Red, brown, yellow, green and blue dots

You are probably wondering what the title of this article has to do with fishing. Some will surmise that old Mike has finally slipped a gear and is analyzing color blindness charts to gauge fishing conditions. Trust me; we are going to discuss fishing, but the dots I refer to above do play a big part when we talk about the current fishing status. Being in the fishing business for several decades I religiously studied the USGS water data for Wyoming each morning, which displays a series of colored dots that indicate the water flow, measured in cubic feet per second at various locations on streams in Wyoming. A red dot denotes the flow is extremely below the average, brown is low, yellow is moderately below average, green is average and blue above average. This is the first time I can remember looking at the water data in Sublette County the first of July and seeing only red and yellow dots with no green in sight.

Fishing water conditions are decent in some streams right now, but the flows are dropping daily and are starting to look like what we normally experience in early August. The good news is the water temperature remains relatively low on those streams that drain directly from the mountains without the impediment of a dam. The water in these systems is draining directly off the little remaining snow pack and our life-saving glacier system. We will be leaning heavily on the snow pack and glaciers again to provide skinny fishing water for our streams. We are very fortunate to have many fine lakes in Sublette County that offer excellent fishing opportunities and, of course, there are the 1,300 lakes in the Bridger Wilderness.

My advice is to get out and fish the rivers and streams now. The water is clear and the fish are up in the water column feeding. In the last several days I have seen just about every type insect hatch that is prevalent in our area. As weather conditions change throughout the day you will see mayflies such as grey drakes, green drakes, blue wing olives and pale morning duns. In the late afternoon you will notice a lot of caddis egg-laying activity with the trout responding to this fine banquet. A lot of our streams feature rock riffles with cool, well-oxygenated water, which is a haven for stoneflies. Although stoneflies spend a majority of the life in the nymph form, I have noticed adult yellow sallys collecting around riffles doing their egg laying, which elicits a feeding response by hungry trout. I have had recent success with a terrestrial pattern even though it is a little early to be kicking terrestrials like hoppers out of the bushes. I use a feathered hopper pattern as my lead fly all season. My theory has always been: The trout does not know if it is the first hopper of the season or the last; it is a good meal.

The point here is that we are currently experiencing late summer fishing conditions, which offer great fishing opportunities, but if the water and weather conditions continue as projected we may have to consider altering our fish catching practices. Water temperatures tend to increase significantly mid-day, requiring us to limit our fishing to early morning and late evening. We will have to employ late summer fishing techniques. The fish are going to be wary or spooky so visibility and disturbances on or in the water are issues to consider. If you can see the fish, they can see you. If you jump into the water and proceed to crunch gravel on your way to the target or plop your first cast into a quiet pool, the game is over. Creating these kinds of disturbances around good fishing areas will put the trout into their security mode or some call it “putting them down.” Stealth is the best tactic to use when stalking the wily trout. Stay on the bank whereever possible, but if you need to enter the water to get a better casting angle do so cautiously at the greatest distance from the target as possible. You may have to crouch, crawl, use bushes as cover or use a longer cast to decrease your visibility profile. Even though you do your best sneaking up on the fish and deliver your most delicate cast, once the fly and line land on the water the fish still may go into their security mode. This is when you should consider moving discreetly around the target area and perform a downstream drift to the trout.

If you are fortunate enough to hook up with a good fish, make a special effort to take good care of this finite resource that gives many of us such outstanding pleasure. Try to land the fish as quickly as possible to avoid fatiguing the fish. Use a rubber net, handle the fish a little as possible and if you do have to touch the fish, make sure to wet your hands before doing so. Remove the hook as gently as possible. Pinching the barb on the hook will help facilitate releasing the fish quickly. Get the fish back into the water as rapidly as you can, placing its head into the current. Ensure the fish can remain in an upright position before leaving your control. Remember the warmer the water and the bigger the fish, the longer it will take to revive it!

Having opined on the current fishing situation above I will close with a reminder that “Mother Nature” is still in control of our destiny. I would hearken back to this same weather and water situation a few years back. We had pretty much run out of fishing water by the end of July. Then the August monsoon set in, raising the level of our rivers and streams back to post run-off levels. Let’s hope we repeat that phenomenon.