Did you know that breathable waders only breath when they’re underwater? Fun fact, right? The permeable membranes can only pass water vapor while submersed. Not such a big deal when you aren’t producing much water vapor (evaporating sweat), but it’s a messy, clammy situation when the mercury climbs and the water drops. Amiright?
As modern life becomes more automated, more air conditioned and less labor intensive, it seems that our general tolerance for being uncomfortable has suffered. So baking yourself crispy in a plastic suit with suspenders is pretty much out. Fair enough, but there’s no need to hang up the fly rod for the summer either.
What to do, then? Wet wade
There’s a canyon stretch on my home stream with a gated, gravel access road used by dog walkers, runners, hikers, bird watchers and crazed fishermen. It’s a wonderful three-mile walk up into the canyon or down from the other side. In some sections the path bumps up against the towering limestone walls, and you can feel crisp cool air pushing aside the heavy heated blanket of summer.
There are huge chunks of those same rocks that have broken off through time. They remind you how many centuries this place was here before you were, and how long it will remain after we’ve all turned to dust. The eternal boulders were separated from the crest of the cliff through the earthly power of spreading hemlock roots that infiltrated every available crack, until eventually an enormous boulder fell to the forest floor and rolled into the river, providing a landmark and a constant reminder of how small your space in time really is.
So it’s a good walk up in there. And lots of anglers make the trek. But here’s the funny thing: people stop and fish the same places, day after day, year after year. All of us do it.
I’m not a big fan of summer.
It’s the heat. Thing is, you can’t really get away from it. If you want to be outside in all seasons (and I do) you have to somehow make friends with or tolerate the weather. Against the cold of winter, you can add layers to fend off most discomfort, but in the summer heat, once the shirt is off and the flip flops are on, your done — that’s as cool as you're gonna get. So there’s no option but to mow the grass, play baseball and have the family picnic in a thick, wet blanket of summer heat. People still tell me that I’ll get used to it. I doubt it.
The same people also tell me how much they love summers. I don’t believe them. I think they like the idea of it, and they like the parties, the parades, the fireworks, the longer daylight hours and the lax work schedules. But the actual season? The weather? Nah. Bitching about the heat (like I’m doing here) seems like another common summer recreation from the list, and I see a clear majority looking for the next air conditioner, cold lake or swimming pool.
I’ve watched a lot of anglers fish nymphs. Most of them pick up at least a few trout, and some guys are like a vacuum cleaner. But I like to watch how differently everyone approaches the game. It’s curious to see so much variation, because essentially we’re all striving for the same thing — we want a drift that looks a lot like what the natural bugs are doing down there. (And yeah, usually that’s a dead drift.) But while the refinements and nuances between anglers are plenty, I think we can fairly group all approaches for dead drifting nymphs into two camps: tight line or indicator nymphing styles. The next question: Which one is better?
Of course, the merits of each method have been and will be argued for decades. But it really comes down to this: Which one puts more trout in the net?
The dead drift. That’s what it’s all about, right? It’s the baseline for a decent presentation and the starting point for real success in fly fishing. Oh sure, we strip streamers. We swing wet flies. And on occasion we may dance an Elk Hair Caddis on its hackle across the river. But by and large, the dead drift is our objective when fishing for trout — especially wild ones . . .
I have an old college buddy who won’t take the time to fish unless things are either perfect or damn close to it. I call him Goldilocks, and he hates me for it.
Last month, on a whim, I gave Goldilocks a ring. He’s one of the few people left who still answers his phone when you call, and he picked up within seconds.
“Hey. Want to fish tomorrow?” I asked quickly. I figured that rushing him into a decision was my best chance at the preferred result.
“Where? Up your way?” He asked.
“Didn’t you just get a pile of rain over the weekend?” He asked.
“Sure, but the creeks are coming down and the fishing has been fine,” I replied.
He paused and stammered for a moment. My fast pace was thrown off, and I already knew what was coming . . .
Midday. High sun and an overpowering heat. I stalked the banks of a large Montana river with my Border Collie at my side. I mirrored his shepard’s crouch: low, with my head forward, almost crawling through the dry sage brush.
We paused strategically under the thick Douglas Firs, not only for a break from the unrelenting sun, but for a real chance at deception. The large wild trout, it seemed, were at the moment, predictable — laying close to the banks (sometimes within inches), and waiting for the next overhead meal from a hapless hopper or any other random terrestrial occurrence. The evergreen limbs provided the shade for true cover — our only opportunity for real stealth.