat cooler. Somewhat. So I got up early and made the long drive to my favorite river on the Plains. I’ve been avoiding it due to the intense heat and waiting for an opportunity. When I arrived I checked the temperature in the main flow. It was fairly cold. In the shallows it was passable. A kid was standing mid river smiling and casting frenetically. I saw no rises. He said he had the whole day to fish.

I can’t remember a past season where I used my river thermometer as much as I have been. It seems I’m checking water temperatures several times a day. And I’m watching river levels and flows, the 7 day weather forecast and the 14 day forecast at night on the internet. I feel more like a Weatherman, than an angler. And it’s only July 6th, the start of the summertime angling season. Prime time. The best the year has to offer. I can’t imagine what temperatures are going to be like in mid August. Fires are already burning in British Columbia. Smoke could be on the way as I write.

I walked several pools I know well and carefully watched the water. Nothing. I waited until lunch for a hatch. Nothing. The air temperature started climbing. The river pelicans landed and hunkered down.

I decided to venture to a different stretch of the river and hiked back to my car. The kid was still on the same pool smiling and casting away at the same pace. As before I saw no rises.

At the new location I checked a long straight bank where I missed a great fish late last season. I looked it over from high above. The lighting was good for spotting. The trout was there. It was also rising occasionally to small minuscule, invisible stuff. I dropped down and checked the river temperature once again with my thermometer. It was still good.

The trout refused my first offering, a size 14/16 ant. Absolutely no interest. Then a tried a size 18/16 PMD dry fly with some segmented wire wraps on the slim body to make it sit low (in the water). I think any fly the right size and sitting low would have worked. When I finally got the fly on target the fish ate. Luckily the small fly held and I landed it. A wonderful trout. With that I decided to call it a day.

I looked over the river and thought that with the heat I might not get back to it until mid to late September. I pointed my car towards the mountains and drove home windows open thinking about the kid casting away, about how the tiny hook held on a great trout, and about the river I was just on. My favorite one. It could be the best sight-fishing trout river in North America (that you can drive to) if water (reservoir) management slightly increased the flow throughout the summertime, and if ranchers kept their cattle out of the water. On the Plains ranching and farm irrigation take priority over trout and other things but that’s an old story.

POSTCRIPT

That kid is probably still casting. That kid was me fifty years ago…

light terrestrial dries

Some small CDC beetles. Lighter than foam. Less of a plop/commotion when they land. Sometimes that’s good, such as in low, slow, clear water and with trout that have been fished over repeatedly and therefore easily frightened by any disturbance. I remember one particularly challenging river in NZ where the heavy plop of a foam beetle, even some distance away, sent more than one trout fleeing. I could have made these ties even lighter by also using CDC for the legs instead of fine rubber ones.

 

Leggy things

” Life is trying things to see if they work”…Ray Bradbury

Winter tying. It’s how you stay in the game mid- winter when it’s -25C outside. You can’t travel anywhere far. So you dream of warmer weather and open rivers, and you tie flies for the next opportunity. You tie for when the door opens and you get to walk through. Here are some summertime options for when the sun is warm again. Some big and small, leggy things…

small

big

small up close

early october

It’s winding down. Most rivers close at the end of the month. A nice weekend. Sunny on Saturday. Warm. Fished in shorts. Minimal wind. No surface feeding. The water looked dead. Lifeless. Late afternoon, when shadows were lengthening, I decided to sit and watch a pool. Noticed the occasional bright green grasshopper drifting by. Waited. Waited. Then a sizeable surface disturbance. Casted a small greenish hopper pattern…the only good fish of the day.

