My father taught me that good anglers rise early
and are on the water at first light. Shoot....
most of the time Dad and I were fishing "before"
it got light. Dad had a lot of his angling rules
written in stone. This "early on the water" mandate
was etched in granite you couldn't penetrate with
a diamond-tipped drill.
I remember a trip when we had hiked nearly a mile
down into a deep canyon to a central Idaho river,
using flashlights to keep from breaking our fool
necks. I think we both had badly skinned knees
by the time we reached the river.
We started fishing just as it began to break day.
During the first hour neither of us had so much as
a bump. My father suggested we build a fire and
warm up. We were drinking a cup of coffee from our
thermos, when Dad made an insightful observation:
"The fish, he told me, "will
begin to bite when the sun hits the water."
I did a double-take. "If that's the case,
I laughed, trying without success to control my shivering,
"why did we leave camp in the middle of the night,
so we could be here early enough to fish in the dark?"
I didn't get an answer. But then I didn't really
need one. My father loved fishing so much, he
believed wasting fishing time was sinful. Dad's
11th commandment was: "The time to go fishing
is today, because if you wait until tomorrow, they'll
tell you that you should have been there yesterday...
and that's today."
MANY FISHERIES ARE MIDDAY BODIES OF WATER
This "fish early and fish late, and spend the balance
of the time lounging around camp" philosophy may work
at times, but on many of the lakes and streams I fish,
just the opposite is true.
A good example is Idaho's South Fork of the Boise River
below Anderson Ranch Dam. While the evening
fishing - particularly the last hour of daylight, when
a local caddis hatch is on- can often be very productive
on this blue-ribbon trout stream, the South Fork is
definitely a midday stream for fly fishermen. Bait
fishing on the bottom used to take lots of fish
during the early morning hours; but this stretch
of the river is now managed for fly and single hook
lure. With rare exceptions, veteran fly fishermen
fish the South Fork between noon and 5 p.m. Almost
all of the major hatches come off during that time frame.
Another midday body of water is Horse Thief Reservoir,
my favorite central Idaho trout lake. When I begin
fishing this popular fishery, usually at about 11 am,
the bait fishermen and trollers will be coming to camp
for lunch (telling everybody the fish had quit biting).
Most will remain off the lake until they've finished
their evening meal.
The midday insect hatches during June, July and August
- primarily midges, mayflies, damselflies and a mid-summer
red ant- will begin moving between noon and 3 p.m. Not
only will the fish be more actively chasing the emerging
aquatic and terrestial insects, but those anglers who
have remained on the lake during midday will have less
competition from bait fishermen and trollers on this
beautiful little 600 acre reservoir. Depending on the
time of year, fly fishermen and trollers should fish
the lake between 11 am and 4 pm; Bait fishermen either
begin at first light with bait, or (if they are smart),
sleep in and join the fly rodders, using bobbers to keep
their baits higher in the water column.
Let's understand why trout move up or down in the water
column in a lake or stream when they are in a feeding
mood. Early in the day, aquatic life forms will be
working near the bottom, feeding on whatever their
various species concentrates on. Some will be predating
on smaller aquatic insects, others feed on vegetable matter.
If the fish are working the bottom for these food forms
and see a big nightcrawler lying there - they will
probably eat it.
Lakes that have populations of trout that feed heavily
on leeches, will have some good early morning (first
hour or two of daylight) fishing. Idaho's Henry's
Lake is an example of a great leech lake. If it
were legal to fish the Big H at night, most of the
fly fishermen would sleep days and fish nights
(fishing at night has not been allowed at Henry's
for almost 20 years. But rumors have it the Idaho
Department of Fish and Game is considering removing
this night-time restriction).
Henry's Lake is the exception that makes the rule.
While the trout in the Big H will certainly intercept
emerging aquatic insects between the bottom of the
lake and its surface, other than during a damsel
hatch, the angler must work his fly along the
bottom, right on top of the weed beds.
Where we fish our baits is usually far more important
than the nature of the bait. But, even more critical,
is "when" we should fish our baits. An angler who
regularly fishes a particular body of water, should
keep records telling him when he caught his fish (and
when others have also been successful). Unless just
smelling the roses is enough, the angler should try
and fish a body of water when his records tell him
he should have his best chances for success.
If I were a mathematician (my accountant says I really
wouldn't qualify), I would write the success formula as
follows: WHEN + where + how = SUCCESS. The when
portion of the equation is without a doubt the most
important. It doesn't do much good to fish your flies
during times when, for what-ever the reason, the fish
are down in the weeds taking a nap. ~ Marv
Marv Taylor's books, Float-Tubing The West,
The Successful Angler's Journal,
More Fragments of the Puzzle, (Volume I) and More
Fragments of the Puzzle, (Volume II) are all available from
Marv. You can reach Marv by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 208-322-5760.