August 1, 2021
It's not the heat, it's the humidity. After the start of a brutally hot, dry summer, we've had a breakthrough on the monsoon front for the past few weeks. Lately, you can almost set your watch to the arrival of dark storm clouds at 3:00 pm, followed by flashes of lightening, the not-so-distant rumble of thunder, wind, and inevitably—rain. Aside from an occasional trip back to the East Coast over the last few years, I had forgotten what it was that I didn't like about humidity, now it's all coming back. I guess it's a small price to pay for reducing the danger of wildfires and filling our rivers, and reservoirs to keep the fish alive. I just wish we could work out a compromise on the timing of the thing, so it doesn't coincide with start of the midge hatch, that I've been waiting around all day for. Recently, that's been the case—3:00 finally rolls around and here come the midges, just when we're about to have one of those good ol' hatches like Grandaddy used to talk about where the clusters are as big as silver dollars and every fish (all over two-foot long back then) starts to rise with reckless abandon, a bank of dark clouds appear over the lake, and here comes the wind and the rain headed downriver, and that's all she wrote for the best dry fly fishing of the day. If I wasn't a more reasonable man, I'd swear there was a conspiracy involved, somehow. In the meantime, I just walk around during the earlier part of the day and target fish in skinny water with terrestrials—which ain't a bad gig these days, there seems to be plenty of skinny water with the river now at 387 cfs. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't pray and hope I get at least one afternoon where the wind doesn't blow and the rain doesn't come. That terrestrial business is a numbers game—you just gotta make as many good presentations as possible, to as many fish as possible and eventually you'll get a few to eat. If you don't handle rejection well, you're probably not gonna like this much. For me it's worth it just to see a few big fish lumber up to the surface and scarf a ridiculous big chunk of foam. It does involve a bit of walking, trying the fish you see, and more walking, so if you're one of those old boys that likes to just go to your favorite spot and just park yourself in the same run all day and keep hammering it with cast after cast, you'll hate it. FYI, you can use this same method right now to sight fish weighted streamers and just roll them on a dead drift along the bottom in front of holding fish—white or light-colored streamers work best so you can see if your fly is going in front of the fish. As far as nymphing goes, find some current or current seams and you'll find fish. At this low level, there's a lot of frog water out there, plenty of places where you'd die of old age before you could ever a fly to drift past a fish. Small midge larva and pupa patterns are working best during the earlier part of the day and by 11:00 or so you'll see fish start to become more active higher in the water column, eating emergers. It's hard to beat Crystal Flash and Scintilla Midges for emerger imitations. The midges I have been seeing lately are awfully tiny—24s, 26s and even 28s aren't out of the question. Black and gray would be my top choice, in that order. The water is super clear and low, so 6x fluorocarbon would be a good idea—even 7x if you have a light hand at playing fish and can pull it off.
I would venture to guess that we'll stay in the lower range on water levels here, for a while longer. The deciding factor will be if the rain we've been getting continues, especially in the Animas drainage. Other than reducing a lot of available water to accommodate the boat traffic and not crowd all those folks over the places left to fish, I can't see much of a downside to the 400 cfs level. You can wade about anywhere you want to go right now and you certainly can tell where the fish are holding. On a side note, one of the storms we got a couple of weeks back, dumped a lot of silt into the Kiddie Hole and I have noticed that in addition to moving a bunch of fish around in there, it's produced a slight bit of murkiness in the Texas Hole and the area directly below, especially on days when there are a lot of people wading around and through the muck up there. Not bad enough to probably throw the nymphing off too much in the lower Texas Hole, but enough to hurt the visibility to spot fish and perhaps throw the dry fly fishing off a bit in that area. Just down river and above, the water seems noticeably clearer to me. Check it out for yourself, maybe my eyes are going bad on me, but I did have trouble raising fish in that area even on big dries, unless they were in very shallow water. Well, time to get out there and practice a little of this preaching. Hope to see you on the water.