Anything Fly Fishing

Making the Summer Switch

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By the time summer officially arrives, I am unloading my sling of fly boxes, hanging my waders on the porch, and digging out the footies I wear in my boots for wet wading. According to my go-to resource, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, that day occurs on June 20. Ask most kids and they will correct you and say it’s the last day of school.

Or you can go to your trout stream where the fish will cast the deciding vote.

The fish will tell you when summer has arrived.

In the Carolina mountains where I mostly fish, you can find other signs on the stream to tell you it’s summer. For instance, unless you go very early or very late, your favorite hole will have four kids and a dog frolicking in it. Ever since the pandemic, trout streams have become the beach of choice.

Also, if you carry a stream thermometer, you will note it ticking up on every trip until it tells you to move to higher ground. At some point, those of us with a conscience can no longer pursue coldwater fish in warm water. So we leave them with the frolicking kids and dogs, wishing them the best.

The water also begins to slowly drop as summer progresses making it easier to wade and harder to approach fish without spooking them. Add in the bright sunlight finding its way to the water since the hemlocks were eaten by woolly adelgids and the fish have every reason to be skittish.

Since the hemlocks were eaten by woolly adelgids, the fish have every reason to be skittish.

On the plus side, my fly selection can be weaned down to a few dries and terrestrials. The best description for what I now carry is “bugs.” Most of them imitate something that fell out of a tree and would trigger a call to Orkin if seen around your house.

My leaders get longer, my casts softer, and my approach a bit on the lazy side. I wade more slowly, stand in spots longer, and cover less ground between casts.

As the cool water laps against my legs, I am reminded of my youth even though the thoughts had to travel across a host of years for these memories. I stayed wet in creeks back then, seining minnows for a night-fishing trip or grabbing salamanders from under rocks just for fun.

Even my attire changes as I dress to wade wet and dry quickly. The colors of my clothes suggest hunting more than fishing as I am likely to be in camo or other shades that blend with the vegetation.

The right amount of water for one trip.

I have some favorite stretches of water for summer fishing, not because I catch so many fish there but that they tend to provide a short window of good fishing with just the right amount of water for one trip. If I am the only angler on one of these stretches, a big if, I can make a good trip covering it from bottom to top. By then, I’m ready to go home.

I also know it’s summer on the stream by the sights that I see while fishing. For instance, the last two summers I’ve come across a water snake on one of these stretches and both times it was acting a bit unusual.

The snake’s head popped up like a periscope.

I could see the head just at the surface, popped up like a periscope. As I approached, I noticed that its tail was tucked under a rock, holding itself in place in the current. I supposed it was watching for something to eat just as a trout might be finning slowly in the same current.

I eventually had to wade past and the snake spooked and swam to the bank. I had hardly gone another twenty feet when it returned to its holding place, tucked its tail back under the rock, and began to watch the current once again.

Depending upon whether I fish early or late, the signal on quitting time comes as clearly as a factory whistle in a textile town. In the morning, the sun comes over the ridge and the fish cease to bite. Sometimes it is as abrupt as if the whistle had actually blown.

Late in the day, the sun is well below the ridge and the fish may still be biting, but I can no longer see to wade or tie on flies. Squirrels will be making one last mad dash through the trees as if they are trying to get home before the owls come out to hunt. I usually take that as a sign that I should head homeward as well.

Those hoppers work just fine on bluegill.

At some point in the summer, even this style of fishing will stall. The water temperatures will be too warm and the gurgle of riffles stifled to a watery yawn. But even then there will be fish to chase in farm ponds. Those hoppers will also work on bluegill.

Jim Mize can usually find some kind of fish to chase. You can purchase Jim’s award-winning book, The Jon Boat Years, at https://uscpress.com/The-Jon-Boat-Years or buy autographed copies at www.acreektricklesthroughit.com.

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