 

september-ten days

There’s a great river out there

SEPTEMBER. IT HAS BEEN CHALLENGING. FEW BUGS ON the tailwater rivers I frequent and therefore few rising trout. I’ve had some luck searching the shallows for moving shadows and prospecting the deeper water with terrestrial patterns. I recently had ten days off of work so I was able to spend some full days on the water. So far September has been beautiful. Smokey at times from the fires west of here, also a few brief cold snaps but generally warm mid-day into early evening. I was able to wet-wade the past several days. Rivers are low and most clear. Tourists are gone. Few anglers around. It’s silent out there. My favorite time of year to spend a day, or ten, on my favorite rivers. Some fine trout on dry flies…

 

I casted small grasshoppers, large and small black beetles.

a cuttbow

sunset and smoke

photographer

shallow flats

    full sun

I was able to locate a few nice surface feeding trout last weekend in spite of the full sun and few insects. Their rises were inconsistent and subtle. If I didn’t know the river section I was on real well, I would have never seen them or I should say “hear them”. On the broad shallow flats that I like to fish, below or to the side of a good run, it is often the sound of a rising fish that first catches my attention. When I hear something I focus on the water in the region where I think the sound emanated from. I often take several soft steps up or downstream to change my visual angle depending on the light and glare. Most importantly I try to be patient, refrain from casting and wading, and wait for another sound or even better a surface disruption. Sometimes I hear the fish multiple times before I can actually visually pinpoint its location especially when the lighting situation is challenging. Usually these trout are closer to shore than I originally thought. If I was in a hurry and didn’t take the time to locate them, I probably would wade right through their feeding position, or cast over them and they would be off to the safety of deeper water.

cuttbow

Many drift boats/rafts beach on the flats that I frequent. Anglers generally get out of their boat, immediately wade through the shallow relatively calm flat to reach the main current flow or edge where they repeatedly work their nymph rigs. Usually they catch fish. However with this tactic they miss some of the best visual angling that the river has to offer. Some large trout like to feed lazily on the slow water flats. They slide in from deeper water and position themselves wherever there is some sort of gentle current channeling drifting food. If you can find (see or hear) one of these subtle feeders and make a connection, you are in for a real treat. A large trout hooked on a shallow flat heads for deeper water at breakneck speed. Often they take me into my backing.

slow flat off of main flow

When sight-fishing  I always try to pick a shallow flat where the sun is going to be on my back. If it is cloudy it does not matter as trout rise more frequently and confidently when the light is low and a hatch, if there is going to be one, will be stronger.

 

 

 

The featured trout were caught on the shallow flats of a local tailwater river.

mid august: challenging

Hot. Let me repeat, Hot. Full sun. Blue skies. Everything is dry. Fire ban on. Forest fires one province over in BC. Smoke could be on the way.

On my favorite rivers few bugs. Hatches have been weak all summer long. Not many rising trout. You have to hunt to find the odd one. Challenging out there.

With the pandemic everyone seems to be outdoors camping. It’s real busy in my region. It’s busy on the rivers: rafters, kayakers, swimmers, and many, many anglers. More than usual. Can’t find parking in some of my favorite spots. Challenging out there.

Some photos from the past few weeks. All trout caught on small dry flies: mainly Pmds, Ants and Beetles.

 

abby

Catch it While You Can

“Cause a little bit of summer is what the whole year is about”

John Mayer

Late July. Summer. It took forever to get here. The sun is blasting. It’s even warm in the early morning. That’s rare in the Rocky Mountains. The local ice cream shop is packing them in. My lawn is burning. Abby, my dog, is lazier than heck. The kitchen ceiling fan is spinning. Thunderheads build in the late afternoon heat. A lot of storm watch alerts. Blankets on the vehicles to protect them from hail.

Friends have been in town. Long days spent wet wading the rivers. Fishing until darkness. Little time spent indoors or for other things. That’s alright, it’s summer. And where I live it’s brief. It’s just a flicker. Catch it while you can…

Lots of fish pics. Few people pics. Some dog pics. Most trout featured caught sight-fishing with dries/emergers, size 16-18.; mainly Pale Morning Duns with thorax built with Golden Retriever hair. A few trout taken on beetles and crickets.

abby

 

 

 

an old rainbow

ranch creek side cabin