Think outside the elk hair.
Low water. Gin clear rivers. Lots of angling pressure. Sparse hatches. Time to do something different. Late summer angling on local rivers can be one of the more challenging times of the season. Here's a quick list of ideas to get you thinking and fishing differently this time of the year...
- Fish faster water than you normally would. Fishing the extreme upper part of a riffle, or right in some super heavy, meaty currents you normally would pass could hold some big fish. I know for a fact on rivers like the Spokane, fishing heavy currents pays off big-time during the summer.
- Fish a tributary. The "main" stretches of rivers like the Coeur d'Alene, St. Joe, etc get pounded. Try a one of their tributaries. Or any smaller creeks for that matter, no matter what part of the region you live. Those small feeder streams usually offer cooler temps, shade, and un-pressured fish. You may not catch a "hog", but that's all a matter of perspective in smaller water.
- Like chubby chernobyls? Well, by August this popular fly has been thrown on just about every stretch of river and Mr. Cutthroat knows what the white wing of doom is all about. If you are like me and love to throw foam, try lower profile foam patterns without the big fluffy wing. It may be a little harder for you or I to see, but that doesn't mean it's harder for the trout to see.
- Fish the buckets and slots. We are all attracted to the emerald green pools/runs that you can spend an hour fishing. Rivers like the St. Joe, NF Clearwater and others are littered with them. What's often overlooked are the small buckets and slots along the banks that may be good for about 6 casts before you have either covered the spot, or spooked the shit out of the fish. Which ever comes first. It takes a lot of extra effort to hit a number of these fish holding areas, but after throwing flies in a handful of slots you can be having a pretty darn good day fishing to fish that are not getting pressured.
- Nymph. Yeah, yeah, yeah... nymphing. Poo-poo nymphing? It's probably cuz you can't do it very effectively. Nyphing ain't easy. Want to catch big fish more consistently in tough conditions? Practice your nymph game. Short nymph rigs through fast slots will pay off when fish won't look up. Try nymphing some small patterns this time of the year. Midges, small caddis pupa or mayfly patterns, very small beadhead attractors, etc. Trust me.
- Tiny dries. Fish feeding in a slow moving pool? No bug hatches? Small midges, pseudo baetis, tricos all could be winners for fish in those dead calm waters during august. Spinner patterns are also great for selective feeders. Very small ant patterns have also been at the top of my list for this time of the year.
- Get your ass out of bed early. What's early? Being on the water at first light. Once upon a time I used to guide the Clark Fork. During the heat of the summer we were launching the boats at 5:30am. I was always impressed by the amount of fish up feeding at that time of the day when the sky was just transitioning out of the darkness. Tough to do when you're a night owl like myself, but I'm rarely disappointed when it's super hot out.
- Fish a new stretch of river. Keep going to the same spot? Try up higher. Or vice versa if you fish up high, try down low. Everyone that come in the shop always wants to fish the highest they can get on the Idaho streams. Don't blame em, beautiful up there. Try the lower stretches of a river though if you never have. Faster drive time, still some fish to be found, perhaps less pressure.