This Summer will continue to keep us guessing on the warmwater front?! That said, the heat to rain roulette has given us great water levels, temps, and frontal activity to keep things fresh as we move into the dog days of summer. The two major takeaways for August, if it is a typical August: Fish early OR late, and fish deep. If we continue to see regular rain, then hang on for another month of epic warmwater fishing.
(The following looks exactly like it did for July, and that is a GREAT thing, our current cycle of rain and thunderstorms has ushered in fantastic conditions on the Home River!) You could not ask for better conditions on the DSP! The intermittent rains and flow spikes are keeping temps down, food abundant and weed growth to a minimum. Carp fishing is at its best on the downward trend of rain spike. As edge clarity returns, you have just enough vis to spot a tailing carp on the edges, feeding aggressively on the new foods that have entered in the rain flush. Structure is a big positive, and you can usually find fish working rock piles, submerged branches, discarded kitchen appliances, etc. Clarity is not perfect, and that is a good thing! While you will not be able to see every fish in the river, it is much less likely that they will see you, so you have more opportunities to get close and maximize the quality of your presentation. Big, heavy, and dark flies are necessary for the fish to see in the reduced clarity, and the presentation needs to be as close to fish as possible for them to see in the stained water. Carp use these opportunities to take in a lot of calories without the fear of looming predators, so they tend to be exponentially less picky than usual. As temps heat back up and clarity returns, Smallmouth fishing gets even better! Hot summer evenings are prime Smallmouth windows, and these fish are more aggressive than in the cooler months. Stripping flashy baitfish patterns and twitching crayfish around a structure can yield some very high-quality smallmouth close to home.
Water levels are high, and temps are perfect! We have seen enough of a cooldown in some ponds, that Carp have begun a third spawn. It’s mixed bag season on the smaller bodies of water on the Front Range. Panfish, Perch, Crappie, Bass, even the occasional Catfish are on the menu. Most of these species are highly structure-oriented, and as they settle into their summer norms, structure is the key. Stumps, trees, rockpiles, etc. are likely holding fish. Sizing down your fly can increase your species count, and still produce big fish as well. Topwater, while not as productive as in other parts of the Country, can still be an effective, and way more fun way to target these fish. Small Poppers and even foam terrestrials with a head that pushes water on the strip can trigger some spectacular strikes. As the days heat up, and we find those HOT 90-100 degree days, begin to consider early mornings, late evenings, and NIGHT FISHING! Mid-Summer is prime for night fishing, and all kinds of crazy things move into the shallows to feed under the cover of darkness. Stripping Baitfish or Leeches, even throwing poppers after the sun is down can yield some of the largest fish of the season.
Last month, we discussed the value of boats in Warmwater pursuits, this month we will cover another important tool, especially in Large lakes and reservoirs; Sinking Lines! In big, warmwater, it is imperative to success to consistently pattern structure, bait, and ideal water temps. In a big body of water, you could waste endless hours working unproductive water. While there are band-aid fixes to get in the general vicinity: heavy flies, longer leaders, and add-on sink tips, all come with two major downsides...
They really, really suck to cast… Adding weight over the ideal threshold of your rig immediately decreases responsiveness, and increases the need to muscle through the cast, often killing control, and creating unnecessary fatigue. Sinking leaders also add a hinge point that can amplify the already substantial struggle to turn over bulky flies. While you may come close on a few casts/retrieves, you are never certain your fly is in the zone and presented correctly. Trying to guess depth is rarely accurate, and the lack of depth maintenance can pull you fly out of the zone with the slightest variation in retrieve
Below are three important Sinking Line variations that I feel will greatly improve your warm water fishing. Personally, I keep a reel spooled with each in WF6, so I can quickly change if needed.
*A great trick learned from Josh Graffam of Umpqua Feather Merchants, is to attach a short butt section to the terminal end of the line with a Large Tippet Ring. When you need to change lines to target a different part of the water column, you can leave your leader and Flies rigged and in the guides, and simply attach them to the new line type with a quick Clinch Knot.
This is the Bank Angler's best friend. With a 1-2ips (Inch Per Second) sink rate, the biggest advantage is in negating all surface disturbance in your presentation. If there are waves, or current, or any other movement on the surface, a floating line is pushed/pulled, and the action of your fly is greatly impacted. You also end up with lots of slack and can lose hookset efficacy if you do get an eat. This line can also be effectively fished up to 3-4ft of Depth with an adequate countdown, and in shallower lakes, an intermediate can be all you need to fish right off the bottom, whereas a heavier sink would cause constant hang-ups.
Triple Density (i.e. Int/S3/S6)
The perfect line for working dams and deep drops from shore, and excellent at bringing fish that “eat up” from the depths. Because of the Triple Density configuration, you can effectively present down, and fish back up steep transitions, as found on almost all the RipRap dams of the Front Range. This style is also great from a boat, to bring up fish that are holding on structure, or the thermocline. A steady retrieve will elicit follows and often, the eat takes place at your feet. Wiper, Pike, Walleye, and Lake Trout are all prime candidates for this technique.
Heavy Full Sink with Buoyant Flies (Type IV – Type 6)
This is extremely effective in very hot and very cold ambient temps when fish find comfortable water right near the bottom. With a Full Sink in a heavy sink rate, you can find the bottom every single time and keep your presentation as close to the bottom as possible. With a floating fly, it will rise just above the substrate, and maintain a very convincing diving action as it is pulled back down with each strip. This is also the most effective Catfish technique I found outside of the spawn.