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With summer looming and hot weather already affecting some of our smaller streams and rivers, many fishermen pack up their gear for the season and find other ways to occupy their time. Many outdoorsmen, however, would rather spend a bad day fishing than a good day with the lawn mower or paintbrush, and if there’s a place to go to wet a line they’ll be there no matter what the conditions are or the odds for success.
Luckily, there are ways to catch fish, notably trout, even in the heat of summer, but they’re not the typical wade-and-cast presentations that most anglers use. I discovered one great technique on a day many years ago when, quite honestly, I had given up on trout for the summer and was doing little more than sitting in a lawn chair watching the wind die down over Little Jo-Mary Lake up in the Katahdin Iron Works area.
I was camping on the far side of the pond with an old Marine buddy who I hadn’t seen in 20 years, and we were just passing the time while watching the sun go down over the distant hills. We’d fished a bit during the day but had no luck, not even a false strike, so we had put our tackle away and were whiling away the weekend telling old war stories and catching up on what had happened since we’d last seen each other.
Somewhere in the middle of my friend’s story I said, “Jeez, it looks like it’s raining down there on the far end of the pond!”
Pete held his hand out and said, “Heck, the sky is clear blue and there’s not a cloud anywhere. That can’t be rain.”
Then it struck is both at the same time.
“Those are trout rising!” we shouted at each other.
We scrambled for our fly rods and shoved the overturned canoe into the water. We paddled so hard it felt like we were flying, and we were in the rocky shallows in no time.
Trout were rising all around us, so many and so furious that we could actually hear them sipping and slurping the insects that were hatching on the surface. The closest pattern we could find was a Mosquito, a No. 16, I believe, and luckily we both had several of them tied and ready.
Anchored just a few yards off shore, we cast off opposite sides of the canoe and spent the next hour, right up until dark, catching husky brookies that measured up to 16 inches! We could actually see fish swimming around us, and some of them even thumped the canoe as they slashed at the emerging insects that seemed to cover the surface of the pond like dust. It was a great fishing experience that we duplicated for the next three days.
For some reason we could not fool the first trout at any other time during the day, but come dusk, they’d be out and acting as if they’d been starved. We discovered that any dry fly, not just the Mosquito, would be taken with gusto, and sometimes two or three fish at once would attack our offerings at once.
Since then I have made it a point to visit my favorite trout ponds late in the day once the dead heat of summer boils in, and I have yet to be disappointed. It may be the subtle change in temperature that occurs just at dusk, or it may be the enthusiastic insect hatches that bring the trout to the surface, but whatever it is, you want to be there when it happens!
Another phenomenon I’ve discovered on very cold, deep lakes is that trout will feed all day long in and around the areas where spring holes seep their cold waters to the surface. On a still day you can see the slight bubbling or stirring of the water where these springs reach the top, or you can use a thermometer (or sonar unit) to detect the random cold spots that may be several degrees cooler than the surrounding water.
I discovered this little secret some time ago while I was at a family reunion at Wassookeag Lake. While everyone sat around pointing out how fat and old everyone else had gotten, I was gazing out over the lake and seeing what looked to be rising fish, but only here and there in what looked to be random spots.
Shoving a borrowed canoe into the lake, I started paddling around in my best trout-hunting mode. I had a fly rod rigged with a Hare’s Ear nymph with about 30 feet of line running right behind the canoe. I simply paddled toward the closest rise and, when the fish came up again, I flicked my fly as close to the center of the rise as I could get. When I placed my offering in the right place a fish took immediately, and for about two hours during the middle of the day I caught trout after trout, mostly 10-inch stockers, but good enough for fun and plenty good enough for the grill!
At first I couldn’t figure out what the secret was, but over time I discovered that those fish were making good use of the cooler up-flow of the spring water and fed heartily all day on the insects that apparently also liked the slightly cooler temperatures.
I have had equally good luck using small lures or worms on other such ponds and lakes, even when no one else was catching a thing by trolling or random casting. The approach is akin to trout “hunting” because you are looking for specific fish rising in specific places, but once you spot them and drift close enough to drop a fly or bait into the rise, you are all but assured an aggressive strike.
By the way, I have caught trout like this in so-called “bass ponds” throughout our area including Pleasant Pond in Orneville (in the deeper part where the spring holes often bubble and swirl on the calmest of days) and Branns Mill Pond in Dover-Foxcroft (primarily near the outlet).
In some places you may end up catching a bunch of white perch instead, but what is the down side of that? They look just as good in the frying pan and it’s certainly more fun than staining the back deck!
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