Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Swift And Thoughts On HOT Weather Fishing

First, The Swift - Everything is RIGHT! The July 1st stockers have wised up and the days of double digit catches of 12 inch or better bows are now, for me, a memory. I fished the PIPE and below starting at 5:45 Sunday morning and took ten bows but all were in the six to eight inch range. It was a far cry from the Sunday before. That's fly fishing. Next time will be better!!

Now for the topic that seems to have taken over some blogs this Summer and that's if it is ETHICAL to fish during heat waves on freestone rivers. Here's how I feel.

One can go out on the Millers or any similar river when the temperatures are in the 90's, fish the pools and runs that you had great success on during April, May and June and you will NOT have a detrimental effect on the trout population for one simple reason: YOU will not catch ANY trout!!!

There's a reason for that. I am still amazed that there are those out there that still believe that trout must constantly feed to maintain vitality to survive and that the catching of trout in mid Summer will weaken them. The "science" is below.

Trout are cold blooded animals, their metabolism is based on their SURROUNDINGS, namely the temperature of the water that they live in. They have a temperature ZONE that is optimal for their metabolism. Take this example - You're fishing your favorite pool (if you can) on the last week of February, hoping for holdovers, and if you catch anything, while fishing slow and deep, it will be an event!! Why?? Because the trout, in that 35 degree water, are in slow mode because of the temperature and do not require that much food. I worked in a trout hatchery 20+ years ago and the time of slowest growth and less food consumption was during the Winter. Their "motors" are not in second gear yet. They are not active because of the temperature and don't require much food, pure and simple.

Now forward cast to the second week in May. The water temperature is in the mid 50's, we are catching trout on EVERYTHING, and we are all experts. Why is that? It's because trout, in that low 50 to mid 60 degree range, are at their most active behavior. So is everything that they feed on. It all depends on water temperature for most trout. That temperature range is their comfort range.

The heat wave and July drought that we have experienced will kill off any worthwhile fishing. You may catch a FEW but not the numbers that you did a month and a half ago and that will not be detrimental to the whole population because the trout are not actively feeding. The bulk of the trout population has found a place to hunker down to make it through the Summer. They will not respond to you.

Robert Behnke, maybe the world's foremost authority on trout, has stated that the greatest cause of natural trout mortality on freestone streams is WINTER kill, not Summer kill.

Many of you will say that "You fish the Millers during the Summer". That's RIGHT! I fish during NORMAL Summer weather. I didn't fish the Millers in 2010 from the end of June to late August. It was too hot and dry. In normal Summers I will fish as long as it isn't too hot and dry and I catch trout (browns) in the evening. There's a reason for that.

Browns handle warmer water better than rainbows and brookies in the Millers. I've seen dozens of browns rising (they are feeding) at dusk in July and August after a normal Summer day especially when there is a healthy (normal) flow. That's why I am pushing for more browns on this river. They will survive the weather and US. They swim away strongly when released because they adjust to this river nicely.

Behnke spoke of this ability to adjust (over many centuries) when he spoke of catching a high country desert population of rainbows that rose to dry flies and swam away briskly in 83 degree water!! Millers River browns don't need centuries to adjust, just a few months on the Millers.

One person said to me that he stopped fishing when the water temperature hit 65 degrees. Too bad. No science there!



Brk Trt said...

It all makes sense.
Thanks for the info.

Bob O said...

Good to see you on the water Sunday AM. Funny how lockjawed the fish were. Maybe they got slammed too hard on Saturday.

I've heard that lactic acid and higher water temperatures can combine to increase fish mortality. That when hooked, the stress in resisting increases. This build up in lactic acid, which can, sometimes fatally, affects regularity of heartbeat, and depletes blood oxygen levels. Higher water temps hold less oxygen so stressed fish need a longer recovery time. I have read fish can swim away and later die.

It becomes the fisher's responsibility to land and release the fish as quickly as possible with minimal handling. The danger of delayed mortality increases when fighting (large) fish, an excessively long time, on light tippet.

