Late summer dry fly fishing has arrived.
Right before the big frost comes (in these parts, any day now) to herald fall, insect hatches seem to increase in number on rivers, lakes and streams.
Previous columns have mentioned the good, if not great, insect hatches already seen in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem this year. Same goes for grasshopper, ant and beetle flies and their effectiveness.
I do not want to overlook other anglers, nor angling opportunities that abound throughout the Big Horn Basin and Yellowstone National Park for spin or bait fisher persons. However, this is the time of year when most anglers will tell you they want to be up high in the hills on a trout stream. Slough Creek comes to my mind in mid-September.
Another setting would be an angler standing in the lower Clarks Fork valley looking west to the Absaroka-Beartooth mountains, while mostly smaller trout and whitefish are leaping and happily frolicking in a riffle in front of you.
This view and outdoor environment is usually captured on a postcard and that picture usually involves a solitary angler standing in the middle of a wide river valley and casting a fly rod and line. I know other anglers flock to lakes in the high country to troll for brook trout and cutthroat along the shoreline, or try the same from shore to admire the similar scenery and wildlife opportunities.
It is that image of the solitary angler that best describes why I am not saying more about trolling in lakes than I am devoting to dry fly fishing during its peak time. If one doesn’t have a fly rod outfit, a light spinning rod with a bubble and fly will provide the same sport as your fly rod cousins.
The mayfly and caddis hatches are consistent this time of year. Almost like clockwork, the trout feed at certain times of the day and early evening after Labor Day weekend.
Sure, the trout will still gulp a hopper, ant or beetle in the middle of the day. However, when the late summer hatches are prevalent, trout have a proclivity to switch from one mayfly or caddis hatch to the next without changing feeding positions, all the time eating, eating, eating.
It is up to us anglers to solve that mystery to keep a net wet with landed trout. A size 14 parachute Adams has been the go-to fly around the area as the trout begin to zone in on this daily bonanza. If the Adams fails, then you have the choice of a hundred other size 12 and smaller patterns to choose from, including old favorites such as the Royal Wulff and H&L Variant. With so many miles of streams and rivers providing dry fly action, we can spread out and enjoy casting to a rising trout as we work our way upstream, wherever that might be.
These late season hatches arrive at the right time for the trout, when the cooler nights start to slow hopper action down, but their requirement for food remains high. Generally, these hatches coincide with the lowest flows of the summer as well. Conditions of low, clear water and wary trout require anglers to be a bit more careful when the water now that flows are low. Lighter fly lines (1-4 weight) and tippets (4-6X) will be required if you want your fly to look like that “special” fly no trout can refuse. Far and fine is what this fishing is called in the West. Try it – you will like it.