Dog Days

by | Aug 23, 2020 | 12 comments

It’s pretty, and you can’t deny it. Our summer forest holds a hundred shades of green, with depths of color that add a new dimension to the leaves, the moss, ferns, grass and pine needles. With all of this vegetation at full growth, space in the woods is smaller and more private. The trails are grown in, with encroaching underbrush spreading across the leafy floor. And to match, life is everywhere, escalating at dawn until the sounds of bugs and birds create a washed out backdrop. It’s a constant hum of tweets, chirps and droning insects, active and alive.

The forest is summertime-full.

It’s August, and we need rain again. The rivers have taken on a familiar, thirsty look — deep in the heart of summer. Water trickles through the pockets. It sinks into dry rocks like a sponge. We see the skeleton of an ecosystem. And the distilled, clear flow is low enough to reveal the watershed’s deepest secrets. Wading these wet trails requires composure and patience. Because trout are on edge.

In another season, roaring whitewater lends cover to our wary friends. But with this river at its lowest of lows, all lifeforms breathing water are skittish. The crayfish slide and dart upon our approach. Black Nosed Dace shimmer while dashing for the nearest rock. The river is nervous. Casting shadows spook even smaller trout, and the river beasts hunker down tight, away from the high sun and dangerous movements.

Photo by Bill Dell

It’s the dog days of summer. And our productive fishing period is compressed toward dawn and the few hours surrounding it. Night fishing is at its peak, but in such low water, stealth is paramount at all hours — even after dark.

Where limestone spring water dominates, trout enjoy cool flows, no matter the ninety-degree air or the boney riverbed. They slip inside the water weeds and feast on cress bugs among river moss, blending into a green-grey canvas and the mottled shadows that perfectly match the patterns on their backs. Trout may feed on top but are not easily fooled or coerced to the surface. They are cautious. Wet and dry ants of all sizes are staple patterns, along with beetles and hoppers — if the trout see enough of them. And long casts with light lines is a prerequisite.

Fishing the summer months is a protracted game of hide and seek, where more often, the angler loses. Every condition favors the trout.

Tricos, if they are prevalent, offer a minor reprieve. Because, although the fishing is technical — demanding pinpoint casting and sneaky wading — trout let down their guard under a good spinner fall. And yet, with the heat wave this season, the Trico fall happens quickly most mornings, and the action is patchy at best.

The dog days have never been my favorite. And yet, I still love this time on the water. Four seasons. That’s why I’m charmed by this place — for the endless changes and new challenges. Because the moment a pattern or rhythm settles in, a transformation begins the following day. The forever metamorphosis of a four-season river and its accompanying valleys is what draws me in. Always.

Fish hard, friends.

Photo by Bill Dell

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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12 Comments

  1. I’m lucky. I have a warmwater lake to float in, and largemouth bass to catch. (Also perch, pickerel, panfish and the occasional smallie.)

    Barring unforeseen weather events, such as a sudden dip in temps accompanied by a nice, steady, two-day rain, August is my lazy floating month.

    Reply
  2. I gotta tell ya Domenick…..you put out some great stuff…and make it easy for anyone to pick up on some difficult techniques!…I love that dorsey indicator….I am not a fly tyer..and I was just wondering if there is anything else that you can tie the yarn in the middle with that will hold it….I know to put the floatant to it after the fact…I had another troutbitten reader give me a dorsey on the stream and it works beautifully…I bought the beginner package with the velcro stick but no thread to tie it….any suggestions…besides get the tool….(after looking at some of your flies)….I may my hand at that as well!!…please keep the articles coming….they got me thru this crazy pandemic!!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the support, Terri.

      The tool you are referring to is just a bobbin to hold the thread. But no, I wouldn’t use anything but 8/0 tying thread. It’ll cost you $2.50, so buy it. Might as well buy a bobbin for a few dollars too. Or, you could do the same thing without a bobbin — but you’ll be wishing the whole time that you had one. 🙂 Once you have the bobbin, watch out, because that may be the gateway to tying flies next!

      Dom

      Reply
  3. The dog days are definitely tough, but they keep away the crowds too, and that’s got to count for something! A good shot of water from last night’s thunderstorm had the trout feeding well early this morning. I hooked (and lost) my first Whiskey of the season.

    Reply
  4. Right on.
    I loved the last paragraph.
    Being in NJ, I too love the four seasons. I’m on the coast. Just yesterday morning I was surfing and talked about the upcoming fall with a fellow surfer. If you fish (or surf), there’s always something to look forward to. And fishing (or surfing) in a four season part of the world, I can always anticipate the next seasonal change. It’s a beautiful thing.

    Reply
    • I wish I lived neared the ocean. I think it would be good fun to surf. That would be great.

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply
  5. I decided to fish the Yellow Breeches today to check out the famous white fly hatch. Got on the stream at 9:30 am. Fished till 1:00 pm found a pod of rising fish. Landed 7 browns, mostly on a black parachute ant. Smallest was 3″, largest 13″. Great day so far, considering bright sun. Taking a break at the cafe in Boiling Springs. I’ll post later about the evening fishing.BTW: water temp at noon was 64 degrees.

    Reply
  6. Great read as usual dom,yes this a slow down time of year for my local trout fishing here,the skinny water combined with hot days puts the trout in hunker down mode , while targeting smallies on a river near me 2 days ago i was surprised by a beautiful 17in great specimen of a male wild brown…..this fish made my summer.. you never know thats why i love fishing .. always the surprise element.. keep the great blogs coming.

    Reply
  7. I’ve been experiencing the seasonal low-times at our local creek–and also the effect of the recent tropical storm Isaiah. Local flooding totally wiped out at least one productive hole against a log-jam, alongside a huge, overturned tree–and other favorite spots were made less-favorable to holding fish–or more-difficult to get-at. A tough time of year, true!

    Reply

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