Summer fishing

A few weeks ago we took a trip to a favorite stream and spent a solid 6 hours fishing before the afternoon heat set in.  About 1pm, I could feel the heat rolling down the stream at me in waves, and though the fishing hadn’t quite shut off, it was a sign to get moving back to the truck. It had been a great day. Fish were aggressively feeding on terrestrials, nymphs, and even streamers. My brother-in-law, who doesn’t get to fly fish trout too often, was a happy man by the end of the day- 20 to hand (and then released, of course).Though we have been in a recent cool streak in this past week (with a few nights in the 40s and 50s even), typical summer days are sure to return.

We’re at the peak of summer in the Driftless. The days are long, and the window on the best fishing of the day changes to mornings and evenings. With daytime temps hovering in the 80s to 90s, we must be careful not to stress fish by over-playing them, wetting your hands before handling fish, and removing the hook/releasing as quickly as possible. As anglers, we need to be sure to hydrate ourselves as the day goes on, dress appropriately, and use sunscreen. It may sound like a parental warning, but I’ve seen heat-related injuries and illnesses happen all too many times, sometimes with a trip to the hospital involved in the worst cases. A few tips for summertime fishing:

  • Wear breathable clothing. This might be a long-sleeved fishing shirt that can be rolled up. The sleeves can help from getting fried in the sun. Fishing shirts are widely available, can be worn any time of the year, and are an investment if you fish often.
  • Wet-wade those driftless streams during the summer months! Find yourself some quick-drying pants and some water sandals and enjoy the cool stream. I’ve learned the hard way on wearing waders when I’ve forgotten wet-wading gear. A good friend of mine calls that phenomena “jungle waders”.
  • Consider a sun mask, sleeves, or gloves. Buff and Simms (among others likely) make breathable sun masks. The masks allow you to comfortably breath while providing 50+ spf protection. An added bonus is looking like a fly fishing ninja. Sun sleeves and gloves are gear I don’t currently fish with, but have been strongly considering. Sleeves allow you to don that t-shirt, and reap the benefits of breathable cloth and sun protection.
  • Watch those weeds. The driftless region (including Iowa, MN, and WI) has an abundance of wild parsnip and poison ivy among a few other weeds to be on the watch for. Most of us can identify poison ivy, but in recent years, wild parsnip has become a topic of a lot of press (see article and article). The plant produces a sap that when comes into contact with the skin, can produce a streaky rash that feels similar to sunburn that can last for several months. Be able to identify each BEFORE you go out.
  • Bring some water and drink throughout the day.

With a little pre-planning and general precautions in mind, summer fly fishing in the Driftless can make for some of the best of the year. Grab those terrestrials, caddis, and mice and enjoy your time on the water.

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A trip West

The Driftless on the Fly crew had a chance to reunite over the summer for three and half days in West Yellowstone, where Jared works as a guide and shop boy for Bud Lilly’s trout shop during the summer season. This trip has become a yearly staple, providing a chance to fish some of the best water in the country and more importantly, reunite with a great friend.

We first spent a few days in Grand Teton hiking, camping, and seeing the sights. GT is a beautiful park, and if you haven’t had the chance, add it to your national park must-see list. The park is less crowded than Yellowstone with up-close and dramatic views of the youngest of the Rocky Mountains. After several days, we made our way to West Yellowstone via the Teton Pass Highway, a windy, steep, roadway that seemingly tested our car and took us through the Tetons to Idaho, then north to West Yellowstone. Eastern Idaho looks a bit similar to the midwest with neatly planted crop fields, farms, and twisted roads.  However, the fields are potatoes, there was a noticeable lack of humidity, and the Tetons provided a dramatic backdrop.

Our first day we headed back to Idaho to fish the famed Henry’s Fork. The HF is a pristine tailwater that originates from Henry’s Lake, exiting through the Box Canyon, then meandering through Harriman State Park and Ashton, ID. Near Harriman SP, land that was donated to the state of Idaho by the Harriman family, is the Railroad Ranch section, an area that boasts spring creek-like water with prolific and varied hatches of insects. We were, as many are, “schooled” by the HF a few years back when we had fished it previously and didn’t want a repeat. We fished for about 5 hours before the heat of the day set in and found a handful of reasonable fish during that time. It’s a beautiful river and very challenging, the trick being able to find rising fish amidst acres of rippled water and then making them eat your fly. It takes a long leader and a great deal of patience. Later that afternoon, we met up with Jared and made plans to float the Box Canyon. While shuttling vehicles, we blew a tire, so I took Jared and Amanda to his boat and took off (unsuccessfully) to find an alternative for the replacement donut. Jared and Amanda found some amazing fish that night in the Box Canyon- the pictures speak for themselves.

The next two days, we floated the Madison River, finding fish on patterns ranging from nymphs to droppers to goldens floated near the bank. It was a blast finding gorgeous, healthy browns and bows.  Jared put us in the right spots and knew the river and the flies to fish, while Sage provided the entertainment. Two of the more memorable trout (see pictures) was a nice brown on a golden on day one, and Amanda’s side-channel brown on her dropper on day 2. It was fun to have those days to share some laughs, plan our upcoming fly fishing classes, soak in the scenery of SW Montana, and of course, fish! We left West Yellowstone with a replacement tire, great memories, photos, and a renewed excitement for fall fishing the spring creeks in the Driftless.