In early and mid-summer, the days turn long and hot in the mountains. The snow is gone. The creeks have slowed. The biggest change from springtime is the proliferation of insect life. Larvae emerge from their twig and sand houses, crawl into the sun on top of a rock, and metamorphose into small flies and bugs. Grasshoppers emerge from eggs and begin hopping through the grassy meadows.
The rushing, running water of the spring is gone. Insect life centers on and around the mountain lakes. Their surfaces become breeding grounds for insects too tiny to see. These in turn become food for larger flying insects, which dance along the surface of the water whenever it is calm, eating the smaller ones. From the fish's eye view, the livin' is easy.
Trout continue to spawn during the early summer, with females swimming up feeder streams to lay their eggs. Many of the eggs laid earlier in spring now hatch. Shallow waters are filled with tiny trout, or minnows, which provide excellent nourishment for larger fish. The minnows soon learn the importance of remaining near shelter at all times.
In summer, the lake divides into three layers of water: an upper warm layer, a lower cold layer and a combined middle layer. In the morning, the trout come into the shallows to feed on nymphs and minnows. The water here is cooler then and the low sun makes it easier to see the nymphs (larval flies that swim several inches below the surface of the water) and minnows, which hang out in nooks and crannies for protection.
During midday, the trout move lower, to cooler water. The brighter it gets, the deeper they go. They spend most of these hours nosing around the lake bottom for grubs, larval flies which live in the mud. Occasionally, the fish come across some tasty fish eggs or a small worm. Then in the afternoon, they go back to the shallower areas to feed, primarily in the shade, where it is easier for them to see the surface.
During late afternoon, when the cold-blooded insects are most active on the water and sunlight strikes the lake at an angle, the trout will rise to work the surface. This is when you'll see them jumping. They wait below the still surface for a fly to land and feed. Then they come upso fast that they just keep going, often completely out of the water. It's always a thrill to see and it's also a prime time to catch dinner.
Yet trout fishing any hour of the summertime day can be a real pleasure. In the morning, we often fish with lures. Lures spin bright and silvery in the water, imitating minnows darting through the upper layers of the lake. During the middle of the day, the fish often seem to "stop biting." They've gone to the cooler depths to forage for grubs. Sometimes they can be caught with salmon eggs, but catching a tan is a better bet, or a nap in the shade after a swim while the old fishing rod, secured by a few sturdy rocks, takes care of itself. If the salmon eggs get soggy, so what?
Afternoons are the most productive times to fish. Everything seems to work. We fish flies when the trout are jumping. We fish lures along the steep drop-offs, often following the shadow line along the shore, as the fish do underwater. We also fish with grasshoppers near the shore in shady places under overhanging bushes. These are the likely spots where grasshoppers may accidentally fall into the lake, spots where the fish will be waiting for them. This time of day usually gives us our best fish memories and stories, and if things work out, a pan full of the freshest supper you could ever want.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication