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A lot of folks think that the end of June means the end of good fishing (for trout, anyway), due to the high temperatures and low water conditions that normally prevail as we approach mid-summer. The hottest trout pools of spring are now just filled with bluegills and chubs – fun to catch but not exactly what we’re looking for.
Many fishermen have already put their gear away and have resigned themselves to a long season of yard work, but that doesn’t have to be the case. It’s possible to catch trout all summer and it doesn’t require any great skill or knowledge. You will have to change your approach somewhat, but it’s nothing the average 10-year-old can’t handle. In fact, I learned most of this stuff when I was that age – it’s fishing, not rocket science!
If you like adventure and the greater challenge, gear up for a day on one of the many small trout streams in our area. It’s likely to be hot, leafy and buggy so be prepared for those conditions. In fact, do not enter the woods without a good supply of fly dope on hand. I was literally driven off the water by deer flies one summer when I was trying to fish Alder Stream in Atkinson. I’d walked close to a mile down a power line right-of-way to get to a beaver dam pool I knew about, and had no trouble keeping the flies at bay as long as I was moving. When I tried to fish, however, the vicious biters attacked in hoards, chewing through my shirt and pants and giving me no peace as they buzzed around my head and shoulders. I’d have four or five of them biting me at once, and no amount of slapping or flailing would keep them away. Then, the moose flies (the big, black ones that can bite through blue jeans) came buzzing in. I never made a cast that day – I finally cut myself a leafy switch and just slapped at the bugs as I made my way back home. Don’t let this happen to you!
Another consideration is fishing gear. The summer woods are no place for long rods and vests covered with fancy equipment. Small trout streams are invariably choked with brush and blow downs, spider webs, fallen logs and various other obstacles. You’ll be going in slowly, hunched over and with no room for anything remotely resembling a cast. The best gear for this kind of fishing is a 5- or 6-foot spinning rod with 2- or 4-pound-test line, a fine wire hook and a lively garden worm. You can try dry or wet flies, too, but you will be handicapped if you use a typical 8-foot fly rod and all the accoutrements.
There’s simply no room for maneuvering in the brush and if you make too much commotion you’ll spook the fish. Go slowly, be quiet and learn the art of “dapping,” which simply means snaking your rod tip through the brush, lowering your bait to the water and just jigging it enough to attract a nearby trout. Don’t worry, brookies are experts at finding food, but they don’t like disturbances (shaking brush or a stream bank quivering under heavy footsteps), so sneak softly and carry a light rod.
In most cases you’ll find the best fishing in the worst places (under logs, among rocks or beneath the most horrendous alder tangles), but you are likely to catch some great fish if you have the patience and determination to do so.
For summer trouting that’s a little less demanding, consider fishing a lake or small pond from a canoe. It’s best to do this early or late in the day (dusk seems to be the best time in summer), and if you’re handy with a fly rod you’ll do well, but any tackle will work as long as it’s small and fast to cast (as I’ll explain).
This is not so much trout “fishing” as it is trout “hunting.” The process is simple enough: Just paddle around the shoreline and watch during the coolest times of day and watch for the subtle dimpling of the water made by a trout sipping an insect off the surface. If you’re out of casting range, simply paddle slowly over till you are close enough to drop your fly, lure or worm into the ring of the rise (as it’s called) and deliver your bait as soon as you see the fish take its natural prey. These are moving fish and they won’t stay precisely there for more than a few seconds, so paddle slowly keeping your fly line out behind the canoe or have your finger on the monofilament, ready to make an instant cast.
It’s best to use light tackle (fine line, small lures and baits) because trout are notoriously tackle-shy anyway and plunking a half-ounce lure down on them is not going to work. I’d recommend a small Mepps or Panther Martin spinner, a lively garden worm or a dark-colored nymph if you’re fly-fishing. The idea is to see the rise, cast directly to it and have your bait arrive while the fish is still in the vicinity.
This tactic works throughout the day, actually – I once caught a limit of trout at Wassookeag Lake while paddling around on July 4 in a borrowed canoe. It was hot, humid and bright as can be (normally considered poor fishing conditions, especially for trout) but the fish were rising everywhere and I had no trouble getting close to them.
Bigger lakes obviously have more room to roam and therefore more opportunities to catch a summer trout, but small ponds are very active at dawn and dusk – the surface of the water will look at if it’s raining there are so many trout rising. They may only feed heavily for an hour or so, which means you have to get off the sofa and get out there. Sure, it’s hot and humid and buggy, but the first trout you catch will take your mind off of all that!
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