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Last week we talked about summer’s great pickerel fishing, and if there were no other options I’d be content to waggle a surface lure over the lily pads right up till the bear season opens next month. Exciting as pickerel fishing is, there are other places to wet a line that are often just as productive, even though you may have to work a little harder for it.
By now most stream trout fishermen have put their gear away because hot summer temperatures have driven the trout into deeper, cooler lairs. Streams that were full of hungry brookies a month ago are now crowded with grass pickerel, chubs and various “nuisance” species that most fishermen just toss up on the bank as raccoon bait.
One of the great certainties of life in the wild is that all species seem able to adapt to changing conditions . . . except humans! We insist on doing things the same way all the time and are disgusted when, for no reason, the fishing or hunting suddenly goes dry. In most cases it’s not because we’ve wiped out all the fish and critters, it’s because they were able to adapt to the changes in their habitat long before we did!
A perfect example of this is summer trout fishing. Many anglers think the fish have all been caught or have died off my mid-July, but that’s not the situation. Trout are most active when water temperatures are at or near 55 degrees. When those big, open, sun-lit pools that were full of fish in May now seem barren, it’s because the water temperature is up into the 60s or even 70s. Nothing but suckers and chubs will be there now, but that doesn’t mean the trout have died off. All they have done is move into cooler lairs, and these may not be easy to find with the usual chuck-and-chance-it casting.
I find some great hot-weather trout fishing under road crossings, which stay cool all summer, and in sheltered streams that flow though thick evergreens, which keep the water temperatures cool enough for trout no matter how hot the daytime temperatures.
My favorite summertime trout hotspots, however, are beaver dam pools along these same small streams. Usually deep, always cold and rarely fished, these random “ponds” are perfect hot weather fisheries because the cool waters of the flowing stream continually recharge the ponds. The cooler water drops to the bottom, and though I’ve never snorkeled down there to check the temperature, I’d be willing to bet it’s as close to 55 degrees as you’re going to get in July and August. The trout are there and are willing to take a bait, fly or lure, which is all the proof I need!
Finding beaver ponds in summer is rarely a challenge. Walk upstream or down and you will eventually find a dam. Some will be mere starter dams, random piles of sticks and mud that barely hold back the flow, but some will be 6 or 8 feet high, old dams that have been worked on for many years. The water behind these will be deep and cold, dark as coffee and full of fat, hungry trout.
The deepest water will be closest to the dam, so I start fishing there. It’s best to use worms and light hooks because your losses will be staggering if you use flies or lures. The sticks and other debris the beavers have used to construct the dam will eat up a supply of baits in no time, so beware! There will be trout nearby, but weigh the benefits carefully.
It’s better to use flies and lures in the water well behind the dam. There are still going to be sticks, stick-ups and branches drifting around, but it should be easy to retrieve a snagged lure.
In any case, concentrate your efforts in the primary stream channel, which will be deeper and cooler than the surrounding waters. I use a simple worm-and-bobber rig set to drift a fat angleworm just off the bottom. There’s no question when a trout takes the bait – the bobber disappears and waggles around under water, a clear indication of a hit. If fish aren’t hitting on the bottom, I’ll move the bobber closer to the bait and try again.
I have great faith in beaver ponds as trout havens, so I don’t give up if I don’t get some immediate action. The best times to fish are early and late in the day, so if I get there during the lackluster middle of the day I’ll work a little harder to make a catch. If necessary, I’ll capture a few grasshoppers, caddis worms (from beneath underwater rocks) and see if those work. After nearly half a century of beaver pond fishing, I’ve yet to leave one without catching at least one trout. The pond/stream channel habitat is perfect for brookies and I just refuse to accept that there’s not at least one hungry trout in there! My persistence often keeps me in the muck for hours at times, but I always win! There’s nothing like catching a couple of fat brook trout in mid-summer, long after everyone else has given up on them. They may not be where you found them in April or May, but they will be there.
It’s the rare small stream in our area that doesn’t have at least one beaver dam on it. It may require some exploring to find them, but the reward is always worth it. If you’re lucky, you will find a stream with several dams on it. You should be able to catch two or three keeper fish per dam, even more when conditions are right, so the trip is invariably worth it. Be patient, fish at varying depths and don’t let a few empty drifts convince you that there are no trout available. Keep dropping them a line till you get an answer!
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