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.
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.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N