It doesn’t seem fair that the longest days of the year offer the fewest hours of decent fishing.
Sunrise this morning came at 5:38 a.m. Probably the best fishing of the day, for just about any species, would be an hour before and two hours, at most, after that.
Sunset will come at 8:33, and the fishing window at the end of the day is even shorter — maybe 8 to 9 p.m.
Yes, it is possible to catch fish — even fish that seek cold water, like trout — throughout the day, especially if it’s cloudy. And sure, if you’re inclined to fish into the darkness, you may do well. (I only fish at night along the seashore, and don’t pretend to know anything about nighttime freshwater fishing.)
In the spring and fall, fish might feed any time of day — or all day. Even in the dead of winter, you have a shot at catching during the daylight hours. But in general, the waters are quiet most of the day in high summer, especially trout waters.
Trout are generally thought to be shy about feeding in bright light, and besides, there isn’t much for them to feed on. Aquatic insects don’t emerge during the afternoon in summer the way they do in the spring.
Terrestrial patterns such as ants, beetles, crickets and grasshoppers are the best bet for daytime fishing, especially along a grassy bank on a breezy day, but even then, it only works if the fish are looking up.
Sub-surface fishing with a nymph or streamer is a better bet, since trout tend to pass the daylight hours hanging close to the bottom. This is especially true in “pocket water” with lots of nooks and crannies among the rocks and currents.
Trout are opportunistic, and will not refuse an imitation of a fly just because there’s no actual hatch of that fly taking place. But they might refuse it simply because they don’t feel like feeding as much during the day as they do at dawn and dusk.
And of course, it’s not just the bright light of day that slows summer trout fishing.
Water temperatures on most streams end up in the high 60s or even low 70s by day’s end in July. Trout get sluggish when the water’s that warm, so they’re slow to bite. That’s just as well, since trout caught and released under such circumstances often don’t survive.
Our options? Fish at first light, when the water is coolest. Find shady, high-elevation streams. Visit streams downstream of dams that release cold water, such as the branches of the Delaware River, where fish feed all day, all summer.
As it happens, there are a few other options, at least this weekend:
• Spey Nation, a free, informal gathering of two-hand fly-rod enthusiasts at the Pine-ville angler access on the Salmon River in Pulaski Saturday. Spey guru Simon Gawesworth and distance casting legend Tim Rajeff will be there, along with reps from rod and line companies and fishing org-anizations such as the Atlantic Salmon Fish Creek Club and the Lake Ontario Tributary Anglers Council. Free barbecue, too.
• Rajeff will be at Goldstock’s Sporting Goods on Freeman’s Bridge Road in Glenville Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. It’s not often we get one of the best casters in the history of fly-fishing right here in the Capital Region. No charge.
• Free ice cream at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vt., Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. Add a visit to the Orvis flagship store and lunch at a local place, and you have a nice summer Saturday. If you hang around long enough, you might just see a few trout rising in the Battenkill on your way home.
Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at [email protected].