Fishing the Dog Days of Summer

It’s throwback Thursday once again. Here’s a great article that appeared in our July newsletter last year.

By Paul Prentiss

For the last four or five years I’ve traveled to the Encampment River in Wyoming with my fishing partner, Bruce Mardick. We try to time the trip to coincide with the end of runoff in hopes of hitting the Green Drake hatch. Circumstances this year prevented a timely arrival. The best we could do was a mid-July adventure.

It’s hard to imagine but we were greeted with low flows, bright sunshine, hot weather, and limited floating opportunities on either the Encampment or the adjacent North Platte rivers. Most of the fishermen had disappeared from the public stretches. Sounds like a recipe for a difficult trip, but it wasn’t.

We caught plenty of large fish by focusing on nymphing deep runs with two or three fly setups configured to dredge the bottom with large weighted rubber legged Stones (6 to 8) and small (16 to 18) beatis or caddis style droppers. We used 4X tippet on 10-foot leaders with strike indicators set about 1 to 2-feet above stream depth.

We carried along a secondary dry fly rod rigged with a caddis dry and trailing midge pattern to cast to any risers or to probe spots under stream foliage or other likely looking possibilities. Ninety percent of the fish were taken on nymphs but we occasionally got a good take on the surface.

Most fishermen facing these conditions would probably have marginal results and here’s why:

  1. They get much too close to the runs….this is not a short line stand on top of the fish game.
  2. The flies do not get down to the strike zone quickly….when my weighted Stone hits the water it drops immediately to the bottom. I never use split shot.
  3. The indicators are not set or adjusted to the optimum point to the leader….most fishermen place their indicator way too high and never make adjustments as they fish.
  4. They are fishing the wrong spots…..look for current, drop-offs, holding structure, and slots that channel food to fish, and shaded areas in deeper water.Where to Fish
  5. The selection of flies is unimaginative….this means the patterns are all the same size/profile, reflect limited color/flash combinations.
  6. The rigging is badly assembled and/or the tippet is way too light…I’m talking about space between the flies, the knots, and the fly placement (weight in the middle or the end.  We never went lighter than fluoro 4X.
  7. Fly line management is forgotten…most of the time you have to throw mends into the line to get the right presentation and it should be done in a way that minimizes movement of the indicator.
  8. Detection of subtle strikes doesn’t happen….good nymph fishermen are constantly setting the hook at the slightest hesitation of the indicator….some folks call it bobber fishing but it’s not about waiting for it to go under. While we’re on the subject of indicators I’ve got a comment for those fishermen who think strike indicators are unnecessary. See how many strikes you can detect by watching your leader or fly line 30+ feet away.
  9. Get on the water early before other fishermen are tramping through the best water.
  10. Concentrate on finding difficult spots that other fishermen are likely to ignore….many times the best looking pools have been constantly pounded.

I kept an unofficial record of the fish we landed. Between Bruce and I we landed 44 fish in 1 1/2 days of fishing on public water in marginal conditions. Keep the above tips in mind during those long dog-days of summer and you’ll definitely increase your hook-ups!