You close out July with back-to-back trips to the lake.
The damsels are still like blue sparks all over the lake, and the fish are still on them. In seasons past you have been frustrated with your efforts to entice these fish turned on to blue. So this was the time of indicators and trolling. Now, with the success of your damsel imitation, you happily tie it on and go for them.
And they come to the fly. They range up and down the shoreline, feeding hungrily, but their rises, while frequent, have no discernible pattern. So you engross yourself in the cat and mouse game of getting the fly in the right place at the right time. The anticipation, the high energy takes--it's all a high.
These Rainbows don't jump. They're in the weeds, and they bore down as soon as they feel the hook. Sometimes you can horse them out. Sometimes they're gone.
And comes roaring out of the north.
Inside the channel between the north and south lakes you find a thin strip of relatively sheltered shoreline on the west side. You don't see fish working damsels anymore, so you tie on the muddler and probe for those fish who may still be hungry.
As so often happens, a fish rises with a big splash just behind you in water you just worked. So you kick back and give him another chance to look at your fly. This time you strip and rest, strip and rest. He's followed it, and on the third strip he nails it.
Then a small fry whacks it as soon as it hits the water. You tip your hat to these young turks whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs. They will be worthy opponents in future seasons.
You enjoy the gentle rocking of the swells, and the randomness of the fishing, as you let your ant fly drift. You kick very slowly back up the channel to where it opens up into the north lake. The wind has abated a bit, but the surface is still rolling. And you see fish working, pods of smaller fish cleaning up as food concentrates at the channel mouth.
It's barely light enough now to see the white wing of your fly. You drop the ant in the middle of three rises and a fish takes immediately. It's not big, but it's jacked up, and gives you the best fight of the day.
Another Near Miss
You aren't sure you can get away on that last day of July, but it's beautifully calm all day, and you can't help picturing what the lake must look like. You aren't disappointed that evening when you get there: the water is glassy at the put in...
And fish are busy with damsels in the channel. It looks like a dry fly dream. You tie on the damsel.
You want to get back to the channel mouth, but on the way you stop at a gnarled deadfall that has been a faithful producer of hungry trout.
You drop the fly next to a raft of weed tops and a fish is on it.
You kick on out to the edge of the weed line where the shallow channel drops off into the deepest part of the north lake. There are fish working here. Then a breeze kicks up out of the north, and the fish go down. You keep your back to the wind and wait, and a fish rises near you. It doesn't take too long to get him to rise again.
The breeze picks up and becomes a wind. You look over your shoulder and it's like deja vu all over again. This time, though, you have your rain jacket in the float tube. You turn and kick back into the channel seeking shelter from the blow.
You fish the damsel, but nothing comes to it on the rolling waves.
The storm is going to ramble off to the northeast. Another near miss.
By now you're on the northern shoreline of the south lake. It's more sheltered from the wind, but swells from the north lake shoulder through the channel and spread out into the open water. You try the damsel for awhile, but nothing is happening. So you go to the muddler.
And here, right here, is where it happens. You have been casting the muddler along the shoreline. Then, on a whim, you cast it out into open water. It's just sitting there, bobbing on the swells. Suddenly, in slow motion, you see a broad back come up out of the swells and a twenty-inch-plus Rainbow engulfs the #10 muddler like it was a midge. You set. Later you think maybe you set too quickly. You know you're so finely attuned now that when you're not on the water and there's sudden movement in the corner of your eye your rod arm twitches reflexively. But you get a hookup. You know this is a big fish because this Rainbow jumps. He hangs in the air in all his glory then hits the water like a two foot quarter-round of finely-grained tamarack.
And then he's gone. Another near miss.
So for the next two hours you stay right there and keep a fly hanging in the swells. A fish porpoises six feet away from the fly; you can't be sure it's the same one, but it could be. So you change to different muddlers, stimulators, big caddis. You get a take, and your heart leaps into your throat, but it's a little fish. You release him in the water and quickly get the fly back out there. You finally change back to the original muddler. After all, he liked it once; maybe he's forgotten the sting of the hook by now. But he's still gone.
There's a pretty good rise going on by then, and in the dusk you find some smaller fish willing to take the muddler. But each one reminds you of what could have been.
Down the road on the way home you stop at another lake and watch the nearly full moon cast its glow on the water. You reflect that, after all, this has been a good way to mark the mid-point of the season. You go home no longer thinking of what could have been, but of what could be in the days to come. Good bye, July.