So, although fish may feed in bathwater, and though they may be taken in those conditions, we increase their chances of survival by quickly landing and releasing them.

All comments are welcome.


Millers River Flyfisher said...

Bob O,

It was good to see you again too.

I agree with you concerning the "playing out" of trout during Summer angling. Catch and release quickly. I've seen browns dart away when handled quickly. Fishing around tribs should also be avoided during hot weather. The acidosis that you speak of is prevalent when trout are taken from a cool trib environment and released in warmer water. They are not adapted to it and mortality increases.

One thing is for sure. Every few trout are caught on warm/hot days. Any mortality is minimal.

Bradley said...

I just noticed that the Swift is back up to 120 CFS. Is it reasonable to assume that this means warm water is coming over the spillway, and temperatures are high again?

Falsecast said...

Great post Ken. A couple of thoughts on this topic.

I am someone who tries to "do the right thing" in regards to fishing ethics, but also don't mind fishing into the evenings in places that I know have active feeding fish. I understand,, however, and accept that it is likely some increased percentage may suffer. This is put and take fishing and that's what they are there for. We all wish we had a wild fishery, but in reality we don't. Given that I do things here I wouldn't do in a wild fishery.

I fish in MT every year. In 2003 I had to drive 200+ miles to find fishable water around Missoula. Fly shops would discourage you and not want to sell you flies. Other people would give you flak if you showed up on the Clark Fork during the day. The point is that they are protecting their wild fishery.

We simply don't have the concern of maintaining a wild fishery because most are not. It's not that I am cold hearted, but we could kill every fish every year and it wouldn't materially effect most river.

On the other extreme, I just got back from Alaska where I did 1/2 day Salmon trip. I caught an 18 lb King and brought up putting it back. The whole boat looked at me like I had 10 heads. They have so many, they assume you wasted your time if you don't take the meat.

I hope this post isn't taken negatively as I am an avid C&R angler.

This is why tailwaters are so important here and poachers on the Swift are an issue.

I would like to pose a question I have asked on other boards about the Swift. If stocking were stopped, how long before all Rainbows and Browns are dead? Also, what would the "wild" fishery look like? Could "put, grow and take" work there?

e.g. I assume 2 years after all stocked fish would be gone and we'd have a large population of 6/7inch wild Brookies.

Millers River Flyfisher said...


All of the water is coming from the "bubbler" and not the spillway. The water will be cold. When the flow gets to +250 cfs or so it's coming from the spillway.


I agree with your comments.

Now about your question if all stocking ceased on the Swift: I agree with you last statement.

The DWF doesn't try to nurture sustainability on our rivers, even the Swift. It's catchables for the hordes which my ongoing survey will prove is a faulty approach.

Falsecast said...

Part of me would like to see the Swift become a "wild" brook trout stream and maybe some browns. I know they'd be small.

Keep up the good work ken. Too bad Mass doesn't have TMA's.

Bob O said...

Last night I stopped in by the Pipe and fished down around the bend till dark. I was alone with the exception of a trio who took their dog for a dip under the fly-eating tree, and a hiker who asked some intelligent questions about beginning fly fishing. Flow is up to 120, which I prefer to the earlier 50 cfs. (The Ct River must have fallen.) 120 should draw more fish up into the bubbler run. I got no activity below the pipe - just a couple of little escapees - 6" rainbows. At dusk I tagged a few fish below the log. Ended up with three or four in the net and a couple more on long distance release. All nice 15"+ fish. On my old standby - a brown SJW - the same fly with which I got only refusals on Sunday. One never knows...

Anonymous said...

Here is another thought about fishing trout in warm weather

I night fish for them, and where I fish them I would be willing to bet that most of those fish are never available to the normal groups of flyfishers

I have night fished at all times of the year and it appears to me once they switch over to feeding at night they pretty much stay that way