It's over a hundred degrees at home, and close to that at the lake. You choose a different access point, a campsite that has been deserted for awhile. You step out of the truck and find in the tall weeds the remains of some predator's meal. You guess it was a grouse. You collect some feathers for the tying desk, and one for your hat. You always feel like a new man with a new feather in your hat.
You've been anticipating another shot at the trout targeting damsels in the hot afternoon sun. You kick out and hear the splashy rises scattered over the weed beds. You tie on a Damselator.
You go to work. You're hoping to find a fish rising consistently to the little blue morsels. Most, though, are rising in random locations at wide intervals. So you do your best to get the fly close to the last rise. And you wait between casts.
You get a beautiful heads-up take, have him for a moment, then lose him. You're encouraged: he liked the fly. You move on, casting and waiting, and soon get another hungry take. This time you get him to the net.
Then you find your steady riser. There's a delicate rise ring in an opening in the weed bed.
Then another nearby. By now you have the Damselator floating in the zone, and he sucks it down.
That was nice. Now you feel ready for the second phase of the trip. You want to go down the Drake bank and see whether the fish are active and muddler-inclined.
It's a long, relaxing kick down the shoreline. You aren't finding any fish, but you know it could be the very next cast. Right down at this end, at this time of year, is where you saw the biggest Brown trout you've ever seen lazily finning through the weeds.
All along the way you watch the sky put on its summertime show.
You head back. Still no fish on the muddler. But you hang out a little longer, and then a little more, just to see how much color the sky will finally show. You aren't disappointed--in the color, and the day.
You go back to the same place. The day is smokier.
The Carlton Complex fire is still burning, and shifting winds have dispersed the smoke plume far and wide.
You've arrived an hour later than the day before. You begin with the Damselator again, but the later hour--or some other mysterious variable--has made a difference.
There are fish taking damselflies, but, ironically, the only thing you can bring to hand is a damselfly.
The sky puts on another show with the smoke.
You kick through the channel and around into the south end, trying a muddler again, with no results. So you tie on a bead head Woolly Bugger and troll. You get all the way back through the channel and into the north lake before you get a take. And you won't get anymore.
You wait for a brilliant sunset, but the sky remains the color of smoke until darkness moves in. And you're content.
The last day of July already. The older you get, the more time speeds up. You have a different plan for this day. You launch in the north end and kick through the weeds over to the inlet.
You have a Damselator on, and you begin to look in the old familiar places. But the water level has already begun to drop, and the little bay is now only a foot or so deep. So you fish around the opening.
You get some splashy hits from little fish, but no hookups. You move out and try different areas a shoreline and open water. Then you look back and see a more authoritative rise right at the opening of the inlet. And then another. You kick back as quickly as you can and lay the Damselator where the last rise was. Bang. A good way to finish out what has been a good month for Browns.
Thank you, Damselator.
As the day wears on you switch to a muddler and explore up and down the inlet side of the lake, but things are slow. You're still looking for a steady riser, but you don't find one.
You go back to the inlet mouth and play with the little guys, hoping for another Brown surprise, which doesn't come. But you're happy to catch another fish.
You even cast way inside the little bay, and get a hit, but when you go back for another try you hang up your fly in the willows. You decide to break it off, and do, but then you realize you broke off the entire leader. So you drag yourself all the way in and retrieve it.
The wind has shifted again, and is blowing harder, and the smoke thickens.
You fish your way across to the truck under a blanket of smoke and pack up for the last time in July.
The fishing season is exactly half over.