If you spend almost nine years in the fly shop
business like I have, you notice things about
both your business and your customers. I can
only speak for western Montana because that is
where my shop is located, but I'd be willing
to bet that things are similar in other parts
of the country.
Like most fly shops, my year begins quietly,
picks up steam in late spring, goes wild in
July and August and is substantially over two
weeks after Labor Day. I imagine that the same
pattern holds true all over. What amazes me
and is my greatest source of frustration is
that summer is the second worst time of the
year to fish my stream. Winter, of course,
is the absolute worst season but summer is
really not a whole lot better. The water
temperature is too high and the hatches are
not as good as they are during Spring and
Spring is my favorite season. Late March and
April are the two best months on my calendar.
Here on Rock Creek, we've got perhaps our two
best hatches of the entire year going on at
the same time. We have the Western March Brown
and the Skwala stone fly. The runoff does not
usually start this early so the water can be
waded fairly easily. Water temperatures are
better suited to the fish than they are to us,
so good waders are a must. The weather is the
most unpredictable factor. You can start fishing
in a snowstorm and end up an hour later in 60 degree
temperatures under bright blue skies. But the
fishing can be marvelous.
During late September and the entire month of
October we have our single best hatch of the year.
This is the Giant Fall Caddis. We also have the
Baetis mayfly emerging in the afternoon. The browns
are getting ready to spawn and the leaves are
turning color. The weather is not as unpredictable
as it is during the Spring and the fishing is
almost as good.
I get at least a dozen people a week in the shop
during the summer who ask me what is the best
time to fish Rock Creek. I invariably tell them
to come in late March and early April. I explain
about the hatches, the size of the fish, the water
conditions and last, about the weather. If they
seem to be put off by the prospect of uncertain
weather, I tout fall to them, with its great
hatches and huge browns.
Most of these people leave my shop jazzed up about
early and/or late season fishing. And then they
show up in the shop the following July asking the
same questions about the best time to fish the creek.
I'd understand if they were traveling with children
on summer vacation. But these people are usually
alone or traveling with other adults.
During my first couple of years, I stocked a lot of
rain gear and items like warm gloves and 5mm neoprene
waders. Eventually, I realized that, despite my
every effort to get them here during the best fishing,
most people were only going to come during July and
August. So now I stock mostly lightweight waders and
only a few raincoats.
But I still haven't given up on trying to convince
people that they're going to get better fishing if
they come during the spring and fall. Once in a while,
the message gets through and I generally gain a friend
for life, although I've lost a few to spring snowstorms.
So, when I got the opportunity to write this article,
I thought let's try it one more time. Put as simply as
possible, this is my message:
If you fly fish and you want
to catch more fish and bigger fish, try fishing early and
late in the season.
Even with the chance of some bad
weather figured into the equation, it's still a better
deal than bucking huge crowds. Try it once. I'll bet
you'll be converted.